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Ipe Deck Maintenance

by The Handyguys

in Audio Podcasts, Radio, Video Podcasts

In this episode of The Handyguys podcast The Handyguys discuss Ipe Deck Maintenance, how to clean it and keep it looking awesome.

Ipe Deck Maintenance

Brian’s Ipe deck looked great when it was complete. Eighteen months later is was looking a bit dirty. The wood was still in perfect condition, no checking, no splits or splinters, it was just a bit dingy. After a bit of maintenance it looked great again.

After Cleaning & oil

To keep the deck looking new it will take some annual maintenance.

The Handyguys recommend the following maintenance procedure for all decks:

  1. Hose off any spills, mud, etc as needed.
  2. Don’t allow any items that rust to sit on the deck (propane tanks, metal furniture, etc).
  3. Sweep off any leaves

As needed thoroughly clean and re-oil the Ipe deck. This may be once a year or every other year depending on how much sun you get. over time the re-oil step will not be needed as often.

Ipe deck cleaning solution:

  • One Gallon warm water
  • 1 cup TSP
  • One Quart bleach (if you do not have mold or algae you can reduce the amount of bleach)

Use a scrub brush on a long handle and thoroughly wash the deck with the cleaning solution. Rinse thoroughly and let dry completely.

Deck After Cleaning

After cleaning the deck you can sand any problem areas.


When the ipe deck is dry (at least a day) then re-oil it.  Use either Ipe Oil or Penofin Hardwood Oil Penofin Ipe Oil

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Doug Muhle February 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

Congrats to going to an audio format as now! Maybe I can get some of my other crew members to listen to you now.
As for the post, I always suggest that people apply a pressure washer to their deck once every 6 months to clean it and remove any possible mud or dirt, that might of accumulated on the deck.


The Handyguys February 24, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Pressure washers are handy but can also cause damage. You need to be really careful with them. Most normal dirt can be hosed off without a pressure washer.


mseyadm February 25, 2013 at 5:49 am

It is easy to handle and best way for cleaning….


Graham Poole March 4, 2013 at 11:44 am

That’s great, may have to employ this on my decking. Suspect it will give the garden a new lease of life for BBQ season!


Brian April 30, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I had read that you do NOT want oil based products, but the water based ones on the decking since it: 1. resists multiple applications, 2. does a poor job of keeping the UV from the wood, 3. will be sticky after application, 4. will need to be reapplied after 3-6 months.


Joel May 3, 2013 at 11:45 am

This is a really great post, especially since I myself am about to renovate my deck. Unfortunately, I live in an area prone to raining especially in the spring. I’m a one man reno team and I can’t do the whole deck quickly enough where I won’t risk rain interference. do you recommend a tarp or shelter solution like ? Your input is appreciated.


The Handyguys May 6, 2013 at 9:51 am

No, I dont think I could ever justify the cost of a structure for just refinishing a deck. Any sanding stripping or prep can be interrupted by rain and most finishes can be rained on within a day. You should be able to find a window of time for most any deck. Get some help if you need to do it faster.


Joe May 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Should the same cleaning process be done on a newly installed Ipe deck?
Also any thoughts on Andreson Clark stain on Ipe?


The Handyguys May 20, 2013 at 11:45 am

No need to do the bleach.tsp cleaning on the new ipe deck. if there is mud and crud just wash it off with a hose or pressure washer (only if really needed). My initial impressions of the Anderson Clark is that its good, the color is more red than the Ipe oil. I loved the Ipe Oil look on the new deck but it didn’t last as long as I hopped. I have just resigned myself to washing and re-stain every spring. Anderson Clark will be what I use for the next year or two.


Ian June 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm

I have several large landings (just above ground) of IPE decking both at my home and beach house and the above instructions were easy enough for both my son and I to rejuvenate the appearance of the both homes decking. They look new as the day they were installed. Thanks Handyguys… your excellent instructions have earned another regular follower.


Jane August 26, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Just watched your podcast on ipe deck maintenance and have found it helpful. I have an ipe deck that was built by my husband and almost completed in early fall 2011. It is a 2 level deck with stairs and 4 benches and is approx 700 sq feet- in other words huge. Dave was a woodworker and this was his dream deck to build. Difficult wood as you mentioned but he was thrilled with it. Dave’s plan was to give the deck one treatment and then decide if we should let it naturally gray. Sadly Dave passed away before the deck was completed. Last summer I hired a contractor to finish the railings, etc. However I never did treat the deck. This summer I have decided to clean and treat the deck. The ipe wasn’t just gray but dingy with algae, mold (?). I have purchased Messeners cleaner, brightener and UV Wood finish. I have started this huge project myself and am still cleaning the ipe in sections. I am a bit nervous about the cleaner and brightener and have only used some of the cleaner in a small area. The warnings on the label scared me since I have 2 dogs and lots of plants surrounding the deck. Anyway I have been scrubbing away on hands and knees with various brushes and the ipe is getting clean. My question to you is – how do you know when the ipe is properly cleaned? The ipe looks great when wet and lots of crud comes off the ipe when I scrub like a fiend. But when dry, the ipe still can look a bit hazy in spots or brown with gray areas. I have read not to apply the finish unless the ipe is properly cleaned . As you can see I am confused and dont want to ruin this deck that my husband was so proud of. I can see that you used bleach ,etc to clean your ipe but other sites dont recommend bleach. Also have you any thoughts on Messeners UV Finish? (An ipe dealer here in Canada recommended it). I am sorry that my question is so long and would appreciate any advice or further tips that you can give me. Thank you so much!


