Should You Pressure Wash Your Deck Before Staining?

Your deck is an incredible space, often perfect for relaxing and entertaining. That’s why you want to do all you can to ensure it’s in the best possible shape and looks great. Preparation is often the key to success if you’re planning on a new coat of stain. As a result, you may wonder, “Should you pressure wash your deck before staining?”

Pressure washing the deck before staining is typically a good idea for decks in good structural condition. It can help remove surface dirt and debris and even remove old paint. However, pressure washing alone isn’t enough in some cases, so you may need to do more prep.

Additionally, there are situations where you don’t want to pressure wash your deck before staining. If you’re trying to decide whether you should pressure wash your deck before staining, here’s what you need to know.

Pressure Wash Your Deck Before Staining

Can You Stain Over a Dirty Deck?

While you could put a new coat of stain on a dirty deck, you won’t like the results. Dirt, grime, mildew, and mold on the surface affect the stain’s ability to penetrate the wood. Generally, in that situation, you can expect poor absorption in some areas, leading to blotchiness, streaking, discoloration, and other issues.

Additionally, not cleaning your deck before staining can increase the odds of deck stain failure. If the stain doesn’t properly bond or absorb, it may delaminate from the wood. The peeling not only looks bad, but it also leaves sections of your deck unprotected from the elements.

The issues above can occur regardless of the quality of the stain. Even the highest-quality product with the best reputation for performance won’t absorb and adhere correctly if surface grime and gunk are in the way.

If you stain over a dirty deck anyway and don’t like the result or experience an early deck stain failure, you’ll have to put in extra work to correct the issue. Often, fixing the problem is a multi-step process, and it’s potentially more cumbersome than doing the job right the first time. As a result, cleaning your deck before staining is typically the more efficient choice.

Should You Pressure Wash Your Deck Before Staining?

Should i pressure wash my deck

Generally, you should pressure wash your deck before staining in many cases. Pressure washing removes stuck-on dirt and grime with relative ease, even if you just use water. That gives you a better starting surface.

Plus, many pressure washers allow you to add cleaners into a specific reservoir. When you add the cleaner, it’s far easier to apply it quickly and evenly. Then, even if you need to do some additional scrubbing with a push broom or similar scrubber, you can wrap up the job faster.

Pressure washing is also excellent for rinsing a deck after cleaning. It can help make sure that residue doesn’t remain trapped in the wood surface. You can also use the power washer to push the rinse water in a specific direction, ensuring any cleaner doesn’t sit on the surface.

Another benefit of pressure washing is that it can prepare your deck for a deck stain stripper if you need to use one. When the surface is clean, the stain stripper can make better contact with the original wood stain. As a result, it’s often more effective at removing the stain, giving you a better starting surface for a new stain.

Does Power Washing Damage Wood Deck?

When you use the right power washer, choose the correct settings, and use the proper technique, pressure washing a deck usually won’t cause damage. The only exception there is typically if the wood isn’t in great condition. If there’s already splintering, rot or similar issues, power washing your deck isn’t a good idea.

Additionally, even new deck boards are susceptible to damage if you don’t approach the project the correct way. Too much pressure can dig into the wood or cause splintering. Generally, you’ll want to choose an appropriate psi for the wood type and do a test spot first, allowing you to check for harm before you work on the rest of your deck.

If your deck is a softer wood, you may want to begin at 400 psi and slowly work your way up if needed, usually not exceeding the 500 to 600 psi range. However, use that instead if the power washer is conquering the dirt at a lower psi.

For hardwood decks, you can use a higher psi. Some may withstand up to 1500 psi, but it’s better to start on the low side and use the lowest psi that removes the dirt effectively.

Further, you want to select the right nozzle tip. If you don’t have much experience, stick with a fan tip. A rotating tip is potentially workable, but you have to proceed with caution.

As you clean, make sure that the tip is at least 12 inches away from the decking throughout the cleaning process. Any closer increases the odds of damage.

Can You Stain a Deck Without Power Washing?

How to stain a deck

Technically, you can stain a deck without power washing. However, you’ll need to use another technique to clean your deck if you choose not to power wash.

Pressure washing is a more efficient way to tackle dirt, grime, mildew, and mold than cleaning manually. That’s particularly true if you add an appropriate cleaner to the right reservoir. It allows you to quickly dispense the cleaner while loosening surface debris, which could reduce the amount of scrubbing required.

Without a pressure washer, you’ll need to clean your deck using another strategy. Usually, it starts with a dry sweep to remove surface dirt, followed by a quick rinse with a hose. Then, you’ll need to apply the cleaner you choose according to the manufacturer’s directions.

After the cleaner is in place, it’s usually time to scrub. A push broom may do the trick, but you might need a specialty tool to get between your deck boards. Finally, you’ll need to rinse the deck with a hose again to remove any remaining cleaner.

Is It Better to Sand or Pressure Wash Deck Before Staining?

How to sand a deck

Whether you want to sand or power wash your deck depends on its current condition. Power washing won’t remove blemishes, splinters, or similar issues. Additionally, it won’t remove the old stain that’s penetrated the wood.

If your wood is in good condition, you may need to pressure wash it and then use a deck stain stripper to get rid of the old stain. When used together, that leaves you with a stain-ready surface.

