Must Read! The Complete List of Tips for Wood Deck Cleaning and Staining.

Wess_avatar have been in business since 1993 and have used or sold close to a 1/2 Million gallons of wood stain. These wood and deck cleaning and staining tips have come from hands-on experience. A lot of them learned the hard way. Please read this thoroughly as you are sure to learn a few that will make your deck project a success!

We suggest printing this article and reading it a few times before starting your deck restoration project.

Always – Wood Deck Restoration Preparation/Cleaning Tips you should Always Use:

1. Always use the best deck restoration products that are available. This will make a huge difference on longevity and when it comes time to restore again in the future.

2. Always clean and prep the wood first! Even if it is new. Prepping the wood properly will ensure maximum stain performance.

3. Always use biodegradable wood cleaners, strippers, and brighteners.

4. Always wear protective clothing during the prepping process.

5. Always thoroughly rinse the wood deck cleaner, stripper, and brightener after each step.

6. Always rinse immediately if a wood deck cleaner, stripper, or brightener comes in contact with your skin or eyes!

7. Always use a wood deck brightener after the use of a wood deck stripper to neutralize the pH balance. Do this as soon as you are finished with the stripping process while the wood is still wet!

8. Always use extreme caution when using a pressure washer to not damage the wood or yourself.

9. Always wash with the grain of the wood when using a pressure washer.

10. Always when using a pressure washer make sure to wash with a pendulum motion. Try not to reverse your motion until you are at the high point of the arc. If you do not do this you may see marks or gouges in the wood. Do not get too close to the wood. 8-12 inches away from the wood.

11. Always rinse the house after the cleaning process. This will rinse off the wood fibers and dirt. It is much harder to get them off after they dry on windows and siding.

12. Always move patio furniture at least 30 feet away from the wood or deck. This will minimize accidental over spray.

13. Always cover any electrical outlets when washing the deck. You do not want to find out later that your freezer in the basement was off for a few days because the circuit breaker was tripped!

14. Always close any doors or windows that are in close proximity of the deck when you are washing.

15. Always when hiring it is best to choose a Wood Restoration Contractor who is established and has references if you ask. Never hire a contractor who stuck a flyer in your mailbox.

16. Always use stainless steel or galvanized nails, screws, and brackets for replacement wood. You will see black rusts streaks if you do not.

Always – Wood Deck Restoration Staining Tips you should Always Use:

17. Always pick the correct deck stain color. You really do not want to do the whole process over again or have your spouse upset.

18. Always protect house from stain over spray by masking where needed.

19. Always wear old clothes when staining. It will get on you!

20. Always wear gloves when staining.

21. Always apply the wood stain in the direction of the wood grain.

22. Always apply stain evenly.

23. Always tarp plants and bushes from stain.

24. Always back brush drips and "thick" areas when staining.

25. Always use high quality brushes, stain pads, and rollers.

26. Always protect stain from dripping into water if near a pool, lake, or pond.

27. Always cover concrete and pavers! The stain will not come out easily of you drip on to them.

28. Always use plastics or poly tarps when covering plants and concrete. Wood stains will bleed through canvas tarps.

29. Always apply the wood stain to the verticals (railings, fencing, trellis, etc.) first and do the horizontals last. You do not want to walk on the fresh stain.

30. If you need to apply a second coat it may be okay to walk on the first coating prior to drying. Make sure though that you do not leave any footprints in your second coating. Please follow manufacturer's directions as all stains differ on the amount of coatings suggested and application methods.

31. Always follow the wood stain manufacturer’s directions! They are there for a reason.

32. Always when using more than 1 gallon or pail, it is best to mix them all together first to ensure even color.

33. If you are sanding the wood make sure that it is even! Spot sanding can cause the wood stain to penetrate unevenly.

34. Always when "edging" out the house where the decking butts up, it is best to stagger your stain line. This will reduce the chance of having an overlap line when you finish the rest of the flooring.

35. Always when staining the flooring it is a best practice to stain the entire board(s) from end to end before moving on to the next board.

36. Always when using a pump sprayer it is best to use a high quality one. Cheap plastic sprayers that are not designed for wood deck restoration can clog and leak.

