How To Maintain Rock Landscaping & Rock Cleaning Tips

I’d been wanting to learn more about landscaping, water conservation, native plants, and anything else that saves us time and money (and helps the environment while we’re at it!). So, part of that was switching from mulch to decorative rocks in our front and backyard gardens/borders. It’s not exactly a DIY project; we had a lot so we had to call in landscape professionals. And, it wasn’t cheap either.  But, I’m so happy we did.  WORTH IT! 

I feel like it looks so much nicer. Plus, I was so over having to replace the mulch beds every year. Some years we wouldn’t and we’d just let it look like crap, which is embarrassing. Rock landscaping is a great way to add a touch of natural beauty. With its low maintenance and stunning look, it’s no wonder that many of our neighbors have it. However, they’re not totally maintenance-free. Like any outdoor feature, they require a little TLC to keep them looking their best. But, I obviously had to research and learn how to maintain rock landscaping.

Why is rock landscape maintenance important?

Rock landscape maintenance is important because it preserves the beauty and functionality of the outdoor space. Regular cleaning prevents the buildup of debris, stains, and weed growth, ensuring a clean and inviting environment. Proper drainage prevents water damage and promotes the longevity of the rock landscape. Repairing any damages promptly prevents further deterioration. By investing time in maintenance, homeowners can enjoy a visually appealing and low-maintenance outdoor space for years to come.

How To Maintain Rock Landscaping

1. Choose the Right Tools

Maintaining a rock garden is a breeze when you have the right tools on hand. For regular cleaning, a leaf blower or garden hose set on a low setting can easily remove debris from the rock surfaces. For stubborn stains or bird droppings, a power washer with a mild detergent solution is your best friend. Remember to use the low setting to avoid damaging the rocks.

2. Weed Control

Weed growth can be a pesky problem in any garden, but it’s no match for the rock landscape! Before installing your rock bed, lay down landscape fabric or a weed barrier to prevent weeds from popping up. This not only saves you from endless weeding sessions but also helps maintain the smooth surface of your rock landscape.

3. Regular Cleaning

Regular cleaning is the key to keeping your rock landscape in tip-top shape. Sweep away loose rocks and organic matter using a garden broom or rake. If you notice any stubborn stains or algae growth, a simple solution of water and dish soap can work wonders. For extra tough stains, try a mixture of white vinegar and water.

4. Mindful Drainage

After heavy rains, it’s essential to check for any drainage issues in your rock garden. If you notice water pooling or stagnating, consider adding more organic material or smaller rocks to improve drainage. Proper drainage not only prevents water damage but also maintains the longevity of your rock landscape.

5. Be Gentle with Stone Surfaces

While rock surfaces are durable, certain types of rocks, such as natural stone or Mexican beach pebbles, require a gentle touch. Avoid using a power washer or harsh cleaning agents on these delicate rocks to prevent damage. Stick to a garden hose, mild detergent solution, and good old-fashioned elbow grease to keep them looking their best.

close up of grey round smooth rocks, how to maintain rock landscaping

6. Embrace Decorative Rocks

Don’t limit yourself to river rocks or gravel gardens—explore different types of rocks and decorative stones to create unique features in your outdoor space. Boulders can be used as focal points, adding a touch of elegance. 

7. Seal Your Rocks

For added protection and longevity, consider sealing your rocks. Sealing provides a protective barrier against stains, weathering, and color fading. Before applying the sealant, ensure that the rock surfaces are clean and dry. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific type of sealant you’re using, and apply it evenly using a brush or roller. This step will help maintain the beauty for years to come.

8. Repairing

Over time, your rocks may encounter minor damages or shifts. It’s important to address these issues promptly to prevent further deterioration. If you notice loose rocks or gaps, carefully fill them in with additional rocks or decorative stones of similar size and color. For larger stones that have shifted, gently lift and reposition them to restore the desired aesthetic.

What is the best way to clean landscape rock?

