When to use a Deck Stripper vs a Deck Cleaner 4.9/5 (16)

by Deck Stain Help
Strip of Clean the Deck

Strip of Clean the Deck

Update for 2019: When to use a Deck Stripper vs a Deck Cleaner

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 When to use a Deck Stripper vs a Deck Cleaner.

Feel free to leave a comment or ask questions below.


When to use a Deck Stripper vs a Deck Cleaner

One of the biggest rookie mistakes that we often see, is someone applying a stain to a deck that has not been properly prepped. When you’ve stained a deck a few times before, you come to learn that dirt, mildew, mold or graying should not be present when you apply the stain or it will end in disaster.

Only a clean, well-prepared surface is able to correctly absorb the stain and allow it to perform just like you want and need it to. An added bonus of cleaning the wood thoroughly before undertaking staining is that it will look even more beautiful and aesthetically pleasing.

We have different products that we recommend to get the job done: “Deck Stripper” or a “Deck Cleaner.” They are both designed to properly prep the wood and clean it thoroughly before staining begins.

There is a simple method to determine whether you should be using Deck Stripper or Deck Cleaner as it all revolves around the wood’s surface. Older, grubby and grayed wood just needs a quality wood cleaner. A Deck Wood Cleaner is powerful enough to get rid of most dirt, and mildew stains, however, a stripper might be needed for more heavy duty preparation.

Often when staining your deck you will need to remove the remaining old stain which can be stubborn. In this case,  Deck Stripper should be used instead of the Deck Cleaner. The useful advantage that strippers have is that they will soften and ‘melt’ most stains making them easy to be washed or wiped away. On top of that, Deck Strippers cleans off mildew and graying too. There’s no reason to use a cleaner after!

Another common mistake that we often see, is that a wood brightener is not used to neutralize the wood after using the deck cleaner or deck stripper. Brighteners are an integral part of the restaining process. They lower the Ph of the boards and allow the pores to ‘breathe’ making them more accepting and open to absorbing your new stain.

If you’re having a hard time figuring out whether your deck has been stained in the past then please post a picture below.

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

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Nate
Nate

We’re moving into a new place and have never had a deck. The deck looks to already be stained or oiled but there are some black spots on the hand railing. It is coastal so I think due to moisture and sun damage. Do we need to strip the entire deck and restain?

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Nate
Nate

Here’s another picture.

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C C
C C

Another pic. This time of the outdoor deck which is still drying.

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C C
C C

We power washed and then cleaned this with a deck cleaner by Thomson. Do I need to strip this? Or what do you suggest? I was hoping to use a semi transparent oil stain when we stain it. The outdoor deck looks different than the screened porch but both were the same color when we bought 5 years ago so perhaps the sun just weathered the outdoor one more.

My husband wonders if we just needed to leave the cleaner on longer. He thinks that’s maybe why some areas are lighter than others in the screened in porch now.

Thanks so much.

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Reid
Reid

I have a 6 month old red wood floating deck. I used Behr semitransparent stain and sealer(all in one) 4 months ago. I just cleaned the deck to remove dripping sap from my eucalyptus trees. I used a stiff bristled brush and dish soap/water mix. This took off some stain/sealer in the pattern of the direction i brushed. I need to restain and reseal this section, but don’t want it to be different than other portion of deck.

3 questions:
1. do i need to prep the deck before applying a second coat of behr 2 in 1 stain and sealer?
2. if so will i need to sand off stain/sealer or just do a cleaner, as i am concerned the stain will not take due to waterproofing sealer that is mixed in with Stain?
3. Can I just clean surface and apply a second coat, and would i need to also put on a brightner to bring PH down for absorption?

Nancy
Nancy

I’m not sure how this deck was originally finished about 6-7 years ago, but I think it was stained. Can I get by with a cleaner or do I need a stripper? If just a cleaner, what do you think of 30 Seconds Outdoor Cleaner? After it’s stripped or cleaned, am I correct that a brightener should be applied before staining? Thanks for your help.

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Randy Rumery
Randy Rumery

I used Deck Brite on treated wood that was installed about one year ago. As the deck dries a white residue has appeared. Do I need to allow the wood to dry more or do I need to do a follow-up to my power washer rinse?

LAVETA BONNEY
LAVETA BONNEY

we are using 1 cup oxyclean to a gallon of water. is that a good mixture for cleaning deck? also, we have a lot of trees by our deck. if a leaf gets on deck and it’s not dry what do we do?

