Clean or Strip the Deck Stain? 4.7/5 (46)

by Deck Stain Help

Updated February 2020

Best to Clean or Strip the Deck Stain?

We appreciate you visiting Deckstainhelp.com as we continue to be your go-to source for the latest in deck restoration news and trending topics through 2020. Below, we talk about whether you should Clean or Strip the Deck Stain? Feel free to leave a comment below with any pictures you may have.


Deck Stain Stripping vs. Deck Cleaning

Knowing the difference between deck stain stripping and deck cleaning can be vital to your deck maintenance or restoration project. It’s important first to understand why cleaning a wood surface is necessary.

Besides the obvious overall appearance and curb appeal, a wood deck should be cleaned and sealed every couple of years to prevent structural damage. Water and moisture wreak havoc on wood inviting mold and mildew which can lead to wood rot. The sun’s U.V. rays also damage wood fibers and turn them an unsightly gray. In colder climates, freeze/thaw occurrences can warp, crack, and split boards ruining a deck in no time.

By cleaning the wood and protecting it with a quality wood stain, you are locking out moisture, blocking sun rays, and protecting the deck from the environment. This ensures a better overall appearance and a longer-lasting wood structure.
Now that we have determined why cleaning a wood deck is necessary to let us uncover the differences between deck stain stripping and deck cleaning. Before applying any sealer to the wood it has to be cleaned properly. You need to use a deck cleaner to remove all the unwanted soils such as dirt, mold, mildew, and graying. This will guarantee a clean surface for the new deck stain.

The deck cleaner is mixed up as needed and normally applied with a pump sprayer. It should be allowed to dwell on the surface for several minutes to break up the unwanted soils. This is then followed up with a stiff brush scrubbing or light to moderate pressure washing to remove the contaminants. The deck is then rinsed and a deck brightener is applied to restore the pH of the wood and brighten the wood grain.

Failing Deck Stain

Failing Deck Stain

When an old failing wood stain or sealer is present a deck cleaner is usually not aggressive enough to remove it. In this case, using a deck stripper instead of a deck cleaner will not only remove unwanted soils but also unwanted stain or sealer remnants. Deck strippers are a more aggressive caustic than a deck cleaner. They emulsify and soften most deck stains so they can be washed away with all the other contaminants. The deck stripping process is the same as deck cleaning with the applying, dwelling, and pressure washing. The only difference is the product used and like mentioned, that is determined by what is existing on the deck prior to cleaning. A deck brighter should also be applied following deck stripping.

Basically, the difference between deck stain stripping and deck cleaning is whether or not there is an old deck stain present or you are just removing dirt, grime, graying, etc. Determine what is on the surface of your deck and use either the deck stain stripping or deck cleaning process, followed by deck brightening to prep the wood prior to staining.

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Chris
Chris

We have a deck 8+ years old that was stained when we bought the house. We have restrained it in the past. Now We have cleaned & stripped the deck. I like the look of the wood now. With this age of deck, can we just apply a clear sealer? Will the deck turn gray if that’s all we do?

Jim
Jim

I have a 3 year old PT deck which has been stained with Flood pro-series semi-transparent stain(Acrylic/oil). It’s my understanding, that if using the same product to re-stain, it isn’t necessary to strip the old before applying new. If I use a cleaner, but there is still stain left on the surface, I’m assuming at some point I’ll just be covering the wood grain which should be visible through the stain if I keep applying layer of stain over layer of stain as years go by. Also, will new stain even penetrate if there is still old stain on the surface? If being able to see the wood grain is a priority, would I need to strip the old each time before restaining?

Norma Barnett
Norma Barnett

I’m wanting to use a oil semi-transparent deck stain so in 2 years I can clean and brighten with power washer and not have to strip it off , suggestion please, and would I have to strip Sikkens proluxe Cetol srd transparenent matte finish or just clean and brighten? Thanks

David
David

We have a 4 year old deck that I built and had someone else apply a Sherwin Williams Semi-Transparent sealer. We ended up not liking it that great, because it wasn’t as “semi” transparent as we had hoped and pretty much appeared to be a solid color. After 2-3 years the sealer started to peel in a few spots, and then this year kept getting worse. It of course had been my hope / expectation that this product would adhere much better to the wood and not act essentially as a paint just coating, but not bonding, with the wood.

