What is a Deck Brightener and Why Use One 4.8/5 (20)

by Deck Stain Help

Update for 2019: What is a Deck Brightener and Why Use One:

We appreciate your input here at Deckstainhelp.com as we continue to be your go-to source for the latest in deck restoration news and trending topics through 2019. See below for an article about Step 2 of the deck stain process, using a brightener, and why it is a key component to the deck stain project. Feel free to leave a comment below.


Wood care and maintenance are the keys to having a long-lasting deck. Every year or two a deck should be cleaned and stained to protect the wood from the harsh elements. UV rays and unwanted moisture can wreak havoc on a deck that is unprotected. The number one reason a deck stain fails is due to the lack of proper wood preparation. Any exterior wood surface needs to be cleaned and prepped correctly in order for the stain to perform as expected. Failure to do so can lead to premature stain failure jeopardizing the wood’s integrity.

To properly clean and prep a deck it starts with a wood cleaner. A sodium percarbonate based oxygenated cleaner is recommended. This type of wood cleaner has been proven to work the best in removing dirt, mold, mildew, wood graying, and in some cases an old failing sealer. It is highly important to remove all of these pollutants in order for the new stain to penetrate properly.

Most oxygenated cleaners have surfactants that help boost the overall effectiveness of the detergent. These caustic detergents do a great job of loosening pollutants but in turn, they also raise the pH level of the wood. Why does this matter? The deck stain will penetrate better in acidic conditions and when the wood pores are opened up ready to receive a coat of new stain. A lower pH also darkens the wood not allowing the true beauty of the wood to show simple fix to this is to use a deck brightener.

Wood deck brightener, also called deck neutralizer, is an acid based product that simply neutralizes the caustic cleaners and helps lower the pH level making the wood more acidic. This opens up the wood pores and brightens the wood bringing out the grain’s natural beauty. A simple application of deck brightener after cleaning is all that is needed to brighten and neutralize the cleaners and will complete the proper prep work needed for an outstanding stain finish that will last.

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Carra
Carra

I accidentally applied an acrylic water based stain over an oil based stain. Needless to say that didn’t work well. Will sanding the deck with an orbital sander down to the bare wood be enough prep to apply a new coat of the acrylic stain. (It is a solid stain)

Kim
Kim

I cleaned and brightened my deck with RAD products but weather prevented me from staining for about 10 days. During that time we got about three rain storms. Now the deck looks darker again and there are black steaks by the screws. What is my best step to pre the deck to stain now? I’m thinking of a light sanding or using brightener without cleaner. Picture included.

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SEA-CJB
SEA-CJB

I pressure washed and then used restore-a-deck cleaner followed by brighter to prep for re staining with an oil based stain this year and then the forecast changed. Looks like I’ll have a week of rain now before it dries out again. Do I need to rewash or reapply the brightener before I stain then?

EPeterson
EPeterson

I have a new tigerwood deck. I’ve seen quite a few posts, but I’ve yet to find one that gives step by step instructions on staining/protecting the new deck. I plan to use a hardwood stain, such as the AC hardwood stain. Please advise on the steps I need to take in preparation.

Mark
Mark

Just replaced about 1/3 of the deck boards and sanded the rest to get the gray off . Should I clean and brighten the deck or leave it to weather for another year before staining. The boards that weren’t replaced were replaced 2 to 3 years ago. Or can I clean , brighten and stain now?

Mark
Mark

I sanded my cedar deck and want to apply a semi transparent stain. What do I need to do to prep the deck for staining. Do I need to put something on to help the stain to adhere? Or can I wash off the loose saw dust and the stain. I have read that a brighter would help. Any preferences?

Bob
Bob

How do you feel about just using a
Power washer without any soaps for
Cleaning a cedar deck? Would use of a deck brightened help bring back some of the lost brightness of the cedar?

sheri jordan
sheri jordan

i cleaned my deck yesterday and today it’s raining like the devil. Will I still need to use a brightener when the rain stops? Or will the rain be sufficient to neutralize the cleaners?

L C
L C

I have Messmers UV plus natural on my Western red cedar deck in the Seattle area. It’s relatively new wood but over a year old. It’s had one coat of messmers on it and that’s all it’s ever had. That was about 9 months ago.

