This post was updated on April 10, 2023
Bleach to Clean Decks
Here at DeckStainHelp.com, we take pride in the fact that we have become the Internet’s go-to source for all things exterior wood and deck restoration-related. Since we’ve published this article, we have received some input on the best deck cleaner to use on wood decks. Like before, we do not recommend cleaners with bleach. Instead, opt for a high-quality cleaner without bleach. We always appreciate your input, so feel free to leave a comment below with pictures of your deck stain projects.
Bleach and Wood Decks. Is it a good idea?
There is a lot of debate as to whether or not bleach or bleach-based products can be used to clean a wood deck. After all, bleach is cheap and readily available and has always been known as a household cleaner. To better understand this dilemma, let’s take a look at what bleach is.
There are several types of bleach but we will stick to the most common. Chlorine bleach like found in swimming pools and household bleach contains sodium hypochlorite. Oxygen bleach like found in many bleach-based wood cleaners contains hydrogen peroxide or sodium percarbonate. All of the top 3 deck cleaners we rated contain a blend of sodium percarbonate and special buffers that are designed to work on exterior wood.
Typically for cleaning wood, the sodium percarbonate cleaners fair much better than sodium hypochlorite bleach. The bleach that most are referring to when asking if it is safe on wood, is generally regular household bleach or chlorine. This type of bleach has been proven to whiten the wood and damage the wood’s lignin that helps bind the cellular structure of the wood. In other words, bleach (sodium hypochlorite) can damage the wood cells.
In addition, although bleach does an excellent job of removing mold and mildew, it is only an average cleaner at best. Bleach will not remove some of the dirt and grime that may be present in the wood. Removing old existing deck stains or sealers from the wood prior to refinishing is another crucial step in restoring a deck. Bleach will also not remove these contaminants resulting in a poor finish.
There are much better wood deck cleaning alternatives out there other than bleach or bleach-based cleaners. Bleach is not a great wood cleaner, it can damage the wood fibers, and can be unsafe to handle. Stick with cleaners that are designed for wood cleaning and prepping wood decks for stain.
Best Cleaner to Clean Mildew & Algae on Deck Stains
Pro Tip: The RAD Guard will remove the black mildew and green algae stains from your wood and deck stains and will prevent them from returning for 1-2 years: RAD Guard Mildew and Algae Cleaner and Preventer
The Best Deck Cleaners Video – DeckStainHelp.com
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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 used 2 coats of Flood “CWF Oil” to redo a 24′ x 16′ deck. It looks super, but there are a few tacky spots. As I’ve been researching for a solution, I’m seeing more and more about wiping down & removing stain after applying it. It says nothing about any of this stuff on the can. I did not do it. Is there any way I can do anything to rectify the situation? For example, something I can spray over the surface, or should I just let it weather in to an acceptable level? Any comments you might share would be most helpful.
I live on the Texas gulf coast and am planning to use the Defy Extreme deck stain based on your reviews of the product for my conditions.We get tremendous heat, lots of sun and lots of green mold and black mold. 16×46 deck plus landings, how many gallons do I need just for deck boards not railings? Is it ok to do railings at a different time? and are 2 coats necessary for just deck boards. Much appreciation for what you do and for your time!
What is the total sq footage of all wood added up?
I’ve used 30 second bleach on my deck before I came here to your site. I understand that now I have to apply brightener for proper coverage of my stain. Does the brightener process also clean? I’ve allowed a couple weeks to go by since I’ve finished bleaching and am concerned I’ll need to clean again and then brighten, before staining.
Brighteners are not cleaners. They neutralize deck cleaners and strippers and restore the proper pH balance of the wood.
Thank you for quick response! My deck is 16’x46. Unfortunately there are some deepish marks from pressure washer and feathering from bleach. I’m currently sanding to remove most of these issues. 1.How much is too much sanding on these spots? I’m thinking of using an electric sander at this point. 2.Since so much time has transpired since I bleached, do I need to clean again before I use RAD brighten? 3. Also, How long is too long between brightener and stain if deck isn’t exposed to traffic?
3. Stain within 2 weeks of prep.
Ok I’m finding that the pressure washer marks come out fairly easily However the feathering from the bleach takes a bit more elbow grease than the pw marks 🙁
I had some extremely stubborn algae. After trying to clean it 3 times, I power washed it too closely and then sanded and still couldn’t get rid of the algae spots. In my frustrations, I poured deck cleaner undiluted right on the stubborn parts. Now, I have uneven color spots on my deck. I have Thomoson’s semi-transparent wood sealer in desert sand. What should I do now to create a uniform look?
To even it out you would have to do what you did by pouring it all over the entire deck. Also, return the Thompsons, it is a poor stain:
How soon after cleaning deck with restore-a-deck do I need to stain the deck?
Stain within 2 weeks of prep is best.
I cleaned my wood front porch with bleach it is covered & the biggest part dosen’t get any sun light what can I use to repair the damage the wood is pressure treated
Wood deck was cleaned of algae/ mildew by pressure washing with plain water only. Does it need to be cleaned with a “deck cleaner” or a home-made mix of oxygen cleaner (for clothes laundering) or something else, before treating with clear waterproofing?
Using a proper deck cleaner is the correct way.
