Should You Stain a Deck Without Cleaning First? 4.9/5 (17)

This post was updated on January 19, 2022

Uncleaned Dirty Deck

Uncleaned Dirty Deck

Stain a Deck Without Cleaning First?

The correct answer is – not if you want the deck stain to last as long as it should. The number one reason a deck stain fails prematurely is that the wood surface was not prepped correctly. Even a high-quality deck stain will not be as effective or protected as it should if the wood deck was not been washed first using the right deck cleaners.

A good deck cleaner should be used to remove gray wood fibers, dirt, mold, mildew, and other pollutants that are deep down in the wood. In some instances, a deck stain stripping agent is required to remove an old failing deck stain. It’s vitally important to remove all remnants of an old deck stain so the new stain can penetrate the wood. More times than not, most deck stains will not adhere to each other. When a deck stain is applied over an old failing stain it will start flaking and peeling within a year or so making an even bigger mess.

After the deck cleaning or deck stain stripping process, a wood deck brightener is then needed. This “brightens” the wood while restoring back to the proper pH level. The reason for a deck brightener is that the cleaner or stripper used is caustic and leaves the wood at a high Ph level, looking very dark. Deck stains penetrate better and will last longer when they are applied to a more acid surface. The brightening of the wood brings out the natural beauty which is important when using clear or semi-transparent deck stains.

Restoring a deck properly can save the homeowner money by protecting their investment. Avoid putting deck stain or water repellent on a wood deck that has not been cleaned first with the proper deck cleaners. Hurrying a project like a deck restoration will only end up costing more time and money than necessary. Follow the proper recommendations for cleaning and use only quality deck cleaners and deck stains to achieve professional results and longevity of your wood.

Best Deck Cleaner 2022 Video


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

Related Deck Stain Help Articles & Reviews

guest
63 Comments
newest
oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bruce Raiken
Bruce Raiken
1 year ago

My small (12X10) deck was stained 4yrs ago – semi-transparent on floor and tops of rails & stairs, and solid (in the same color) on all the spindles and wood below the top rails. I’m limited in what I can do and would like to avoid multiple cleaning applications. The deck itself is fairly old, and wood is blemished. I’d like to just use the same color in solid stain to cover the floor, where most of the previous stain has worn off with a lot of direct sunlight. I would use the same sold stain on stairs and tops of rails, so that now everything will be stained with the solid. All of the spindles and wood below top rails that were done in solid are 100% perfect and I am going to leave them as is, until next time the horizontal surfaces need refreshing. I recently had the floor pressure sprayed, although I don’t own one. Do I really need any further cleaning going over the old semi-transparent floor, stairs and top board railings since using same color, but in solid?

Trisha
Trisha
1 year ago

My fence is only 3+ months old. Do I still need to clean it prior to Staining?

Katie
Katie
2 years ago

I just had my fence power washed prior to staining it this week. Is it necessary that I should have used deck/fence cleaner before power washing it in order to stain?

E3190C54-B13D-443A-9309-34841BEAEDC2.jpeg
Stephanie
Stephanie
2 years ago

I used oil based Thompsons Water Seal on my new cedar covered porch after power washing snd letting dry. We did not walk on it for the 2 days recommended on can. But immediately and since then, there are black shoe marks all over. New black marks daily 3 months later. They cannot be cleaned. A reviewer of Cabot Timber Oil made the same complaint. Ive never used oil before now. I cant imagine this is an expectation of oil. What went wrong?

Lynn
Lynn
2 years ago

We have a year old eastern cedar deck that has weathered to a beautiful gray which we love and matches our house color. We want to use a clear sealant on the deck. Must we first clean and brighten deck which would remove the gray which we would rather not do, or can we seal over the gray deck?

LAW
LAW
2 years ago

My son pressure washed (no cleaner) my deck a couple of weeks ago. I notice there are some white areas. Is that remaining mold/mildew. Can we stain the deck over this?

20200729_175106 - 2 .jpg
Kathy Turner
Kathy Turner
2 years ago

Does a new deck need to be power washed before it is cleaned?

Gary
Gary
2 years ago

I will be staining brand new douglas fir for a chicken coop (vertical surfaces). Is a cleaning step really necessary for this application prior to staining?

Thanks

DeAna
DeAna
3 years ago

Hi. I have been following all of your suggestions as I have been prepping my deck for some repairs and oil based staining.

I pressure washed, brightened it a couple weeks ago. I was going to do more touch up but we’ve have a lot of rain. Its better now but still forecast partly cloudy upcoming week. I bought some defy stripper because there are light remnants of previous stain here and there. Mostly on the spindles and posts.

I bought western red cedar for the rail cap replacements. After I round them over, should I stain them in my garage before installing them?! I do not want the weathered gray nor do I want them water damaged before staining.

I will use the stripper, then brighten again afterwards before staining the rest. Is this correct?

Melissa
Melissa
3 years ago

We moved into our house 3 years ago & our deck was already stained with opaque stain by Sherwin Williams Deckscapes (previous owner left cans in garage). Now it’s starting to peel off. Some parts of the wood is soft or covered in moss & mildew. Deck is 20 years old and we get snow & ice in winter. What do you recommend we do to help it last for years to come? Can we go over it with more of the same stain or do we have to remove it somehow?

Mr. Youmans
Mr. Youmans
3 years ago

I’m putting a fence up now can I skip the cleaning and go straight to the staining?

It is pressure treated wood.