Mary Ann Crowe
Mary Ann Crowe

Can you use a different brand of brightener after using Penofin stripper?

Mary Ann Crowe
Mary Ann Crowe

Thanks for confirming it is okay to do so. It is my understanding from reading some of these comments that if you use Penofin stain you must continue to use only that stain as it is very hard to remove. Is that your experience?

Marissa
Marissa

I bought Behr all in one wood cleaner. Would that do the job for my deck?

CYNTHIA SOLBERG
CYNTHIA SOLBERG

I have a cedar deck that is 6-7 years old. every year or two I power wash and reapply Thompson Waterproof Sealer. No stain etc. just the waterproof sealer. IF I decided I wanted to apply transparent stain what process? Stripper, and brightener, then transparent stain? Thank You in Advance.

Karen
Karen

I am not sure what kind of stain was put on this deck prior to the semi transparent stain that is on there now…. which is ugly and peeling. Can you tell from these picture what I need to do to properly prepare the deck for new solid stain? Just clean and brighten, or strip and brighten?

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Maria
Maria

My deck is only 3 years old, but looks old. It’s been stained before and the water still beads, can I use I wood cleaner so I can stain it again ? Or does it need something else?

Deborah Paterson
Deborah Paterson

We used Penofin Verde to stain new posts and rails for our deck. The deck itself is composite. The rails tuned almost black the first winter and posts weathered to a dark color over 2 years. We’re now inyear 3.
I’m wondering if we can clean and brighten the rails and posts ow do we need to strip them? We are also concerned about the composite deck and if a wood cleaner or stripper will affect it. We won’t use Penofin again but don’t know what we will use next

Susie
Susie

I’ve been staining my deck for 27 years and have always just pressure washed and then applied a semi transparent with great success. The last time I used Sherwin Williams Super Deck semi transparent and it really messed up my deck. It started peeling off all the newer boards and is also flaking on the old boards. I have pressure washed it. I have included pics after pressure washing. How do I get this prepped for new stain? And do you have a suggested semi transparent stain? I would love to use Defy, but it is horribly expensive and I have a huge deck.

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Kevin M
Kevin M

Please see attached pictures of back wood deck. I pressure washed deck to remove substantial dirt and build up. Prior stain was mostly removed as well. I now really like the original wood color look after the pressure wash. I can’t tell if prior wood stain was full solid or semi-transparent. Can you tell?

As for the further prep work prior to using a semi-transparent oil-based natural color stain:
-Should I use a ‘deck cleaner’?
OR ‘deck stripper’?
OR just further pressure wash (higher pressure) off prior stain?

Then I use wood brightener, rinse, and then use brush to apply semi transparent stain – correct?

Thanks!

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Tommy
Tommy

30 year old deck. Used to have a local guy clean and stain/seal with an oil based product. He retired. 2 years ago different guy “cleaned” (not stripped) and then applied Sherwin Williams SuperDeck Solid (water based). The SW is flaking off and everything needs to be redone correctly. Do I: use stripper, powerwash, brightener, then stain/seal?

Mike
Mike

need some help advice on my prep please!

All cedar deck, was constructed new approx 3-4 yrs ago. I used Cabot clear wood protector on the entire deck surface- which I learned was a terrible mistake and it offer’s ZERO protection from the harsh sun this deck receives all summer long in the Midwest (Illinois) .
This deck gets full sun all day long.

The railing and upper privacy rails were stained in a darker stain, but I cant remember what brand was used. it may have been cabot as well, but I am not 100% sure. It either came from menards or homedepot I know that much. ( I know all the darker colors still need to get stripped- weather isn’t cooperating at the moment to finish this)

The deck has been neglected and the entire deck surface both upper and lower was in terrible shape. I didn’t take any before pictures, but it was gray and nasty.

so far I’ve cleaned it with a deck wash and power washed and then brightened and I am pleased with how clean its come, but am not entirely sure if I have a case of the “fuzzies”? see zoomed in picture of deck board. OR is that leftover residue of the old cabot stain?
I think its fuzzies but not 100% sure as this is my first time redoing a deck.

