How Dry Does the Deck Need to be After Cleaning it to Apply the Stain? 4.9/5 (42)

This post was updated on January 18, 2022

How Dry Does the Deck Need to be After Cleaning it to Apply the Stain?

Since we published this article, the Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain was introduced, allowing for this stain to be applied to a damp deck. For all other brands of stain, we still recommend you wait until the surface has completely dried before applying. We always appreciate your input, so feel free to leave a comment below with pictures of your deck stain projects.


The first step in deck restoration and/or maintenance is to clean and prep the wood. This is the key to a long-lasting finish. Properly prepped wood will allow the deck stain to penetrate and perform to its full potential. So how dry does the deck need to be after cleaning it to apply the stain? Well, that can be measured in several ways.
One way to measure if the deck is dry enough for staining is by using a moisture meter. A moisture meter measures the amount of moisture in the wood. There are one to two probes on the meter that stick into the wood to give you a reading. If using this method, be sure to check the moisture level in several spots. For example, the decking floor may be much dryer from the sun beating on it then one of the spindles hidden in the shade. With a moisture meter, you are looking for a reading between 12-15% or less. If you are getting higher readings then the deck needs to air dry some more before applying the stain.

Another way to be sure a deck is dry enough to stain is to give it a few days. Normally 1-2 days after cleaning is adequate but that can vary depending on sun exposure, climate, wood type, and age. To be more than safe you can let the deck dry for several days. The only problem you may have is that it may rain in those several days and if it does then you have to give the deck several more days again after it quits raining.

Allowing a deck to dry enough and then having it rain on the day you were supposed to stain can be frustrating. But consider this, if you do not let the deck dry sufficiently prior to staining, you can actually trap moisture in the wood underneath the new coat of stain. Then the wood is prone to mold and mildew problems, which can lead to rot and decay. So it is best to play the waiting game and allow the deck to dry long enough before staining.

How To Apply Deck Stain to Damp Wood – DeckStainHelp.com

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john mcgehee
john mcgehee
2 months ago

Waiting for the weather to cooperate…I not able to schedule 24hrs before and after staining. Using cabot deck correct. I now have today, last rained 6:30 am, day 2 no rain, day 3 rain possible in the afternoon. Maybe apply late today…12hrs after rain. Second coat on day 2, day 3 rain possible in the afternoon. Unfortunately the deck is in the shade.
Better to have a stained deck get rained on vs stain deck that’s not as dry as it should be?

Grace
Grace
2 years ago

It rains every day around six been trying to paint stain, sun in ninth degrees can I do it?

Susan
Susan
2 years ago

What if you’re just rinsing of a new deck with the hose? Not pressure washing.

judy
judy
2 years ago

What if u stain a new pressure treated deck and it wasn’t cured long enough? Is it fixable? after a rain , I noticed the water is laying on top for a long time. Dies that mean I sealed it too soon?

Kristine
Kristine
3 years ago

So we have a spot in our deck that has high moisture readings, it has been more than several days of no rain! I want to get it sealed before it decides to rain again but it will not dry! Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?

Kristine
Kristine
3 years ago

I have 4 boards that are reading between 16-20. Using behr

Bob Wray
Bob Wray
5 years ago

If we pressure wash our deck with salt water (fresh water not available), can we proceed with sealing after it is well dry or does the remaining salt cause a problem? Thanks.

Fellipe
Fellipe
5 years ago

If it rains 48-72 hours after cleaning the deck, will I have to clean it again or just let the deck dry for several days?

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