How to Clean Patio Slabs

There are certain times of the year that your patio can look really terrible. Algae, moss, mould, bird droppings and general wear and tear can leave you with slimy, slippery surfaces which are dangerous for you and visitors to your home. As well as being slippy, a dirty patio can also be a hygiene hazard as the dirt is likely to be walked into your home.

Removing surface dirt from your patio can also protect your slabs from frost damage in the winter time by eliminating substances like moss and algae which trap moisture on the patio surface and are likely to freeze when temperatures drop.

Cleaning your dirty patio slabs can seem like a real challenge. Thankfully there are some great products for blasting away grime, helping your patio to look beautiful again. Throughout this article, I will be looking to show you how to clean patio slabs using these products and get your patio looking as good as new again.

Pressure Washers

Without a doubt, pressure washers are the quickest and simplest way to get your patio slabs looking brand new again. Pressure washers let you do the job faster and they also save water. On average, using a pressure washer will use about half as much water as you’d expect to use doing the same job with a simple hosepipe.

how to clean patio slabs

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Choosing the Best Pressure Washer for Cleaning Your Patio

There are lots of models out there, most of which will do a great job. Depending on the size of your patio and what other jobs you’ll be using your machine for, you can choose between a basic compact model or a more professional premium priced machine.

The economically priced Kärcher K2 Compact Pressure Washer is a small but powerful machine which is all you’ll need for small patio areas or balconies.

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If you are dealing with a large patio area, paved driveways or footpaths, then you may wish to go for a more heavy duty model like the Kärcher K4 Full Control Home Pressure Washer. This model gives you maximum power and an extensive range of accessories for doing a huge range of cleaning tasks.

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Although big brand names like Kärcher and Bosch dominate the pressure washer market, there are many other economic brands producing models which do a very adequate job. As a rule, it is best to choose a pressure washer with variable jet settings that you can adjust for different jobs. I also recommend getting the longest hose you can find to give you maximum flexibility as you work or a washer which has wheels so you can easily move it around with you as you move.

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Using a Pressure Washer for the First Time

If you’ve never used a pressure washer before, there are some basic safety considerations to be aware of.

The majority of pressure washers are extremely powerful and can be dangerous so make sure that children and pets are removed from the area where you are planning to work before you begin. Wear appropriate footwear like welly boots and never point a water jet at any part of your own or another person’s body. Keep water jets away from windows and breakable objects.

It is also wise to wear protective eyewear in case small stones or debris are caught in the water spray and are directed towards your face. Always start your pressure washer on a low setting and build up to more powerful jets and avoid using the strongest settings or most powerful accessories on chipped or damaged paving.

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Pressure Washing Patio Slabs

Cleaning your patio slabs with a pressure washer is a very simple task which should take just minutes.

  1. First off, you’ll need to remove any furniture, plant pots or other objects lying on the patio surface. When you start, don’t be tempted to go in with maximum force right away. Particularly if your patio slabs are chipped or damaged, the full force could blast off more than just the dirt. Go in gently and avoid overkill!
  2. For stubborn build up on your patio slabs, choose a nozzle that will give you high pressure with a spray rather than a jet. I use a Kärcher Pressure Washer and on my machine, that’s the dirt blaster lance which uses a rotating nozzle and a targeted spray which is highly effective at blasting off moss, grime and even dried on bird droppings. Depending on the make and model of your pressure washer, you may have particular attachments for dealing with different kinds of dirt.

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Patio Cleaning Attachments for Pressure Washers

Some pressure washers come with specific tools for cleaning patios. For example, Kärcher’s patio attachment is a disc-shaped tool which attaches to your pressure washer and uses two spinning water jets to eliminate dirt and grime. This is by far the fastest way to clean patio slabs as the attachment can clean in a much wider strip than a simple jet and there is no splashing as the top of the attachment keeps the water contained. Some patio attachments also come with a spray nozzle which lets you clean right into corners.

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To clean between your patio slabs, you can use a rotating lance jet but if your slabs are in any way chipped or damaged, it is best not to use the full power setting to avoid causing further damage to the slabs.

Start off on the lowest power setting and remove as much dirt as you can. If you need to, you can increase the power for very stubborn deposits. If your patio slabs are very damaged then using a patio detergent may eliminate the need for very high-pressure cleaning.

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Using Detergent to Clean Patio Slabs

In my experience, a detergent isn’t always necessary for patio cleaning purposes. Most of the time, the water pressure alone is enough to lift dirt off your slabs. Personally, I prefer to limit the amount of chemicals products I use in my home and in the garden, I try to avoid using anything which could cause damage if it got into the flower beds or vegetable patch.

Nevertheless, there are certain kinds of spills or heavy buildups of grime or debris which might mean that you need to use detergent. Before you go down that route, I recommend testing the pressure washer alone on the area of heaviest soiling. If you don’t see the dirt lifting relatively easily, then you are probably going to have to use a specialist patio cleaner.

Vax Universal Pressure Washer Solution can be used with any pressure washer and is one of the best cleaners on the market. The product is highly concentrated and comes in a 500ml pouch which will make up 5L of cleaner.

You simply dilute the detergent with water at a ratio of 9-parts water to 1-part detergent and add this to the detergent canister of your pressure washer before use. If you are using a pressure washer which doesn’t have a detergent chamber, then mix the detergent with water in a bucket or basin and apply it to your patio slabs using a brush or abrasive mop. Leave it for 10 minutes and then blast it with your pressure washer.

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Patio detergent can also be helpful if you are cleaning damaged patio slabs and you want to avoid having to use very high-pressure jets.

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Cleaning Patio Slabs without a Pressure Washer

If you don’t have a pressure washer, don’t despair! You can still clean your patio slabs although it might involve a bit more effort and a lot more water. You will need a cleaning solution like Boston Cementone Brick and Patio Cleaner, a firm sweeping brush, and a wire brush for more stubborn dirt. Ensure that you are wearing protective gloves throughout the process.

Dilute the cleaner as per the manufacturer’s instructions and apply the solution to your patio slabs using a firm bristled sweeping brush. Once the slabs are covered, use a brisk scrubbing motion to work the solution into the surfaces. Leave for at least 30 minutes and then rinse it off with a hose. This product is corrosive, and you should ensure that all residue is removed from your patio before children or pets are allowed back in the area. You may not wish to use this product if your patio is located very close to flower beds, trees or vegetables as runoff could damage your plants.

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For a less toxic product which is safe for pets, children and non-damaging to the environment, you can use Algon Organic Path and Patio Cleaner Concentrate. This product targets weeds, moss and algae and doesn’t require any scrubbing or rinsing.

Simply apply the diluted product to your patio surface and walk away. Your patio slabs will be moss, algae and weed free for up to one year. Note, this product is a gradual acting cleaner so you will need to wait for up to a month before you see results.

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Cleaning your Patio Slabs is a relatively small job which can make a huge positive impact on the appearance of your home and garden. I know that as soon as I’ve cleaned my patio slabs, I immediately feel much more inclined to spend time outdoors and enjoy my outside space. Enjoy yours!

Claire has been in the cleaning industry for over 15 years. She's worked numerous jobs including both domestic and industrial cleaning. Her most recent role has been head of product testing for a major cleaning supplier. Following the birth of her second child, Layla, Claire has set up Cleaning Mentor to help people become better at cleaning, saving time and money.

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