I was reading on this website that if you do have fuzzies, and if you cant see them when the deck is wet, then you “should be ok” to go ahead and stain?
and after reading a lot of info on this site, I think we are going to go with the RAD deck stain. we just bought the sample pack so we can pick color.

so any advice on how my deck boards look is appreciated! the raised ridges on the boards were there before I even pressure washed, so I’m guessing unfortunately its just damaged from me procrastinating and failing to re stain this deck like it needed to be. which is a shame because I broke my back building this thing , I should have taken better care to protect it.

oh, and the dark square outline you see in the middle of the lower portion is what i was left with after I put an outdoor rug on the deck before it was stained. I don’t know if sanding will help lighten that dark outer edge as I have not tried sanding any of it yet- so any advice on getting rid of that dark square is appreciated too.

your feedback is appreciated!

p.s.
– your website already saved me the mistake of buying Behr stain at home depots memorial day sale this weekend. I’ve read countless stories on this website of the nightmare Behr stain has brought deck owners. –

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Caroline
Caroline

I used Armstrong and Clark Amber last year on the deck and want to use the mahogany this year. Do I need to strip it and brighten or just clean and brighten?

David
David

I have a deck that Sikens Cetol SRD trans oil base stain was used on approx 3 years ago. I’m wanting to freshen it up with the same stain depending on how much work is involved. It is a large deck, 2 levels 8 & 7 foot off the ground. I have black aluminum balasters but the top and bottom rails are wood. What do I need to do to prep the deck so the wood will absorb the stain? I’ve done the water test and in most areas the water does soak in after about 10 min. The deck has been power washed. It gets direct sun light. If I have to strip, neutralize & sand everything should I switch to a water base semi or solid stain?
Let me know. I’m wanting to knock this out soon before the blazing heat of GA really kicks in. Thanks

Larry
Larry

Hi,

I need to apply a new coat of semitransparent stain to my wood deck this year. Apparently we did not properly prep the deck for the previous years stain application. The stain chips and wears poorly lasting only 2-3 years at most.

Which products do you recommend for cleaning and prep? Any advice you give will be appreciated.

Larry
Buffalo, NY

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Larry
Larry

hi, we have a deck which is 2.5 years old.
I think it is treated pine.
Last year we used a Behr Transparent clear penetrating oil wood finish clear 4000. before applying we followed the manufacture’s guide for which cleaner to use. The deck did look nice after completed.
but by the end of summer the colour had faded alot. We are in Southern Ontario near Lake Ontario. the deck has full sun. No signs of mould or mildew. we would like to apply something which will last longer. ( the deck does not receive alot of traffic) the colour we would like is a light redwood. Because this was a oil wood finish. I am not sure how to prep it for next Stain. ( we would like a semi transparent.)

thanks for any advice

Rudy
Rudy

I have a seven-month-old deck.this will be my first prep/stain.do I use stripper or just a cleaner to remove the mill glaze? then follow up with a brightener I assume

Eric M
Eric M

Hi,

We have used a combination of deck cleaner and deck stripper, with power washer to remove old red stain and finishing deck over with 80 grit sand paper. Once sanded should we just use a deck brightener before staining? or should we deck clean and then brighten before staining. Feel since we have gone over with cleaner, stripper and power washer we might not have to clean deck again and hopefully just use brightener before staining?

Thanks
Eric

John T
John T

Hi,

I have a 6 year-0ld pressure treated deck. I stained it twice so far using PPG/Sikkens Proluxe Cetol SRD-RE semi transparent stain. I last stained it two years ago and it looks as though it’s due for another staining. There is some dull color from the old stain in the boards, but they no longer bead-up and most of the color is gone leaving mostly a dull, dirty grey surface. I want to re-stain with the same product. Should I use a deck stripper or cleaner to prepare the surface? I would prefer not to deal with the vertical surfaces as they appear in much better shape than the horizontal boards. I’m hoping to avoid re-sanding the whole deck. Also, in the past, the deck cleaner I used (Olympic) resulted in small fuzzy fibers coming up. Is there a way to avoid having to sand down the little fibers that result from cleaning? The deck is pretty big and sanding is a monumental task.

Thanks for your help,

John

billie webster
billie webster

where can you buy these products?

