Last Modified: April 4, 2024

How to Clean Garden Stones

A Homeowners Guide

Rake with gravel

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist


Decorative aggregates and decorative garden stones are an unbeatable aesthetic addition to any outdoor space, gracing gardens and landscape designs with their versatile beauty whilst tirelessly suppressing weed growth and deterring pet pooping. But, have you ever wondered how to keep the white Cotswold stone chippings clean, for example?

The great news is that, in general, decorative aggregates are one of the lowest maintenance materials known for landscape design. Even the busiest of homeowners can find the fraction of time needed to keep their beautiful features looking tip-top, because cleaning garden stones is simple and should take little time in most cases.

So, let's get into the tips and tricks on how to clean garden gravel, slate chips, cobbles, pebbles and majestic slate monolith features so that you can keep them looking their best and your home a spectacular sight and source of pride and joy!!

Oh, and don't forget to explore our 'Pebble Picker' tool, located in the sidebar or menu. This allows you to effortlessly select and compare various decorative aggregates, based on their colour and type.

Cotswold stone chip mulch in a raised bed

Key Takeaways

  1. 1
    Cleaning garden stones is optional, but will keep your garden looking it's best and extend the longevity of features.
  2. 2
    By following our two-phase routine, you will never have to spend excessive time in 'catch up' maintenance. 
  3. 3
    Cleaning white stones can be done via a number of methods, although prevention measures can minimise this need.
  4. 4
    Weed control can be done via many different methods, ranging from herbicides to many cheap and natural methods.
White limestone grave. Jpg

A Level of Maintenance for Everyone

The team at Outdoor Aggregates will always be honest and practical in all our advice, and although it is advisable, cleaning your garden stones is also very much down to time and is a matter of preference. The frequency and depth of cleaning is entirely optional. Of course, just like your car, the more you put into it, the easier it is to maintain the aesthetic appeal of your decorative aggregates installation.

We will begin with how to take care of your decorative chippings. The principles generally apply to all, whether slate, marble, granite or even limestone chippings.

Nordic granite gravel garden with shrubs

Stone Chippings Care

Prevention is Better Than Cure

While this article is specifically about cleaning and routine maintenance, it's important to point out that prevention is always better than the cure when it comes to keeping your decorative aggregates looking their best.

A weed killer can be effective, but you can also prevent weed growth by placing a weed landscaping fabric under the chippings. Also, as with all decorative stone features, ensuring water doesn't build up is key, as this can allow algae to grow and provide refuge for mosquito larvae to develop. Ensuring good drainage takes care of that - another tick for using permeable membranes.

Devon pink limestone on landscaping fabric close up. Jpg

How to Clean and Maintain Stone Chippings

There are two maintenance cycles whose frequencies can be adjusted according to the criteria we cover in each subsection.

The light maintenance routine should be done on a more regular frequency and take less than 10 minutes for the average installation. It involves the removal of unwanted debris and weed growth and the occasional follow-up of a rinse with the garden hose to wash away finer particles and dust.

A far less frequent, annual maintenance routine should be conducted every year to give your stones a deeper clean, but this can also be judged by observation and adjusted according to your needs and preferences. They can take from an hour up to quite a few more, depending on what is required to rejuvenate your feature.

Bi-annual maintenance cycles can work in many situations, especially when the light maintenance routine is followed over the interceding period.

Chipped blue gravel for gardens. Jpg

Light Maintenance Routine

  1. 1
    Remove litter, fallen leaves, twigs or other organic matter using a light brush or leaf blower. This step is more important during autumn when leaves frequently fall.
  2. 2
    Gently pull out any unwanted weeds so as not to disturb the topping.
  3. 3
    Rake the stones back to form a nice, even surface.
  4. 4
    Lastly, use a garden hose with a spray nozzle on the odd occasion to rinse the chippings. It's unnecessary to do it often, maybe every six months, unless it's a high-traffic area. Use your best judgment based on a visual inspection.
2man raking golden gravel garden

Annual Maintenance Cycle

  1. 1
    Check for any possible breaches in the weed membrane (if you have one laid) and repair it. Start by raking back the affected area in order to overlay a new piece of membrane that will cover any hole by at least 15cm on each edge. Then, rake the stones back into place.
  2. 2
    Next, power washing the entire area using a pressure washer is highly advisable. An alternative for larger chippings is below.
  3. 3
    Following a good wash, rake the stones back to level and allow them to dry.
  4. 4
    Deep cleaning of the stones may be necessary if there are any signs of algae growth or staining on the chippings - see the gravel section below.
  5. 5
    Occasional top-ups every couple of years, or whenever a gap appears, will help maintain the depth and fresh appearance.
Raking a pebble path to replace damaged weed membrane

How to Clean Garden Slate Chippings

If you don't have good drainage or have too many delicate plants and shrubs in danger of being damaged by a power hose, the best way to clean slate chippings is to remove them and wash them in a large sieve.

