Prepping Your Wood Deck – Cleaning 4.9/5 (25)

by Deck Stain Help

Updated February 2020

Prepping Your Wood Deck

How to prep and clean your wood deck

Prep and clean your wood deck

Deck Cleaning Update 2020

We have updated our DeckStainhelp.com site with numerous new reviews and articles for 2020 on 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 it’s natural beauty.

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

Deck Cleaning Tips for 2020

  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, starting 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 added 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


Please Rate This. You may also post comments or ask questions below.

Related Deck Stain Help Articles & Reviews

387
Ask a Question or Post a Review

avatar
 
smilegrinwinkneutralshockunamusedcooloopsrollcryeeklolmadsadexclamationquestionhmmbeg
Photo and Image Files
 
 
 
 
Audio and Video Files
 
 
 
 
newest oldest
Linda
Linda

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

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

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.

Suzanne L
Suzanne L

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.

SteveH
SteveH

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?

2019-06-07 09.23.31.jpg
2019-06-07 09.23.38.jpg
Chris
Chris

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.

Bobby Otero
Bobby Otero

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?

image.jpg
image.jpg
Jeff
Jeff

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!

Sue
Sue

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

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!

IMG_4931.jpg
IMG_4929.jpg
IMG_4935.jpg
Marty McGregor
Marty McGregor

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?

Jason
Jason

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

Amy
Amy

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2608.jpg
IMG_2609.jpg
IMG_2612.jpg
Martha
Martha

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.

Joe V
Joe V

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

Nano
Nano

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

Terry
Terry

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

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

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

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.

IMG_01.jpg
IMG_02.jpg
IMG_03.jpg
Matt Bowman
Matt Bowman

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

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?

Dena Kellar
Dena Kellar

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

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

Sam
Sam

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!

20180618_215742.jpg
Tamara
Tamara

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

Please give your opinion of Sunnyside Deck Wash.

Laura
Laura

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

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!

IMG_5954.jpg
IMG_5955.jpg
Larry Taylor
Larry Taylor

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

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

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!

Elissa Myers
Elissa Myers

Hi! I cleaned my deck with cleaner and followed it up with brightener. Unfortunately it did nothing for the algae. I used vinegar and baking soda and a scrub brush to get the algae off and now I’m wondering if I need to use the brightener again. Thanks!

Jeremy
Jeremy

When prepping your deck should you use wood filler and sand down before you use your deck cleaner or after you clean?

Mark Walton
Mark Walton

I had a new set of stairs built last year and let them age for a year, untreated. They are under several pine trees which drip sap. What is the best process to address this before staining and sealing? Also do you have any recommendations for a good type of stain to use that will ease pitch remove next year?

0C2ECC07-7180-460E-8858-07209C22D57B.jpeg
Pat Reagan
Pat Reagan

Our 1500 sq ft redwood deck is 5 years old and we are restaining it for general upkeep. We power washed it a couple of weeks ago without any cleaner or stripper applied to it. After reading all of these reviews, I think we may have missed an important part of the process. How would we know if it should redone with a “cleaner,” or move on with a brightener and stain. Thanks…..

Nita
Nita

I have a one year old deck that I am staining for the first time this summer. I live in western Pennsylvania. I have purchased the Defy Deck Cleaner, Brightener and Butternut Deck Stain. If I clean and brighten on one day, can I stain on the next day or should I wait? If so, how long? Thank you!

Courtney Hamilton
Courtney Hamilton

How quickly after stripping a 4 year old cedar deck with semi-transparent stain (2 years old and tired) do I need to brighten? What is my window to stain (with semi transparent) after brightening?

Debbie
Debbie

I have a wood deck that I put a transparent stain on 3 years ago. I am getting ready to clean it up to redo, and my questions is will dawn dish soap and water with scrub brush do the trick before I re-stain? I do not have a power washer and have flowers planted around the deck. It does get a lot foot traffic on it and exposed to the sun so floor is more worn off than railing.

