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Organic Gardening: removing algae from wooden fence

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sempervirens
Northern, NJ
(Zone 6b)

March 14, 2007
10:10 PM

Post #3281769

Does anyone have a good organic method for removing green algae ( I assume that's what it is ) from a stained wooden fence. I'd like to repaint it now and I saw a product that claimed to remove it in a safe non-toxic manor. Of course I can't locate the product now.
Thanks.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 14, 2007
11:27 PM

Post #3281990

Have you tried a pressure washer? That's what I've used to get algae/moss off lots of stuff.
sempervirens
Northern, NJ
(Zone 6b)

March 15, 2007
2:17 PM

Post #3283964

ecrane,
Thanks for the suggestion. I've neverpressure washed anything and I was hoping to do this job myself. Will this cause a lot of water to be deposited in my neighbors yard if the fence divides our properties? And can this be done myself with rented equipment that is easy to use?
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 15, 2007
7:43 PM

Post #3284982

I bought a cheapo pressure washer from Home Depot for $50ish, it's not going to be as high powered as something you rent but worked fine for me. Or you can rent a better one, it's really up to you but people do it themselves all the time, I've never done it so I don't know how easy it is to use but it can't be that hard. Your neighbor's property will get wet, how wet depends on how much space is between the boards. But assuming the boards are fairly closely spaced, I don't think you would damage anything on their side, just get it a bit wet (you might want to give them a heads up ahead of time so they're not surprised...and maybe their side has a bunch of algae too and they'll split the cost of renting the pressure washer!). You'll also want to make sure you're not using the absolute highest pressure setting because that could dig little grooves in the wood boards, start off with the lowest setting and turn it up slowly until you see that it's removing the algae but don't go any higher than that (the algae should come off with much less pressure than it would take to damage the boards)
wrightie
Metro DC, MD
(Zone 7a)

March 16, 2007
2:20 AM

Post #3286360

Oxy Boost oxygen bleach. I was researching similar products last year while looking for a safe but *effective* deck cleaner. We do have a power washer, but I was looking for an option that wouldn't damage the wood or my plants.

http://www.oxyboost.com/
sempervirens
Northern, NJ
(Zone 6b)

March 17, 2007
10:02 AM

Post #3291026

wrightie,
Have you tried this product yet? I'll try to call them because it is unclear from their website if the product is compatible with a painted wood surface. My fence is painted with a solid grey stain.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 17, 2007
11:45 AM

Post #3291375

Oxyboost isn't organic--not sure if that was a requirement or if you were just looking for something relatively safe. I would think it should be OK on painted surfaces, oxygen bleaches are color safe so it won't change the color. Is your wood stained or is it painted? If it's stained, then that color soaks into the wood so any cleaning you do shouldn't affect it much, but if it's painted then that's mainly on the surface and can chip/peel off if you scrub too hard
wrightie
Metro DC, MD
(Zone 7a)

March 17, 2007
12:04 PM

Post #3291426

Semper, yes, I've used it on our wooden deck and for laundry. I did quite a lot of research online last winter trying to find a safe but effective way to clean the deck without using the power washer. A power washer is great in that it's fast, but even if you're cautious and use a gentler nozzle, the wood is still torn up a bit (even if you don't see it, you can feel it when you run your hand over it). Also, I lost some perennials to the power washer as they were planted around the deck even though we were being careful.

As long as you use really hot water and wait the 10 or so recommended min. prior to applying it to the surface, then let it sit for *at least as long* as they recommend, then it works great. I would not hesitate to use it on a stained wooden surface.

It's also a great product to use for laundry. I ended up ordering couple of the 6lb jars of it and will continue to keep it on hand around the house. My neighbor was complaining that someone got makeup on her infant son's clothes and she couldn't Shout it out, no matter how hard she tried... I gave her some oxy boost to try and she said that worked really well.

Btw, I do not work for this company nor profit from their sales in any way.
sempervirens
Northern, NJ
(Zone 6b)

March 19, 2007
4:28 AM

Post #3296966

Thanks ecrane and wrightie,
My hope is for organic 1st, non-toxic second. It would be nice to have easy quick fix as I do have to restain the fence also. I assume just using a stiff brush and a little elbow grease will not be sufficient to prepare the surface for a new coat of stain?
wrightie
Metro DC, MD
(Zone 7a)

March 19, 2007
6:29 AM

Post #3297013

Here's a thought... vinegar is often used for cleaning. What if you used a strong vinegar? You would need to account for the fact that vinegar with an acidity of 15% - 20% is used as weed killer (check those percentages, as I'm operating off of memory only), so be careful not to get it on plants that you want to keep. I haven't found a local supplier of the high octane stuff, but there's a place online that you could order from if you don't find it near you.