1. Remove debris

Begin by removing any large debris, such as leaves, twigs, or branches, from the surface of the rocks. Use a rake, broom, or your hands to gather and dispose of this material.

2. Inspect for weeds

Check the rocks for any weeds or unwanted vegetation that may have grown between them. Use your hands or a small garden trowel to carefully remove them, making sure to extract their roots to prevent regrowth.

3. Rinse with water

Use a hose or a pressure washer with a gentle setting to rinse the landscape rocks thoroughly. This step will help remove dirt, dust, and loose particles. Start from one end and work your way across the entire area, ensuring that you cover all the rocks evenly.

4. Spot clean stains

If there are any stubborn stains on the rocks, you can use a mild detergent or a specialized rock cleaner. Dilute the cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions and apply it directly to the stained areas. Use a brush with soft bristles to scrub the stains gently. Rinse the rocks thoroughly after cleaning to remove any residue from the cleaning solution.

5. Allow to dry

After rinsing, allow the clean rocks to air dry naturally. The sunlight and air circulation will help eliminate any remaining moisture.

Additional Tips:

  • Avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach, as they may damage the rocks or harm nearby plants.
  • For heavily soiled rocks, you can repeat the cleaning process or consider using a higher pressure setting on a pressure washer. However, be cautious with fragile or porous rocks, as high pressure may cause damage.
  • If you have decorative larger rocks with polished surfaces, avoid scrubbing them vigorously to prevent scratches or dulling of the finish.

What is the best cleaner for landscape rocks?


Plain water is a good starting point for cleaning landscape rocks. A strong stream of water from a hose or pressure washer can help remove loose dirt, dust, and debris.

Mild Detergent

If plain water is not sufficient, you can use a mild dish detergent. Choose a gentle, biodegradable detergent that does not contain harsh chemicals or bleach. Mix the detergent with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and apply it to the stained areas. Scrub gently with a soft-bristled brush and rinse thoroughly.

Rock Cleaners

There are specialized rock cleaners available on the market that are specifically designed for cleaning landscape rocks. These cleaners are formulated to be safe for various types of rocks and can effectively remove stains, dirt, and grime. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer when using a rock cleaner.


Vinegar is a natural and eco-friendly option. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray it onto the stained areas. Let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub gently with a brush and rinse thoroughly.

Enzyme Cleaners

Enzyme-based cleaners can be effective in removing organic stains and odors (hello dog pee), such as those caused by algae, mold,  or moss. These cleaners use natural enzymes to break down and remove the stains. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer when using an enzyme cleaner.

Before using any cleaner, it is advisable to test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the rocks to ensure that it does not cause any adverse reactions or damage. Additionally, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the application, dilution ratios, and safety precautions.

What is the easiest landscape rock to maintain?

River Rock

River rocks are smooth, round stones that are often found in riverbeds or near bodies of water. They come in various sizes and colors, providing a natural and decorative look to landscapes. River rocks are relatively easy to maintain as they don’t easily collect dirt or debris, and they can be easily rinsed with water to keep them clean.

Lava Rock

Lava rocks are porous and lightweight stones that are formed from volcanic eruptions. They are available in different colors, such as red or black, and provide a unique texture to landscapes. Lava rocks are low-maintenance as they are resistant to fading and don’t require frequent cleaning. However, they may accumulate some debris over time, which can be removed by gently rinsing them.

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel consists of small, rounded stones that are typically smooth and come in various colors. It is a popular choice for pathways, patios, and decorative areas. Pea gravel is low-maintenance as it doesn’t accumulate debris easily and can be easily raked or swept to keep it clean.


Remember, the key to a successful rock landscaping project is regular cleaning, proper drainage, sealing, and the occasional repair. Embrace the natural beauty of rock surfaces, experiment with decorative rocks, and create a stunning outdoor space. With a little upkeep and these handy tips, your yard will be the envy of the neighborhood in no time

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