Mr. Youmans
Mr. Youmans
3 years ago

It is rough

Sherry
Sherry
3 years ago

Another question! Fence is about 9 months old, am getting ready to stain it for the first time. Can’t seem to get this black areas cleaned off. What is this stuff anyway? Power washer with cleaner lightened but didn’t remove (not too experienced w power washer so only used the 25 nozzle). Pictures for reference.

E49715B2-5BFC-4A3E-884C-8756FCE54D7A.jpeg
D0663835-0A49-495F-B2A4-AC47038F6D44.jpeg
Steve
Steve
4 years ago

What is the longest period you can wait between washing and staining a deck? I had a new deck installed last December. The guy doing the staining washed the deck 9 days ago and I’m not sure when he’s going to stain it. Just want to make sure we don’t wait TOO long between washing and staining.

cordula jordan
cordula jordan
4 years ago

We pressure washed our deck last weekend. Can we clean the deck with wood cleaner in the direct sun? Due lots of rain this week, we had to wait till this weekend to use the wood cleaner.

Roy
Roy
4 years ago

I have power washed my fence and am sanding with 60-grit. There is no mold or mildew but there are a few grey sections. Do I use a brightener next and then a finer sandpaper (120-grit) or sand with 120 and then a brightener before I apply the first coat of stain? Is there any difference in the order? Either way I have to give the fence a light rinse with the garden hose to remove the sawdust from the finer sanding. I was thinking to just use the brightener after the finer sanding job to rinse away the sawdust and apply the brightener at the same time.

Mat
Mat
4 years ago

I have all these delicate trees and flowers under and near my deck. How can I prep for staining with no chemicals? Dish soap? Or other? Pls advise

Renee
Renee
4 years ago

I pressure washed my deck last fall. Do I need to do it again before staining?

Julie
Julie
4 years ago

We have a 10year old deck that was never stains. Do we need to pressure wash to remove the wear before staining? We do not care if the stains show through as we are staining a dark colour. Or do we need to pressure wash first for better penetration?
Thanks

Sam
Sam
5 years ago

Is there a way to clean and prep new wood without using a hose and excessive water?

I have a shed with rough finish western red cedar siding that is newly installed. There are deep eaves that prevent water from penetrating around the doors and windows, but no flashing or other caulking in those areas. I am concerned that using the traditional wood cleaner/brightener with a hose will create water issues. Any suggestions?
Thank you.

Lynn
Lynn
8 years ago

I cleaned and stained my new deck 2 months ago, and it's apparent that I need to add another coat. Do I need to clean it again before applying more stain?

Linda
Linda
8 years ago

I just put up a cedar ceiling (raw wood at this point) and want to stain it. I am reading that I need to use a brightener before staining but am struggling to figure out how to do this safely. Since it's likely that mist from the sprayer will fall down on me and that there might be drips that fall on me as I work, I'm hesitant to try this. The brighteners have a pH of 1 or 2 which is extremely caustic. Will the stain look bad or simply not last if I don't brighten first? There will be no direct sunlight on this cedar ceiling nor obviously any foot traffic. Or, do you have any tips or suggestions for safely using brightener on a surface above your head?

Wendy
Wendy
9 years ago

Thank you so much for your quick response! By cleaning, do you mean with a cleaning solution, pressure washing or just hosing off?
I was really hoping we didn't have to add a tint, but I do understand the reasoning for it. 🙁 I'm just not crazy about the colors on the samples. The natural pine looks slightly orangey to me. I do wish their website had images somewhere of fully stained decks. It's really hard to choose with such small color samples..Sounds like I'm gonna need to order their 2 oz. sample colors to test.
Out of curiosity, have you ever seen any decks that were stained with a semi transparent gray stain? I'm very intrigued by the Driftwood Gray sample color. It kind of looks closest to the clear color stain to me. Do you think that gray stains are attractive on deck surfaces? Incidentally our house color is light gray stucco.

Wendy
Wendy
9 years ago

We have a 22 yr old PT deck that my husband has just turned the boards over on, for the 2nd time. It's a LOT of work to do, but SO worth the outcome! After pressure washing it & renting a Square Edge Buffer Sander from Home Depot for 24hrs & completely sanding the surface with a 60 grit paper, we have swept it all off & blown it with a leaf blower a few times. We want to keep the new wood look it has now, but need to protect it. We don't want to alter the color in any way & we read your review for the Defy Extreme Clear Wood Stain & are thinking it would be our best choice. Do you agree?
Also, the deck is shaded most of the day, & only receives full sun for about an hour each day. We live in Southeast Pennsylvania.

Roy
Roy
9 years ago

Thank you. I will use different shoes this time. I want to use an oil base because the acrylic Benjamin Moore I used last year just pealed off and was very difficult to apply. I live in New York and was afraid if I start with an oil stain NY may again outlaw it in a few years. I guess I will take my chances and use Armstrong Clark. Thank you for your help.

Roy
Roy
9 years ago

I used a bleach (Olympic) deck cleaner last summer on my new cedar deck. After staining the deck with Benjamin Moore Transparent stain there were sneaker marks stained on the wood. . I did not walk on the wet stain. This year I power washed the old stain to remove it and the sneaker marks did not come off without major scrubbing even after the stain was gone. Was this caused by the bleach on the new wood?

Roy
Roy
9 years ago

Black

Tom
Tom
10 years ago

I have been told that pressure washing a deck with a 50/50 solution of water and clorox is adequate. Is thisa true?

Wade
Wade
10 years ago

Would I need to clean my deck if the deck is under a year old and has never been stained?

Austin
Austin
4 years ago

Would a power washer be sufficient for a two year old deck that has never been stained?

63
0
Questions or leave a review, please comment!x