How to clean paving slabs - a quick and easy way to refresh your garden using washing up liquid

Washing-up liquid saves the day once again

House with gravel infront
(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Snook)

If you’re wondering how to clean paving slabs, you’re not alone. As winter comes to an end, there’s never been a better time to give your paving slabs some TLC. 

Whether you want to know how to clean a patio or you’re looking to refresh your garden path, you’ll be happy to know that it’s very easy to clean paving slabs. But while it’s a small task to tick off your to-do list, it can have a huge impact on your garden ideas and ultimately breathe new life into your outside space. 

After all, even the most expensive paving slabs fall victim to moss growth, algae stains, and dirt build-up. By following the steps below, you can clean your paving slabs and make them look as good as new. 

How to clean paving slabs

'At this time of year, Brits are thinking about ways to improve their garden and it most often starts with a good spring clean,' explains Nick Ee, training and product manager at BLACK+DECKER. 'Cleaning paving slabs can enhance the appearance of your outdoor space and prevent the growth of moss, algae, and other debris from getting worse.' And this is how to do it. 

Patio area with table and chairs surrounded by raised beds

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

What you’ll need

  • Water
  • Washing-up liquid
  • Hard-bristled brush
  • White vinegar
  • Pressure washer 


1. Remove weeds

If you want to clean the paving slabs in your garden, you should also give the area around your slabs some love, too. You can start by brushing loose leaves and debris off the slabs, before moving onto the fiddly bit.

Tom Clifford, garden landscaping expert from Gardenstone, explains, ‘When you’re cleaning paving slabs, it is always best to remove any surrounding weeds to keep them looking as clean and tidy as possible.’

‘When removing the weeds, ensure you’re extracting as much of the root as possible to prevent regrowth. For weeds that are difficult to remove, you can use weed killer, but make sure to fully read the instructions before application.’  

And if you need some more information on this essential garden task, check out our guide on how to kill weeds

Garden dining area

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

2. Clean with soapy water

While the best patio cleaners can certainly help you out if you’re looking to clean your patio or stepping stones, they’re not always necessary. In fact, a combination of warm water and washing-up liquid should do the trick. 

In Tom’s experience, this combination creates a ‘gentle but effective cleaning solution.’ But it’s important that you use it correctly. 

He says, ‘Pour a small amount of warm soapy water on one of your paving slabs and use a hard bristle brush to scrub. Start at the corner of the slab and move inwards.’

However, it’s always a good idea to test one slab and let it dry fully before moving on to the rest. If no damage is caused and the slabs clean up a treat, you can then move on to the next and finish the job.

White vinegar, lemons and bicarb for cleaning

(Image credit: Future PLC)

3. Tackle tougher stains with white vinegar

Over time, it’s common for paving slabs to suffer as a result of dirt and algae build-up - and sometimes soapy water just isn’t tough enough to break down the stains. In that instance, you’ll need to clean with vinegar instead. 

‘White vinegar is effective in breaking down dirt and stains due to its acidic qualities,’ explains Tom. ‘Create a mixture of one part vinegar and one part water, pour the mixture onto a section of your paving slab and leave it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.’

‘Next take a hard bristle brush and scrub the area until the dirt or stains are lifted. Again, it is important to use a test slab with this method in case of damage.’

And when you’ve done that, you can grab the garden hose and rinse your paving slabs once again. Just make sure that all of the vinegar has been removed before letting them dry, as this could result in further staining. 

Pressure wash as a last resort

Although you can clean a patio without using a pressure washer, there’s no denying that the best pressure washers can make this job even easier. But can the same be said for paving slabs? Well, not really. 

Tom would advise against using a pressure washer to clean your paving slabs, but he acknowledges that they can be used as a last resort. 

He urges, ‘I would only suggest using a pressure hose as a final measure when cleaning your paving slabs. If you have stubborn moss and algae stains that will not budge, then a pressure washer can be effective in removing these.’

‘However, be cautious as it is an aggressive method that can wear down your paving slabs over time.’

If you do decide to use this method, Nick has offered some tips. He says, 'You can then use a pressure washer to clean the entire surface of paving slabs, starting from one end and working your way across, making sure to cover the whole area.'

'I would recommend testing the pressure washer settings on a small area to ensure you’ve selected the right setting for the job and to avoid causing damage.'

Modern patio

(Image credit: Future PLC/Alasdair McIntosh)


What is the best thing to clean patio slabs with?

Warm water and washing-up liquid are often enough to cut through the dirt and grime of patio slabs, as long as you clean them with a hard-bristled brush that will be able to disturb it enough. 

However, if you find that this mixture isn’t strong enough, you can also create a 1:1 solution of water and white vinegar. You can use this in the same way, and the acidity of the vinegar should be strong enough to break down even the toughest of stains. 

How do you clean paving slabs without a pressure washer?

Ideally, you should avoid cleaning paving slabs with a pressure washer. The strength and the power of this garden gadget can be too much for your slabs and damage them in the process. So, clean them by hand instead. 

Create a solution of warm water and washing-up liquid, and scrub them with a bristled brush. You should then rinse them clean and repeat as necessary. 

Can you clean paving slabs with washing-up liquid?

Yes! Using washing-up liquid and water is the best way to clean paving slabs, and it’s extremely efficient in removing moss, algae, and dirt stains. 

If you do need a little extra oompf, use water and white vinegar instead. 

Now you know how to clean paving slabs, it’s time to get your hands dirty! 

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.