37. With a pump sprayer it is best to use a "fan" tip and not the circular "cone" tip. It will spray wood stains better.

38. Make sure to thoroughly mix your stain prior to filling your pump sprayer. Always pour directly from the can, never from your paint tray. This will reduce any chance of clogging the sprayer.

39. If using the pump sprayer to apply the stain to the decking floor, it is a must that you also back wipe to ensure uniformity when dry. The use of a stain pad attached to a pole is best for this.

40. If using a sprayer on the railings it is important to back wipe the excess stain that accumulates on the flooring below the railings. If you do not do this you may have shiny spots and or a darker color below the railings compared to the rest of the flooring.

41. Always do railings that are directly next to the house with a stain pad or brush. Do not use a sprayer here as it will get all over the windows and siding. We would not suggest spraying the railings until you are at least 4-6 feet away from the house.

42. Always use a tarp on the outside edge of the deck to catch any over spray.

43. Always let wood stain dry completely prior to walking on the decking. Especially if you walk into your house as you can track stain onto the floor!

44. Always leave furniture off deck until completely dry.

45. Always when using a water-based wood stain make sure that you clean your application tools with water as soon as you’re done.

46. When using an oil-based wood stain make sure that you clean your application tools with mineral spirits or paint thinner as soon as you’re done.

47. Final wood stain color is dependent on the age of the wood, type of wood, application of wood stain, and preparation (cleaning) of the wood.

Never - Wood Deck Restoration Preparation/Cleaning Tips:

48. Never hire a $99 deck wash contractor. Honestly common sense please!

49. Never hire a contractor who buys his materials at Home Depot. Any experienced wood restoration contractors knows there is much better materials and stains elsewhere.

50. Never use a pressure washer without cleaners. It can damage the deck if you do not use the proper cleaners.

51. Never use steel wool to sand the wood. This will leave metal in the wood that will turn black from rust.

52. Never sand the wood too smooth! This could cause the stain to not absorb into the wood and prematurely fail! 60 grit sandpaper is best.

53. Never use household bleach to clean the wood. Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach) has been proven to damage the cellular structure of the wood.

54. Never use the Red Tip that comes with your pressure washer. This is a "zero" tip and you will damage your wood.

55. Never let your wood stripper or cleaner dry on the wood during the washing process. Try to keep the wood wet throughout the entire process.

56. Never use interior wood filler on your outside deck. It will not work. The stain will not color the filler and it will just "fall" out after a short period of time.

57. Never allow pets to walk on the deck during the entire process. If they walk on the deck during the washing process they make get a chemical reaction from the cleaners on their paws. While the deck is drying it is best to keep them off if possible to minimize dirt and mud from being tracked on to the wood. If they walk on the stain while wet it can make them sick. Pets have a tendency to clean themselves and stain getting into their system is not a good idea.

58. Never plant new annuals near the deck prior to starting your refinishing. Tarps and cleaners can damage them. It is best to wait until after you are done. If it is too late make sure to tarp using stakes. In addition remove the tarps as soon as possible to reduce any chance of damaging the flowers from excessive heat.

Never - Wood Deck Restoration Staining Tips:

59. Never believe over-hyped extended stain warranties! Honestly nothing will look like new on a horizontal surface after 2-3 years. Warranties that claim 5, 6 and even 10 years are impossible. They are betting that high sales volumes will overcome their warranty claims. Typically these warranties are "limited" and if you were to make a claim all you would get is product replacement at best. Never will they reimburse you for your hard work and time. It's just a numbers game to these corporations. This is also why you will never see a high quality wood deck stain brand in a "big box" store.

60. Never use Behr Wood Stains. You have been warned!

61. Never use Thompson's Water Sealer. Why waste your time!

62. Never apply an oil-based stain over top of a water-based stain and vice versa. You can create an adhesion issue.

63. Never apply a new coating on top of an old coating that is already failing and peeling. You will be wasting your time as the new coating will not "fix" the failed coating.

64. Never apply an oil-based wood deck stain to a wet deck unless the manufacturer says you can.

65. Never apply a wood deck stain during rain or if rain is fore casted shortly.

66. Never over apply a wood stain. "Thicker is not better" Extra coats will not make it last longer. In fact the stains can fail prematurely.

