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How to Clean Landscape Rocks the Right Way

Landscape rocks are a popular feature in outdoor spaces for their versatility and ability to create beautiful, low-maintenance scenery. However, just like any other outdoor surface, landscape rocks can become dirty and unsightly over time. The good news is that cleaning landscape rocks is a relatively simple and straightforward process that can be done with just a few basic tools and materials.

Clean landscape rocks by clearing large debris, sifting the rocks to separate them from the soil, then wash and clean the rocks with a homemade natural cleaner or chemical mixture, like a bleach cleaner using a brush.

In this article, we’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to clean landscape rocks the right way and keep them looking their best for years to come. These methods are carefully chosen to ensure a thorough cleaning that won’t risk your landscape rocks’ integrity.

Clear Large Debris

The first step to cleaning your landscape rocks properly is one that many people often skip, and that is to clear away any large debris you see scattered throughout the landscape.

Removing objects such as leaves, branches, trash, and even landscape features like benches and statues will make the following sifting process easier and more time efficient. It can also give you extra space and easy access to all landscaping rocks in need of cleaning.

You can quickly clear large debris using simple tools, like a leaf blower or standard rake, and decide to either discard them or repurpose the natural material. For example, weeds, dry leaves, and old flowers can be used for composting/fertilizer.

Sift the Landscape Rocks

Now that you’ve removed the larger pieces of debris from your landscape rocks, it’s time to separate them from the surrounding dirt, sand, or other sediment and smaller debris.

Doing this manually would be a nightmare, which is why we recommend using a soil sifter or soil sieve. Another viable option would be to use a length or hardware cloth or chicken wire, ideally with ½ inch holes.

To sift you landscape rocks, you’ll need:

  • Two sizeable buckets or wheelbarrows (depending on the quantity of landscape rocks)
  • A shovel
  • A sifting tool

You can then follow the steps listed below.

  1. Place your sifting tool inside one of your buckets.
  2. Use your shovel to place a layer of landscape rocks onto the sifting tool
  3. Gently sift as much dirt and debris as possible from the landscaping rocks
  4. Set the sifted landscape rocks into a separate bucket
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until all landscape rocks have been sifted.

This might be a time-consuming step, especially if you have a large amount of landscaping rocks, but it will ensure the most thorough cleaning and prevent accidental damage when the time comes to wash them.

Here’s a video showing possible ways to clean stone:

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Wash the Landscape Rocks

It’s time to give your landscape rocks a much-needed rinse and possibly a deep scrub if it appears necessary.

The ideal method for washing your landscape rocks will depend on the type of rocks you have and how thorough cleaning they require. Colored landscape rocks of small to medium size can be cleaned using the two methods listed below.

However, rocks that are white in color, large in size, or covered in material that is difficult to remove with a standard cleaning, such as algae, will require extra care.

The first way to wash standard landscape rocks is to fill the bucket or wheelbarrow where they’re stored with water, and then pour the water out. This might be the quicker option, but it will likely take several repetitions until all dirt, mud, and debris is completely cleared.

Alternatively, you could place your landscape rocks back onto your sifter and underneath running water. This will ensure all dirty water runs off the rocks immediately and gives you the opportunity to brush your landscape rocks clean using a scrub brush (avoid wire brushes, as these will damage the rocks).

Removing Algae From Landscape Rocks

If you have landscape rocks placed around a garden pond or some other source of water, they might become covered in algae.

Oftentimes, this plant growth can be removed with a high-powered spray from your garden hose, but if you’re struggling to clear it from all your landscape rocks, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Soak the rocks in a 50/50 mixture of water and white or apple cider vinegar for 5 minutes, then scrub and rinse them clean.
  2. Soak the rocks in 3% hydrogen peroxide for at least 30 seconds, then scrub and rinse them clean.
  3. Soak rocks in a mixture of 1 part bleach to 20 parts water for at least ten minutes. Scrub and rinse them clean, then repeat the soaking process if necessary.

We recommend starting with the first option and only working your way down to bleach if you have truly stubborn stains. Because bleach is a harsh chemical, it might damage your landscape rocks and alter their coloring, so it is best to only use it when necessary.

Cleaning White Landscape Rocks

While bleach might not be the best option for cleaning colored landscaping rocks, it is the go-to choice for white ones.

Not only will the bleach remove all debris from your landscape rock’s surface, but it will also restore dirty, faded color to its original, pristine vibrancy.

Using the same ration of one part bleach to 20 parts water, soak your white landscaping rocks in the mixture for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to drain and rinse them, be sure to dispose of the mixture down a drain. Dumping outdoors in nature is dangerous for plant and animal life.

Cleaning Large Landscape Rocks

When it comes to cleaning large landscape rocks, or even boulders, your options are limited to either spraying them down with a hose, carefully utilizing a pressure washer, or manually scrubbing them clean.

If you want the safest and most thorough clean, we recommend rinsing the rocks with a garden hose, scrubbing them with a large or hand-held scrub brush, and repeating this process until you’ve reached the desired results.

It is more likely that you will damage your landscape rocks when using a pressure washer.

To avoid this:

  • refrain from loading any cleaners into the pressure washer
  • spray from a distance of at least 12 inches
  • angle the spray so the pressured water is more dispersed
  • use the gentlest setting

Failure to follow these precautions could result in color loss, accelerated wear, and deterioration of binding materials for structures (ex. grout used in walkways, sidewalk borders, etc.).

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Final Thoughts

By the end of this guide, your landscape rocks should be looking good as new. You can either place them back in their original landscaping formation immediately or allow them to air dry. This is also a great time to tend to the area where your rocks once were and to maybe consider creating a new landscape.

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