Every spring or summer we all go through the same thing: cleaning the patio because it looks embarrassingly hideous, like something from a zombie movie. In fact, it looks like the zombies would enjoy having lunch on it and reflect lovingly upon the weeds & moss growing between the stones.
I don’t want my patio to look this way, do you?
Okay, we both want our outdoor spaces to look crazy awesome.
And not just for a few weeks. If you’re going to spend several hours getting the patio stones looking pristine then you’d also want them to stay that way all summer, right!! Plus, who has the time to continually scrub down pavers or stones when the kids have a million activities over the weekend that require carpooling, sunscreen, and the occasional ER visit?
I’ve made the mistake of using the power washer or patio cleaner and thinking my cleaning job was done only to be back at it 4 weeks later.
Today you’ll discover 3 HUGE TIPs that will
- prevent your patio stones from accumulating dirt
- eliminate moss and weeds
- allow you to enjoy your home’s outdoor space while sipping your favorite beverage (Corona anyone?).
Here’s the supply list for your adventure:
- Flathead screwdriver
- Sakrete polymeric sand
- Yogurt cup
- Leaf blower
- Extension cord
- Garden sprayer
- Wet N Forget
- Spray bottle
- White Vinegar
- Dishwashing soap
- These Amazon affiliate links help keep the lights on at HRT…gracias!!
MacGyver would be proud of this supply list. Let’s get to it so that you can keep your patio clean all summer long 🙂
Polymeric Sand Prevents Weed Growth Between Patio Stones
There are two reasons why you want to use polymeric sand
- it prevents weeds from popping up between stones
- it stops bugs from living between the stones and possibly finding a way into your house
Who’s going to argue that weeds and bugs are annoying? Anyone?
Ants and other bugs can use cracks between your stones to find a back door entrance into your house. I know first hand because we have issues with sugar ants making their annual pilgrimage across our kitchen counter.
You can find polymeric sand at any home store. I bought Sakrete’s polymeric sand during my weekly trip to Lowe’s. It was located in the landscaping section near the patio stones.
Before applying the polymeric sand you need to remove existing weeds or moss from between patio stones or pavers. I used a power washer but you can pull the weeds by hand and scrape off moss with an old flat head screwdriver. Sakrete also recommends cleaning the stones before applying polymeric sand. This makes sense because any power washing or stain remover will likely dislodge the sand you just installed.
You can approach the first step of the application process by
- using a yogurt cup to pour polymeric sand directly into stone or paver joints
- or pouring a large quantity of sand directly onto the stones or pavers
Use a broom to sweep the sand down into the joints. The directions recommend the sand be 1/8 of an inch below the pavers or stones. Sakrete also recommends tapping the stones with a rubber mallet so that the sand will settle better between them.
It’s critical to remove all left over polymeric sand from the top of the patio stones. Otherwise the sand might stain them since it has colorant in it.
The best way to displace excess sand is to use a leaf blower.
Once this is done you can use a garden sprayer to lightly mist the stones & polymeric sand. Don’t allow any puddling because this could cause the polymer to wash out. Repeat this misting process 3-4 times over a one-hour period (take this opportunity to read a book, listen to your favorite album, or if you’re like me-do laundry & fold clothes).
Once you’re done with misting keep off the patio for 24 hours.
Here’s a summary of the steps you need to take with polymeric sand
- Remove existing weeds & moss
- Clean patio stones with a pressure washer or cleaner
- Pour polymeric sand into joints
- Sweep sand into joints with a broom
- Tap stones with a rubber mallet to compact sand
- Remove excess sand with a leaf blower
- Mist stones & sand with a garden sprayer 3-4 times in one hour
- Avoid puddling of water
- Wait 24 hours to use the patio
Polymeric sand does a great job of preventing weeds from growing between patio stones or pavers. But I have two more fantastic tips that you should definitely implement so that patio maintenance seems like a thing of the past.
Wet and Forget: My 9 Month Experiment Proves You Should Use It
Last summer I heard about Wet & Forget and decided to give it a try. It’s a product that uses surfactants along with the natural cycle of rain, sun, and wind to clean exterior surfaces. You mix it with water, spray it on your patio, and that’s it.
I wanted to see for myself if the product could do just as good as a power washer but without all the effort and water consumption. My degree is in chemistry and an experiment seemed like a natural step to take. So I treated one section of our patio and not the other with Wet & Forget. The time frame was 9 months (September thru May). I chose this period of the year because dirt collects on top of our patio stones over the winter months.
So, does Wet & Forget really work?
The section that didn’t get treated had more moss and dirt collecting on the surface of the stones. Wet & Forget also did a great job of helping remove all the bird droppings. In my mind, there’s no question that Wet & Forget works and should be applied to our patio every spring. Even my wife noticed the huge difference between the untreated and treated patio stones. When Mrs. says to continue using something I listen.
Using Wet & Forget is simple:
- Mix one part Wet & Forget to 5 parts of water in a garden sprayer
- Spray your mixture on your surface of choice
- Repeat this process every 3 to 4 months
- THAT’S IT
You’ll have to be patient and allow Wet & Forget to do its thing. After 2 months you’ll start to see your stones or exterior surface look a lot cleaner. If your patio stones are really dirty you can spray them with Wet & Forget then use a stiff scrub brush.