Last week, I used Messmers cleaner and that caused areas that appear to not have stain. The deck looks ratty now. Before washing it looked pretty good but messmers says we should wash the deck twice a year.

Last night, I did the water test on bare looking areas as well as the stained looking areas and the water never soaked in. So I think I should put a new coat of stain to protect from UV damage but I’m afraid the stain won’t penetrate.

A week after washing, would it be a good idea to use the Messmers brightener to see if that would allow the stain to penetrate? You said something about being more acidic would help the stain penetrate and that the brightener also opens pores.

Would a year of no UV protection be a serious problem or would it be best to just wait until next year to stain it instead?

Ray
Ray

Can I use a deck brightened as a Cleaner?If I have to use both which do I use first?

Robin Joseph
Robin Joseph

Hello. If I have an IPE deck that I want to leave grey. Would I still use a brightener after cleaning?

Chris C.
Chris C.

Thank you for this site – it answers many questions I never knew I had…

Regarding the brightening step, can you suggest any frugal or diy options that won’t harm the plants, dogs or humans? Best,

Chris
Chris

How much raw oxalic acid should I use per gallon for a direct spray application and should I rinse it off after letting it dwell for 10 minutes or should I just leave it on the wood to dry?

Bobby Otero
Bobby Otero

I used deck cleaner on half my deck, didn’t like the results as it appears “ashy”, guess it’s oxidation maybe? I’m assuming I should have applied brightener right after? Is it too late to do this? Can I wait a few days as time is extremely limited?

I didn’t knoApplied on one year old deck, did nothing but leave a white film on deck and fuzzies from me trying to scrub. Worked really good on two plastic chairs that were covered in mildew though. But on pressure treated deck did nothing. Now I have to sand half a deck. Thank Gid I only did half. I didn’t know I had to use brightener.

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Julian
Julian

What is the best long lasting stain for a deck with heavy sun exposure

Pam
Pam

I think it’s very important to address how these products might affect plants in and around the deck. Would they kill them, cause I have a ton of money invested in plants under my deck.

Jim
Jim

Hello, I’ve use a gallon of Behr Wood stripper and then applied Behr wood restorer and my solid cedar doors are still blotchy. I’ve also been sanding them to get them even. Any ideas? As for stain, I’m reading the reviews and would like any suggestions.

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Peter Meyer
Peter Meyer

Should the deck be wet or dry prior to applying Restore-A-Deck brightener?

Sarah Steadman
Sarah Steadman

I have cleaned and used brightner on my IPE wood furniture, 1. What happens if I miss some spots with brightner and 2. What if it’s a week due to rain before I can apply oil/stain?

Pam Sarli
Pam Sarli

Our pressure treated pine wood deck is 9 months old. It looks very clean, however we plan on cleaning it with Defy Oxygenated Wood Cleaner. Is it really necessary to use a brightner after cleaning? Also if we do use a brightner, can we just hose brightner off? We are uneasy about using a pressure washer and do not own one. Third question is: If we miss a spot with brightner would it be obvious, before you stain?

Kristian
Kristian

My deck is now clean, stripped and/or sanded in some spots. The brightener can go on now, but I do not yet have the stain (I am still waiting for the samples). The temps in Spokane, Washington have begun to drop to 70 in the day, and high 40s to low 50s at night.
1. Is it too late this season (now mid-September) to apply the stain if the temps remain at these levels? Once I get the samples, I will have to wait for the stain to arrive here.
2. If I do stain, how long after the application should it NOT rain. I cannot control the rain, but how many days after application should I see clear skies in the forecast?
Thanks

Jim
Jim

Question about restaining a deck. I have a pergola that I stained 2 years ago. I want to restain it with the same kind of stain (CABOT AUSTRALIAN TIMBER OIL). Do I need to use a cleaner and a brightener before I restain it. If not the brightener why not?
Thank you,
Jim

Dan
Dan

How many days should the deck wood be totally dry before applying the stain as a rule of thumb.

Do you have any recommendations on keeping the stain going on thin ie using brushes vrs rollers etc.