The Handyguys August 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Jane – Make your own cleaner/brightener. Buy some TSP at the hardware store and follow the instructions for deck cleaning on the box. Its just the TSP soap, some bleach and water. That will clean up any alge, mold, etc it will also help you get off any dirt or crud. I havent had an issue and its MUCH cheaper than commercial cleaners. You can reduce the ammt of bleach if you dont have much alge.

I found it best to use a stiff bristled broom to scrub it in. Let the cleaning solution do its thing. Then hose it off. You could also use a pressure washer after scrubbing with the cleaner.

How do you know its clean? It will look clean, you wont see alge or dirt.

What you are likely seeing is wood that has started to grey out. The only way to make it look like the day it was installed is to sand it.

I would just go ahead and finish cleaning and then apply Ipe Oil or a similar product, I just used one from Armstrong Clark that has a bit of red mahogany color in it. I previously used Ipe Oil


Jane September 17, 2013 at 7:26 pm

I just wanted to say thank you for your help regarding my ipe deck. It has taken a few weeks for the weather to cooperate and get the deck cleaned. Today I finished applying the Messmer’s UV Plus oil finish and the deck looks good. Your help and advice gave me the encouragement to get this job done. Thank you.


Jay Sroufe September 30, 2013 at 10:20 am

We have tongue and groove ipe on our screened porch. Last years application of Penofin never dried thoroughly it’s still a little sticky. I want to clean and re oil but I’m not sure if your soap recipe will work for that. Any suggestions. Also I don’t know what TSP is. Thanks for your reply I will keep you updated. Jay


The Handyguys September 30, 2013 at 10:29 am

The TSP solution may clean it. Its cheap and wont do any damage. TSP is Tri Sodium Phospahte you can get it in the paint section of the hardware store. There is deck cleaner instructions on the box.


Andrew L Blank May 29, 2014 at 11:54 pm

I had Ipe decks put on my house on the beach on Long Island in New York about 18 months ago. They were never stained and they have turned grey. The house is right on the ocean. The house is on three level house with decks one or two decks on every level. There are probably over 1000 square feet of decking.

Do you advise treating the wood to maintain it and if so what should I do to it?

If I do want to stain it, is it too late and if not, what would be needed?

Thank you so much for your help.


The Handyguys May 30, 2014 at 9:22 am

If you like the grey look then do nothing. The Ipe will out last you and I. Stain for looks only. Personally, I wouldn’t do it at this point. It will be a yearly maintenance chore once you do it. Enjoy the deck.


Jennifer June 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm

We have just moved into this house that is about 10 years old. I just learned that we have this Ipe decking and am now in the middle of cleaning it. I can’t believe the difference in color once cleaned. I have no idea if it has ever been treated. I love the look of the color once cleaned and I’m wondering if it’s too late to start treating it or if I should just leave it to go gray? The deck faces North and doesn’t get a lot of sun exposure. I’m not able to clean through the slats of wood and there is still a lot of algae that you can see. If you don’t recommend staining how often should I clean? and how long before it goes gray again? Thank you.


The Handyguys June 3, 2014 at 9:37 am

Its not too late to start treating it, the color will last longer but it will be a yearly task. Get it as clean as possible, maybe use a pressure washer to help with the algae between the boards.
Use something like ‘Ipe Oil’ or Penofin which will darken and enrich the look. Here are some comparisons.
I have used Ipe Oil and Armstrong. I though the Armstrong imparted too much red color. I may try the Penofin.


Jennifer June 6, 2014 at 9:06 am

Another question…. if we decide to treat it and later on decide not to I’m assuming it would just go back to gray? Would there be a difference in the wood if we treat it and then decide not to do it a few years down the road? I’m just wondering if we should start or not. Also how do you know if you need to sand it or not? 1/2 the deck is covered within a screened porch which the wood looks much better than the exposed part of the deck.


The Handyguys June 6, 2014 at 10:53 am

Yes, it will turn back to gray. You will have uneven areas for a while, more sun the faster it will gray. Cleaning with bleach/tsp (recipe on the tsp box) will even things out. Sanding will also even it out.