Mukbar
Mukbar

If I am just re-applying a fresh coating of TWP 100 would I just need to clean and brighten, or do I need to strip off the “old” TWP 100? Thanks! And thanks for all the helpful information on this site!

richard
richard

I need to recondition/stain this deck. I recently purchased the house and have no information on previous maintenance, other than it looks like it was not done properly. I am seeking advice on proper maintenance (how to clean, sand, preserve with stain). There is small amount of mildew. Flaking of surface around the white areas. Plenty of small splitting. I had to replace a couple boards and they weathered all winter. It’s a quality deck with toe-nailed screws from the side and I’d like to preserve it.

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Beverly Knoettgen Sherrin
Beverly Knoettgen Sherrin

Several years ago we built a redwood deck and stained it immediately with Penofin semi-transparent sable. Many of the board were splotchy and looked horrible.
We stopped staining and did nothing until now. I was hoping the weathering would change the splotchy boards but no they are still terrible after years and scrubbing and then using a brightener did not help with the greasy looking dark spots. Now what?

Alex
Alex

Hello, thank you very much for hosting such a helpful website!
I have deck and fence which were stained with solid color behr stain a few years ago, there are some areas where stain has peeled off, some areas with black and green mildew. We are considering to stain with a solid color stain again (based on what i have read on your website, looking at Flood Pro solid stain). Is it necessary to power sand all surfaces to completely remove old behr solid stain or we can just apply stain stripper ? or we need to use deck cleaner instead? or both? do we need to use brightener as well? And then apply new solid color stain over.
Also, are there any websites which help to color match behr solid colors to Flood solid colors?
Thank you in advance!

tom
tom

working on a pressure treated wood ramp, handrails, posts, we think it was coated with Sikkens, is there a way to
tell if it is Sikkens, I believe it is, has that plastic, opag look where it is peeling, do we have to strip to apply a new
coat of regular deck stain, or is there a primer if you want to apply a solid hide stain, thks
Tom@ Home Tech Solutions Fairfax, Va.

Marilyn
Marilyn

I am planning to stain a wood floor in a new enclosed porch (bottom half is solid wall, top half is screening) once the weather warms up. The wood has seasoned for several months. From reading Q&As on your site, it sounds like I will need to use a cleaner/brightener to prep the wood before I stain. But, I’m worried about using a pressure washer to remove the cleaner since the porch is enclosed and the walls will get dirty. Is there any other way to remove the cleaner? Or does it really need to be high pressure washed?

Jason Turner
Jason Turner

I recently purchased a house and the fence was weathered. In the garage they had used Thompson’s WaterSeal Clear so my assumption was they applied that to the fence 2-3 years ago when the fence was new and it is greying/weathering. My thought after reading a few other sites is I will use a stripper and brightener to remove the finish and prep for staining. Found a deal at a store going out of business and bought Benjamin Moore Remove and Brighten to remove. My fence has 2 sides to it that I want to stain. So I did the Remove and then applied the Brigthen while it was still wet. When I got to the other side there were drip marks/tears going down the fence but I thought oh well it would come off as I work on this side, but it never did. Somehow either the Remove or Brighten penetrated the wood so deeply and left permanent tear/drip marks (see pictures attached). I used sandpaper to remove all of the furries on the fence, but the drips remained and tested with some stain and clearly showed through (very ugly). I then over sanded the wood to the point that the tears/drips would be removed from the wood. This changed the wood color from a yellow to more of a red (I don’t know the wood type of the fence), but the drips are gone from the majority of boards. This literally took hours though (painfully time consuming) and a few I just can’t remove. I even tried a test on one board where I re-applied some brighten and left it there for 10 minutes and the drips didn’t come out. I don’t want to damage the wood and further or re-create the problem though.

In any case, do you know a way to fix the remaining drips that are still in a few boards in the wood? Also, now that I over sanded the wood (really just the front is over sanded the back was just sanded), am I okay to apply the stain to it still or do I need to let the wood weather. I plan on buying TWP semi-transparent stain and maybe staining a week later, but want to ensure I haven’t screwed things up.

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Rahul Thakur
Rahul Thakur

I had stained my deck 2.5 years ago. The deck was brand new and is builder grade pressure treated pine. I usually don’t pressure wash it and did it once using low pressure. I am thinking of re-staining it in Spring 2019. Two questions – 1.) Should I use a deck cleaner and clean it now (Nov 2018) or wait until the time of staining to do that? and 2.) Do I need a deck stain stripper instead?

I had used a semi-transparent SW stain last time around and plan to use the TWP brand this time.

