Prepping Your Wood Deck – Cleaning 4.9/5 (33)

This post was updated on January 18, 2022

Prepping Your Wood Deck

How to prep and clean your wood deck

Prep and clean your wood deck

Deck Cleaning Update 2022

We have updated our DeckStainhelp.com site with numerous new reviews and articles for 2022 for deck cleaning products and how-to tips. We strive to remain your number one deck stain information source.

Please ask any questions below that you may have in our comment area.


Exterior wood decking when left neglected oxidizes from the Ultra Violet rays from the sun. This will patina the exposed layer of wood cells turning the deck gray. Cleaning the deck first will a deck cleaner will remove this layer of graying wood cells while removing accumulated dirt, grime, mold, mildew, and algae.

Prepping your wood deck is the singular most important step when it comes to getting maximum performance out of your deck stain. Failure to prep and your stain will fail faster than it should and will not give the wood its natural beauty.

This article will go over the needed steps to properly clean your deck prior to applying the stain.

Deck Cleaning Tips for 2022

  1. Make sure that the deck is clear of all furniture and grills prior to starting.
  2. Decide first if you should use a deck cleaner or a deck stain stripper. Use a deck cleaner if the wood is gray and dirty. If you have an old deck stain that needs to be removed then you should use a deck stain stripper as the deck cleaner is not aggressive enough to remove stains.
  3. Pre-wet the deck first before applying the deck cleaner. Take precautions to wet all vegetation and the surrounding house. The majority of deck cleaners will not harm plants as long as you pre-wet and rinse off any residual cleaner that comes in contact with the plants.
  4. Wait about 5-15 minutes to let the cleaner activate. If needed, mist the deck with water to keep the cleaner from drying on hot days.
  5. Using a stiff scrub brush, start agitating the deck until the wood comes clean. Using a pressure washer at 1000 psi or less will speed this process up.
  6. If any stubborn areas persist then repeat the process.
  7. After the deck is thoroughly clean make sure to rinse the house, deck, plants, etc to remove all of the loosened grime.
  8. Using a Wood Deck Brightener will give the wood and add a boost in appearance. The brightener neutralizes the deck cleaner and “brightens” the wood to a more natural state.
  9. Let the wood dry a minimum of 24-48 hours before applying a deck stain or sealer.

Deck Cleaning Tips: deck cleaner reviews

Best Deck Cleaner 2022 Video


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MzLiz
MzLiz
2 months ago

I’ve got a 20 year old, glulam beam that will sanded down to bare wood, (I plan to stain with TWP 100 – Rustic). Do I need to apply a brightener prior to staining? Or can I stain the beam as-is?

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MzLiz
MzLiz
2 months ago

80 grit to remove the old stain (unfortunately Behr), then I lightly smoothed it out with 150 grit.

MzLiz
MzLiz
2 months ago
Reply to  MzLiz

Also, I forgot to mention we are in Portland Oregon. Our weather is starting to turn, so we are wanting to stain the exposed beam before the rain comes.

BigGuy
BigGuy
5 months ago

Advanced Deck over with texture redwood color…… seams to peal in large sections after a few years. Is it common that it wrinkles and peals like this?

Erin P
Erin P
7 months ago

I’m looking to restain (same color) an existing solid deck that hasn’t been stained in 4 years. Am I understanding correctly that I can apply Restore-a-deck cleaner and then put my solid stain over that or do you recommend always sanding solid stain off before reapplying a new/same color coat? Thanks in advance.

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Erin P
Erin P
7 months ago

Thank you for your prompt response. Do you have a recommendation for best solid stain for a SE Michigan deck. Current application is ArborCoat.

Eric
Eric
7 months ago

I have a 2-yr old pine, pressure treated deck that has yet to be stained. Before applying stain (Armstrong Clark on your recommendation) I plan to prep the wood with Restore-A-Deck Cleaner and Brightener (Also on your recommendation). It is the prep that I have questions about. First, there are a few boards with some furring/fuzzies – Should I sand them off with 80 grit? If I do sand them, do I then have to sand all of the deck to get even staining? If I use a scrub pad instead of sandpaper to remove this furring, do I similarly need to go over the whole deck with the scrub pad to get even staining? Should furring removal be done before cleaning and brightening? Lastly, what bristle stiffness do you recommend for the deck brush used with Restore-A-Deck Cleaner, and can such a brush effectively remove furring? Also, can too stiff of a deck brush create furring?

