This post was updated on January 30, 2023
Prepping Your Wood Deck
Deck Cleaning Update 2023
We have updated our DeckStainhelp.com site with numerous new reviews and articles for 2023 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 2023
- Make sure that the deck is clear of all furniture and grills prior to starting.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If any stubborn areas persist then repeat the process.
- After the deck is thoroughly clean make sure to rinse the house, deck, plants, etc to remove all of the loosened grime.
- 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.
- 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 2023 Video
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.
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?
What grit paper did you sand with?
80 grit to remove the old stain (unfortunately Behr), then I lightly smoothed it out with 150 grit.
Once you go more than 80 it smooths the wood to smooth for stain. You should clean and brighten it to open up the pores.
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.
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?
Yes, it is a very poor product: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/behr-deckover-review-updated/
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.
No need to sand it all off but do make sure you sand or remove any stain that is loose and not intact.
Thank you for your prompt response. Do you have a recommendation for best solid stain for a SE Michigan deck. Current application is ArborCoat.
Try the Restore A Deck Solid Stains: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/restore-a-deck-solid-color-stain-review/
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 –
Prep first and then see here to remove any furring. https://www.deckstainhelp.com/wood-fuzzies-furring-on-deck/
Furring will happen if your deck has sat for two years without protection.
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?
You cannot apply a semi-transparent stain like TWP over a solid stain. You would have to remove the solid stain fully first and that would require power sanding. Your other option is to clean and then recoat with another solid stain.
I cleaned and brightened deck, but haven’t been able to stain because of weather. Is a 2 week gap before staining ok?
It should be. Make sure it is free of debris, etc.
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?
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!
Have you read this about new wood? https://www.deckstainhelp.com/staining-a-new-deck/
After the proper wait as the stain brand suggests, you will need to clean and then brighten the deck. If you need to sand fuzzies, do that after cleaning.
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?
Use a deck cleaner and then pressure wash off.
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.
The Behr prep is not very good. use a cleaner and brightener system like the Restore A Deck kits: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/restore-a-deck-cleaner-system-review/
As for one to stain, is the wood new or older?
Can I sand algae away from cedar decking instead of using a liquid product?
That does not work very well.
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.
Do it all at the same time in the Fall.
Should I sand before or after cleaning/brightening the deck? Also, is it fine to clean/brighten the day after it rains?
Sand first. You can prep after rain.
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!
Sand the splinter.
Sounds good. Should I break it off before sanding?
What about the holes where the deck was nailed . Nail hole 1/4in was Nader top of board
Not sure what you are asking?
Will a cleaner or brightener affect colored masonry block or stucco
No, it will not.
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?
A few hours.
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.
Just lightly wash with water and then brighten the wood again. It will not harm the stain.
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.
Yes. Has to be prepped.
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.
What soap did you use?
The only thing you can do is to keep rinsing until no more soap suds are coming up.
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?
Clean first and then sand to remove.
Thanks, I am armed and ready!
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.
Bleach and TSP are not good for decks. Use a true “deck cleaner” that contains sodium percarbonate.
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?
TSP is just a soap, not a deep cleaner. See this about bleach: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/using-bleach-to-clean-decks/
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?
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?
The green is inside the wood and will not come out. It is part of the treatment of PTP wood.
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?
You will have to power sand off the paint to remove. Once 100% removed. clean and brighten for final prep.
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?
No need to sand the floor if it does not have a paint. It can hinder stain penetration into the wood.
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?
Pollen issues arise more with oil-based stains, not water-based like Defy. I would not worry about it much when using the Defy. If you do wait a couple of weeks between prep and staining, lightly wash or rinse the deck down two days before stating if the pollen has fallen on the wood.
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.
Use the Restore A Deck Cleaner/Brightener Kits for the prep. Stain with Restore A Deck Wood Stain or TWP 100 Series.
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?
The RAD prep should remove most but if not, watered down bleach will remove organic stains (black walnuts). Try 1 part bleach to 4 parts water. Let sit and rinse well after 10 minutes.
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.
You will have to sand the stamps: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/how-to-remove-the-ink-stamps-from-new-decking/
You will need to spot sand them, let weather again, then do the prep.
Grease will not come out if deep in the wood grain.
Do I need to use cleaner on a new deck where the wood has never been stained?
Yes. See this about new wood: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/staining-a-new-deck/
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.
That is rust from your nails. You have bad nails or screws there. Try the brightener again, it should remove it.
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?
Do not use Penofin. It turns black and you will need to strip to fix. Better to use Armstrong Clark or Defy Hardwood stain.
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?
It is probably okay to use.
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!
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.
You are good to stain.
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.
Lightly wash for prep to remove any dirt. Let dry for 48 hours and then stain.
Do you mean to do this lightly with the Defy wood cleaner and brightener again? or just rinse the dirt off the deck?
With water. You just want to remove any dirt/dust since it has been three weeks.
🤗 Oh thank God! and thank you!
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?
RAD prep products, yes.
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.
No, you have to clean and brighten for the prep. This will remove the oxidation and mill glaze that needs to come off prior to staining.
OK thanks. Do you have an article explaining step by step process of cleaning and brightening?
Yes, this article.
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?
Yes. Lightly wet is what we do.
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?
Yes, it does prevent graying for about 2-3 years or so. Just clean and reapply when time to redo.
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.
Lightly wash and brighten the wood again before applying the stain.
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.
That is oxidation of the wood cells that did not come off fully. See here for tips: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/wood-fuzzies-furring-on-deck/
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?
No. Just make sure it is clean and all the peeling or loose paint is removed.
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?
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?
Try a wood brightener the even it out.
If I have already stripped and sanded my deck , should I still wash it before I put new stain on it
Lightly wash and use a wood brightener. This will help the stain to soak in better.
What tempature is best to apply stain,is 90 and humid ok
Depends on the brand and type of stain you are using?
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!
Try a stain stripper and pressure washing to remove more. Brighten all after will lighten the wood back.
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.
Sanding first is best if you are in need of sanding.
Please give your opinion of Sunnyside Deck Wash.
Sorry but never heard of it.
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
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!
You need to strip and brighthen for the prep. Once fully removed, try one of these brands: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/the-5-best-deck-stain-reviews-and-ratings/
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?
Is the mat going back in the exact same spot? If so, just clean and brighten as normal and then stain. If it has a slight discoloration after, just put the mat over it.
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!!!
Probably not but hard to say for certain.
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!
Clean and brighten now for the final prep.