When to use a Deck Stripper vs a Deck Cleaner  4.9/5 (28)

This post was updated on May 1, 2024

Strip of Clean the Deck

Strip of Clean the Deck

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 deck restoration news and trending topics through 2024. 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.


Why 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, a “Deck Stripper” or a “Deck Cleaner.” They are both designed to properly prep the wood and clean it thoroughly before staining begins.

Deck Stripper or Deck Cleaner?

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.

Best Deck Cleaner or Stripper Articles

How To Strip A Deck Stain Video

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Scott Paul ~ Restoring Wood & Decks Since 1993 Owner
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.

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Ani
Ani
8 months ago

Need to prep pressure-treated wood deck for a new coat of stain.
2 years ago (when the wood was new) we brushed Wolman Raincoat Oil Base Clear Sealer on it. Now we plan to use TWP 102 Series to stain and seal it.
If I understand correctly, I can just go straight to using the RAD Stain Stripper and skip the RAD Cleaner? Do I need to use the RAD Brightener after that or can I just proceed to the TWP Stain?

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Valkyrie
Valkyrie
1 year ago

Sanded, stripped, brightened 22×33 Pressure treated deck using rad bought with Twp. staining the rails is taking much longer than expected. Now there is rain for the next 10 days at least every 36 hours and the deck is in full sun (shaded starting at 6:00pm) and heavy dew happens every morning. So can’t for see squeezing in staining.
All that being said, how long will the strip/brightener be effective before I need to repeat to get back to staining. 😣
Thank you!

matt
matt
1 year ago

Hello, and thanks for all the awesome videos. Will cleaner and brightener stain screening? As part of my deck is screened in. Thanks again.

Jen
Jen
1 year ago

Hi, I want to refurbish our deck. I think my steps would be power wash, strip, brighten, stain. Is that correct based on the pictures? Any recommendations for holes or other breaks in the boards?

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Jennifer
Jennifer
1 year ago

We are replacing treated lumber decking after 25+ years. The framing underneath is sound (also treated lumber). Is there any value in treating the deck frame with a product like Restore-A-Deck prior to replacing the decking?

Lilian Tao
Lilian Tao
1 year ago

Hi, I have a covered porch with the deck that the former owner built and used SW SuperDeck oil-based Transparent Cedar Tone Natural. I am planning to maintain it. If I still use the same product, do I need to use stripper?
I read your review and seems that TWP is better product. If I switch TWP, do I need to use stripper?
Here are my deck pictures. Thank you very much!

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Lilian Tao
Lilian Tao
1 year ago

Thank you! Is TWP Honeytone a Transparent oil-base?

Lilian Tao
Lilian Tao
1 year ago

Talking about SW version, I noticed that SW now also has a modified-oil based formula, but I was able to get a oil based formula in a store because I am not comfortable with the modified-oil base. Are you saying that even the “oil based formula) still not a good version? For your reference, the former owner left me the can showing SuperDeck oil base as the 2nd picture. I tried to stick with “oil base” 🙂

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Adrienne Forns
Adrienne Forns
1 year ago

I replaced 18 mahogany decking boards with new ones and hope they all blend with the older boards. I am planning on using Wolman paint stripper followed immediately with Defy Wood Brightener. Can I use two different manufacturer products? Will I definitely have the “fuzzies” to hand sand? Thanks.

Max
Max
1 year ago

We are going to repaint our deck. As I read in several of the previous posts: as long as the previous paint is not peeling, we can just paint over it. We can spot treat any areas that do have loose paint.

Do we still need to apply deck cleaner and brightener prior to repainting?

Thanks you!

Max
Max
1 year ago

Thanks! So no need for a brightener?

I thought it was needed to rebalance the pH after using cleaner/stripper.

Max
Max
1 year ago

Here are some images of our deck

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Amy
Amy
1 year ago

I have no idea what is on the deck now – oil or water based. I think I need to strip, brighten, sand, then stain – correct? If so, can you recommend a specific stripper, brightener and stain?

Thank you so much for your advice!

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Amy
Amy
1 year ago

Would you recommend a solid or semi transparent stain? Also, should I use an oil or water based stain?

Thank you for your help!