Thank you –

Ed Reith
Ed Reith
8 months ago

I have a old deck that has been stained with a Floods solid stain for the second time probably 9 years ago and looks good other than a couple small spots that are peeling on the railing. Should I just use Restore a Deck cleaner and power wash?
I wanted to refresh the whole deck as I added a new pressure treated wood cap on the railing and wanted to know which product would be best to use TWP 100 or TWP 1500 for this application?
If neither product is a good choice want would you recommend?
Thank you

Catherine Weida
Catherine Weida
1 year ago

I cleaned and brightened deck, but haven’t been able to stain because of weather. Is a 2 week gap before staining ok?

Greg
Greg
1 year ago

Planning to strip then brighten my deck using the restore a deck products then stain with the TWP–all of which I just purchased from you. Question: I am heading out of town–is it OK to strip and brighten, then let the deck sit for 1 week before I stain?

Eric
Eric
2 years ago

Hey guys – I am in the process of prepping my deck for stain and had a couple quick questions. I put brand new deck flood boards on the deck 2.5 months ago and left the spindles and handrails alone since they were in pretty good shape.

I am planning on using the Benjamin Moore prep product since I am not able to get the RAD kit in time. Benjamin Moore has a Clean product and Restore product. Based off the attached pictures do you think I could get away with the Clean product instead of Restore and then a brightener on the entire deck before staining?

Also, if I have to sand off any fuzzies should this be completed after the clean stage but before the brightener?

Thanks guys and appreciate all the excellent info on this site!

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Ryan
Ryan
2 years ago

Thanks guys – should I use a deck brush to clean all surfaces including the new deck boards after spraying the cleaning product on – or can I just pressure wash off the cleaning product?

Rhonda E Eghigian
Rhonda E Eghigian
2 years ago

If I’m going to stain a deck and paint the railing, when should I clean the deck? I’ve already sanded the deck. I bought Behr All-In-One wood cleaner and I’m ready to start cleaning.

Kathy Eggers
Kathy Eggers
2 years ago

Can I sand algae away from cedar decking instead of using a liquid product?

Kristy Raudenbush
Kristy Raudenbush
2 years ago

Hi,
I am going to use the RAD Stripper, cleaner and then brightened as you suggested before staining my older deck. But I need to have a few random boards replaced here and there. I know I have to wait to stain them until they dry out. But can I still do the stripping, cleaning and brightening now ? And then in the fall possibly stain? Or do I need to do it all at the same time?

I was hoping I could do it now so I could at least maybe stain the railing. That will take a long time.

Thank you!!

Danny
Danny
2 years ago

Should I sand before or after cleaning/brightening the deck? Also, is it fine to clean/brighten the day after it rains?

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Danny
Danny
2 years ago

Great to know. I also just noticed a splinter in one of my boards. Would I be able to stain over it? If not, what would you recommend I do to fix it? Thanks for your help!

Danny
Danny
2 years ago

Sounds good. Should I break it off before sanding?

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Larry Gay
Larry Gay
2 years ago

What about the holes where the deck was nailed . Nail hole 1/4in was Nader top of board

Mark
Mark
2 years ago

Will a cleaner or brightener affect colored masonry block or stucco

Linda
Linda
3 years ago

it has been raining for 2 days so deck is soaked. once it stops raining how long do I need to wait to use RAD cleaner?

Minnesota Mike
Minnesota Mike
3 years ago

Hi,
I used the cleaner and brightener on 3year old deck then stained railing and half the large deck with twp. I was unable to finish due to rain on the weekends for the last month. I believe I need to reapply cleaner and brightener before I finish staining unstained sections. My question is if it is okay if the cleaner and brightener get over sprayed onto the new stained sections or do I need to make sure the cleaner brightener only get applied on the old deck. I don’t want the cleaner/brightener to affect/discolor the new stained sections.
Thanks,

Howard A. Baum
Howard A. Baum
3 years ago

I am going to redo my deck with pressure treated wood. My contractor says it has to be power washed before having it stained. Is this a common practice? Thank you.

Howard A. Baum
Howard A. Baum
3 years ago

Thank you.

