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
    The Sealer Store · 03/25/2014
    To use any of the brands that we sell you will need to remove 100% of the old paint. The only effective way of doing this would be to sand it all off. Once removed you could try the TWP Stains or Armstrong Clark brand.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    sherry · 03/24/2014
    We have a wood deck, not sure what kind of wood. It was originally painted, and we have repainted it, however this year it has peeled badly, and we need to sand and then either repaint or stain. What do you suggest and what should we use?
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 03/23/2014
    charles, you need to remove all of the Behr first. This can be done with a stain stripper and some sanding. You need to do this so the new stain will work correctly and apply evenly. You cannot "cover" the Behr.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    charles w mcguire · 03/22/2014
    deck is two years old and I used a behr transparent two years back and now some of the deck that gets sun is chipping. Do I have to sand the boards that are chipping or do I have to sand the entire deck. what kind of stain should I use to cover the chipping areas, I tried a semi-transparent but chipped areas still show thru. the part of the deck that gets no sun is fine. Help!
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Mike Danaher · 01/19/2014
    Hi, I've been told I can walk over newly applied stain. He said when it is wet it is okay to do so. I also had someone else say the same thing. Is that possible? I can see that being true if it were a puddle but... thanks Mike
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    din · 10/26/2013
    Hi, We had parts of our house sided with cedar. I stained the back half this fall with Olympic Maxiumn toner stain and it looks great. But now with the nights dipping below the recommended minimun temperture(35 deg) and the daily high temps in the 50's would it be safe to stain the front should take about 4 hours, thanks

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    The Sealer Store · 10/14/2013
    Joel, use the Restore-A-Deck stain stripper followed by the brightener for the prep. Stain with TWP 1500 or the Armstrong Clark.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Joel · 10/14/2013
    Hi--I have a cedar deck in metro NY area that's 2 years old. Cleaned and brightened it then stained it after it had been put down for 4 months. I used Cabot translucent oil-based and it didn't look good for very long. I want to restore it--what steps should I take and what product would you recommend? The deck gets 3 hours of sun at the most and is in a very woodsy area. Thanks in advance for your help.
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    The Sealer Store · 10/06/2013
    Tony, Wolman FP used to be a good stain until they change the formula a few years ago. Not nearly the same performance.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Tony voltron · 10/06/2013
    I was curious as to what your thoughts are about Wolman F&P Finish & Preservative semi-transparent stain?
    It seems to have good reviews. I know the better, high-end ones are the ones you mentioned.
    But since money is tight and I have a bunch of home depot gift cards I was trying to get the best they have
    to offer, otherwise I would be purchasing the brands you recommended.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 09/30/2013
    M Milkovich, I would not cover and let the wood dry for a day after a rain. It can sit for weeks.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    M Milkovich · 09/30/2013
    We were going to stain yesterday but the wood was still too wet after rain the day before. Now that it's getting colder at night it takes longer for the dew to dry. If we were to cover the deck with plastic overnight would that help the wood stay dry so we can stain earlier in the day? (We've stripped and sanded off three layers of solid stain and used the brightener - but then it rained. Rain is forecast again for next weekend.) How long is it safe to let the wood sit before we get the stain on?
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    The Sealer Store · 09/23/2013
    You must remove the SPF by sanding. Nothing else will get it off. Stay away from the Restore. It has issues.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    rus schererots SPF 4 · 09/22/2013
    have 10 yr old deck that has been covered with the SPF 48. I've had to recover it every 3 yrs (kept using the SPF because I didn't want to have to strip it. Now I can't get the SPF and am ready to move to the Rustoleum Restore (getting a few cracks). While the stain on horizontal pieces is breaking down, the vertical surfaces are holding up pretty well. I have vertical skirting around the deck, so there is a fair amount of surface area. What do I do to prep this SPF stained wood for the Restore colored stain?
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    The Sealer Store · 08/13/2013
    Jerry, after the sanding you should use the Restore A Deck Kits ([url][/url]) to remove the sand dust and open he grain for the stain. I would go with the TWP 100 Series for this. It fades lightly through the years instead of darkening.
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    jerry McConnell · 08/13/2013
    I built a new cedar deck 2 summers ago in MN and stained immediately after construction with a UV clear coat by Flood CWF oil (Menards). After 3 months the deck started turning black. (Tannin bleeding or burning off of oil?) I sanded everthing off the next spring and re aplied the same stain (assuming I got a bad batch or did something wrong) I ended up getting the same black result after a few months again. My deck is 15x30 and is completely in the sun without shade. I would like a natural/light look to the cedar so what type of stain would you recommend that would actually work? I have again sanded the deck now and am ready to stain, but I certainly do NOT want to repeat this process again!:-) its about a 3-4 day sanding process with 2 people for 6 hours a day... also, if I made some mis steps in my earlier attempts, please dont be love to know! Thanks
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 08/13/2013
    Julie, it depends on the stain brand and type of stain. Do you know what it was?
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Julie Vance · 08/13/2013
    I put a oil based stain on my deck 2 years ago, now looks awful. Should I rent a drum sander and sand or would a stripper take it off. Than I clean and brighten, correct? What should I put on? I hate stains as too hard to get off. Is Penofin any good. What would you suggest, I need help. My deck is 18' by 16'.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    The Sealer Store · 07/13/2013
    Kitty, without knowing what the white streaks are, it is impossible to say if you did something wrong or give advice on how to fix it. Might want to contact the manufacture of the stain brand you used.
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    Kitty · 07/13/2013
    We had a new deck and pergola built early last summer (treated lumber)and waited till this summer to stain it a lovely reddish mahogany. Pressure washed and thoroughly dry before starting the project. Returned after a 2-week vacation to find alot of white streaks on the floor of the deck, in random positions. Did we do something wrong to cause this? Should we gently sand the areas and reapply stain in the fall? Thanks for your advice....