Sanding allows you to address problems with the wood, leaving you with smooth deck boards. Plus, it can remove the old stain, ensuring the wood is ready for a new coat.

Essentially, pressure washing versus sanding isn’t an either-or proposition. Instead, which strategy is best depends on your situation.

There are even situations where you want to do both. Power washing before you sand leaves you with a cleaner surface, which could simplify sanding. Pressure washing after you sand could help you remove sawdust created by sanding, ensuring the deck is debris-free before you apply a new stain.

Do You Need to Wash a New Deck Before Staining?

When to Stain New Deck

In most cases, you’ll need to wash a new deck before staining to get the best result. Primarily, that’s because new decking needs to dry out before you apply stain.

Most experts recommend waiting at least 30 days after a deck is installed to apply the stain. Sometimes, you may need to wait 60, 90, or 180 days for the wood to dry fully. There are even situations where it could take a year for the wood to dry out.

If you don’t wait, then you might not get the best result or could experience early deck stain failure. The moisture in the wood impacts the staining process, leading to poor absorption and the issues that come with it.

Since waiting gives the deck enough time to build up dirt or grime, cleaning it before you stain is the best choice. Again, anything stuck on the deck can lead to blotchiness, poor absorption, or other issues. By cleaning, you have the ideal starting surface, leading to a better result.

Even if your deck boards are ready for staining sooner, that doesn’t mean you should skip cleaning. The installation process can create sawdust, and boards may gather dirt while in transit to your home. As a result, a thorough washing is even wise then.

Can You Pressure Wash and Stain a Deck in the Same Day?

In most cases, you can’t pressure wash and stain a deck on the same day. The primary reason is that the deck needs time to completely dry before you apply the stain. Otherwise, it won’t absorb correctly, leading to blotchiness and increasing chances of an early stain failure.

When it comes to how long you should wait to stain a deck after pressure washing, 48 hours is usually the minimum. That gives the deck boards a chance to dry thoroughly, ensuring the stain absorbs properly. If you live in a humid area, waiting longer is potentially required for the best result.

It’s also important to note that the need to wait applies regardless of how you clean your deck. The introduction of water and cleaners means you need to give the deck time to dry, and that typically won’t happen in less than a day.

Usually, it’s best to assume that restaining your deck is a project that will take a minimum of three days, not including the time it takes the deck stain itself to dry. As a result, you need to time the project carefully, ensuring you have warm (but not hot) and dry conditions for the full period, often up to five days.

When Should You Not Power Wash a Deck?

Generally, you don’t want to power wash a deck if the boards aren’t in decent condition. If there are already issues like splintering or chipping, a pressure washer can cause more damage. Similarly, if there are signs of rot, don’t power wash the deck, as rotten wood is structurally compromised.

If you’re experiencing those issues, then you’ll need to choose the right approach to prepare the deck. For surface chipping or splintering, sanding the deck may restore the condition of the boards. If the damage is severe or you see signs of rot, replacing the boards is the better choice.

If you sand, you can power wash the deck afterward to remove the sawdust, suggesting the boards are otherwise in good condition. If you replace deck boards, you can’t stain until those boards are fully dry, which can take 30 days or more, depending on the wood type and local conditions.

How to Pressure Wash a Deck Before Staining

Clean Deck with Pressure Washer

Pressure washing a deck is a multi-step process. You’ll need to remove any items on and below your deck and put on appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Prepare the pressure washer and do a test spot to ensure the pressure is effective but not causing damage.

After that, apply cleaner and power wash the deck in phases. Usually, you’ll begin with the railings and move on to the floorboards. You can choose to pressure wash the underside of the decking, too, suggesting it’s accessible.

Once the initial wash is complete, a light rinse can help ensure any cleaner is gone. At that point, you’ll need to let the deck dry before you sand or stain it.

If you’d like to learn more, check out our article on how to pressure wash a deck.

Will Pressure Washing Remove Old Deck Stain?

A pressure washer alone usually won’t remove deck stain. Deck stains penetrate the wood. That means, unlike paint, it isn’t just sitting on the surface.

If you need to remove an old deck stain, your best bet is to sweep the deck’s surface to remove dirt and debris. If there’s a significant amount of build-up, you may want to pressure wash the deck to get rid of it. Then, let the deck fully dry.

Once the surface is clean, apply a deck stain stripper. Follow the manufacturer’s directions regarding the application and how long it needs to sit. Once it’s had a chance to weaken the stain, you can use a scrub brush or pressure washer to remove the stripped stain, depending on what the manufacturer recommends.

Sometimes, you may need to reapply the deck stain stripper if there are any stubborn spots. Only reapply the stripper to areas where the old deck stain remains. Then, scrub or power wash it again to see if it’s gone.

Once you remove the old deck stain, rinse the boards with clean water and let the deck air dry. At that point, you can move on to other steps, such as cleaning, sanding, and restaining.


Ultimately, it’s a good idea to pressure wash a deck before staining if you need to remove stuck-on dirt or grime. However, using a cleaner is still a good idea, and you might need to sand the surface or use a stripper to deal with old deck stain, depending on the condition of your deck. That way, the new stain can absorb correctly, leading to the best possible result.

Did you learn everything you want to learn about pressure washing a deck before staining? If so, please let us know in the comments below. Also, share the article if you know someone trying to decide if they should pressure wash their deck before staining.

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