Thanks for your advice but please clarify: despite deck appearing clean and bright with pressure cleaning with just water 2 days ago, you recommend ADDITIONAL cleaning with a deck cleaner prior to drying and waterproofing with a clear product? Thanks
Yes, proper cleaning allows for the coatings to soak in better and give a better overall finished appearance.
I pressure washed my 25 year old deck made out of treated 2 x 4s instead of deck boards. A friend said I should bleach it before resealing it. What do you recommend?
No, do not use bleach.
I used 30 second outdoor cleaner on my deck, which left a white residue. How do I remove that white residue on my deck?
Post some pictures in the comments.
I have an old deck that the old solid stain has been peeling off like crazy.
Currently i am in the process of stripping and scraping the whole deck, but the solid stain left in the cracks seems really hard to remove… Any suggestions? Would bleach + power wash remove almost all of the solid stain in the crevices?
Thanks in advance!
No, you will have to sand it off.
The preference is sodium percarbonate over sodium hypochlorate (“bleach”?) That’s helpful.
Except I am looking at Lowes and Home Depot online and can not find a single product using sodium percarbonate. Not helpful.
You may not want to name a particular brand, but it would appear to be a bit of a unicorn product. Helpful advice (though I am running out of time)?
Thanks for the explanation of the difference. . . .
Anything you find at Lowes ot HD will be junk to prep and stain wood. Try speciality stores, niche hardware lumber stores, or online for the best brands.
How can I remove stains from a deck? Some of it won’t come off.its oil based stain
Have some bleach “stains” on wood deck from pressure washing house. Deck is new and has not been sealed or stained yet. Is there a way to remove bleached spots prior to stain (plan on using semi transparent stain sealer). I imagine the spots will show after application. Thoughts?
No, you cannot remove the spots. You can even it out by bleaching all of the deck.
But Ready Seal still recommendation for a bleach solution. What to do?🤷🏽♀️
What is the recommended product for cleaning pressure treated deck
Used a bleach cleanser on my cedar deck and it left a white residue on surface of the cedar deck.How can I get rid of the white residue on the surface. I hope u have a good way to remove the white residue from bleach. I need to stain and seal really need a solution. Thanks so much.
Redo it with the proper prep like this while pressure washing: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/restore-a-deck-cleaner-system-review/
What is the dangers of mixing Sodium Hypochlorite with Sodium Percarbonate to clean? Will it produce a harmful gas or will the Oxygenated bubbles cause a harmful burst of chlorine/bleach fumes?
We would not suggest doing this. Only potential issues and no positive impact.
I’ve used destripping cleaner twice to remove acrylic
Paint on deck. Still have big area where it is still on
Looking for other ideas?
If a paint, you will have to sand it off. Strippers will not remove it.
my new deck has weathered for 7 months. I used chlorine bleach on my new deck to clean off mold and mildew. It shows some of the wood fibers on many parts of the deck. Should I sand them off, or use RAD deck brightner before I use RAD semi-transparent stain? Or, what is the best solution to utilize in this case. it is pressure treated wood.
Sand and then use the brightener.
I thought you weren’t supposed to sand new wood?
Buff it actually. See this: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/wood-fuzzies-furring-on-deck/
I used Behr Deckover on my deck a couple years ago, what household cleaner is safe to clean it?
Probably anyone of them will work for cleaning.
Unfortunately, I used bleach on my deck this week before I read your column. How can I neutralize damage before I apply TWP?
Prep with TWP’s Gemini Restore Kit and that will fix it.
I’m looking for deck cleaner that is pet friendly
Try Restore A Deck Cleaner.
I used chlorine beach mixed with water to scrub lumber stamps on pressure treated deck (about 1 yr old). It partially worked but bleached out the areas badly. I want to clean/stain deck. Got RAD cleaner and brightener. Put cleaner on part of deck. After scrubbing, it was not lightened like the spots I bleached (didn’t put on brightener). Planning on using translucent or semi-transparent stains but these white spots will show thru! See pics. What can i do get the deck uniform in color? Would pressure washer do it?
You will probably have to use the beach on all the wood so it evens out. Basically, make the rest of the deck look like the spots.
Thanks but that would basically mean cleaning entire deck with Clorox bleach (diluted 1 part bleach to 1 part water). Won’t that be really bad for my deck (according to everything I’ve read). If instead I just continue doing rest of deck with RAD cleaner and the brightener, and spots still show, would semi-solid stain cover up enough so that it all looks uniform. I was planning to use a semitransparent but I don’t think it would cover the problem. Don’t want to use a semi solid but may be only choice now. Would semi solid cover this? I was thinking of the Armstrong brand since it got better ratings than other semi solids.
Unfortunately, that is the only way to fix it. A semi-solid will not cover or blend this.
Ok thanks. Can you advise what ratio of beach to water. For the deck stamps I used even parts. But I’m afraid to use it that strong as your site says using beach is very bad.
Same ratio as before. At this point it is the only way to even out.
Sorry one more follow up question. If I do use the bleach/water on the whole deck should I use the RAD brightener after that?
How should I treat a mahogany deck if I had begun using bleach to clean it? Someone suggested spraying it w white vinegar.
Neutralize it with a wood brightener.