how to clean deckPrepping a wood deck can be fairly easy if you have the proper cleaners. Never pressure wash a deck with just water. This can cause sever damage to the wood. It is okay to use a pressure washer at a low pressure as long as you utilize a deck cleaner. The cleaner will do most of the work making it easier and reducing the chance of any damage to the wood.

How to deck cleaning tips:

  1. First decide if you should be using a deck cleaner or a stain stripper. Typically a deck cleaner is used if the wood is new, dirty, oxidized gray, of if a previous stain has faded evenly. A stain stripper should be used if the old stain has failed unevenly or peeled. In addition if you decide to change brands it might be best to use a stain stripper.
  2. There are many different brands of deck cleaners. We suggest using the same brand as the wood stain if possible. See here for a full list of Deck Cleaners
  3. Remove all furniture off the deck so that it is at least 20 feet away.
  4. Following the manufacturer instructions, mix the cleaner to the proper ratio. Best to apply the cleaner with a pump sprayer. You can also apply with a bucket and scrub brush.
  5. Saturate the deck with the cleaner in sections of about 200-300 square feet. Lightly agitate all wood with a stiff broom or scrub brush,
  6. Lightly pressure wash or heavy scrub all dirt and grime. Make sure to clean with the grain of the wood. Take extreme caution with the pressure washer. If using a pressure washer make sure to use a fan tip, not the red tip!
  7. Repeat until finished. Make sure that when you are done that you thoroughly rinse all decking, railings, house, etc to remove the loose dirt and grime that may have accumulated.
  8. Apply a wood brightener to neutralize the deck cleaner and restore the natural pH balance of the wood.
  9. Let the deck thoroughly dry for 48 hours before applying a deck stain.

If you have any questions on how to clean a deck please ask below. All questions are typically answered within a day.

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  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Clarence · 02/23/2022
    I stained my deck with Defy Extreme Driftwood Gray in 2018.  It's held up well (deck is south facing on lake).  I plan to re-stain this year.  I plan to use the same stain but am puzzled by which cleaner and brightener I need & how much of each I need.  I have about 600 sq ft to cover.  Last time I stained I used one 5 gallon pail. What do you suggest?
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    Teresa · 09/25/2021
    I have a new porch which was installed in late June 2020.  The lumber was treated and I have filled all screws with a stainable wood filler and sanded it down in July of this year.  I do not own a pressure washer and I am ready to clean and stain.  I am using Cabot oil based stain.  How and what should I use to clean prior to apply my stain?  Thank you
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    charles caldwell · 07/21/2020
    (see my other question below) Why do you say it's easier to prep for oil based stains?
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      The Sealer Store · 07/21/2020
      We didn't. Said they were about equal but this has more to do with the type of stain, not the base.
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    charles caldwell · 07/21/2020
    Do the instructions for prepping a deck apply equally for oil based and water based stains?
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    James Kozlowski · 07/31/2019
    My deck is about one year old. I have three different types of wood. My flooring and steps are compresses wood but my upper and lower rails are cedar with metal balusters and all underneath and post are pressure treated. How do I go about staining the cedar and the pressure treated wood
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    Judy · 07/01/2019
    Is it necessary to clean and brighten new wood railings?
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    Sonja McCauley · 01/16/2018
    We have a cumaru wood deck that has been allowed to gray. Some areas in a partially shaded area near trees looks dark and dirty. If we clean the deck, do we have to stain/and or seal after cleaning? There are also some grease and food stains on the deck. Please advise the best treatment.
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    The Sealer Store · 07/05/2016
    Use the TWP 1500 for this. Prep all first with the Restore A Deck Kits that we sell.
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    susan V. · 07/03/2016
    I have a 5 year pine deck. 2 years ago I used a water based stain that failed on the decking in the sun. The stairway is in the shade and still looks ok but a bit dirty.

    Last year I stripped the deck and deck railing but it got cold before I could stain. Today sanded the deck and rails entirely. The deck looks fresh but rails look a bit dark.

