Should a Deck be Pressure Washed Prior to Staining?

deckcleanPressure washing, also referred to as power washing, is a fast and effective way to prepare a wooden deck for staining. However, in some cases power cleaning isn’t always the best choice as the process does have the potential to damage wood.

When performing deck cleaning and staining, especially on an older deck, it is important to remove the grayish surface layer, caused by oxidation, for the deck to have a “like-new” appearance again. Additionally, before applying any type of stain to a wooden deck it is always advisable to remove as much of any existing finish as possible, or the new finish may fail prematurely. If old finish isn’t removed, new finish will simply sit atop the old finish, instead of penetrating, and may end up just peeling off.

Advantages of Pressure Washing
The spray from a pressure washer will actually wear away the top layer of the wood, removing old finish and oxidation in one step. Pressure washing also cleans out debris from between the deck boards, which prevents rot and fungus. Pressures washers are faster and easier than sanding, as the pressure washer can be operated from a standing position.

How to Properly Use a Pressure Washer
The major drawback of a power washer is the spray can be so powerful it can damage the wood. This can be avoided by taking a few precautions. Select a tip that produces a fan-shaped spray, so the full force of the stream isn’t concentrated in one spot. Additionally, start by holding the wand tip at least six inches away from the surface of the wood and gradually move the tip closer, as needed, to produce effective results. If the wood is not coming clean try applying a wood cleaner. Also, some models of pressure washers allow adding a detergent to the sprayer. If all these methods fail to satisfactory clean the wood then sanding is usually the best alternative.

Alternatives to Pressure Washing
Pressure washing probably isn’t required when installing a new deck, and wiping the wood down with a wood-cleaning solution and rinsing it off with a garden hose should be all that is needed. A deck-cleaning solution can also be used for older decks that may be placed at risk with power washing. Simply apply the solution with a mop, scrub with a long-handled scrubber or a push broom and rinse. In some situations, where cleaning is not proving effective, a good old-fashioned sanding is required. Sanding is often a better alternative than pressure washing, as sanding will flatten and smooth weathered wood while simultaneously removing the old finish. If the deck is over 100 square feet a power sander will speed up the process of deck cleaning and staining.

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