What's the best way to refinish a deck?

So we’re looking to fix up our deck. Basically, aside from some minor repairs, this comes down to restaining (and presumably waterproofing) it. It’s got an existing stain thats gotten pretty dogeared, so we’re trying to get this as cleaned-up as possible prior to applying a new stain.

Our tools thus far consist of a borrowed pressure-washer; our WAG was to use a bleach-and-water solution to clear up some of the old stain, and prep the deck for repairs. However, the key is, this is a WAG – we don’t really know what we’re doing.

Hence, my question: whats the best way to clean the deck off? We’ve already got the washer, so I suppose it likely comes down to what we should put in it. Is bleach a good idea? If so, how dillute should it be?

Thanx much.

Bleach probably works, and there are also commercial deck-cleaning solutions that have something other than chlorine bleach that does the same kind of thing. HOWEVER I do not know what the environmental effects would be, hardly seems eco-friendly.

Try the power washer on a small section with a mild detergent or all-purpose cleaner just to see what it does without bleach, even with plain water the pressure does amazing things. I’ve used one on my deck, garage floor, and brickwork with plain water and gotten good results, although the garage floor really needs a little degreaser.

Behr makes products just for this…you can buy them at home depot or lowe’s.

The 1st thing you do is strip off the old stain using a stripping solution. then you powerwash (although with the behr products you can rinse with a garden hose). then you would use your bleach although the bear equivalent is a mildew stain remover. then you use behr’s wood brightener. then wait a few days for it to dry, then you stain/protect. I’ve used both Behr and Thompson’s water proofing stains and Behr’s last longer.


You Didn’t specify the species of wood, but if it’s Southern Yellow Pine (aka Treated CCA), Cedar or Redwood or even Fir, pressure washing is not advised. You’ll be inviting, delaminating, splitting and cracking.

Cleaner: Zinnser’s 2 1/2# Powder Wolman Deck & Siding Brightner / Rejuvenator w/Oxygen Bleach, Safely Removes Ground In Dirt
Stain & Sealer: Cabot’s Deck Stains give very good results as does Formula 77 clear or tintable finishes.
(Thompsons leave a white waxy film)

As you poke around, you may see references to the Sweets Catalog. This Big White & Green Bible is for Architects, Builders, et al which gives technical data & comparisons of alot of major products & brands.

Agree with prior posts. Also, paint pads work better than brushes or rollers. For big decks, invest in the kind that has a stain reservoir/siphon system. (Sounds expensive, but it’s not.)

Please, with something as expensive to replace as a deck, posting a guess iis not a good idea.

Go with JohnBckWLD’s idea. Or, ask a paint or lumber store what is available locally to do the job.

After all the cleaning is done, a regular pump up sprayer is usualy sufficient to apply the stain/sealer.


John: I believe its pressure-treated yellow pine, but this isn’t a certainty. Would the cleaner you mentioned be found at a Home Depot, or does it require some hunting around?

Zinnser products can be found or ordered through most specialty paint stores.

It’s often pretty spotty to find a particular Zinnser product at the Home Depot’s in my town. YMMV

You can take a wood sample to home depot or orchard & ask them what to use.

I avoid the big boxes as much as is humanly possible. IMHO, a local TruServ or Paint Dealer is a better bet.

The reason I don’t want you pressure washing that SYP CCA deck is delamination.

It’s hard to describe:
Picture each grain (Those things that look like Jaws’ head on the old movie poster) as a seperate layer on the board’s face. Over time, pressure washing could cause each grain layer to “peel up” from the surface. The result would be almost like “cheese grater like” surface…not fun to walk around on barefoot, unless you don’t mind your heels being sheared off.

Consumer Reports has done several articles on deck treatments over the years. I don’t think they ever claimed that dilute chlorine bleach with a little detergent or TSP was better or worse than a “deck cleaner” or “wood brightener.” (The bleach plus Tide is certainly cheaper.) As for preseratives, etc., the take home lesson is that nothing that is clear seems to last more than a year. The best semi-transparent preparations last only a few years, and if you really hate cleaning and painting you need to go with a solid color product. I find the whole topic discouraging and am looking into the semisynthetic deck products made of a compressed mixture of ground up plastic bottles and sawdust.