I have spent the last 2 weekends with “Citri-Strip” (works great) and a pressure washer getting rid of all of the old! Next step is some sanding of benches etc.

Once this dries out again we are going to reseal / stain and want one that will adhere and not peel! We don’t mind using a clear / transparent finish so long as it will last a little while, and even more important never require stripping (like I had to do this time) before reapplying. Any recommendations, do all old sealants have to be stripped before applying new, or can some just be laid right over the top?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

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David
David

FYI, the picture with it already stripped a little was when I was using Sherwin Williams stripper, that did “ok” but the Citri-Strip was much better. Also, the original stain was applied after 3-4 months at least, so in theory the Pressure Treating chemicals on the surface should have weathered off.?.? And finally, as you can probably tell, this is Pressure Treated Pine from Big Box stores.
Thanks again, for any guidance!

Jacob Stigleman
Jacob Stigleman

Is there a difference between deck stripper and paint stripper? I have a deck thats been painted and have been using deck stripper and a pressure washer to get try to get the paint off. But its really not working

Adam
Adam

I have a very large (levels, stairs, bannisters etc) redwood deck that has been untreated and sun bleached (and drenched) for decades. Should I (1) use oil based stain (2) power wash only or use stripper/brightened etc and (3) what do you recommend that I do for railings, posts and areas that I can’t really powerfully and directly address – should I still wipe them down with stain anyway?

Austin
Austin

I recently stained my deck with twp 100 series and shortly after it rained(7 hours) now I have water spots as well as some running stain areas and spots where the stain has pooled. I was told by a twp rep to strip, brighten and reapply. I would rather sand, clean, and re apply. Can you tell me the difference between stripping freshly applied stain vs sanding?

michael mcintyre
michael mcintyre

hi, what do you think of Wolman F&P AND FINISH AND PRESERVATIVE FOR CEDAR? I used it 3 yrs ago and has about faded completely. is that about normal.

Erik
Erik

We have a PT cedar deck that’s 2 yrs old and was originally treated with SuperDeck Transparent oil-based Cedar Tone. Portions exposed to the sun have worn out and turned grey, so I’ve decided to refinish. There’s no flaking or peeling anywhere, and the wood seems to absorb water (without beading up).
1. Do I have to strip the deck? Or can I simply pressure wash and reapply the stain?
2. If I don’t have to strip, will the SuperDeck Revive (brightener) still work? (I’d like to brighten up the more exposed, grey portions of the deck.)

Thank you!

Harland
Harland

I have sanded and scraped all the old color stain off my red cedar railings do I need to put a primer on it before I put new color stain on it?

Tara
Tara

Our deck is about 6 years old. We stained it approx 5 years ago with a Behr semi-transparent stain. It’s peeling in the high traffic areas so we started stripping it to prep for a new coat of stain. We are using the exact same stain as we did previously. Can we abandon to stripping (we’ve just done the areas where it was peeling) and clean it then apply a new coat of stain to the whole deck?

Jean
Jean

I stripped and sanded our deck and now will brighten before using Armstrong Clark semi transparent stain. My question is, we had to replace one board in the deck and we’re adding 4 steps off the back also with new boards. First, is it okay to stain the new boards now or do I have to wait a period of time and two what prep should be done to the new boards assuming I can stain them now?

Thanks!

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Andrew
Andrew

I used WoodRx Ultra Teak Transparent Wood Stain/Sealer on my newly done deck 4 years ago. It has peeled in some areas and just overall worn out in others. I prefer to restain and attempted a poer washing but it didn’t seem to be taking any of the old stain off. Any suggestions? Can I just used a solid stain over it or a darker transparent?

Char
Char

I put in a new cedar deck last summer. I used Armstrong and Clark clear stain mainly to protect the deck from sun and mildew. After this Ontario winter the deck is now very dirty and soap and water don’t clean it. It seems the dirt is embedded in the stain. Will cleaner and scrubbing work or do I need to strip it? If I strip it what is the point of applying a stain or sealer if I have to redo every year.

Doug George
Doug George

Hi, this is a great site – thank you for keeping it updated! I stained with Superdeck my fresh Doug fir in August last year after sanding. With a lot of rain over the winter, the deck darkened (expected) but there is also what appears to be sap droplets that squeezed out of the wood. Will the Superdeck Brightener work to remove that sap and not damage the coloring? Thanks.

