Should I Clean My Wood Deck?

We cannot stress this enough....YES!!

Wood is a porous substances, it expands & contracts throughout the year. That allows dirt, debris, and grime to work their way into the deck boards over time.

A deck should be a place to relax, have fun, and spend time with family & friends. You'll want to keep the deck looking its very best and deep cleaning will do just that!

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Below is a detailed step-by-step to help you tackle this deep cleaning & keep your deck in great shape!

Inspection & Subsequent Repair

  • Remove all items from your deck - chairs, planters, toys, grills.

  • Conduct a thorough inspection for loose boards, rotting or splitting wood.

  • This is a great time to make sure your fasteners aren't sticking up. Hammer in those nails and drive in those loose screws.

  • Replace or repair board as necessary.

  • If you'd like a contractor to do this for you, we'd love to assist you!

Cleaning/Power Washing

  • Most decks should be cleaned at least once a year, if not twice!

  • Sweep or use a blower to remove the loose debris.

  • Safety!

  • Wear safety glasses to prevent any debris from getting into your eyes.

  • Be careful power washing, as this can strip or damage the decking.

  • Test in an inconspicuous spot such as a stair tread (easily replaced if damaged). Once ready, start at house. moving outward.

  • Use the lowest pressure that still provides an effective cleaning.

  • Select a tip with a 40 to 60 degree spread.

  • A rotating tip is also suitable, but use it carefully.

  • Don't hold too close to the board, stay at least 10-12" above the surface.

  • Go WITH the grain, in a sweeping motion.


  • A stripper or brightener may be necessary for deep stains. Best applied on a cloudy day, where the sun won't evaporate your cleaner.

  • Some products are toxic to plants, so be sure to spread a tarp to protect them and your furniture & concrete patio.

  • While there are DIY recipes for deck cleaning, we recommend purchasing a proven product & mixing it per manufacturer recommendations.

  • Look for one with sodium hydroxide for brightening.

  • Safety!

  • Follow manufacturer suggestions for safety. Likely a mask, safety glasses, and gloves will be necessary.

  • For best results, use a stiff bristle brush with some elbow grease to work with the grain to remove dirt, mildew, mold, or other stains.

  • Rinse the deck thoroughly. It's also a good idea to rinse the protection tarp.


  • Stripper/brightening and power washing will roughen up the wood fibers, so you'll likely need to sand afterwards.

  • Make sure wood is dry before sanding. At least 24-48 hours after using a cleaning solution.

  • An orbital sander is the best tool for the job. The grit will vary for the surface.

  • 60 - 80 grit for deck surface

  • 100 grit for handrails

  • Safety!

  • Wear a mask & safety glasses, as wood dust can be a risk to your healthy.

  • Knee pads will also come in handy for comfort.

  • Hearing protection may be needed too, especially if you choose to rent an upright sander from a home improvement store.

  • Vacuum

  • If you have a shop-vac, it is helpful to do a thorough vacuuming of the surfaces prior to staining/sealing. This unclogs the dust from the pores.

  • You could also try using a blower to try to blow away the dust, though this could also have the opposite effect and push the dust further into the wood. Do this with caution.


  • Sealers protect by blocking UV light and repelling water. Instead of it penetrating, it'll bead up on the surface & evaporate. Oil-based will allow it to penetrate deeper in to the wood instead of sitting on top of the wood.

  • Once you choose a color & transparency level, test in an inconspicuous spot to ensure you like the end result.

  • Prep the area by taping off any wood that meets the house's siding or laying a tarp underneath so as to not drip on & stain the concrete patio.

  • Best done on cool, cloudy days, with no rain in forecast for at least 24 hours.

  • Safety!

  • Wear gloves & eye protection when applying.

  • A mask may be necessary if it's a particularly calm day.

  • Apply with the wood grain, using a roller or a brush with natural bristles.

  • Start with vertical features such as railings, posts, balusters, & make your way down.

  • Heavily coat the open end-grain of the boards for better protection.

  • Lightly coat the boards with long, smooth strokes. Two thin coats is better than a single thick coat.

  • If you're feeling bold, you can also use a sprayer. Note that this generally uses more product and overspray can become an issue.

Whew! You're finally done; time to enjoy.

We realize this is a lot of work, but it adds several years onto the life of your deck. Also, you may not need to do this yearly, test it by dripping some water on the boards. If the water soaks in - it's time to redo this process. If it beads up, you're good!

Next time you build or replace a deck, consider using composite boards! Composite decks need just a light sweep once a year and that's about it! Worth every penny.

Summit Outdoor Designs offers power-washing & staining as a part of our services. We'd love to come out and save you the headache of all of this work.

Call us today for a free estimate!

(816) 524-8565

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