67. Never over apply on New Wood. New wood is not very absorbent and too much stain will just dry on top of the wood instead of penetrating into the wood. In most causes you will only need one coat on new wood.

68. Never apply a semi-transparent stain over a solid (opaque) stain.

69. Never apply a wood stain below the recommended minimum temperature. The stain may not dry or cure properly if you do.

70. Never apply a wood stain if the temperature will fall below freezing over night. This may be okay of your stain has enough time to dry prior, but if it is still wet when it freezes it may have issues.

71. Never apply a stain in extreme heat! The stain may "flash" dry. This can create unevenness and "shiny" spots.

72. Never stain your deck the day before a party. Due to weather conditions, stains may not be completely dry for a few days. The last thing you want is one of your friends leaning on a wet railing Embarassed

73. Never add mineral spirits or thinner to the stain. You will degrade its performance.

74. Never stain half the floor then take a long break. You may get overlap lines

75. Never roll around a heavy grill! These stainless steel grills weigh a lot and typically have small wheels. Rolling the grill back and forth across the decking will leave small dents. Applying a semi-transparent stain will enhance these dents leaving marks all over your decking.

76. Never fill your stain trays on grass. Any spills and the grass will die.

77. Never spray a wood stain on a windy day. One gust and the stain can get all over your windows, siding, or neighbors home.

78. Never wear black soled shoes when using an oil-based stain. The petroleum in the stain can soften the soles leaving black footprints all over your deck!

79. Never try to make your deck "shiny" like your interior hardwood floor. The stain will peel and it will be extremely difficult to remove. This happens when stains are over-applied or a film-forming varnish stain is chosen. An example of a film-forming varnish type stain is Sikkens Cetol. In our opinion this should never be used on decking surface.

80. Never step off your newly stained deck on to concrete or pavers. You will leave footprints.

81. Never worry about the knots of the wood being lighter in color. This is normal for a lot of the stains as the knots have a higher density, causing the stains to be less absorbent.

82. Never use water to clean oil-based stains.

83. Never leave oily rags or canvas tarps near or in the house! They can start a fire. Water down first if needed to reduce any chance of this occurring.

Consider - Wood Deck Restoration Tips you should Consider Using:

84. Consider Pressure Washing - The use of the proper wood and deck cleaner, stripper and or brightener will make a huge difference. They will allow you to use less pressure and not damage the wood.

85. Consider the use of a wood brightener after the use of a wood cleaner. While it is a must to use the brightener after a stripper, it is not always needed to after a cleaner. Best to follow directions. If you are unsure it will not hurt to use the brightener and it is the easiest step!

86. Consider when stripping the deck from an old coating it is best to remove as much as possible. Try and shoot for 90-100%.

87. Choosing a penetrating non-film forming stain. The better the stain penetrates the better it will perform from wear and tear.

88. Consider the use of a stain that is tinted. The tint is vital in absorbing the UV rays. This keeps the wood looking natural, prolonging the graying. If you want a “Crystal Clear” wood stain we strongly suggest the Defy Extreme Clear.

89. Understand that new boards that have been replaced on the deck will not match the older wood exactly.

90. Consider the use of a sprayer to apply the stain will make the process a lot faster. Just make sure to wipe drips and cover/mask the over spray.

91. Consider having a friend or relative help! It will make your project much faster.
92. Consider looking over your friend or relatives work as they may miss spots and may not have read these article's tipsSmile

Occasionally - Wood Deck Restoration Tips you should Occasionally use:

93. Occasionally strip the old stain off prior to adding a new coating. If you keep adding coatings every 2-3 years, you will get a buildup of stain. The best practice is to remove the old coating prior to applying a new coating. For best results it is our opinion that you do this every time you refinish your deck. This is not always possible so you should consider removal of the old coating(s) every second or third time.

94. Occasionally take short breaks. This is hard work. Not too long when staining as you do not want those overlaps!

95. Occasionally wipe drips from the bottom edges of vertical boards. They have a tendency to accumulate there and it is easier to wipe them off while the stain is still wet.

96. Occasionally go over your newly stained areas to check for missed spots prior to the stain drying.

97. Occasionally after 24 hours you still have a few areas where that stain is still wet it is okay to wipe off the excess with a rag.