Suzanne L
Suzanne L
3 years ago

I pressure washed the new wood on our deck, but the soap dried on it before I could remove it. When it rains you can see small bubbles. How can I remove the dried on soap.

Suzanne L
Suzanne L
3 years ago

krud kutter

SteveH
SteveH
3 years ago

We have a covered porch with entrance stairs. When we bought this house 3 years ago, it was all untreated and grey. Using the great information on this site, I prepped and cleaned the entire surface, and used the Sherwin Williams Deckscapes semi-transparent latex stain on all the horizontal surfaces. Last year (year 2), I again cleaned the surfaces and did another coat to darken it a bit. The covered portion of the porch still looks great, no cracking or peeling.

But in my quest for The better idea, I used the crushed nuts mixed in for the stairs last year. As the picture shows, that process apparently made for sandpaper in the walking areas. Peeling down to the bare wood. No more traction attempts this year!

My question is this. I’m ready to redo the stairs. Do I clean/powerwash/sand to remove all prior stain?

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SteveH
SteveH
3 years ago

Thanks, I am armed and ready!

Chris
Chris
3 years ago

I stained my deck 2 yrs ago and I forgot what I used to clean it before hand. I’m pretty sure I used TSP but I’m not sure if I mixed bleach with it or what the mix ratio of either was. Some websites advise not to use bleach., not sure why.

Chris
Chris
3 years ago

I’m pretty sure I used it last time. On other websites it says to use TSP and powdered oxygen bleach(Oxiclean) What is the reason why they aren’t good for decks? My deck is made of pressure treated wood. Does it harm the wood?

Chris
Chris
3 years ago

Is there a reason why the TSP & Bleach solution is not good for decks? I’m pretty sure I used it the last time and it worked pretty good. Other websites say to use 1 1/2 cups of TSP and 1 cup of powdered oxygen bleach(Oxiclean) Does it harm the wood?

Bobby Otero
Bobby Otero
3 years ago

I just tried cleaning my less than a year old deck with Olympic Deck Cleaner, suffice it to say that it didn’t do much if anything other then bring it something green in my deck boards that wSnt there before I applied it. What is it or what dis I do wrong?

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Jeff
Jeff
3 years ago

We have a 20 yo cedar deck that was never stained or treated in any way. I plan on using Restore A Deck Cleaner/Brightener then staining with Restore A Deck Wood Stain or TWP 100 Series. However, all the cedar railings, balusters, and stairs were painted about 10 years ago. The paint is peeled in many places, is ugly, and needs to be removed, do you have any products/advice for how to go about this?

Thanks!

Jeff
Jeff
3 years ago

Thanks!

Apologies if you’ve answered this elsewhere, but would it be beneficial to sand the deck surface as well? It’s been pressure washed before, I don’t notice too much raised grain. Or will this retard the stain penetration?

Sue
Sue
3 years ago

I live in Virginia and need to apply the second coat of Defy Extreme on my new PT deck (first coat was applied a year ago). I am trying to get the deck cleaned and brightened before the pollen starts up but it is still getting down to 30 degrees at night (and then trying to catch a few days without rain). I read from previous posts that I can clean and brighten it and it is ok to wait up to 2 weeks to apply the stain. When pollen starts it coats everything every day, if I wait 2 days for the deck to dry and pollen is on it what do I do? Should I just wait until after pollen season is over and hot weather has arrived?

Brent
Brent
3 years ago

Thanks for all the information here. I’ve read through a ton and haven’t been able to form a great plan.

I just moved in before winter, and I’m not sure what the previous owner had done to the deck. The deck is only 2 years old and has gone through 2 Minnesota winters. Now that the snow has cleared, we’re ready to re finish the deck. It was gray and dirty, so I power washed it. After it dried the sheen was very silverish grey so I applied a brightener and power washed again. I’m planning on trying a different brand, but please give me any advice you can before we stain.

Much appreciated!

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Marty McGregor
Marty McGregor
4 years ago

I will be staining a new pressure-treated deck, after prepping with Restore-A-Deck Cleaner and Brightener. There are two types of stains that I will need to remove prior to staining with a semi-transparent stain – the rubber tire marks from the pressure washer and residue from black walnuts that have fallen on the deck. I seriously doubt the cleaner and brightener will remove these stains – I hope I’m wrong. Does anyone have experience removing these stains?

