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How to Use Deck Cleaner and Brightener

This deck cleaner and brightener works like magic, making wood look new again! Get ready for new deck stain without scrubbing or sanding.

deck cleaner and brightener before and after with text overlay Clean your Deck without Scrubbing

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...

deck after using deck cleaner and stain

And this is two years later...

dirty deck before using deck cleaner

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!

Materials Needed

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.

removing popped nails before applying deck cleaner

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.

move furniture to one side before applying deck cleaner

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.

deck cleaner in garden spray bottle

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.

spraying deck with water before applying deck cleaner

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.

spraying deck cleaner with a garden sprayer

Let it soak in for 15-20 minutes. Don't let the deck cleaner dry out completely on the surface of the wood.

deck cleaner changing colors in 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.

power washing deck cleaner off the surface

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!

power washing deck

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!

power washing deck with wide fan

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!

spraying wood brightener on wooden deck

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.

rinsing wood brightener off

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.

clean deck after using deck cleaner and brightener

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!

before and after of deck stain with text overlay reading How to Stain a Deck FAST

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!

aluminum siding before and after cleaning

Need some new furniture for your freshly cleaned deck? Check out the tutorials for my outdoor sofa and loveseat and end table with planter or ice bucket, and download the woodworking plans today!

DIY outdoor sofa
DIY outdoor table with ice bucket


Saturday 7th of April 2018

This is awesome. Pinned! Thank you for sharing at the To Grandma's House We Go DIY, Crafts, Recipes and More Wednesday LInk party! Hope to see you again next week.

Jane @SustainMyCraftHabit

Sunday 20th of August 2017

Wow! I can't believe the difference. Your deck looks brand new. I have to give this a try for the cottage.


Friday 18th of August 2017

Wow wow wow!!! It's like it's a different deck!!! (Nicely done!!)


Friday 18th of August 2017



Thursday 17th of August 2017

I love how it looks after it's clean! The wood is such a pretty color!


Thursday 17th of August 2017

I had forgotten what the original color was until I cleaned it! I decided to go with a stain that's similar to the natural wood color so hopefully it stays that way for a while!

Toni | Small Home Soul

Wednesday 16th of August 2017

That stuff is amazing! I am not a fan of weathered wood so that stuff would be a necessity if we had a natural deck. Really fencing or any kind of posts it would work great. Love it, your deck looks brand new.

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