  1. 1
    Drill holes in an old wheelbarrow, metal tub or similar.
  2. 2
    Shovel the chippings into the sieve and power wash them in batches to remove stubborn dirt. Doing this as close to the installation as possible is highly advisable to minimise heavy work.
  3. 3
    Once the water has drained, you can replace the chippings before raking them back to a nice even level.

So, that covers how to clean stone chippings and the best way to care for them. Next, we cover cleaning of the other types of decorative chippings, garden gravel and pebbles.

Shovelling blue slate chips into an old wheelbarrow
Powerhosing slate in a diy wheelbarrow sieve. Jpg

Need to work out how many slate chippings your  project needs? Try our free gravel calculator.

Maintenance of Gravel & Pebbles

Certain sections of your garden rely more on how your gravel looks than others. A more frequent light maintenance routine might be appropriate for these decorative stone surfaces. For example, footpaths and driveways are more prone to dirt and grease from traffic. It is also worth noting that softer decorative aggregates, like marble and limestone, may also stain or discolour more easily than hard-wearing options like granite and quartz.

1polar white chippings stained with algae. Jpg
Gloves holding dirty cotswold stones. Jpg

Light Cleaning of Garden Gravel

During drier periods with little rainfall, garden stones are more likely to discolour from leaves, debris, dust, and dirt. Usually, just a blast from a high-pressure hose will brighten them up. However, it is worth noting that high pressure can spray dirt from the ground beneath back onto the surface, so keep it on a low setting!

In a case where a bit of dirt or grease remains, sometimes a scrub using a hard bristled brush and soapy water or a dash of vinegar can restore their glow. However, the practicality of such an undertaking can vary according to the size of the stones and installation. Power hosing remains your best bet.

1powerhosing black limestone pavers and chippings. Jpg

Removing Leaves and Debris

Particularly in the Autumn months, regularly clearing loose leaves and debris from your gravel pathway, patio, or driveway is preferable, as decomposing leaves can stain the gravel over time.

The easiest way to maintain the aggregate is first to remove the top layer with a leaf blower. Then, shovel the loose stone into a gravel sieve and sift out any loose debris.

1shovelling dirty pea shingle into a garden seive

How to Clean White Gravel Stones and Pebbles

White is a favoured colour in landscaping, with polar white gravel especially charming. White stones can really brighten up areas, shining as they reflect light, making them especially appealing for gravel patios, pathways and driveways. In more intricate designs, they also contrast beautifully with darker elements like slate or brick.

Maintaining these highly sought-after traits doesn't come without some regular maintenance. However, most dirt, debris and dust can usually be handled with a simple wash from a high-pressure garden hose.

If there is a need to remove algae, proceed to the next section.

1white and green gravel close up. Jpg

How to Clean Algae from Gravel Chippings and Pebbles

Gravel placed in heavily shaded, damp or insufficiently drained spots are more likely to develop surface algae, tainting the stones. Sometimes, algae can be quite stubborn. Here's how to deal with it.

  1. 1
    Sift out any loose dirt using a sieve or mesh cloth and place the sieved gravel into a wheelbarrow or a large container with a drain - an old bath tub can be ideal. If you use a wheelbarrow, make sure that it is covered with a plastic sheet or water-proof tarpaulin, first.
  2. 2
    Mix 50 ml of bleach with approximately 20 litres of water. Add the diluted bleach mix into the container, ensuring the stones are all submerged. Cover with an extra tarp.
  3. 3
    Soak overnight before draining the bleach water into a bucket or drain pipe - don't pour onto your garden or lawn. Place the gravel back into position and rake. Your stones should look whiter than ever!
1white marble stones close up. Jpg

How to Remove Weeds from Gravel

Weeds commonly find their way through the permeable surface of the gravel, and if this happens, several efficient methods are available for their removal.