98. Occasionally stain the underside of the deck. This is completely up to you. It will not have much effect on protecting the wood. This should be considered for homeowners who have walkout basements and are concerned about the aesthetic look. Less than 1% actually does this and be warned, you will get the stain all over you!

99. Occasionally clean the wood with a mild wood cleaner during the off years of staining. This will keep the stain and wood looking better.

100. Occasionally blow dirt, debris and leaves off deck. especially during the Fall season.

When Completed:

101. Relax, have dinner or a party on your beautiful newly refinished deck!

Thanks for reading this all the way to the end! It is a lot to absorb all at once. Please scroll down to the bottom if you would like to ask a question or post a comment.

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  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Gary Umstead · 10/04/2023
    Pressure washed cedar deck with white tip no cleaner. Can I still use oxalic acid to brighten before staining. Or do I need to start the process over using cleaner first. 
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      The Sealer Store · 10/04/2023
      Brightener by itself will not work. You need to clean and then brighten.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Heidi Montgomery · 11/16/2021
    I live in Pennsylvania & I’ve been stripping, repairing and plan to repaint my parent’s front deck/porch along w wrought iron railings and concrete steps. I’m not quite ready to repaint as I’m still removing old caulking and have some rotting to fix and the weather is quickly changing to wet & cold all the time. I’m thinking that painting should wait until Spring but unsure of protecting the wood from the elements until then. Do I seal it? Stain? Prime? This is my first deck restoration and probably my only but am trying to make it the best for my parents. Thank you. 
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      The Sealer Store · 11/16/2021
      You cannot sealer or prime before applying a deck stain. Just do it in the Spring.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    L · 08/16/2021
    We power washed and finally sanded (final sanding with 120 grit ... Unfortunately we read tips afterwards)  our 23 year old deck to remove old semi solid stain.  Do we need to wait 1 month before staining (it will start freezing next month  in September here in Michigan and I'm concerned about staining that late.  I originally thought I could stain shortly after sanding)?  Also do we need to use both a cleaner and brightener on the sanded wood?  Would you recommend RAD or TWP for the north facing deck? 
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      The Sealer Store · 08/17/2021
      Wait a month or two and then clean and brighten for prep. You can stain until late October in MI.
      • We will reply to your comment shortly
        L · 08/17/2021
        Thanks for the prompt reply!  Should we re-sand the deck surface with 80 grit (after using 120)  to roughen it up again? Would you recommend RAD or TWP for this deck project on 23 yr old  sanded pressure treated pine?
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Cynthia · 01/21/2021
    We have a home in the Dominican Republic that has a lot of stained wood, windows, door terraces , railings, columns bannisters . It’s almost 6000 sq ft of wood. It is time at 4 years to restrain. We plan to sand everything down and the. Re- stain. I’d like to go lighter as everything tends to turn darker and red over time. But we still need to be cognizant of sun and UV which are big issues.
    1. Should we use a brighter or cleaner after sanding?
    2. Is it necessary to go with a semi transparent darker color to get the UV protection.
    3. I’ve looked at Armstrong Clark, Easy Seal and TWP . Is there a “ best” among those 3 or is there one I’m missing.

    With this much area and expense I don’t want to get this wrong.
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      The Sealer Store · 01/21/2021
      1, Yes.
      2. Darker or richer colors will give better UV protection.
      3. TWP or AC. Ready Seal does not last more than a year.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Tim · 06/30/2020
    Rain has delayed staining my deck for two weeks after cleaning- does the deck need to prepped any more before staining?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      The Sealer Store · 06/30/2020
      It should be fine if two weeks. Just make sure the wood is clean and dry.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Mitchell · 03/27/2020
    We just moved in to a house that is about 2.5 years old. It appears the previous owners applied a brown stain to the deck. Unfortunately, it comes off terribly bad on your shoes or feet if youre not wearing shoes. This obviously causes a huge issue with tracking in on the carpet. Who wants to take off their shoes or wash their feet every time they come in from the deck? First, why is it doing that? Second, what can I do to stop the brown from getting on our shoes/feet?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      The Sealer Store · 03/27/2020
      You would have to remove it and start over. Please send a picture for help with how to do this.
      • We will reply to your comment shortly
        Mitchell · 03/27/2020
        Another pic. It only uploaded one on my earlier reply.
      • We will reply to your comment shortly
        Mitchell · 03/27/2020
        Here are the pics. In the higher traffic areas you can see how it is lighter. How do I go about removing it? And is it absolutely necessary to redo it if the wood is pressure treated?
        • We will reply to your comment shortly
          The Sealer Store · 03/27/2020
          Use this for prep:

          Yes, you have to stain it to protect it from weather, UV water, etc.
          • We will reply to your comment shortly
            Mitchell · 03/27/2020
            My stain seems to be a solid color stain (at least in the areas without high traffic). Will the stripper take off the stain? The link provided says it will not remove solid color stain. Thanks for all your help.
            • We will reply to your comment shortly
              The Sealer Store · 03/27/2020
              It does not look like a solid stain in the pics. If it is a solid stain then no, it is not possible to strip off.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Sue · 07/27/2019
    We are staining our pressure treated deck with Armstrong Clark oil base formula and was wondering how long to wait before we let our cat walk on it.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Charles · 05/17/2018
    I have about 10 layers of old stain. Has anyone ever applied stripper twice in a case like this?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      The Sealer Store · 05/17/2018
      That many layers a stripper will probably not work and you will need to sand to remove.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 03/06/2017
    Apply a wood brightener to lighten the wood color. Try the TWP stains after the prep.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    john g. mcmaster III · 03/06/2017
    I am restoring a long neglected pressure treated deck in a humid southern climate. Started with applying a roof and deck cleaner which turned the deck black. have bee using a pressure washer to clean, but never can quite get it all clean.Have gone online looking for deck stain ratings and each site has entirely different ratings of the same product. Need help.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 10/02/2016
    To get rid of them you would need to strip off the newly applied stain.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Kim Hayes · 10/02/2016
    Hi there, I've read enough on your site and online to be pretty sure they are not going away completely :sad: What is your suggestion for at least reducing their appearance? Someone suggested soap and water. And just curious what would it take to get rid of them completely? Thank you in advance!
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 08/24/2016
    Never heard of this happening. What brand of stain is it?
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Kat · 08/24/2016
    We sanded down our cedar deck and stained with oil-based stain. It looked beautiful as it was drying last night but this morning there is a white film covering the entire deck. It did not rain although it has been quite warm (cooler in the nighttime). How do we remove the white film? Will it perhaps go away if it is due to humidity in the air?
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 06/26/2016
    Remove all and start over. Lightly sand after to remove any wood hairs/fibers.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Cathy · 06/25/2016
    I started staining my deck with stain I bought about a year ago. I ran out so I purchased more and as warned it did not match. I have decided to start over can I stain over part that I already did or do I need to remove. This deck was abused by a power washer last year not me so wood is very dry almost like its hairy. I don't want to stain and have it peel or damage wood more. Thanks for your help
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 06/24/2016
    Both TWP stains require 2 coats applied wet on wet for older wood. Only one coat for new wood. Let dry for 48 hours after prep for drying. Stain within 2 weeks.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    David Grabowski · 06/24/2016
    How long after cleaning and brightening (once it drys)do I have to apply stain. Trying to time the weather, which rarely cooperates.

    Also, which TWP stain requires just the one coat and not the second wipe after 15 minutes???

  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 06/12/2016
    Try the Defy Extreme Clear. It will gray naturally and seal the wood. Yes you should seal the wood still to protect from naturally weathering.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    sharon Royal · 06/11/2016
    Hello, I have a large-ish low deck constructed 5-7 years ago from untreated Cedar. It has never been sealed or stained and is now silvery-gray. I like the color and thought I would go ahead ans seal it this year. I washed (scrubbed) it with a deck wash from big box store. (still somewhat blotchy, but I'm alright with it). I tested a corner of it using a "Clear" Benjamin Moore Waterborne Waterproofer and it caused the wood to yellow. I thought about adding some gray latex paint into the sealer to color it, but decided it migh compromise the protection. I'm thinking I ought to just start fresh with a tinted, transparent stain product so I don't get "yellow" and retain the silvery look. QUESTION: After so many years is it still worth sealing the wood? Can I use waterbased sealer or is oil stain/ sealer better all around. Thank you so much for any guidance.