Cottage Q&A: Cleaning the dock without causing lake pollution

A dock with two chairs and a canoe tied up alongside By Alessandro Cancian/Shutterstock

I’m going to be cleaning the dock this season. Could you tell me what product I can use that will not pollute the lake?Peter Kuzik, via email

Sadly, no. Unless you count water. 

“There are lots of ‘biodegradable’ cleaners out there, but you’re best not to add them to the lake,” says Rob Davis, the owner of EcoEthic. “Biodegradable” doesn’t mean “go ahead and fling it into the environment.” After all, “everything is biodegradable. My car is biodegradable if I leave it long enough.”

Biodegradation itself isn’t good for the water and its inhabitants: “It uses up a lot of valuable oxygen,” says Davis. Then, there are the by-products; whatever breaks down can get into the tissues of fish and other lake dwellers. 

Cottage Q&A: Pressure-treated docks and lake water

Your safest option? Plain water and a stiff-bristled brush, and a baking soda-water paste to spot-clean any very stubborn oil stains, mould, or mildew. While you wouldn’t want to dump box after box of baking soda into the lake, “it’s fairly benign stuff,” says Davis. “Plus, there’s a coarseness to it. So it does a really good job of getting rid of anything greasy or slimy.” Happy scrubbing!

This article was originally published in the June/July 2021 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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