Please let us know what you try.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 19, 2007
10:08 AM

Post #3297474

You could try the stiff brush and the elbow grease--I was trying to find something a little easier! But there's a good chance that'll work too, may need to add a pinch of dish soap or something along those lines too
sempervirens
Northern, NJ
(Zone 6b)

April 3, 2007
5:52 AM

Post #3349883

wrightie and ecrane,
I've experimented with the standard white vinegar available from the supermarket, painted it on with a brush and wiped off the residue with water and a rough cloth. The results were great. I also tried Murphy Oil Soap with citrus (this seems to be made of vegetable oil and orange) in a spray bottle with excellent results. The stiff brush with just water was too labor intensive. A rough cloth like terry cloth was quicker since it covered a large area and didn't require too much rubbing.
Thanks for the suggestions now I just have to get to work. The lattice attached to the arbor has a rougher surface so both dirt and algae stick in the grooves.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 3, 2007
9:57 AM

Post #3350382

Glad you found something that worked! Sounds like a lot of work but once everything's nice and clean I'm sure you'll be so happy!
wrightie
Metro DC, MD
(Zone 7a)

April 5, 2007
9:19 PM

Post #3359946

Hooray!
PrairieGirlZ5
Thornton, IL

April 6, 2007
11:18 AM

Post #3361583

Wow wrightie~I guess I found your hang-out, LOL. I have a 6 foot wooden fence around my entire backyard, as well as along the length of my driveway, and a wooden deck with lattice attached to bead-boards under it (see pic). ecrane~do you know the brand of the power washer you purchased? I would like to own my own, so when the mood/time was right, I could go to it. Would the bleach harm the plants? Maybe If I did this before they were up and in the way too much, that would minimize any harm? (I think bleach is necessary to kill algae).

Thumbnail by PrairieGirlZ5
Click the image for an enlarged view.

wrightie
Metro DC, MD
(Zone 7a)

April 6, 2007
11:00 PM

Post #3363785

Hi PrairieGirlZ, The OxyBoost is said not to harm plants and I didn't see any problems with my plants when I used it near them. We have a similar arrangement with the fence and deck, so we purchased a power washer for the same reason.

ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 6, 2007
11:09 PM

Post #3363811

I don't remember the brand--I'll see if I can find it in the garage tomorrow and let you know. I got it at Home Depot so if you go there and look for the cheapest electric power washer that's probably the one I have! It won't do the really heavy duty jobs, but for cleaning deck/patio/fence it works great.

I would be careful with bleach around the plants--if you use enough to kill the algae it's also going to be enough to damage your plants, so I'd try something else. The benefit of the power washer is it'll take all the algae off the fence so you don't have to worry about trying to kill it, where bleach is needed is if you don't have the strong mechanical action of the pressure washer to remove it.
wrightie
Metro DC, MD
(Zone 7a)

April 6, 2007
11:15 PM

Post #3363827

Hmmm... I figured that she was referring to the OxyBoost oxygenated bleach, which uses the active Ingredients: Sodium percarbonate, soda ash

Here's what the website says:
"Oxy-Boost is excellent for cleaning and restoring wood decks. It removes organic stains from leaf stains to BBQ grease, removes mold and mildew as well as sun faded and discolored wood layers. Makes your deck look almost new!!! It doesn't harm your plants, grass or landscaping in any way!"

ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 6, 2007
11:24 PM

Post #3363855

Sorry...when she mentioned needing bleach to kill the algae my mind automatically went to "real" sodium hypochlorite bleach because that's what you'd need to kill algae, the oxy bleach won't kill it. Combined with pressure from the pressure washer or elbow grease with a scrub brush it may remove it, but it won't kill it (but in my opinion if you can remove all of it you don't really need to kill it)
PrairieGirlZ5
Thornton, IL

April 7, 2007
12:56 AM

Post #3364071

Good point ecrane! All I really wanted to confirm was that I wouldn't kill the plants getting rid of the algae. Can someone please clarify the difference between organic and non-toxic? A comment was made that OxyBoost wasn't organic, but that it was safe, are we just splitting hairs or is there a criteria?
wrightie
Metro DC, MD
(Zone 7a)

April 7, 2007
9:04 AM

Post #3364559

Those are great questions, PGZ, but I'm not touching them because I am but an amateur!

=)
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 7, 2007
11:58 AM

Post #3365134

One reason that the oxy stuff isn't organic is because it's from a mineral source as opposed to plant/animal. Plants and animals can be raised organically (no pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, etc) but since minerals are just sitting around in the ground they can't by definition be organic (and the minerals involved also have to go through a chemical reaction process to turn them into the oxy chemical, any synthetic steps like that would make it not organic anymore even if it had been in the first place). The way I look at it for things like that is if it's something that could naturally be found in the soil anyway then I consider it in the spirit of organic gardening even if it can't be organic by the definition (like adding sand into the soil as an amendment for example). But the oxy stuff isn't anything that would be naturally occurring in the soil, so I would not consider it something acceptable to use around my organic garden.
wrightie
Metro DC, MD
(Zone 7a)

April 7, 2007
12:01 PM

Post #3365151

Thank you, Ecrane. That is a very helpful explanation.
PrairieGirlZ5
Thornton, IL

April 7, 2007
8:38 PM

Post #3366795

But I can just use the power washer with water to remove the algae, right?
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 7, 2007
9:02 PM

Post #3366878

I would think so--I've gotten algae off decks, patios, and retaining walls with mine. Make sure you start off with a wide spray pattern and narrow it down just until it starts to remove the algae, otherwise if you start off with the narrowest jet it can gouge into the wood.

And I checked my pressure washer today--the brand is Durabuilt
PrairieGirlZ5
Thornton, IL

April 7, 2007
10:13 PM

Post #3367178

Great, thanks ecrane!! I will be doing this chore very soon...

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