Patio cleaning mistakes to avoid – 5 ways you can damage yours and what to do instead

Looking to elevate your patio for the season? This is what to avoid –to ensure your space impresses for longer

Best trees to grow in pots - olive trees in pots in mediterranean-style outdoor living area
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Did you know that some patio cleaning techniques can do more harm than good? If you are embracing the season of garden parties and al fresco dining – but need to get your patio party-ready, you might be keen to do some backyard cleaning this weekend. However, there are some patio cleaning mistakes you should definitely avoid. 

After all, you've worked hard to create idyllic patio ideas, and you won't want to do more harm than good where cleaning is involved. 

So, before you refresh your exterior, it is important to follow expert cleaning tips that will improve (and not damage) your patio – for a space that will look good long into fall.

Patio cleaning mistakes to avoid – key problems to remember this summer

Knowing how to properly clean a patio begins with the key mistakes to avoid. Here's what the experts want you to know. 

1. Overusing your pressure washer

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(Image credit: Future / James Merrell)

Pressure washers are what many of us use to clean a patio; this trusted tool is admired for its ability to remove stubborn stains quickly –  but its power comes with a warning. 

'Too much pressure washing can wear away the patio and leave it looking tired and worn,' cautions designer and garden specialist Beril Yilmaz from Garden Furniture Sales. 'It can also damage the sealant used to protect the patio if used too often. The expert suggests that one pressure wash (or two at the most) should be sufficient. 

2.  Using the wrong cleaning products 

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(Image credit: Future)

Whether you're dealing with cottage patio ideas or you're cleaning a thoroughly contemporary space, using the correct cleaning products is vital. And, while it may be tempting to use household bleach for a quick clean, Beril says that this can ruin the patio stones and leave them looking patchy.

'There are many specialist patio cleaning products on the market including brick acid,' she cautions. 'As with the sealant, check which product is best suited to your patio material and always test on a small area first before committing to the entire surface.' 

3. Not pre-treating stains 

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(Image credit: Jane Beiles/Georgia Zikas Designs)

When planning on refreshing your patio, it may be tempting to leave some spillages until the big clean. However, patio and machinery expert Andrew Gaugler explains that leaving stains is harmful to your exteriors. 

'When you spot a stain on your patio, it’s important to treat it as soon as possible,' he says. 'The longer a stain sits, the harder it will be to remove. But many people make the mistake of not pre-treating their stains.' Therefore, if you cause a stain, or spot a stain, it's important to cure the mark at the earliest opportunity, for a cleaner patio over time. 

4. Forgetting to rinse off the cleaner

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(Image credit: Zinc Textiles)

'After you’ve applied cleaner to your patio, it’s important to rinse it off. If you don’t, the cleaner will continue to work even after you’ve finished cleaning. This can leave your patio with a dull finish,' Andrew warns. 

The expert similarly urges you to ensure your patio is dried off where possible, to discourage dirt and grime on your freshly washed surface. 

If you're working with a large space or smaller apartment patio ideas, these mistakes endure. We're taking notes before our next big clean. 

5. Neglecting patio sealants 

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(Image credit: Kate Anne Designs / Jeffrey Brian Riemer)

Many people neglect to seal a cleaned patio, but one of the most important jobs is to seal the stone – according to designer and garden specialist Beril Yilmaz from Garden Furniture Sales. 'Sealants will create a layer of protection which will help your patio last longer and also keep it shiny,' Beril says. 

'Be sure to check you're using the right sealant for your patio material. This sealant should also be re-applied every few years to keep your patio surface in top shape.'

Can a pressure washer damage a patio?

Yes, a pressure washer can damage a patio by degrading the surface of the slabs. This in turn can allow more dirt to work its way into marks and pits in the stone in the future. When you clean a patio with a pressure washer, it is best not to use a super-high pressure and instead go more gently. Don't use the pressure washer too often, either. Once or twice a year, followed by a thorough sealing should be enough.

What is the best way to clean your patio

The best way to clean your patio is to first clear it of furniture, then sweep it thoroughly, removing any weeds between pavers as you go. That done, pour warm soapy water over a 3ft square area at a time, scrubbing it with a hard-bristled brush or broom. Move on to the next section, working your way across the patio. Finally, hose off the soap. Done once a month, this should keep your patio clean.

Can you clean a patio with bleach or vinegar?

While you can clean a patio with bleach, it isn't environmentally friendly and will give you a patchy result, so we would not recommend it. Cleaning with vinegar is useful for removing oily stains from the grill. Like you would indoors, pour white vinegar on to the stain, allow to soak for 20 minutes and then rinse with warm, soapy water, then cold, clean water. Be aware that any stain removal will leave you with a cleaner patch, so you are always best to mop up stains immediately to save you having to soak them off. Regular, all-over cleaning with warm soapy water will give you a more consistent clean.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.