Prepping Your Wood Deck – Cleaning  4.9/5 (34)

This post was updated on May 1, 2024

Prepping Your Wood Deck

How to prep and clean your wood deck

Prep and clean your wood deck

Deck Cleaning Update 2024

We have updated our DeckStainhelp.com site with numerous new reviews and articles for 2024 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 2024

  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 2024 Video

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

author avatar
Scott Paul ~ Restoring Wood & Decks Since 1993 Owner
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.

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tom
tom
20 days ago

Best way to prep IPE that is in very good shape? (just graying).

Tom
Tom
19 days ago

Thanks, Scott! Next weekend project!

Tom
Tom
10 days ago

Before, during, and after.

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Tom
Tom
10 days ago

I used Defy products for both cleaning and staining.

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George Martins
George Martins
1 year ago

thanks.Is a deck cleaner the same as a “Restore” or “Remove” deck product?

It’s strange, because the brighter I used even left white film on a new unweathered board. It did not revive it.

George Martins
George Martins
1 year ago

I used a brighter on my thermal wood deck and now it’s turned whitish, rough and did not remove all the algae. What do you recommend to bring it back to natural tone and do you seal it with oil?

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Keith m
Keith m
1 year ago

In ur pro opinion would u go with defy extreme or rad stain

Keith m
Keith m
1 year ago

Thank u. I just ordered the package I have a gallon of defy and it does seem good but i think im going to take ur advice. I think i will use the defy on my pool deck and the rad on my 65 x8 front porch deck that is covered. Thanks again

MzLiz
MzLiz
1 year 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
1 year ago

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

MzLiz
MzLiz
1 year 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
1 year 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
2 years 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
2 years 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
2 years 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
2 years 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
2 years 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
2 years 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
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 years ago

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

Kristy Raudenbush
Kristy Raudenbush
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 years ago

Sounds good. Should I break it off before sanding?

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Larry Gay
Larry Gay
3 years ago

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

Mark
Mark
4 years ago

Will a cleaner or brightener affect colored masonry block or stucco

Linda
Linda
4 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
4 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
4 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
4 years ago

Thank you.

Suzanne L
Suzanne L
4 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
4 years ago

krud kutter

SteveH
SteveH
4 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
4 years ago

Thanks, I am armed and ready!

Chris
Chris
4 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
4 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
4 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
4 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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