Charlotte
Charlotte

My deck was stained (the year after it was built) with Behr semi transparent 5 years ago.
The rails and sides of the deck are fine, but the floor of the deck and stairs have started to peel. I have been stripping it with Behr stain & finish stripper, scrubbing with a brush and also pressure washing it. Most has come off although there are spots that are really hard to remove (but I will work on it!!)
I intend to use the Behr woodcleaner (brightener) and then re-stain with a darker Behr semi transparent colour than previously used. Because I am using the same product, but darker colour, can I restain over the rails without stripping them?

Scott Parmelee
Scott Parmelee

Hi. I want to apply a maintenance coat of Behr Premium Semi Transparent Stain to my deck. It is the same stain that is already on the deck. After cleaning the deck with a bleach type cleaner and pressure washer set with a 40 degree tip, there is some flaking and peeling. What are the next steps? Do I need to lightly sand or stip completely?

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Scott Parmelee
Scott Parmelee

I was afraid you would say that. Thank you so much for the help!

Brandon
Brandon

I stripped the bold stain off my deck but now I need to sand since the pressure washing lifted some of the fibers. The wood appears to be back to its natural new color. Do I sand then clean and brighten or clean and brighten then sand? Do I need to clean and brighten ay all since it looks like new wood in color?

Lyn
Lyn

my husband applied oil based stain on our deck without removing any dirt from it and only did one coat saying the stain would cover it and it is such a bloody mess, what can I do to fix this?

Jebadiah
Jebadiah

I stained my deck two years ago with Behr semi transparent. I want to restain the deck with exactly the same product. The stain isn’t peeling, but has faded, where the sun hits it. I have read on other sites that I should do the water absorption test before staining. Do I need to clean the deck until the water test is successful, and the water is absorbed through the old stain? There are parts of the deck where the water would not absorb through the old stain.

Lisa Kedron
Lisa Kedron

Do I have to use a brightener if I sanded down to bare wood?

Lisa Kedron
Lisa Kedron

Hello, old deck stain has been sanded off and I used oxygenated bleach to clean any lingering “green algae” from wood fibers. Will this as the same as a “brightener”?

Elissa Price
Elissa Price

Hi, my husband just used a wood cleaner on our deck, and began painting with Superdeck Solid Stain in Chocolate color, 2 days ago. I don’t like the color, will stripping get it off? Or will I need to sand? We just bought our house, so no idea what was on there before. There was virtually no paint or sealer left.

After reading reviews it seems like cleaning, stripping & brightening is in order after I get the paint off.

Thank you!

T. F.
T. F.

I used a Behr, semi-transparent all-in-one waterproofing stain and sealer 2 or 3 years ago. There are starting to be some spots of mildew and some spots where the stain has rubbed off a bit. Do I need to just clean it (with product?) or do I need to strip it all if I just want to reapply the same stain?

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Pat
Pat

I used Behr semitransparent 8 years ago on my deck. The lower part has no stain on the floor but there is some stain on the verticals as well as the top deck. Should i use stripper on the top amd cleaner on the bottom or should I strip both top and bottom? I’ll be using RAd products.

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Lori Bruce
Lori Bruce

We have a deck that was stained with Sikkens semi transparent Cetol SRD stain. PPG now owns Sikkens and they can still order this stain for me and tint to my color even though I previously bought it at Home Depot (who doesn’t carry it anymore). We added onto our deck so we now have previously stained areas (worn on a lot of floor boards), new bare wood, and some hand rail both stained and not stained. Can I just clean and re stain it all with the same stuff?

Melissa Eden
Melissa Eden

My deck has a semi-transparent natural cedar tone stain from over 2yrs. ago. I wanted to keep it looking good and deter carpenter bees by applying fresh stain. I pressure washed the surface and removed the old stain only in spots. I was under the impression this was adequate prep to apply a fresh coat of stain/sealant in a natural cedar tone. Now I’m concerned I didn’t strip old stain and didn’t use deck cleaner. Can I simply apply a fresh coat or what!? Thank you. It has been super hard trying to get the weather to line up w/ this project, and at this point I wish I just left it alone!