Jennifer June 9, 2014 at 12:03 am

Sorry for all of the questions. So what if I cleaned the deck with a metal wire brush? Will that ruin the wood? I also think im not going to treat the wood and let it go gray again. I just want to make sure it will be ok because of the brush I used.

Ilene June 22, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Hi – what a helpful site!
We just discovered that our conservatory greenhouse floor is ipay. The greenhouse was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy and a new one was built in its footprint. The floor will have little exposure to the elements, though sometimes rain comes in from the top vents. Otherwise, it’s like a casual sunroom with some gardening accessories around. I expect we will have some meals in it; and read and relax a bit in the cooler weather. In the warmer weather we’ll probably just use it to house gardening equipment.
From your advice on this column, it sounds like we should just clean it and let it be. Besides cleaning with your suggested TSP solution, any other advice? Is sanding the floor necessary for a casual space?


The Handyguys June 24, 2014 at 10:20 am

No need to sand it unless there are rough spots, splinters or scratches you want to remove. If I wanted to have that rich wood furniture look I could clean and sand a bit then oil finish.


Ilene June 24, 2014 at 11:35 am

Thank you! Another question: there are two square holes in the floor where the original greenhouse posts used to be. I was thinking of simply patching with some wood and leaving be – perhaps there will be an indoor/outdoor rug to cover. Any thoughts on that? Appreciate the guidance!


The Handyguys June 24, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Sure, you could patch it. See if you can find someone putting in an Ipe deck near you and ask for some scraps.


David June 29, 2014 at 10:52 am

I am ready to put down my ipe decking did you oil all four sides first? Planing on using Ipe Oil and Ipe Seal for the fresh cut end grain

How did you remove the factory end grain wax seal that is sometimes on the top finished side if the ipe? I have boards with small wax spots five or six inches from the ends

Is it ok to spot sand out imperfections or do you need to sand the entire board.

Thanks for the great info.


The Handyguys June 30, 2014 at 11:36 am

I did not oil the decking. I did oil my rails. I didn’t oil the decking because I was using plugs that would need sanded. I used the end grain sealer on all cut ends, I applied over any factory applied end grain sealer. You can try sanding out any end grain sealer that is on the surface of the board. You can spot sand.


Karen July 7, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Just reading perusing your website and find it very informative.
My question is : Can the cleaning solution you suggest be safely used to clean a dock made of IPE wood? The solution would naturally end up in the lake and we certainly do not want to do anything to harm the lake.
If it shouldn’t be used in this circumstance, what would you suggest?
Thank you for all your information.


The Handyguys July 8, 2014 at 9:47 am

TSP is Phosphate, a common cleaning agent but also used in fertilizer. Phosphates can cause algae growth which can upset a natural balance of nutrients in water. In most cases the phosphate will be diluted and filtered out in the ground and not cause an issue. If the rinse water will flow directly into a sensitive body of water you may want to just try to clean with water only (pressure washer).


Ken July 26, 2014 at 10:53 am

There are some other sites that say that the bleach will damage the IPE and should never be used. I put down IPE because I want a long term good looking deck. Is there any concern with the bleach damaging the IPE or is that a non-issue due to the short period of time it is on the wood, as long as it is rinsed completely?


The Handyguys July 28, 2014 at 3:27 pm

I would be curious as to the source of the warning against bleach. I have used it without issues.


Vince August 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm

I am about to have an Ipe deck installed. New boards. I cleaned them with Penofin Stage one cleaner, let dry for a day then sealed with Penofin oil. The wood turned very red in colour to the point where my wife does not want the deck finished. I see lots of pictures where the Ipe is a nice brown colour. Is it the Penofin that turned the wood red? Thanks


The Handyguys August 5, 2014 at 10:49 am

Some Penofin products may have some color. It will fade within a year then you can apply something different.


Debbie August 23, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Hi, Thank you for all of your help. My very large back deck has quite a bit of tree sap. Today, I used a pressure washer and tried scrapping it up; a lot of the big chunks came off, but now there are big patches white smeary sap. I assume my deck needs to be sanded to remove the rest of the sap, would it be better to wait and sand on a colder day so the sap is hard? Thank you for your ideas.


The Handyguys August 25, 2014 at 10:54 am

You could try scrubbing with turpentine (the real stuff) while the sap is soft.


Mike October 13, 2014 at 9:46 pm

What are your thoughts on using Australian timber oil?


The Handyguys October 20, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I like it in general. I haven’t used it on my Ipe deck though. I have used it on mahogany outdoors and it looks good for quite a while.


The Handyguys June 9, 2014 at 10:02 am

I wouldnt use a wire brush. Just clean with TSP. (Try the bleach/tsp recipe on the TSP box) and use a nylon scrub brush. Use a hose or a pressure washer to rinse clean.


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