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Franky
Franky

I have strip this deck with a stripping agent and pressure washer. Can I go to the neutralize part? I apply it by the instructions and some parts just remove a little,others totally.

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Franky
Franky

Hi!! I’m stripping a deck that was stained. I read that after it is need to neutralize the wood before it gets dry. I didn’t know that and I am going to buy a neutralizer but the wood is dry. Can I still do it?

Sara
Sara

I have an approximately 10 year old storage shed. The original finish has worn to where it absorbs water and is faded badly. I had used Olympic Maximum in walnut on my deck and had leftover stain, so I thought I’d just use the rest on the shed. I got one side done. I brushed in the crevices and rolled the surface. The finish is splotchy and didn’t do anything to repel water. The surface is very textured naturally. I sanded lightly in areas that were splintered. I want to use a different product that is better to finish the shed. Do I have to strip the stain I applied a year ago? Can I apply a new stain over the top since it’s been a year? How do I best get the stain into the wood to protect well? I thought about spraying it on. What would the best stain be for this shed? I need expert help. Thank you!

Tina
Tina

I have a 15 year old deck, it has never been stained or painted. I just had the railing redone so now I am wanting to stain the whole deck and railing. I don’t own a pressure washer, so I’m not sure what to do. The deck boards are in good condition considering the age, the boards just have the old dingy gray color with a spot of mold here or there around the edges.
Not sure what to do, please help need advice!!!
Thank you!
Tina

Julie Amparado
Julie Amparado

Just bought a 5-yr old home and want to restain the deck. Do i need stripper/brightener/stain Or cleaner/brightener/stain?

Do I need to sand? This is something Id rather not do if not necessary.

Thanks much in advance.

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Gary
Gary

I forgot to mention I am going to pressure wash it prior to doing this.

Gary
Gary

I have a redwood deck that is a year old, I wanted to let it weather before putting a sealer on it, can I use just the brightener then the stain/sealer or do I need to use a stripper too?
I am going to use the restore a deck product so I wasn’t sure if I needed all 3 products since the deck looks good as it is and I just want to seal it.
Thanks in advance for any feedback!

Kay
Kay

As opposed to chemically stripping, could you just use a metal brush to strip or would a chemical strip be better? We have an old deck that we bought with the house that has a solid stain and is about 150 sq feet. Thanks so much!

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Mark
Mark

Could you suggest a good brightener. Home depot and lowes only have the brightener that will clean too. Olympic brightener that will clean too?

Mark
Mark

Used behr stripper. Can I use an all in one brightener and cleaner or just a brightener. Will wood be damaged if using the all in one

Mark
Mark

Used a deck stripper. After using a brightener how long can you wait to stain. If it rains on it do you need to use a brightener again?

Mark
Mark

Do you have any information on behr quick dry oil base wood finish for decks? They say it can be applied to damp wood.

Sheena
Sheena

I used a deck cleaner on my 10+ year old deck after stripping off all the old solid stain. Then it rained for about 3 days straight. Do I need to re-clean the deck with the product? And do I need to use a brightener before applying the solid stain? I’m using the Cabot Deck Correct. They do not carry the Flood brand in solid in my Valparaiso Indiana location I guess…

Thank you!

-Sheena

Anne Stockmann
Anne Stockmann

Hi. We have a deck made of some type of Brazilian hardwood. I was able to get a bunch of dirt and grime off using just water and a brush which makes me think we just need a cleaner prior to staining. What do you think? Here are a couple photos where you can see the cleaner part and some others. Thanks in advance! smile

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Joe
Joe

Your site is AWESOME! So much great info. I have a deck with Trex decking and cedar railings. With the new addition I had made to the deck I now have a mix of 75% older cedar railings ~8 years that have been stained with transparent oil stain in the past and 25% new cedar. I’m planning on using RAD stripper/brightener to strip and clean the old balusters and rails. Can the RAD stripper be used also to clean the newer cedar or should I use cleaner on the new wood? Also, is there risk of harm to the Trex from the RAD stripper or brightener?

sp1
sp1

More photos here.

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sp1
sp1

Hello,
I live in WA state, and I have a composite deck with wood railings. Is it OK to use with restore a Deck Stripper on the composite deck or just clean it? I will stain a different color for composite deck with.
I don’t know exactly how to strip and clean, and stain a composite deck with wood railings.
I have some photos. Please let me know.

Thank you.

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