Matt Wilson
Matt Wilson

Hello,

I have a deck about to see it’s 4th summer. I have cleaned, brightened and stained the past two seasons with Armstrong Clark transparent. I face south and get almost full sun so the stain doesn’t really last more than 1 season. However due to personal circumstances I won’t have the time to full stain the deck again this year, however it is very dirty from the winter snow and grime that generally accumulates so I do want to clean it up.

My question is should I clean it with just a power washing? Or should I use a cleaner and power wash? I mostly just want to clean the grime off to use the deck for the summer.

Fred
Fred

Hi, I have a deck that, within the last year, has been expanded. Combo old wood and new. We let the new wood age 90 days and had the entire old area stripped and then the entire deck re-stained with semi transparent. Stain was sprayed on poorly and is uneven in some areas. The old stain still looks decent, is less than 1 year old and has only faded slightly. Can I simply “clean” the existing surface and re-stain again with same color, but different product, or must I use the same product? Or, must I strip all of the old?
Thanks.

Mark
Mark

We bought a cabin in the Colorado mountains at 8,200 feet. The wood deck is south facing and has solid color stain that has peeled in many places and has faded. We’ve done our scraping and plan to use Cabot’s solid color stain in about the same redwood tone. Is it necessary to use a deck cleaning product, such as Cabot’s Problem Solver deck cleaner? Or will a good washing be enough? In other words, does a deck cleaning product work on existing solid color stain? Thanks for the good information on your website.

James A Porter
James A Porter

Hello there, it snowed today and I was planning on power washing tomorrow and staining my deck Wednesday. Tomorrow is suppose to be in the low 40s and so is Tuesday. Wednesday evening when I planned on stain g it will be in the 60s. Should I just wait a week or two for the weather to warm up a bit more. I plan on using ZAR semi-transparent.

Jessica
Jessica

I built a new redwood deck and cleaned it with deck cleaner yesterday (Sunday). Thinking that I wouldn’t get to stain it until next weekend, I covered up the whole deck with paper, plastic, and cardboard to try to keep it clean and protected. Rain wasn’t in the forecast…but it rained this morning (Monday, literally the next day), and now everything looks horrible, and I worry that I won’t be able to get the stains off.

I sanded down a few boards to see what they would look like. Shortly after that, it started sprinkling, so I’m getting an idea of what the deck will look if I stain it, and it’s not pretty. (I’ve included a before and after picture so you can see the difference.)

Does anyone have an idea for how I remove these water stains? And if I can’t, would it be a terrible idea to remove each board to flip each one over to re-screw them in?

I would appreciate any help you can provide. I built this deck with my uncle over the last few months, and I’m so worried that I’ve ruined all of our hard work, and I really don’t want to disappoint him.

Jessica

IMG_8875.JPG
IMG_8848.JPG
Keith Ruehle
Keith Ruehle

I built a new deck out of pressure treated woods about 7 years ago. I re-applying a PP&G an oil-based semi-transparent stain every year after cleaning. After a few years, black mold started to appear in the ever widening cracks in the grain. Not knowing how to clean the mold, I used straight bleach. This removed all the mold the first year I cleaned, 90% of the mold the second year, 80% the 3rd year, etc. Now the mold is lodged deep in the cracks and bleach doesn’t do much any more. I tested with a variety of products to clean the black mold and haven’t found anything that touches it.

1. How do I get the black mold out of the cracks?
2. How would I keep it from coming back in a matter of months?
3. I guess the oil-based stain I am using is promoting black mold, can I use a moldicide additive to the stain?

Thank you in advance for your help.

Michael
Michael

I brought a house with a 23 year old deck that probably has never been maintained. I think it originally was painted and most of the paint (or solid stain) has worn off. I tried stripping the left over paint, but that didn’t work well. I’ve started sanding to remove it and once I get down to bare wood the wood looks dirty in some spots. I was wondering if it is dirt and grime or something else? Also, if I keep sanding I can get to clean looking wood, but is that necessary or can I just sand down to the wood and then use a cleaner and brightener? I’m wanting the wood in the left side of the picture to look like the right.

20171021_172929[1].jpg