This post was updated on May 9, 2022
Like with any job, using the proper tools to stain your wood deck is half the battle. Our favorite and most-used deck staining tools are flooring brushes and stain pads, but you have a variety of deck stain applicator options to choose from that work fairly well. We’d also love to hear your thoughts: What do you think is the best way to apply stain and why? Leave us a comment below!
Deck Stain Brushes
Brushes certainly have their place when applying deck stain. Choosing the best brush for staining wood will depend on the specific area you’re staining. Use a wood stain brush for cutting along edges and in other hard-to-reach areas. A white China bristle brush works best for oil-based stains, sealers, and wood toners. A large 4- or 6-inch brush like the Wooster Pro Stain Brush can be used to back brush large areas to give a more even finish. Use a specific “crack and groove” brush for staining between fence or deck boards.
Deck Speed Mops and Stain Pads
A stain applicator pad or mop can be an excellent choice for larger areas. A speed mop like the one made by Shurline is a professional-grade 18-inch-wide mop that can make a stain job 50% faster. This speed mop also has replacement pads that can be used. Stain pads like the one from Padco use absorbent fibers that hold plenty of deck stain. A stain applicator pad is great for covering large areas like a deck floor. Replacement stain pads are also available. Some of these applicator tools come with a bucket, but we recommend one like the Wooster Wide Boy Bucket for holding stains while wetting your pad or mop.
Deck Stain Flooring Brushes
Newer to the application market for deck stains are flooring brushes. These brushes work great for applying a clear sealer, transparent stain, or semi-transparent deck stain. They attach to a threaded pole and allow you to use the stain similar to how you’d mop a floor.
Paint Rollers for Decks
A deck stain roller can be used to roll stain on. Use the proper roller nap for best results, but remember that rollers are not really designed to hold deck stain. A wide 18-inch roller may work well for staining a few fence or deck boards, but a mop or stain pad will hold more stain, lessening the amount of time you have to dip back into the stain bucket.
Deck Stain Sprayers
Sprayers are great for applying thinner deck stains. Some pump-up sprayers are decent, but it can be challenging to get a nice, even application. Using a sprayer like the Chapin Stain Sprayer will help. This durable sprayer comes with three different nozzles to help you get the correct spray pattern. An airless sprayer is another option, but they are expensive to buy or rent. An airless sprayer can have a bit of a learning curve, so you may want to practice a little before taking on a big project. It’s best to back brush the stain for an even finish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it Better to Roll or Brush Stain on a Deck?
A brush will perform better and stain a more extensive area faster. Brushes work exceptionally well on transparent stains. Rollers aren’t intended to hold stain, though a deck stain roller can work for small areas.
What Is the Easiest Way to Stain a Deck?
One of the easiest methods is using a stain mop. These mops soak up a lot of stain and can cover many areas quickly. They’re very easy to use and leave a good result behind.
What Kind of Brush Do You Use for Deck Stain?
There are brushes designed explicitly for staining a deck. Our favorite is the Wooster Pro Stain Brush. Brushes are great for staining in tight corners and hard-to-reach areas.
What Kind of Roller Do You Use for Stain?
Choose a roller that’s at least 18 inches wide to cover a greater surface area, and make sure the roller is the correct nap for staining.
Do Stain Pads Work?
Stain pads are excellent: They’re one of our favorite types of applicators to use. Stain mops are similar and also work really well.
Do you have any questions on the best applicators to use for your deck? If so, please ask in the comment areas below. We are here to help!
Deck Stain Help & Questions
Stain Reviews & Comparisons
As an article and comment contributor to the site, Scott has been around the pressure washing industry since attending college. In 1993 he started his first company called Oakland Pressure Wash specializing in exterior pressure washing and deck staining. That company evolved into OPW L.L.C. shortly thereafter concentrating more on exterior wood and deck restoration. Scott and his Deck Cleaning Michigan company have restored over 10,000 decks in the Metro Detroit area since the early years. He has become an authority in the deck restoration industry and has contributed to numerous wood restoration forums and informative sites.
All the products he suggests through this site are sold through online sites and in retail stores, allowing the consumer to choose their own means of purchase. Scott’s eCommerce sites do sell many top brands he endorses and if you appreciate any of the help he has offered then feel free to purchase from one of them.
Hello, after being so glad to find this site, I purchased some TWP semi transparent. I knew most of water based stuff from the big box stores were a joke. I had 2 coats of paint to remove which I did with many flap wheels and a dimabrush. The wood came out looking really good. I have been fighting against rain here in PA. I am down to the last weekend before it gets too cold to apply. The question is: should I do any light cleaning or prepping since the deck sat for a few weeks in the elements after the stripping.
Yes, give it a light wash.
Thanks so much for response. Just one more question. I have waited over 48 hrs and the deck is still physically damp in some spots. I should still wait right ? I have a cheaper moisture reader that is reading on the high end of 40%. And 25% in other spots.
Needs to be less than 15%. Too damp to apply now.
Is there a particular style brush suggested for solid stain on a deck? I’m having severe peeling issues with arbor coat and will be trying the restore a deck brand next. I applied the arbor coat twice over the last 4 years using one of those pad style brushes, but I’m hoping with a tradition style brush, that the restore a deck brand will hold up better with a more forceful application and stroke using a brush.
Any quality brush and roller will work with the Restore A Deck Solid stain. Make sure to prep well by removing all the loose and peeling BM stain first.
Spent the last 3 days slowly sanding down as best I could all the BM stain with an orbital sander using 60 grit discs. Hoping the restore a deck brand will work better. The Arbor coat stuff was complete garbage.
Yes, the BM is garbage.
Hoping to do each board slowly and by hand with a brush, hoping the brush technique will give better adhesion
Speed or using a brush over a roller will not make a difference.
