If you have pea gravel pathways or a river rock patio, it probably looked great when you first put it in; after a few seasons, though, it starts to look a little tired. That’s because mud, pollen, and other particulates can mix in with the gravel, changing its colour and making it look grungy. To freshen up your outdoor space without hauling in new gravel, you can try cleaning it to bring it back to its original glory.
Gravel has a tendency to spread and mix in with the dirt and plants at its border. That makes the edges lumpy instead of crisp, and can also pose a problem when mowing or weed-whacking as the gravel stones can get swept up and kicked back by maintenance equipment. After a disturbance like a storm or several days of rain, and once your gravel has dried back out, you should try raking it back into place with a gravel rake.
What you need to clean gravel
For a more intense cleaning, you’ll need a garden hose or low-pressure power washer, a broom, a rake, a shovel, and a good stain remover. The type of dirt or stain might dictate the type of stain remover or detergent you use. If you just have general cleaning to do, some white vinegar might be all you need. If there’s an oil stain, you might need a tougher detergent. If you have landscaping plants around the edge of your gravel, you might choose to use a plant-friendly cleaner. For gravelled areas that have any pot holes or thin patches, you might also want to get some extra gravel to fill it in.
How to clean gravel
Once you’ve gathered your tools and materials, the first step is to sweep leaves and other debris off of your gravel surface. It might seem counterintuitive to sweep gravel, but with a brush broom and a light touch, you can get most of the leaves off without losing much gravel. You can also use a leaf blower for this, but it won’t work as well on dust and smaller particles as a broom.
Next, target any stained areas with your chosen stain remover, working it into the gravel with your rake. Moving the gravel around with the rake will help all the surfaces of the gravel to get some of the detergent on them. Don’t rake the area too widely, or the stones that come in contact with the surrounding area can spread the stain. Leave the detergent to set for a few hours. For stubborn stains, allow the detergent to sit overnight to break down the stain.
Then, use your hose or power washer at the lowest setting possible to rinse the gravel. You should wear safety glasses for this part as well as thick work gloves in case the pressure is high enough to fling gravel into the air. The aim, however, should be to move the gravel as little as possible while still moving smaller particles of dirt. Once you’ve reached that happy medium, you should rinse the whole gravel surface.
Once your gravel is dry, you should once again rake the edges of your area to make sure they stay crisp and clean. Then, add some gravel to any thin spots or divots and rake it flat. You can also rinse a few times to get the gravel really clean.
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