How to Clean a Deck Before Staining in 5 Steps

Updated February 9, 2022
backyard stained deck and patio

Stain doesn't last forever. So, you will need to restain your wood deck every 3-5 years. Before you start coating the stain on there, make sure you have a clean surface to work with. Get the tips and tricks for how to clean a deck before staining. Learn why deck cleaning and staining is necessary and tips for getting it done right.

Simple Steps to Clean Deck Before Staining

Are you considering restaining your deck? Well, you can't just jump in and throw some stain on there. You need to make sure everything is prepped and ready. The prep work can be more complicated than the actual staining, but it's worth it when you are staring at your shiny new stain. To get started, you need:

  • Broom
  • Plant covers
  • Deck cleaner
  • Scrub brush with handle
  • Protective gear
  • Roller with handle
  • Dawn dish soap
  • Power washer optional
  • Mold/mildew cleaner, if needed
  • Sander and sandpaper
  • Leaf blower

Step 1: Prep Deck for Cleaning

You want your deck to look as good as possible when you stain it. So you want to take the time to properly prep it for cleaning.

  1. Check the weather to make sure you will have clear, dry weather for several days. You also don't want the temps to be too hot.
  2. Remove any lawn furniture from your deck.
  3. Cover any plants you don't want to get cleaner on.
  4. Use the broom to get rid of any loose dirt or debris.
  5. Remove old finish.

Step 2: Check for Damaged Areas

repair deck plank screw with power drill

Once you have all your furniture removed and the deck broomed off, it's essential to check the deck's condition.

  1. Secure any popping nails or screws.
  2. Replace any damaged or cracked deck planks.
  3. Look for any rotting areas and replace them.
  4. Check for mold and mildew and treat it.

Step 3: Apply Cleaner to Deck

Now that your deck looks clean, throw on your rubber gloves and grab your deck cleaner. You want to make sure you use a cleaner that gets rid of any dirt or grime. You can go for a commercial all-in-one deck cleaner or even a homemade deck cleaner. You might also want to consider getting a cleaner with a brightener if you're going to restore your wood's original color. Either way, you will use your cleaner to get your deck sparkly clean.

  1. Mix your cleaner according to the instructions or your recipe.
  2. Apply it to the wood with a roller.
  3. Allow it to penetrate the dirt and grime for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Use a scrub the deck with the long handle brush.
  5. Make sure to work the cleaner over all the areas of the deck.
  6. Mist the area with a hose.
  7. If you encounter grease or oil stains, add a few drops of Dawn and scrub vigorously.

Step 4: Rinse the Deck

pressure wash wood deck

Once your deck is immaculate, it's time to rinse it off. You can use either your garden hose or a power washer if you have one available. You want to make sure to thoroughly rinse away all the cleaner from the deck. A power washer can also get dirt and crud in those nooks and crannies between the boards. Just be sure the power washer follows the grain of the wood and stays about 12-inches from the surface.

Step 5: Allow the Deck to Dry

Before applying the stain to your deck, you need to allow it to dry fully. It typically takes 1-2 days before the wood is completely dry and ready for staining. This is a pivotal step to ensure your wood absorbs the greatest amount of sealer in a uniform, even coat.

Step 6: Sand the Surface

After you have your wood completely clean, you'll want to take some 60-100 grit sandpaper and sand down the surface lightly with the grain. This can help to remove any residual gunk the cleaning might have missed. You can use the leave blower to remove any wood dust. Now you are ready to stain your deck.

Why Do You Need to Wash a Deck Before Staining?

You are putting a new coat over the wood. So, why do you have to work so hard? Well, if you want your new stain to last then, you need to put in the work. If you just power wash or broom the deck, a lot of that dirt and grime that's deep in the wood will be missed. Therefore, your new stain will peel or crack. And, you'll have to reapply a new coat a lot sooner than you would have if you'd have put in the prep to clean it thoroughly.

Tips for Prepping a Deck for Staining

applying stain to wood deck

When you are prepping your deck for a fresh coat of stain, there are a few things you can do to make your life a bit easier. Check out a few tips and tricks.

  • Test out your stain on the wood to ensure it's the color you expect.
  • Test the cleaner on an area of the wood to ensure you don't need a wood brighter.
  • Watch for water-beading as you clean the deck. Areas with water beading need to be cleaned until the water absorbs.
  • Work in small sections using a hose to keep the deck wet while cleaning.
  • Follow all instructions on the cleaners and stain to ensure you get a flawless finish.
  • Rinse thoroughly. It's essential to make sure all the cleaner is gone before staining.
  • Spend the money. When it comes to cleaning and staining, you want to use top-quality products to ensure they last.
  • Don't rush the process. Staining a deck is a big undertaking; it's going to take time.

Deck Cleaning and Staining

Cleaning and staining wood decks is a relatively simple process if you have the time and ability to get the job done correctly. Pick a day after the winter weather is gone, grab a friend, and give your deck new life in a single afternoon. Now get cleaning that deck.

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How to Clean a Deck Before Staining in 5 Steps