The bottom line is this: algae, moss, and dirt will be a thing of the past if you use Wet & Forget on your patio or deck. You can also apply it to vertical surfaces like siding and get the same positive results. I did this at one of our rental properties and saved myself hours of scrubbing dirt off wood clapboard.
Okay, so now you know how to use Polymeric Sand and Wet & Forget to stop weeds, moss, and dirt from tarnishing your patio.
What should you do for weeds that occasionally pop up? How do you eliminate them in an environmentally friendly and kid-safe manner?
White Vinegar to the Rescue: The Natural Way to Kill Weeds
Jill Nystul from One Good Thing by Jillee persuaded me to try white vinegar instead of store-bought weed killers. She put together a great blog post on how to mix up the solution and when to use it.
She recommends adding white vinegar to a spray bottle along with 1 teaspoon of dishwashing soap.
The soap will help the white vinegar stick to the weeds and allow the acidity of the vinegar to break down the plant. Jill also recommends spraying plants during periods of intense sun to allow the vinegar to be absorbed.
Again, I put on my chemist hat and did an experiment. After mixing the vinegar solution I sprayed a huge weed at 2:00 in the afternoon when the sun was shining at it’s fullest here in Pittsburgh.
This is what the weed looked like the next day 🙂
This totally worked!!
If you have any weeds that pop up between your patio stones you should try spraying them with vinegar between 12 to 3 in the afternoon on a sunny day.
Another great outdoor project is re-painting outdoor metal chairs. Our tutorial has several great tips on how to do that.
If you’re doing a bathroom remodel and need help, join one of our online courses – they’ll make your bathroom renovation much easier!
Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help.
Thanks as always for reading, watching, and being part of our awesome community.
I just moved into a 100 + year old house/condo, all by myself after 38 years of having a “honey-do…” So I m a beginner at home maintenance and repair. This website has been a Godsend, but the tip about the Wet and Forget may be the best yet!
I am in the city (Portland, ME)…it’s dirty, it’s wet A LOT and I have moss on the shady siding…I am ON MY WAY to Lowe’s to get this stuff. The other tips…believe it or didn’t know about! Can you stand it?
I do have a question: I power washed my back porch last year, and it didn’t do a damn thing. I KILLED myself washing and there is still dirt on my clapboards. Should I just maybe paint them? They could definitely stand it and I am quite sure I could do this myself, since I won’t have to do the ceiling. Meanwhile, don’t I have to know if the existing paint is oil or latex? And how does one tell? This paint is flat, pale yellow and actually pretty gross. It actually looks like someone used flat interior (apartment grade) paint on the siding (and floor. and ceiling, but those are projects for another day.)
ANY thoughts accepted gratefully.
Hi Linda, thanks for your questions. I love answering ones like these. Like you I don’t have all the answers but that’s okay. We’ll learn together.
Your paint can be primed over with either oil based or latex primer then painted. These days it doesn’t matter what type is primer but I prefer oil based because it seems to last better. It may sound simple but take a picture if your siding to a home improvement or paint store and ask for suggestions on what type of paint & finish they suggest for your area. They might recommend scraping then sanding the siding, priming then painting with a great paint brush (Purdy is my favorite brand)
Definitely use Wet & Forget for maintenance- it saved me a ton of cleaning time this year
Hope this helps
I am curious about this Wet & Forget. We have a brick house that has pretty annoying efflorescence so I wonder if that will work for us? I will check their website to see if I can find anything out! Thanks for the tip on the weed spray too. Ours are starting to come back after round one of roundup. Not my favorite thing to do…we live on a corner lot!!
Renae, we live on a corner lot, too!!! It’s nice but somewhat of a pain (dog poop isn’t my friend).
Efflorescence can be tough. We have a ton of it on retaining walls. I haven’t tried Wet and Forget for this problem but should 🙂
So I’m not sure if it works but it’s worth a shot.
Unfortunately Wet & Forget doesn’t remove efflorescence. If you have any organic growth on your brick, basically any green or black stuff growing — Wet & Forget will clean and remove this with ease.
Thanks Steve for clarifying 🙂
Wet N Forget is toxic. If you have pets or water runoff to a pond or other water garden is possible please use caution. I considered it for my patio at our koi pond until I read the ingredients. Please remember, animals are much more sensitive to chemical reaction than humans.
I do appreciate the concise and thorough contents of this post, thank you.
Thanks Jody for your comment. I do like Wet N Forget a lot and agree to keep it away from pets & delicate plants. I actually use it because it’s a bit safer than most products used for siding and patio cleaning. Many cleaners have bleach in them and while effective have other concerns much worse than W & F. Cleaning is never easy 🙁
Jeff, when applying the Sakrete Polymeric Sand it is best that you water the area using a shower setting in a back and forth motion. This should be done until the joints can no longer accept any more water. Joints should be 1/4″ and no larger than 1 1/2″. Larger joints will require more water. Its important to not take more than 3 minutes between applications to prevent the sand from skinning on top. If you wait to long the sand will become hard on top thus not allowing water to penetrate and activate the polymers at the bottom. This will cause the sand to be soft and wash out.
