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Decorative rocks, whether it’s flagstone pavers, gravel mulch, or landscape boulders, are popular additions to residential landscaping. They’re hard-wearing, last forever, and naturally add beauty and style. 

Decorative rocks are touted as low-maintenance, and it’s true. But there is still some maintenance required every now and then to keep your landscape stone, whether it’s pavers, river rock, or wall coverings, looking their best. This means every few years, or even every year, you may want to invest a little time and effort in cleaning the stone elements of your landscape.


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Here are some tips for how to clean your hardscapes and keep your landscape stones looking fresh every year.


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How to Clean Landscape Stone

Landscape stone, or river rock, will look its best if you take care of it annually. Cleaning your river rock is a bit more time-intensive than cleaning other types of landscaping rocks or stone groundcover. 

There are a few things you can do throughout the summer to make the process of cleaning rock easier:

  • Clean up debris after storms
  • Edge the lawn around gravel beds
  • Pull weeds whenever you see them
  • Blow fallen leaves out of landscape beds in the fall
  • Consider adding a pre-emergent weed killer to high-traffic areas to hinder new weed growth

General maintenance on your high-traffic areas will save you time over the long run versus major cleaning projects every year. If your rocked area has become overwhelmed with weeds, dirt, and silt, it is possible to give river rock a deep clean. It is a tedious and time-consuming task of sifting, power washing, and replacing the rock back in its place. If you think your landscape stone is really badly in need of cleaning, you can try doing this on your own or contact us for assistance with an alternative.


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Generally, manufactured landscape stone doesn’t handle high-pressure water or aggressive cleaning products well.


How to Clean Paving Stones

Paving stones are much easier to clean than landscape gravel. Similarly, though, it’s a lot easier to keep them clean if you do the task at least once annually.

  1. Sweep your paving stones off with a relatively stiff outdoor broom.
  2. If your paving stones are just dull and a little dirty, you can spray them off with a garden hose on a high-pressure setting, and they should look great again.
  3. If your paving stones have stained spots, you can scrub them with a bristle brush and general dish soap, then rinse clean. 
  4. If the stains are really resistant, you can use chemical cleaners specifically for paving stones to get everything looking fresh and new again. Follow the directions closely, never mix cleaning products, and make sure you rinse everything off thoroughly. 
  5. If you don’t want to use chemicals, you can pressure wash your pavers. Be careful with pressure washing. Keep it roughly 10-12 inches above the stones, use the fan spray setting, and spray at an angle. 
  6. The last and maybe most important step is to re-apply polymeric sand on your pavers. Polymeric sand fills in the cracks between pavers and helps to keep the cracks clean from weeds. If you do this, you’ll have a lot less work to do next year!


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How to Clean Decorative Rock Walls

If you have masonry on the outside of your home, retaining walls, or pillars, made of manufactured stone, it can be a bit trickier to clean. Generally, manufactured landscape stone doesn’t handle high-pressure water or aggressive cleaning products well. 

You might be tempted to just pressure wash your vertical landscaping rock work when you’re doing the driveway or paving stones. Don’t do it! A pressure washer can cause cracks or chips, and it can also affect the integrity of the masonry work holding your stone together. Chemical cleaners can cause discoloration or degradation. 


How to Clean Manufactured Wall Stones

If you need to clean your vertical rock work, you should first consult the contractor who applied your rock work or the manufacturer of your particular stone. Ask them how to clean the stone or who you could contact for more information. 

If you can’t find that information, use some basic dish soap, water, and a scrub brush to clean an inconspicuous spot, so you can see how it affects your landscape stonework. If you’re happy with the result, then proceed to give everything a good scrub down with soapy water. When you’re finished scrubbing, you can use a garden hose sprayer nozzle on a gentle setting to rinse the soap off. 

Don’t be tempted to turn the nozzle pressure to the high setting; you may end up with pieces that fall out or chip. 


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How to Clean Landscape Boulders

Of all landscape rocks, decorative boulders might be the easiest to clean. Because, honestly, besides when they’re initially installed, do you need to clean boulders? They don’t get scrubbed up with soap and water in the Illinois wilderness, so do they really need it done in your yard? 

One common reason for cleaning landscape boulders is the belief that lichens should be removed from landscaping rocks. But the truth is that they don’t do any damage to stones or trees. They’re a natural and critical part of ecosystems. The added bonus is that they add character to your boulders. 

If the birds have decided your boulders are their favorite restroom, it makes sense to clean these landscape rocks regularly. If birds are a problem, you can give these stones a scrub with a rag and some warm water as needed.

If your landscape stone is in disrepair and a good scrub won’t quite cut it, give us a call. We’re happy to assess if the area can be fixed up or if it’s time for a new solution for your landscape.


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