This deck cleaner and brightener works like magic, making wood look new again! Get ready for new deck stain without scrubbing or sanding.
I've been putting off the task of re-staining our deck all summer long. Last time, it took FOREVER! But I learned from my mistakes, and this time I'm armed with the right deck cleaner and supplies for the job. Now the wood looks like it just came from the mill (seriously!) and is ready for a new coat of deck stain.
The first time I stained the deck, it looked like this...
And this is two years later...
Gross! Mildew built up under the furniture, and sections of stain had worn away in high traffic areas. This was beyond what a quick scrub with homemade deck cleaner could handle. I needed to strip off the old stain and start fresh.
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Video on How to Clean a Deck before Staining
Check out the video below for a quick overview of cleaning a deck before restaining, and continue reading for all the details!
- Restore-a-Deck wood cleaner
- Restore-a-Deck wood brightener
- Two 1-gallon garden chemical sprayers
- Chemical-resistant gloves
- Power washer
How to Use Deck Cleaner
You can use this deck cleaner on a stained deck before restaining, or on a brand new deck that has never been stained. It works best on translucent stain, so if your deck currently has a solid or semi-solid stain, you'll want to use this deck stripper first to remove it.
Prepare the Work Area
Before you start spraying water everywhere, you might want to tackle a few deck repairs first. Popped nails and uneven boards will make it hard to stain the surface properly.
It's a huge chore to move all the furniture off our deck, so I like to work in large sections instead. I pushed everything to one side and the empty side was swept clean. I also removed the outdoor rope lights I installed a few months ago from the underside of the deck railing.
Don your chemical-resistant gloves, and pour Restore-a-Deck cleaner into a gallon of water in a garden chemical sprayer as directed. Close it up, give it a good shake, then let the crystals dissolve for a few minutes.
Spray the Deck Cleaner
Give the deck wood a quick rinsing with the wide angle spray of the power washer. The cleaner works better when the wood is already wet.
Apply the deck cleaner to an 8 foot square section of wet wood using the wand of the garden sprayer. Take your time and make sure the entire area is saturated. The wood should become darker after a few seconds. Add additional cleaner to any spots that haven't turned color after a minute or so.
Let it soak in for 15-20 minutes. Don't let the deck cleaner dry out completely on the surface of the wood.
Power Wash the Cleaner Off
Set the nozzle of your power washer to about 50% power. It should be strong enough to clean the grime off the surface of the wood easily without gouging it or damaging the fibers.
Slowly power wash the entire area you sprayed with the deck cleaner. Use long strokes to avoid creating fan patterns in the wood. This part is really satisfying!
This deck cleaner removes a layer of damaged wood fibers as well as dirt and mildew. Use the widest fan setting on the power washer to push all the gunk off the side of the deck. You don't want it to dry on the surface and ruin all your hard work!
You'll notice that the wood is mottled and dark in some spots. The pH of the wood has been changed, and needs to be restored to normal levels. This is where the brightener comes in!
How to Use Wood Brightener
In a second garden chemical sprayer (don't reuse the one from the cleaner!), add brightener to the water as directed. Give it a shake and let it dissolve.
Spray on wet wood after cleaning
Spray the cleaned area of the deck with the brightener. Within seconds, the wood will start to lighten and look like new!
Hit any dark spots that remain with more brightener. Keep in mind that natural wood color varies, and you might have a darker board mixed in that won't get as light as the others.
Rinse off excess brightener
Leave the brightener on the wood for 10-15 minutes, then rinse off with the widest setting on the power washer until it no longer suds up.
Wait for two days before staining
Check the label on your outdoor stain to see if it requires totally dry wood. Restore-a-Deck has their own line of deck stain that can be applied to wet wood, but most stains need it to be bone dry.
Allow your deck to dry for at least two days before staining the wood. If it rains during that time, restart the clock! You have a few weeks before the effects of the brightener start to wear off.
This might seem like a ton of work, but I'd much rather do this than scrub! I managed to complete the entire surface of the deck in just a few hours, and most of that was waiting for the chemicals to do their thing. The stairs and spindles took another day.
Stain Your Newly Cleaned Deck
Want to see how the stained deck turned out? Check out my post on how to stain a deck FAST to see the final result!
While you're at it, why don't you clean your siding too? Check out my guide on how to clean aluminum siding, which also applies to vinyl siding!