Melissa Eden
Melissa Eden

I guess I made a huge mistake. It looked good before I used the pressure washer. It’s not the same brand from the first staining. What can I do? This can of Olympic says if it was semi-transparent it will be okay. I rented the pressure washer so I’m not doing that again. Help! sad

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Cindy
Cindy

I just started staining my deck spindles and quite a few of them before I noticed the hardware store did not give me the exact color I wanted. The wood is brown treated wood. Will a deck stripper need to be used before I can restain? The stain I want to use is also a semi transparent, but is lighter than the one I applied.

Peter Carbone
Peter Carbone

I hired someone to restain my deck. They are using Superdeck. Do they need to strip the old stain completely or just do a good deck cleaning and removing any loose stain by sanding and scrapping? I am under the impression that a full stripping is required however he is saying that sanding and scrapping loose stain to remove is sufficient and then placing the Superdeck stain over that is proper. Thank you!

Gianni Tallarico
Gianni Tallarico

Hello I have a 9 year old pressure treated deck that we’ve applied Flood CWF-UV FLD420 Cedar Tone to twice. I’ve used Behr all-in-one wood cleaner and now need to re apply. I have 5 gallons (new) of the same stain and am wondering the process now. As mentioned the deck had the cleaner applied, scrubbed and pressure washed on low. Do I need the strip/brightener/sanding before applying or just apply? I have also read some articles that Flood should be applied in as thin a coat as possible and try to leave it as one coat instead of two, any thoughts? Last question, what would your prefered method of application be (brush, sprayer, etc.) FYI, The pics are of the deck after cleaner only. Thanks.

JESSICA MCFADDEN
JESSICA MCFADDEN

We are getting ready to redo our front porch railing, posts, and stairs. I have previously applied a dark brown solid stain (not sure of the brand). I am interested in changing the color to a dark gray solid, my question is it is necessary to strip it down or just clean it?

Also if I wanted to stain the stairs in a semi-transparent can I just clean and then sand? Or will I need to strip it?

Thank you!

Amber krzciuk
Amber krzciuk

I’m trying to find out if I need to strip with chemical or sand. I used sikkens semi transparent stain. Wanted to use same color but they don’t make exact but it’s close.

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Tim Yerxa
Tim Yerxa

This PT deck is 15 yeas old. For several years, I applied a tinted sealant (Olympic) every 2-3 years but 2 years ago, I decided to change my approach and apply an oil-based stain (Beauti-tone oil based semi-transparent). I like the colour, but it flaked up big time this spring so I obviously didn’t prep it correctly last time, reapplied applied coats too quickly or something.

It’s especially bad around the pool.

If applying the exact same stain/colour this time, what prep is required? I have cleaned and scraped so far (in that order)

Do I need to use stripper? Brightener? Sanding?

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Gen Angle
Gen Angle

I am wishing to go from a solid restorative deck paint (Olympic Rescue) to an oil based stain. The current product is coming off in sheets. We obviously did not prep it correctly 3 years ago.
What is the best preparation to go from paint to oil based stain?

Jeff
Jeff

I have a client who wants his 5+ year old oil-stained deck cleaned before deciding if he wants to apply another coating of stain.

1. Is that a good idea? Won’t the wood just be more prone to damage after any type of cleaning and not applying any protective coat?
2. What would be the best cleaning method for his deck as to not remove any of the stain underneath the dirt and small amount of mold/mildew?

Thanks!

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Laurie
Laurie

I have two different problems:

#1. we stripped our back deck a few years ago and applied behr water based semi transparent stain. We didn’t use a brightener and could tell immediately it wouldn’t last. We are now ready to redo the deck and wonder if we could strip it and then apply an oil based stain but I read your replies to other questions about having to stay with the same product. Of course we will not skip using the brightened this time!

#2. Our front deck has two coats of seriously durable paint on it (has lasted more than 10 years). We have never been brave enough to do anything to it but now want to try so it will match the back deck. Any possibility that this will work and hold an oil based stain?

Love your website, it has been so helpful!!

Jerry
Jerry

Hi. Stained cedar deck a couple of years ago with Wolmans Semi-Transparent. Replaced a few boards as well. Based on pics do I need to strip or “just” clean deck before applying same color and same brand and type of stain? Thanks!

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Brian Primeau
Brian Primeau

Hi, We built a cedar deck about a year ago and applied Behr Premium Transparent Penetrating Oil Wood Finish (Cedar Naturaltone #4001) about 2 months after wood delivery. We sanded, and didn’t use any brighteners, etc, which I suspect is causing the uneven finish.