To remove efflorescence or “white hazing” there are a few different methods.
1) The first method for removing the hazing is a 50/50 mixture of warm water and household vinegar.
This step usually only works when the material has been down for a short period of time, usually within
a couple of days.
2) The second method is to use efflorescence or TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) cleaners, mix with warm
water. This usually works if the product has been down longer than a couple of days.
3) The best way to remove the paver set sand from the paver surface is to use a hot water pressure
washer at 180°F. The heat will reactivate the polymers in the product and allow the sand and hazing to
be removed. If doing a smaller area you can use boiling water.
4) Another way is just to leave the staining and it will weather away naturally with time and rain.
Hope this helps.
Everything else looks good thanks for using SAKRETE.
Thanks so much Chris for your awesome tips.
It’s always nice to hear from the company that makes the product since you do all the testing.
Always feel free to give your advice on any post involving Sakrete. You make wonderful products, thanks for all your hard work 😀
Is Wet & Forget also applicable and efficient for cleaning white finished aluminum such as a Lanai structure?
Thank you for your get info.
We have a very large paver patio that we power washed when we first moved in few years ago, but we never filled in the sand. We have moss and weeds, which we have been combating with vinegar, weed killer and the screw driver, but we need to do more.
Should we do wet and forget first and then do the sand?
Any ideas on what to do if you left some sand on top of the paver stones when you “misted” the stones with water….I think that I stained our stones…..2,000 down the drain.
I really appreciate this helpful post. I am planning on power washing and resanding our paver patio. Is the Wet N Forget something I should use to clean the pavers after I power wash but before laying the new sand down? Or should I use a different cleaner than lay the sand and than apply the Wet N Forget?
Looking for a cleaning solution that will clean the natural stone patio but will not kill my grass. The patio drains onto the grass
One thing that I have been worried about with installing our patio is weeds growing through the cracks. That polymeric sand looks like an awesome solution for that. Is that something that you can apply right away? We are going to be doing some decorative concrete with our project so I would love to be prepared in advance.
Be advised – Some polymeric sand contains concrete, which stains brick (effloresence is often blamed, but it’s from the mortar mix). It also peels out of joints like caulk because of winter heave/thaw, which is super annoying because it often happens after 1 or 2 winters (even when done right). Your best bet is to do it right; rent a compactor (could use a tamper to acheive similar results, just takes forever) & use a coarse grade sand (NOT silica sand, the particles are too regular & too small). Level & compact the base, lay pavers, compact pavers, sweep in sand & compact again. Make sure your patio has a bit of a pitch so water drains away easily. Topdress joints with more sand. This LOCKS the pavers together. Sealing your patio also helps to mitigate weed growth. Moss is annoying, but it’s just something you have to deal with if you live in a moist climate or the patio is in the shade. Products like Moss Max work very well & are usually readily available & not expensive. Just power wash it regularly with a detergent ment for cleaning pavers; add sand and re-seal as needed. Regular sand is way, WAY cheaper than poly sand. In the long run you save money, but have to put in a little more elbow grease. The pros do not use poly sand for pavers, just regular maintenance.
How long does polymeric sand last properly installed I live in Fort Myers Florida
Hi Jeff! Do all of your tips apply to a natural stone patio? Is there anything we would need to do differently for natural stone? Thank you for your help!!
I used polymeric sand about 10 years ago and regret it. It shrinks after awhile leaving cracks; and a black mold grows on it – Very unsightly now.
I am following your blog step by step to clear my patio of weeds and miss. Yes, every year I have this problem but not as bad as this year! I don’t think these pavers have been touched since the house was built in the 1980’s. ATON of work, but I’m hoping the results will last for years to come and I can just sit back and enjoy a Corona instead of pulling weeds all summer!!!
Would love to send you pictures, but I can’t get it to work. 😩
One question. How do I seal the pavers and sand to prevent this mess from happening again?
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Awesome tips! I’m a new homeowner and I have no clue how to do this – thanks for the help!
I have a paver patio that is several years old. We removed the plastic edging since it was sticking up and we were tripping on it. Should we dig out the dirt/stone on the outside of the patio and reset the edging? And if we do this, should we grow grass up against the edging..or put tiny stones there as a natural border. WE prefer grass….so that leads me to my next question. Or can we just add more dirt and grow grass around the paver that is on the natural border?
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Can I use wet and forget over GST sealer on paver patio??
Nice post in pointing out the 3 Tips to Keep Your Outdoor Oasis Clean All Summer, yes! it’s true this product useful, this sealing paver will help a lot to enhance the outdoor area especially summer season. Cheers!
It was worth reading, Jeff. It has been difficult to pick the right one from tons of service providers. I am glad that it will help me to pick the right one for my patio. Anyway, which questions should I ask my service providers before finalizing the deal? Your suggestions would be highly appreciated. Thank you so much for your great tips!