R Jolly
R Jolly
2 years ago

My dad has paint on his deck which we applied 7 years ago and wants me to repaint over with same material, but a slightly darker mixed paint. Any advice on what chemicals to use to prep and if I need to sand or take at other steps prior to applying paint? Thank you

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R Jolly
R Jolly
2 years ago

Awesome. So no need for at cleaner stripper or brightener

R Jolly
R Jolly
2 years ago

Here are the photos of fence and staircase

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R Jolly
R Jolly
2 years ago

Here are photos of deck

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R Jolly
R Jolly
2 years ago

Hi,

wondering what processes to use here to restain and what order. 2% Bleach clean brighten with oxalic acid.

I wish I knew what material was on here already as we want to keep same stain. Would it make it easier (time and labor wise) if I am able to find out or not really? Could I skip sanding or stripping if so? If not we’ll just pick a similiar color.

R Jolly
R Jolly
2 years ago

If I want to us the same exact stain should I still strip or just clean and brighten? I cannot tell if my current stain is solid or semi-transparent.

R Jolly
R Jolly
2 years ago

Thank you for your tips.

No need to sand then since it is not solid stain, right? But for any areas I want to smoothen I can sand right? Or should I just light sand everything in between brightening and staining?

You recommend sodium percarbonate or metasilicate to strip? Someone else recommended bleach because of the algae content. Which brightener do you recommend citric or oxalic? Do I run these chemicals via downstream injector after power washer pump just before the gun? Do you recommend tarping flowers and vegetation or the cedarwood siding of the home?

R Jolly
R Jolly
2 years ago

Not sure on the cedar. I have to call the guy who did it. All I have is the bill from previous owner from 2016. It was like $16k.

Mark P
Mark P
2 years ago

I forgot to attach photos of my deck showcasing th DEFY EXTREME Semi-transparent stain. (Redwood color)

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Mark P
Mark P
2 years ago

Good morning. I used DEFY waterbased stain on my Colorado sunsoaked deck and absolutely love it. It’s infinitely better than the Superdeck stain I had on previously. The stain has been on only a year and looks great, but the deck is dirty and has some small stains from the winter. Mostly dirt, melted snow and leaf stains. I am not planning on restaining it or adding a maintenance coat this spring, but I would like to clean it. Should I use DEFY Wood Cleaner, brush and hose or should I just use a simple dish soap solution and then rinse with hose? I guess the question is, if I use the DEFY Wood Cleaner to clean and rinse without brightening and staining, will it ruin my deck? 😀

Last edited 2 years ago by Mark P
Ncbeau
Ncbeau
2 years ago

Hi! Have a 3 year old st (behr??)failing semi-transparent stain on our 10 year old PT deck.

Hoping I can just strip it and not have to sand?? Thoughts

In the PNW

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ncbeau
ncbeau
2 years ago

Thanks for your reply and help……my neighbur has some left over HD80 stripper. Is it worth a shot to try that first before buying the RAD?…or is just no strong enough?

Thanks again

Michael Pearce
Michael Pearce
2 years ago

We are looking at options to refinish out Deck. The deck was new when we bought the house three years ago and was painted with what looks like normal exterior paint and almost immediately began to chip and peel. The deck also has large tulip poplar’s which constantly rain sap down onto it which almost turns the color black.

A couple questions:
I am currently in the process of pressure washing it to get the heavy dirt off before doing the prep and was was wondering if I also need to strip off the remaining paint before applying surface coatings or should just cleaning it be good enough?

I was considering using a deck over type product to give it a more durable surface that is easier to clean but based on some research that sounds like a waste of money. Is there a deckover product durable paint that is recommended, or is stripping all the way to bare wood and starting over the best bet?

Thanks for any help

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Jessika Petersen
Jessika Petersen
2 years ago

We’re trying to figure if we can clean our deck, retouch certain spots with paint, and then put a sealer on top?

Or strip the whole thing?

We have a certain area where a hot tub was removed, that we DO need to strip and redo. But the rest of the deck (we were told) wasn’t in bad shape and didn’t need to strip, just touch up.

So what should we do with the other parts of the large deck? There are a couple spots, such as on steps and by the door where some paint has chipped off.

It costs us $1700 to hire someone to just strip and repaint the whole thing. Should we do this or can we touch up the other areas (minus the hot tub location) ourselves?