Marty McGregor
Marty McGregor
4 years ago

Thank you! I’ll give that a try.

I also would like to remove the lumber yard stamp from the decking and I’ve accumulated some grease stains from my grill. I would imagine a last resort for any of these stains (especially grease) would be light sanding. But, would that possibly cause an uneven appearance after staining with a semi-transparent stain? The decking has now “aged” 5 months.

Jason
Jason
4 years ago

Do I need to use cleaner on a new deck where the wood has never been stained?

Amy
Amy
4 years ago

We used the Restore-A-Deck Cleaner and Brightener and the deck looks much cleaner. However, now we can see dark streaks next to many of the nails. Is there any way to remove these streaks? Will the stain cover over the discoloration? We never noticed it until we cleaned but now these streaks are very visible! Thanks for your advice.

Jen
Jen
4 years ago

I have a 1200 sq ft Cumaru deck that was completed in June. We are wanting to clean/brighten and oil the boards before our rainy season begins (soon! we live in the Seattle area). I have 1 week of sunshine and mid 60’s weather this week although the only products I can source locally are Penofin for the oil/stain and either deck wise cleaner/brightener combo or Penofin cleaner. We also have the usual HD, Lowes and Ace Hardware brands which seems to mostly be Cabot, BM or Valspar. I see you recommending people to avoid Penofin, so my question is, should I use the Penofin if it means that I won’t be able to protect the deck until next summer?

Nancy Soldatow
Nancy Soldatow
4 years ago

I have a half container of behr 63 wood cleaner that I bought an used about 6 years ago. can Iuse the rest of it and will it work?

Ms Jo Willard
Ms Jo Willard
4 years ago

Still trying to finish older deck before it gets worse. I definitely have to do the best I can this time. Do I remove nails where screws are needed first & sand or..do I wash deck first with outdoor bleach or vinegar? (Already stripped & used cleaner fee months ago) Unfortunately had Mudd filled with Elmer’s on the few places where starting to rot after cleaning them out on the last staining…use behr semi-transparent stain. Remove & fill with the Permafill you mentioned? How….chip out with screwdriver? … only 1 LARGE strip that needs filling. How do I flip another board in middle of deck…using what tool? How do I get splattered residue off vinyl siding when I had stripped & used pressure washer. Didn’t realize it was there at the time because of splatters of old deck stain. Can I get splatters of the paint off? Have tried with brushes etc
I apologize for the long note & many questions. Had continuously been researching online to no avail. Your website was highly recommended. Thank you very much for your knowledge & expertise & especially your willingness to help!

Joe
Joe
4 years ago

I finished cleaning my deck this weekend with RAD and some areas are brighter than others . Refer to the attached photos.
Is this acceptable to stain as is (I don’t want to see the look come thru the stain). or do I need to redo the cleaning. I plan on using Armstrong Clark semi solid stain. The wood is KDAT pine.

Thank you!
Joe

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Martha
Martha
4 years ago

I got our new deck (7 months aged) all cleaned and brightened with Defy. Then the rains started up and it’s been another 3 weeks. Do I have to start all over again before putting on the stain and sealant? It’s been drying out for 2 days. I am not sure how to tell if it’s dry enough yet. We are in Northeast Florida.

Martha
Martha
4 years ago

Do you mean to do this lightly with the Defy wood cleaner and brightener again? or just rinse the dirt off the deck?

Martha
Martha
4 years ago

🤗 Oh thank God! and thank you!

Joe V
Joe V
4 years ago

I was planning on cleaning my deck this morning but its raining until 10 AM. The forecast says that rain will begin around 8 PM this evening. Can I use the RAD in between the rain storms?
Thanks

Joe V
Joe V
4 years ago

Thank you!

Nano
Nano
4 years ago

Installed new red cedar deck and it has had time to season. The deck looks great, no dirt or graying, but there is mnimal small black mold or mildew spotting. Can we just sand those few areas and then stain. We would prefer not to use chemical cleaner or brightener if not necessary as our deck is surrounded with plants and we have animals.
Thanks

Nano
Nano
4 years ago

OK thanks. Do you have an article explaining step by step process of cleaning and brightening?

