Revisiting 'maintenance-free' decking, and elaborating on ways to

Resident Expert

Q. I recently bought a Trex deck because I thought it wouldn't require maintenance (see May 9 column). But after a heavy rainy season, the deck became spotted. I have tried many deck cleaners, but the spots remain. - A.B., Park Ridge, Ill.

A. Many people don't realize that Trex decks are "composite decks," which means they are part wood and part recycled plastic, says Steven Agnew of Durable Plastic Decking in Edmonds, Wash. Trex contains an equal amount of each. He says any deck with wood is going to stain, even though composite decks will stain less.

Trex Company representatives recommend using tile cleaners to dissolve rain spots, and if this doesn't work, to lightly sand. For zero-maintenance decks, all-plastic decks are recommended.

Readers respond Another view on water softening As an environmental engineer with over 30 years of experience, I found your answer in the June 9 column disappointing. Magnetic solutions are so much wiffle dust.

The reader is asking about softening water. Hard water is caused by calcium carbonate and minerals in water. By itself it is not unhealthy, however it may cause staining. There are several solutions: chemical precipitation (done by the municipality), ion exchange, reverse osmosis, evaporation, and carbon-absorption systems....

Best solution: Install a water softener or under-sink reverse-osmosis unit. With the former, you may want to drink bottled water because of taste; with the latter, you will still have a staining problem, but the water will taste better. - D.R., Lilburn, Ga.

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

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