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L Spence
L Spence
2 years ago

We moved in 3 years ago Oct and had been told the deck “had been refinished”, but after winter (Minnesota) there were places starting to peel like paint and even what looks like worn old stain underneath. Like all our projects this was put off too long. We will be sanding because frustration took over with having NO luck using a stripping product and thus chewed up the wood a bit. But if there is any other product we can use to strip this coating that’d be great. Please give any and all advise you feel pertinent 🙂

1) We Assume the deck is 11 years old (same as the house)
2) yes, current coating UNKNOWN
3) some mold/mildew looking spots after pressure washing also some under deck
4) reason for failure…unknown, possible use, neglect or bad refinishing last time?
We are deadlocked to paint the whole thing or 2 tone finish? Your thoughts?

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Shannon Stamp
Shannon Stamp
2 years ago

I have been using Thompson’s Waterseal Advanced in Honey Gold for many years, last year I covered the deck but it did not last. I assume this was because i never “cleaned or stripped” the deck only pressure washed. I am wondering what is best to do before I attempt to cover again use a deck cleaner or a deck stripper?

Shannon Stamp
Shannon Stamp
2 years ago
Reply to  Shannon Stamp

See attached

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Andrei
Andrei
2 years ago

Is pressure washer required for the stain stripping process or it’s optional and I can just use a stiff brush and a garden hose?

Jennifer
Jennifer
2 years ago

Apologies if this is a duplicate post, but my first is not showing in the thread below like my second one is. My deck issue is sad but true. I started with a new deck, weathered for ~9 months. I was getting ready to stain, and someone told me I needed to clean the mildew specks off with Oxi-Clean, which I did, but did not neutralize it before applying stain 😩. The stain seemed to look fine at first, but has since “bleached” out. The stain is blotchy and varied in color. It doesn’t look horrendous, but definitely not right. It also never completely dried 🤔. My questions are: 1) would neutralizing have any effect over top of the stain? 2) if not, what then would be the correct order of things to do? 3) Is it too late to neutralize the railings which have not been stained? All this was done this past fall.

Jennifer
Jennifer
2 years ago

What process is required to apply a solid stain over a transparent? Is stripping really required since both are oil-based?

T S
T S
2 years ago

We have been trying to repaint our deck and having the worst time trying to get the paint up. I just found this site, we have tried a power washer and deck stripper to no avail. We can get some up with a wire brush but we would be scrubbing for a weeks to get all the paint up that way.

I think the previous paint job was a solid stain because the undertone red seems to have penetrated pretty deep and won’t come up without sanding. We don’t know for sure though just bought the house a year ago.

We bought a brown solid stain to go on top. Do we need to make sure all the red undertone is sanded off before we use the new solid stain? Any recommendations on getting the rest of this paint up? Should we use a different deck stripper?

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thelilpups
thelilpups
2 years ago

Hi guys,

Lee here again. Gosh, I can build a decent deck but I can’t seem to finish it correctly and I need your advice again. So this last winter when I bought more TWP 101 Cedar from your associates, I also ordered RAD Cleaner and Brightener. However, based on our conversation below, it became apparent that I needed to strip the old stain as some of it had failed within one year. Not having time for another mail order before last weekend, I went to the big box store and got the Behr Stripper No. 64 and Cleaner/Brightener No. 63. (I know, me bad! I have since read your reviews.)

I used two different set of steps as my test areas. After letting the stripper sit for 45 minutes, I scrubbed, power washed then proceeded with the Behr Cleaner/Brightener solution for 15 minutes then power washed again. Both solutions were well shaken and both sets of steps turned out great.

So I moved on to the deck following the exact same procedures, working about 40-50 SF at a time, on a cloudy day and keeping moist. OMG, the results are awful with black areas everywhere. I noticed some, but not all, of the overlap areas seemed to be brighter so I hit it all with a second coat of Behr Stripper followed by another pressure wash rinse and then another round of Behr Cleaner/ Brightener followed by a yet another pressure wash rinse.

As you can see in the pictures, I still have black area everywhere, and even though they are less noticeable when dry, I know that if TWP 101 stain goes on, they will stand out as if they are wet. (It just rain and I just took the wet pictures – Ugly!)

I do plan on sanding with 80 grit to remove the white fuzzy, and I still have the RAD Cleaner and RAD Brightener but I need some advice as to how the black areas can be neutralized and then what steps to wrap up the prep prior to the stain. (This time I will wait at least 1 week, not 3 days for it to dry before staining.)

Thanks in advance, I’m desperate here.

Lee

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thelilpups
thelilpups
2 years ago

Whew, thank you! I will give it a go.

Lee

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