    So questions on my 2 areas:

    First the deck and rails. ( Freshly sanded) Do I need to do anything else before I stain? I want to go oil based this time so it lasts longer. I live in Maryland. Deck is in the sun am to early afternoon. What oil based stain would do best?

    Second the stairs: The stairs are in the shade and only look dirty at this point. I was thinking of redoing them entirely next year. ( yeah I am aware I may end up with slightly different colors but I have lots of projects to do and it will start getting real hot soon) What should I use to clean them?

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    The Sealer Store · 01/28/2014
    I am sorry but we do not have any stains for composite decking.
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    mike sekulic · 01/28/2014
    I need to seal composit decking (EverGrain-Tamko) Decking what to use??
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    The Sealer Store · 09/23/2013
    You will not leave footprints if you step in the first coat of stain. Make sure to not step in your second coat.

    Do not use a borate.

    If you use a stain stripper you do not need a cleaner.
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    David Sanborn · 09/22/2013
    I would like to see the answer to Rod Weirick's question re: wet on wet. Also, I saw a demo from This Old House in which the fellow used Borate between cleaning and staining. If I'm using Defy Extreme Stain, is that recommended? Lastly, if I use a stain stripper on my deck, because I'm changing to Defy, does that handle all of the elements that the cleaner would (the deck is old, grayed, very green w/alphae with just a few traces of the previous stain, which was a latex, I think)?
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    Rod Weirick · 05/21/2013
    Excellent. I'll go with the TWP 1500. A final question: If I am to apply two coats wet on wet, how do I go about putting on the second coat (applying using a roller or pad) while the first coat is still wet? Surely my footprints will become evident on the first coat while applying the second, thereby compromising the appearance of the stain on the flooring.
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    The Sealer Store · 05/20/2013
    Olympic and Cabot used to be excellent stains prior to numerous formulas changes in the last years. Average at best now. I would stick with the TWP.
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    Rod Weirick · 05/20/2013
    Thank you for your previous response. I'm now on to deciding on the best products to use to clean and stain my deck. The man at Lowe's was defensive when I informed him that his store didn't carry the Internet's more popular semi-transparent stain brands (i.e., Defy Extreme, TWP 1500, Armstrong Clark) and informed me that his use of Olympic on his own deck suited him well. The other product Lowe's carried that he recommended was Cabot. From what I've read, these two products are not up to par with those touted on the Internet. (Consumer Reports rated nine broadly marketed semi-transparents--including Olympic and Cabot--and only one product, Behr, received a rating above fair.) I'm therefore leaning toward Defy Extreme or TWP 1500. Do you agree with the Lowe's employee that Olympic or Cabot are as good as any stain product out there, and, if not, would you recommend the water-based Defy or the oil-based TWP? Thank you for your time.
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    The Sealer Store · 05/19/2013
    Yes all new and older wood should be prepped with a deck cleaner and wood brightener.
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    Rod Weirick · 05/18/2013
    First of all, great Web site. Second, I'm new at this. I live in Kansas and have a new deck that was built nearly 7 months ago. The wood is not pressure treated. I purchased a pressure washer and am trying to decide on the best brand of semi-transparent stain. I was surprised by the comment above that one should never pressure wash a deck with just water. I've been conducting research on the Internet and have not come across this advice. I was simply going to lightly pressure wash the deck, let it dry for 72 hours, then stain it. Now I'm reading on your site that I need to clean the deck with more than just water and that I also need a wood brightener, which I thought was recommended only for decks that were older and had previously been stained. I was not aware until reading above that the brightener was necessary to neutralize the deck cleaner. I'm not lazy, but I'm trying to determine if it is necessary to use a cleaner and brightener for a new non-PT deck. I look forward to your feedback. Thanks.
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    The Sealer Store · 09/29/2012
    New wood will not match old wood. Best to remove all previous coatings form the old boards then stain all the same color.
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    Marla Nispel · 09/28/2012
    My husband just finished replacing some of the deck boards that were warped or shrunk. Now we have some new boards and some old boards. The older boards have been down for about 10 years and need to be restained. How do we go about restaining this deck with some old and some new boards?