Terry
Terry
4 years ago

I didn’t see it in the directions but thought I’d ask anyway. When using the RAD stripper am I supposed to wet the deck first?

Jim
Jim
4 years ago

Just finished sanding the deck. Going to stain with Armstrong Clark semi-trans. Does this stain prevent the gray from coming back? They say you just need to use cleaner and re-stain it. Is this true or do you have to sand off the gray that might appear as well? Or does the stain prevent it from going gray?

Carolyn H
Carolyn H
4 years ago

I striped, cleaned an brightened my 2 year old cedar deck. Then had vacation so it has been 2 weeks since that was done. Can I just apply the stain now (Defy Extreme). The can also says that 1 coat is enough on cedar.

Greg
Greg
4 years ago

I used the 2-step cleaning process from Restore-A-Deck using a scrub brush and ended with white spots. They’re more prominent around knots. The deck is about ten months old and has never been stained. Is there a way to correct it? Please advice.

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Matt Bowman
Matt Bowman
4 years ago

I have a deck that was already been painted with Olympic Rescue It. After pressure washing I would like to re-apply another coat or two of paint to give it a finished look. Is there anything else I need to prep before painting?

KEvin Baker
KEvin Baker
4 years ago

I cleaned an unfinished cedar deck with wood wash (Biotestore) and it discoloured some of the wood in spots. Is there a way to correct this before I stain?

KEvin Baker
KEvin Baker
4 years ago

Here are a few that show the stains and colour changes. I followed the directions of the deck cleaner, used a plastic brush and power washed. Thoughts?

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Dena Kellar
Dena Kellar
4 years ago

If I have already stripped and sanded my deck , should I still wash it before I put new stain on it

maureenaorton67@gmail.com
maureenaorton67@gmail.com
4 years ago

What tempature is best to apply stain,is 90 and humid ok

Sam
Sam
4 years ago

Hello, I applied a deck stripper as I has old solid stain that had worn away followed by a pressure washed rinse. It didn’t remove all the tough stain spots so I have started sanding. I am concerned about some dark spots that seem to be underneath, possibly older stain (i hope not!)? Would a brighten and clean after sanding help clean it up? I have read stripper can “darken” the wood. Any advice is helpful, thanks!

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Tamara
Tamara
4 years ago

Hi there, should I sand the boards before cleaner/brightener/stain? Or Should I sand the boards after the cleaner/brighter and before the stain.

Rusty
Rusty
4 years ago

Please give your opinion of Sunnyside Deck Wash.

Laura
Laura
4 years ago

I sanded my cedar deck. Cleaned it today and it left dot like spots in places. I’m scrubbed with a nylon brush and old stain came up. Is this normal. Should I clean again. Stripper not an option. Too much vegetation. Previous stain was ready seal. Two years of o.it wiothoit more than cleaning. Ordered TWP. Any thoight

Pam Jolly Haile
Pam Jolly Haile
4 years ago

I have just found your site and now have several concerns as my painters are coming tomorrow to stain my deck with an oil based stain. I was going to have them buy Thompson’s Water Seal at Lowes. Also, it has been 5 weeks since they pressure washed-see pictures. They were going to sweep off the debris and begin staining. What do you advise I insist they do to prepare properly and which product do you recommend and where to purchase. I have no idea what’s on the deck now. Thank you your help!

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Larry Taylor
Larry Taylor
4 years ago

I put a fire proof mat on a new deck that hadn’t been stained. After about 4 months I’m ready to stain the deck but when I took up the matt. It showed the original deck color where as the rest of the deck had changed color due to the sun. What should I do?

Anne
Anne
4 years ago

One more question… by the way your website and response time are great! We just power washed and sanded the tough spots to completely remove the Behr stain on just the floor and step surface as it was peeling and flaking. The railings, spindles and under deck still looks amazing. My question is will the deck cleaner and brightener affect the sections still stained if it makes contact? Of course the under deck will get drenched with both products. Is it going to harm the stain that still looks great? Thanks again!!!

Anne
Anne
4 years ago

We just recently power washed and sanded our deck. We took off Behr’s Premium semi-transparent stain. I was disappointed as it started flaking after one summer. My question is can we still clean and brighten or did we mess up by sanding before these steps? Thank you!

Anne
Anne
4 years ago

Thank you!