About a year later, the deck looks kinda uneven and splotchy. None of the stain is peeling, and most the deck still seems fairly well protected. But, we’d like to even the color out. What do you recommend? We like the initial look of the Behr product, but open to other finishes that will show the cedar wood grains.

While there is a bit of dirt/mud in the photos here, most of the discoloration seems to be in the wood/stain. I’ve tried pressure washing and cleaning with TSP and it looks the same before/after.

Thanks!

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Lorraine
Lorraine

I have a porch floor done with pressure treated lumber, used a semitransparent stain on it and it still looks good but after many years could use sprucing up. There are a few oil stains , really don’t know what to use to remove and do not want to sand the entire floor. Can I give it a real good cleaning, use the recommend oil stain remover and restain with the same product? Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

laura
laura

I used Australian timber oil semi trans stain on a new deck after the proper drying time of the wood, after two years it looks like it needs redoing in the high traffic areas, but reading your site I see that spot staining is not recommended, if I want to use a water based stain instead of oil will I need to strip it off after this much time has passed

Brian Buchanan
Brian Buchanan

I have a PT deck which was last stained with semi-solid Ben Moore Arbor Coat. (lasted almost 5 years).
Due to the age of the deck (17 years) I am going to apply Ben Moore Arbor coat in a solid.
I have cleaned and sanded the decking, and stripped a section to try to remove the last of the old stain – it’s not coming up.
The only way to get it to bare wood would be to continue to sand.
Do I need to go that far to apply the solid stain ?

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Yvonne
Yvonne

I used Spar Varnish on pressure treated wood. It was beautiful but two years later the varnish is flaking off. I liked the look of the Spar Varnish and am thinking of reapplying. Should I use a stripper to get the old layers off and if so, will a stripper harm the aluminum balusters?

Jim
Jim

I applied Thompson’s water seal (stain + sealer in one), solid, about 1 year ago. The exposed horizontal surfaces need restaining – see photos (some have tree shadows). I plan to apply 1 or 2 coats of same product to these surfaces. Should I just use a cleaner, or just pressure wash, or use a stripper? Thanks.

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Not Handy
Not Handy

I stained my deck last year but there are spots where the stain is flaking off. Just a few small areas, nothing major. We want to fix it but were never happy with the colour and want to stain it a darker colour. Would we need to strip it going to a darker stain?

April
April

We have protected our deck with Thompson water seal for several years. It has become very dark and ugly. We would like to strip it and then seal it. Is there any product that removes Thompsons sealer. We haven’t found anything yet.

Kim
Kim

I’m not sure what brand/color of stain was used on our deck previously. Based on the attached photos can you tell me if we should use a stripper first and then sand down the rough areas before using a wood brightner, then stain?
Thank you for your help.

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Erin Gallego
Erin Gallego

Previous owners used a Cabot oil based solid stain in white. It’s been a few years and the deck clearly needs a new treatment (looks dingy, some mold). We’re novice DIYers and I’m looking for the easiest solution. Should I simply use the same product again? Should I use Restore-a-Deck cleaner & brightener first?

Kev
Kev

Okay, so I finished the board replacement, but as you can see from the photos, it’s difficult to tell if this deck was ever stained. I’ve hit several small areas with the pressure washer and it looks to come pretty clean, but other areas look like they may have some stain on them. The railing slats, for example, look like they’ve got some stain, but they came pretty clean with the pressure washer. Based on these pics, would you recommend starting with a stripper, or a cleaner? It’s going to be about a $40 difference for me.

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Tracey
Tracey

i had a new pressure treated deck built 3 summers ago, waited a full year to stain the deck. Most of the deck still looks great but there are 3 or 4 boards that the stain seems to be flaking away. I’ve cleaned and re-stained endlessly but this keeps happening, usually after a heavy rain, and now after the winter it has all “pealed” away again. What am i doing wrong?

Julie
Julie

The previous owner applied SW Deckscapes in Sequoia about 4 years ago. The stain is wearing off on the floor, but not so much on the railings. Therefore, we want to re-stain our deck in the same color to make it easier. Do you recommend that we use a stripper and brightener? Or, just the cleaner? Thanks!