1weeds growing through plum slate chippings. Jpg

Weed Killers and Herbicides

Weed killers containing glyphosate efficiently eliminate unwanted vegetation and are sometimes the only appropriate application for tricky gravel or ornamental stone surfaces. However, it should be used carefully and sparingly!

Salt Scattering

Salt is a cheaper and safer alternative to using other weed-killing chemical compounds and works by dehydrating the weeds. It can be beneficial for damper areas with moss. However, without exercising due care, it can harm other plants nearby, so make sure to spread this carefully and usually on driveways and paths with good edging is safest.

Pouring Boiling Water

1killing weeds naturally with boiling water. Jpg

The use of boiling water is a commonly employed and cheaper alternative for eradicating weeds, offering an eco-friendly approach that avoids introducing harmful substances into your garden that could affect your plants or wildlife.

Wearing good gum boots to protect your feet, just boil some water and pour it onto the weed-affected zones. An alternate approach for more extensive areas can be advisable to avoid the labour-intensive task of repeatedly transporting a kettle to and from the garden. Some steam cleaning solutions may also be quite effective, if powerful enough.

Remove Weeds by Hand

Removing weeds manually is undeniably the fastest way to eradicate them, yet it demands considerable physical effort. When undertaking weed removal, be thorough in extracting the roots and remember to wear garden gloves for protection.

1removing weeds by hand. Jpg

How to Prevent Weeds Appearing on Garden Gravel

We highly recommend laying a weed prevention membrane to avoid the backbreaking work of digging out weeds to maintain your gravel feature, as previously mentioned.

 We also cover many FAQs in our article Weed and Grass Control.

How to Clean Large Garden Stones

To sustain their natural stone colour year-round, occasional upkeep is advisable for prominent landscape rocks like slate monoliths, boulders, and water features. Similar to gravel and pebbles, their maintenance is uncomplicated.

You can effectively clean the large stones by gently scrubbing the stone's surface using a combination of water and dish soap or vinegar with a scrubbing brush, followed by thorough rinsing with a hose. This approach is especially effective for tackling algae growth, which tends to thrive in damp areas.

Power hoses are also an effective way to clean large stones whilst getting right into tiny places. Just use the power setting cautiously to ensure softer stones, like slates, aren't blasted away by the water pressure.

1green slate boulders next to scrubbing brushes


Maintaining the allure of decorative stones and chippings necessitates a balanced approach between regular light cleaning and occasional deep cleaning. Preference and time, as well as factors such as stone colour, placement, and exposure to moisture, will all impact the cleaning frequency.

Following our comprehensive approach, even at slightly less than recommended intervals, will ensure that the immaculate aesthetics of your decorative stones and chippings endure year-round. We have many other DIY projects for inspiration. Check out them out!

2cacti growing in a white pebble border. Jpg


How to make small garden stones white again?

The best way method for how to clean white stones in garden to rejuvenate the white appearance of small garden stones; start by deeper cleaning with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. If stains persist, consider a diluted bleach solution, but use with caution and rinse thoroughly. Regular maintenance is crucial for preventing future discolouration. Simple tasks such as sweeping and ensuring good drainage can go a long way in achieving this goal.

Why are my slate chippings turning white?

Natural occurring salts within the soil are diluted by rainwater or groundwater. Salt is pulled into the surface and evaporates, leaving the salt behind, and a white haze forms. Even if unattractive, this procedure is entirely natural and does not cause damage to the stone.

Do you need to wash new slate chippings?

Slate and similar quarried stones frequently come with a layer of quarry dust upon delivery. To achieve a polished appearance, it's good practice to rinse them after laying them or wait for substantial rainfall to naturally clean them.

How to clean patio stones?

First, clean patio stones, sweep off any loose debris and then wash the stones with a mixture of warm water and mild dish soap, using a stiff brush to scrub away greasy stains and dirt. For tougher stains, use a solution of white vinegar and water or a commercial stone cleaner, applying it according to the manufacturer's instructions. Rinse thoroughly with water after cleaning to remove any soap or cleaner residue.

We have many other DIY projects for inspiration. Check out them out!

About the author 

Ben Parrot is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.