I have stained deck for 6 years. The previous owner stained with roller one hand of transparent water stain (cedar finish) two years ago. Today, some areas are peeled and presents decolonization. Do you recommend sanding before stain de deck or you recommend any other wood preparation?
Please post some pictures so we can properly help with the prep.
My 18 ” Speed Mop just cracked. Have 5 pads so only need the applicator tool(handle still good). Have you one or the Kit for sale? Thanks, Jerry
Those were discontinued 2 years ago.
I am using the Restore A Deck wood staining brush to do a maintenance coat. I think I have seen it mentioned, somewhere, that using the brush eliminates the need for the groove tool, as the brush spindles may reach down a bit. Is that the case?
That would depend on how wide the gaps are between each board. 99% of people do not bother staining the sides of the boards between the gaps. We never do as contractors.
I bought a house with an older deck (est 10yo) which has no visible stain or sealer that I can tell. It is probably 800sf+ and has many issues but multiple contractors say the structure is solid – replacing all the tread and verticals isn’t in my budget for the next two years so I’ve demolded, cleaned, made safe for dog paws and corrected what I can for now. Imagine warping, gaps from splintering and some screw heads that I personally couldn’t fix yet. Should I bother to seal & stain it to at least discourage additional borer bee activity or should I put the money into budgeting instead? And if I have replaced some tread boards do I use the same stain on both if the wood isn’t an exact match?
ps thanks for this advice, I really got a lot from your feedback on other posts
We would stain it. You will be surprised how much better it will look.
Would pressure washing suffice as a cleaner on old deck with no previous stain? Or do I need to do both?
Use a deck cleaner and then a wood brightener while pressure washing.
Correction: (typos 😖) Will a deck stain flooring brush work with Armstrong semi a solid stain?
Yes, it will.
Can you use s deck stain flooring brush with semi a solid oil based stsins
How do you clean the RAD wood staining flooring brush if using a semi-transparent oil-based stain? Will mineral spirits or paint thinner ruin it?
Mineral spirits will work.
Best way to clean a deck before selling it
See here for tips: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/best-deck-prep-clean-strip-or-sand-the-deck/
I just installed an IPE deck. Because of the size of the deck (1400SF), I’d like to use an airless paint sprayer, with back brush. Do you recommend this method?
Other options would be between using a pad and a deck brush. What is your preferred method and the rationale behind it.
Not for IPE. Just one coat and best to use a brush or stain pad for applying. Much easier and will soak in better into the wood.
Hello. If using an 18 inch roller for deck boards with semi transparent ready seal, what size nap should I use? 3/8”? 1/2”? Thanks!
Either would be okay.
My pickets and railings around my deck still have all the semi transparent stain on them and this part was done 6 years ago. The deck boards was replaced 5 years ago and painted and the stain is pretty well worn off. I want to have the entire deck stained and the person doing this rolls on the stain. Should this all turn out ok?
If you use a solid stain it will blend: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/what-are-the-best-solid-color-deck-stains/
I have already purchased a 5 gallon bucket semi transparent stain which I cannot return. It was stained cedar the first time which has turned dark and I wanted to keep the same color. If I put 2 coats on will it cover it? I guess I should say I don’t have a choice since I had the color mixed when I purchased it. What could be the out come when I put this on?
No, it will not cover it. If you strip it all the old stain off it will work.
Will pressure washing take off the old stain?
Strip and or sand to remove.
I used a roller to apply my deck stain but it all peeled off . Why did this happen I wonder?
Bad stain brand most likely.
Thanks! Another question would you recommend me pressure washing it to get it off?
I power washed deck most old stain semi transparent was removed. It’s an older deck…what is the easiest and best way to apply new stain.
Stain pad or floor brush.
What type of stain to use for a wood deck around a pool & should we use a pad to apply
Try one of these stains: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/best-semi-transparent-deck-stain-reviews-2020/
Brush or pad to apply.
I’m staining a new deck. Its 28×85. Brushing is taking forever. Do you recommend a pad or roller?
That would vary based on the type and brand of stain you are using? Also, did you follow the new wood directions: https?://www.deckstainhelp.com/staining-a-new-deck/
Can you stain over mold?
No, not a good idea.
Staining 16 foot x 6 inch, Pine deck boards with Cabot Oil Based Semi Solid in garage, before installing on dock. Trying to avoid hot temps in NC. What would be best applicator(s) method ?
Thinking of using 6 inch pad then back brushing with natural bristle brush.
You are not supposed to prestain new wood: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/staining-a-new-deck/
If you still do it, use a stain pad.
These are deck boards that I am flipping and were previously installed 4 years ago.
Staining a new (7 months old) deck. Stain rails and spindles before the floor? Should floor be covered to avoid dark areas caused by drips?
Do verticals first and then the floor. Cover floor while doing the verticals.
I want to stain the underside of my deck boards, I tried a cotton cloth but that didn’t work very well.
No need to: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/staining-undersides-of-deck-boards/
But if you want to for appearance, use a stain pad. You will have lots of drips to catch while working so tarp below if above a patio.
Can you recommend the best way of staining around the aluminum spindles other than taping off every single one?
When using an oil-based semi-transparent stain, we apply with a brush and then immediately wipe the black spindles clean to remove any stain that has gotten on them.
Is it ok to use another wood brightener other than armstrong clark, if we decide to use armstrong clark deck stain? Also, is the minimum recommended over an existing treated pine deck and dock which is 20 years old to do brightener . We have treated previously with various transparent and semi-transparent products? Thank you
Hello, Brightener alone is not the correct prep. You need a deck cleaner followed by a wood brightener for the prep.
sorry, have pressure sprayed would that suffice as a cleaner?
If the wood is clean, it should be okay.