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!

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  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Dean Mermell · 09/17/2014
    One last thing...If I were to lightly sand or steel wool (I know, all the shavings should be probably vacuumed, right?) it at this point and take the shine off it a little, is that a viable option? It's really just the shiny bits that bother me.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Dean Mermell · 09/14/2014
    Nope, no indication
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    The Sealer Store · 09/14/2014
    All stain brands are different with this. It should have been on their instructions.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Dean Mermell · 09/14/2014
    Thanks but I have not been able to find any conclusive advice about how long to wait before staining. This could be a very good tip #102 in your otherwise fine web page...
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 09/13/2014
    Sounds like you stained too soon after building and did not prep correctly either. You will need to strip it off and start over.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Dean Mermell · 09/13/2014
    Hi. I just put in a new redwood deck and after 2 weeks put a thin coat of Olympic Maximum water based clear sealant on it. Optimal temperature and humidity, 200 ft deck and used about 2/3 of the can (about exactly the coverage the can says). It's the next day, and much of the surface is tacky and uneven, shiny, and shows overlap from the application. I'm wondering if there's something I can do (rubbing with a damp rag or something?) that can help even out the finish and get rid of the shiny/tacky bits, since it's still somewhat newly applied? Thanks!
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 07/06/2014
    Christine, you cannot fix a deck that is stained with a solid color unless you sand it all off or replace the wood.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Christine · 07/06/2014
    We live on a pond in central Mass. Our deck was treated with Behr solid color weatherproofing stain. It needs restoration desperately. We had no idea that Behr products were not up to grade. What products do you recommended? What steps do we need to take to restore the deck using a better product? The deck came with the house and seems to be constructed out of a mystery wood.. Maybe it's just pine. I imagine I need to clean the deck well.. What product should I use? Should I also use a brightner? Which one? My husband has decided this is my task and I am a novice.. Just incase my questions haven't already revealed my status as a deck strainer/ resorer.
    Thank you and bless you for any guidance that you can provide
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 06/26/2014
    Shelli, you could try a tarp but it really needs some air to dry.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Shellie · 06/26/2014
    After thoroughly cleaning my deck, I planned to let it dry for 24 hours before I stained it. However, after waiting, it was covered in bird droppings again. Do you have any suggestion to keep a deck clean while it is drying?
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Justin Minden · 05/26/2014
    I have a one year old deck that was stained with a clear (no UV protection) coat right after it was built and not surprisingly it did not look good. Yesterday I used a Duckback brand wood stripper that worked well. I thoroughly rinsed and let stand for about; hours on a warm breezy day. I applied Messmers UV protectant stain and coated one side inhe early evening. I took a break and then covered the other half at about 9pm. Thee was no rain I. The forecast for a week but it rained overnight. Not too much but there was a little standing water. Is there anything to do but wait and see? If it doesn't dry uniformly can I reapply another coat over the top or do I need to strip and start over? Thanks for any help you can offer
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    The Sealer Store · 05/23/2014
    As long as you remove the SW you can use the AC.
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    Ben Gathercole · 05/23/2014
    Hi -

    Can you apply oil over water or vice versa if it is stripped and sanded and properly prepared which would mean tip #62 was referring to old stain that was not removed...

    I put sherman williams water based down a couple of years ago and would really like to go to an armstrong oil based but.....
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Sherry · 05/18/2014
    It's time to stain my new 9 month old deck and I've been reading a lot of info and all 101 Tips. I've not found any info regarding the one issue I know I will have. My deck is two levels, one of which is at ground level. The wood that encloses the sides is treated. There's grass (7 month old sod) right next to it. Is there a simple way to clean that area to prep for staining other than lifting the sod during the process?
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    The Sealer Store · 05/13/2014
    Kristend, Strip first and sand if you need to after. Brighten last. Cleaning products are biodegradable.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    kristend · 05/13/2014
    I have a question about cedar decks. We built our cedar deck two summers ago. This will be the third summer it will see. Prior to building, we let the wood dry out for several weeks, gave it a light sanding, then applied one coat of water based semi transparent stain, then built the deck. Another coat of stain was applied after building. The stain is now fading/wearing off. What is the best course of action? Do I clean/brighten, then apply another coat of stain? Or give it a light sanding? Or is it necessary to strip first? I would like to avoid the use of chemicals since there are children and pets around, as well as my grass and flowers. Please help.
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    The Sealer Store · 05/03/2014
    Yes the 100 Series would be the correct choice. Prep first with the Gemini Restore Kit. Are you in Metro Detroit? If so we are in Bloomfield Hills.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    MJE · 05/03/2014
    We installed a DuraHolz thermally modified wood deck(yellow pine) last fall in Michigan. Nothing has been applied to the wood, and we want to stain it this spring. What should we use/do to clean and prep. I was thinking of using TWP 100 stain. Good choice?
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 04/30/2014
    Bill, as long as the wood is prepped first by removing the Thompsons if it is still on the wood.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Bill Nicholls · 04/30/2014
    Can you apply Armstrong-Clark Transparent Natural Tone stain over Thompson's Water Seal?