I’ve spent the last several weekends down on my hands and knees scrubbing. Scrubbing like a washer woman with an apron, a hand brush, kneeling mats and a bucket of cleaner; real good-old traditional scrubbing.
You see, gardening is taking a bit of a back seat while I wage chemical warfare on the patio. Each time we look out of the back windows, the eye wanders over the blotchy dirty expanse of murk that are the patio flag stones stretching right along the back of the house. If you look closely, you can see that the patio stones are meant to be a variety of textures and colours but years of neglect have seen them darken with black spots, lichens, dirt and gunk to the point where the whole lot is a complete eye-sore.
So it was with a big sigh that I finally got sick of looking at that skanky patio and the glare of my glare of attention (akin to the Eye of Sauron) shifted and focussed on dealing with this problem.
The glare of my attention, don’t step into its path
The first port of call to clean the patio was to reach for the pressure washer, which turned out to be about as effective as sneezing at it. The dirt was so ingrained that even after ten minutes of pressure washing (and a whole lot of water), there was no discernible difference between the square that got the treatment, and the one next to it, which didn’t.
The square in the middle has been pressure-washed. Honestly
With the idea of pressure washing as successful as a lead balloon I had to get serious and armed myself with tea, an internet browser and a credit card. I began looking for patio cleaning products online. I immediately avoided the ones where you simply “spray and walk away”, where, “walk away” means, “sell the house, move out and make it someone else’s problem”; life just isn’t that easy and I am very skeptical. I eventually settled on a commercial acid cleaner from a rather inconspicuous label and after some prompting, also ordered the hand brush. A bit more reading around the problem of black spots and people generally agree that domestic household bleach will help greatly, if left on for long enough – which is fine by me – it doesn’t require any more work to simply “leave” it on the patio to do its thing and let the rain wash it away some time after.
A few days later and I was on the offensive. I was sensible in wearing plastic gloves but immediately ignored the instructions as expected. I made up a stronger solution of the cleaner than suggested and carefully poured a slop onto a square stone tile. It immediately fizzed with a most satisfying fizzy-fizz-fizzing sound, I spread this cleaner about the square with the brush and it fizzed some more. It definitely sounded like it was doing some work. I left it on for a bit, then went back a while later to pour a little more of the cleaner on and give it another scrub (lather, rinse, repeat). When all activity looked as though it had calmed down, I washed the stone with water to reveal that it was a warm honey-coloured square – quelle surprise!
It hadn’t gotten rid of the black spots though, so out came the bleach, a dollop (it was thick bleach) of this and a scrub again around the square and I left it for the rain to wash away whenever. The effect of the bleach over the next few days was like turning up the brightness on this square of stone to the point where it gleamed in the sun.
The obligatory “before” and “after” picture.
Job done for this square, just another three hundred or so left to go.
Fast forward some weeks later and I am still mid-way through dissolving the grime from the patio and removing the black spots with the bleach. It’s hard work, it’s a lot of scrubbing but the results are worth it.
Patio Scrubbing very much in Progress
Once this delightful little job is done, I can then look to arranging the patio pot plants for the summer and setting up the irrigation system, one so fiendishly complex it makes the Levadas of Madeira look amateur.
I’m aware that I’ll need to occasionally re-stock on my scrubbing supplies as acid cleaner can be harsh on brushes:
Thank goodness for gloves.
Until then, it’s back down on my hands and knees to continue with the scrubbing, while I make a mental note to get more brushes.