How to Clean a Stained Deck

How To Clean A Stained Deck

Having a beautiful deck can be a great addition to your home, providing extra outdoor living space for relaxing, entertaining, or even dining alfresco. However, after exposure to the elements, even the best maintained deck can become weathered and stained over time. When this happens, a thorough cleaning is in order to restore your deck’s beauty and protect the wood.

Cleaning a stained deck properly takes a bit of time and elbow grease, but is doable as a DIY project if you’re up for it. By using the right methods and products, we can remove tough stains and dirt without causing damage, bringing new life back to the wood. Let’s walk through the steps so you can learn how to make your deck look as good as new.

Assess the Deck and Identify Problem Areas

Before doing any heavy-duty deck cleaning, start by checking the condition of the deck and identifying particularly stubborn stains. Pay special attention to high-traffic areas around furniture, doorways, and stairs where more dirt and grime accumulates. Check for mold, mildew, discoloration from spills, bird droppings, or other stuck-on gunk. This will help determine which stains need special attention during cleaning.

Make notes on trouble spots to target. Also check the condition of the wood itself — extremely weathered boards may need more intensive prep, like light sanding, before cleaning. Identifying issues beforehand streamlines the cleaning process.

Remove Furniture, Planters and Decor from the Deck

The next step is simple but important — thoroughly clearing off your deck’s surface. Remove all outdoor furniture, planters, throw rugs, and any other items. This prevents accidental damage and gives full access for cleaning every inch.

Use a broom to sweep off loose debris as well. Now your deck is bare and ready for deep cleaning.

Use a Pressure Washer for Heavy-Duty Cleaning

For most stained decks, using a gas pressure washer is the quickest, most effective cleaning method. Pressure washers blast off layers of grime that brushes simply can’t treat.

When using a pressure washer, start with a wider fan tip at low pressure. Get a feel for the deck’s condition and then switch to a more focused tip as needed on heavily stained spots. Position the nozzle at least a foot from the deck — getting too close can damage wood fibers.

Work systematically section by section until the entire deck surface is cleaned. Pay extra attention to previously identified stubborn stains.

Apply Deck Cleaner for Extra Help Removing Stains

After pressure washing, difficult stains may linger on the wood. Using a commercial deck cleaner helps remove these stubborn marks without harming the wood stain underneath.

Look for oxygenated bleach cleaners made specifically for deck cleaning. Avoid chlorine bleach products as these will strip color from stained wood over time with repeated use.

Before applying any chemical cleaner, wet down your entire deck with a garden hose on a low pressure setting. This prevents staining and streaking. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s label instructions on your deck cleaner for correct dilution and application.

Use a sprayer to evenly coat the deck’s surface with cleaning solution. Let it soak in for 5-10 minutes. For extra scrubbing power on tough stains, use a stiff bristle deck brush to work the solution into the wood grain while avoiding scratching the softer early wood between boards.

After letting it sit, thoroughly rinse the cleaning solution off your deck using a garden hose. Check for any remaining stains and repeat cleaning if necessary.

Brighten the Wood with White Vinegar

For hardwood decks especially, do an additional wash down using white vinegar diluted with water. This helps brighten the wood and limits streaking or hazing on the surface post-cleaning. It’s a great natural alternative to toxic chemical brighteners.

In a large bucket, mix a solution of 75% water and 25% white vinegar. Use your garden hose on a low fan tip to lightly pre-wet the deck first. Then apply the vinegar solution generously across the entire deck using a pump sprayer. Let it sit for 20 minutes before rinsing clean.

Repeat as needed until you’ve brightened the wood to your desired appearance.

Inspect and Make Minor Repairs

With your deck now freshly cleaned, this is the perfect chance to inspect for any cracked boards, loose nails, splintered spots or other minor wear and tear. Make repairs as needed so your deck looks its absolute best. Sand down any roughened areas with 80-grit sandpaper and apply touch-up stain if necessary.

Apply Protective Sealant

As the final step to renew and protect your refreshed deck, apply a clear waterproofing sealant. This prevents future staining and damage from weather, foot traffic, dragging furniture, and other hazards.

For the longest-lasting protection on wood surfaces, use a high-quality penetrating oil sealant made specifically for outdoor deck use. Carefully follow label directions to apply one thick coat across the entire deck. Let it dry fully before replacing any furniture — this takes 24-48 hours.

Maintain Your Deck to Prevent Future Staining

Regularly cleaning and re-sealing your wood deck every 1-2 years helps prevent the eventual need for another heavy-duty stain removal process. But there are small maintenance steps in between as well.

During your deck’s regular seasonal cleanup each year, use a deck-safe composite deck cleaner and soft brush to remove dirt, debris, and light staining. Spot clean spills quickly as they happen to prevent stains setting in. Yearly reapplication of sealant maintains protection.


Proper care makes your deck a lovely and inviting outdoor living space for years to come! We hope these key steps give you the knowledge needed to successfully clean and revive your stained deck. Put in some time and elbow grease with the right methods and products and you can safely remove tough stains without damage. In a weekend’s time, you can restore new life to your deck and have it looking beautiful again.

If you need help cleaning your deck, stained or composite, contact Sullins Suds Pressure Washing!

Don’t Stop Here

More To Explore
How To Pressure Wash a Rug
How To Pressure Wash a Rug: Washing, Drying, and Maintaining

Pressure washing a rug requires careful attention to detail to avoid damaging delicate fibers. Follow these steps for optimal results:
1. Preparation
2. Choose the Right Pressure Washer
3. Detergent Selection
4. Test Spot
5. Even Application
6. Rinse Thoroughly
7. Allow to Dry

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