Dan Neitsch
Dan Neitsch

I’ve stripped the deck of all the old stain over a number of weeks in April/May using Behr no 63. I’ve washed the deck often but now I realize I should have used a deck cleaner in April/May as opposed to now before I stain (in Sept). I plan to use the cleaner and then wait 3-5 days for drying before staining, Do you have any advice given that there were a number of months now where I didn’t neutralize the Base cleaner. I live in the Pacific where it rains constantly so the deck was often wet.

Wayne Thompson
Wayne Thompson

How does sodium percarbonate based oxygenated cleaner affect nearby shrubbery? What precautions must be taken when using it?

Jacque
Jacque

I am getting ready to stain a deck that was built last Sept. with pressurized wood and has never been stained or treated with anything. I understand that cleaning is important prior to staining. My HOA specifies a solid stain and I’m planning to use a Flood solid stain product in a chocolate color to match the HOA requirements. Is brightening still recommended even though the grain of the wood won’t show through the solid stain? One of the folks I consulted about doing the deck did not include it after I asked for it and said that it was unnecessary with a solid stain.

Don
Don

Is brightening generally just applying and a thorough rinsing? Or is a very light agitation of the wood with a scrub brush required and/or power washer? Thanks!

Gary A Devenney
Gary A Devenney

I’m restaining a 2 story deck. The underside is stained and looks fine. The rails are still stained. The deck boards and rail cap are completely bare and weathered, but in great condition. I want to use TWP 100 series 102 redwood on the deck. If I strip and clean the floorboards, the stripper will run down onto the floor joists and partially strip the underside leaving a huge mess. Can I just use a deck brightener to prepare the floorboards for staining without affecting the deck underside?

Brian Buechele
Brian Buechele

I’m looking to start making boat docks look more pleasing. Of course there on a lake with full sun and lake water. Is this product what I should use on these or do you have another one to try? Thanks in advance.

Tim
Tim

You say “A simply application of deck brightener after cleaning ” I think you mean “simple”. Good lookin out!

Beth
Beth

I power washed my deck that was in bad condition. I’m not a pro at this and really gouged the wood with the power washer in areas. Despite that there’s still paint in some areas so now I’ve been sanding it off. This is very labor intensive. If I buy a stripper product how easily will the paint come off. Additionally, if I’ve sanded the wood is it really still necessary to put a cleaner on the deck. I don’t have tons of time to work on this deck. Thanks.

Bob
Bob

Washing stripper off deck will the stripper strip the vertical wood that is ok

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

I do not want to darken my decking with a stain after oxybleaching is there a protective solution I can paint on that is colourless and do I need to use a wood brightener after bleaching?

Jeanne
Jeanne

Just to add, I live in the northeast which is why I am running short on time!

Jeanne
Jeanne

I have a 1 year old garage with pine siding. i was going to stain it this year with twp 1500 but am concerned that I do not have time to do it correctly using a brightener first. Am I ok to wait one more winter and apply stain in the spring?

MIke
MIke

I’ve got a 13-year old cedar deck that I’ve sanded down to the wood and I’m about to stain with TWP 1500… how important is it that I use clean and brightener before I stain since it’s now raw sanded wood? I bought Olympic brand brightener & cleaner from the store because it was cheap, should I return it and buy the more expensive Restore a Deck ($60)? Many thanks!

michael sauser
michael sauser

decking boards were new 2 yrs ago with treated cedar–i would like to use a brightener now that i have power washed and will give it a few days in our 90 plus iowa heat to be well dried–need for the finished appearance to be very light cedar color as new but would like a bit of gloss

Jaimee Mooney
Jaimee Mooney

If it rains after I brighten my deck, can I still stain (after 2 additional days of drying time) without reapplying the brightener?

Dana
Dana

I stripped off our old stain and then put a brightner on it some of the boards look really nice but some have a black tent to them is it OK to use the brightner a couple times? The stain came off pretty good with the stripper. I did 10 foot sections and after I stripped it I put the brightber on it right away before I move to the next 10 foot section to strip. Can I stripped the rest of the deck and wait to put the brightener all at once on when I’m done? Confused on this.

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John Keith
John Keith

If you’re concerned about over-spray in tight places, can you brush the cleaner and brightener solutions? Thank you!

Dagmar
Dagmar

I love the look of my sienna wood deck.
After one year it now looks dull. What can I do to restore it to that lovely sienna wood colour?