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HDBlogSquad // How to Clean & Stain a Deck

A woman’s work is never done. Or is it a cowboy’s work is never done? Either way… I’m pretty sure my work is never done. Yes, I am talking about the backyard. As happy as “J” and I were with the backyard when the summer came to a close last year, there is always more work to be done! And as the snow melted it reveled our incredibly neglected deck.


Yup. There it is. Beautifully worn, discoloured, and extremely dirty. I hadn’t previously set my sights on refinishing or restoring the deck because, quite frankly, the past few summers have been spent building a shed, garden, and bench, and pouring concrete pads! But as we enter our 3rd summer in this house, I started to think it was time for an update.

“J” and I went back and forth debating whether or not we would simply clean the deck and let it be, or clean and stain the deck so it would stand out a be more of a focal point in our ever evolving backyard. After talking with David, our local Home Depot sales associate, we determined it would be in our best interest to stain the deck using a transparent, weather proofing stain.


So two weekends ago, when the forecast called for two consecutive days of sun, we began our mission to stain our deck. It’s worth noting, that me in my naivety, genuinely thought I could get this deck cleaned and stained in 4 hours. Definitely not the case. The project, from start to finish, took me closer to 12 hours… so just be prepared and allocate the right amount of time!

// Cleaning The Deck \\

In our research we encountered several different types of recommendations when it comes to properly staining a deck. Some articles suggested it was not good idea to wash the deck prior to staining… others said pressure washing was a must. In order to make sure we got it right, the helpful associate in the paint department at Home Depot told us how to get the job done! She suggested we use the Behr Premium line of cleaner and stain. Once we had our supplies in hand, we were ready to get started!


Step 1 // Wet The Surface
It’s important that you are working with a constantly wet surface when you are applying the Behr All-In-One Wood Cleaner. Ensure your entire wooden surface is nice and soaked!


Step 2 // Apply All-In-One Wood Cleaner
While the deck is still wet, apply the All-In-One Deck cleaner using a spray pump. We got this handy one last year and it worked wonders for applying the cleaning solution. Let it soak in for 10-15 minutes. If the deck starts to dry, spray with more water.


Step 3 // Scrub!
Using a stiff bristle brush, scrub the surface of the wood (if at any point you are using a handheld brush I suggest wearing latex gloves). The cleaner will start to foam slightly as all the gunky build-up starts to loosen. No one was more surprised than I was at this point. I just couldn’t believe all the build-up that this cleaner was removing! Continue to scrub until the entire wooden area is cleaned. Again, during this process you don’t want the deck to dry. If needed, spray with more water until you are finished.


Step 4 // Rinse
Using a good ol’ garden hose, give the entire deck a rinse. You can use a pressure washer, but it’s advised you use the lowest setting, as high pressure may damage the wood. It may take a few minutes for the water to run clear as all the solution is washed away.


Step 5 // Let It Dry… And Marvel Away!
You won’t notice too much of a difference until your deck is almost dry… and what a difference it is! The cleaner definitely restored a lot of the woods natural colour while removing all the gunk & grime! I was tempted to start staining it shortly after it appeared to be dry, but “J” told me to wait a few hours… Only 2 hours into the project and I was already anxious to get it finished!


// Staining The Deck \\

The process of cleaning your deck will work for almost any new or existing structure, however we quickly learned when speaking to a Home Depot sales associate that new, pressure treated wood cannot be stained. In fact, it is suggested that you let pressure treated wood age for at least one season before applying stain. That said, the following steps for staining a deck will work for decks, railings, or any other wooden structure that is over 1 year old.

Step 1 // Stain Vertically First
If your deck has railings, posts, or anything that is vertical, it’s best to get these stained first. That means moving your body into positions its likely never been in before. You have to get all up in those tight corners and finicky spots.



Unofficial Step 2 // Have a Support System
After step 1 you might be ready to pack it in. Your neck will hurt, your legs will burn, and your hand will cramp. It’s best if you have someone there to keep you company and be your support system… even if she does sleep through most of the task!


Step 2 // Stain the Horizontals
Next you’ll want to stain all the horizontal areas. Be sure you start in an area farthest from your exit; that way you don’t paint yourself in. Using a high quality roller, pad applicator, or sprayer, apply the stain in an even fashion. To be honest, I started out using the roller, but quickly found a lot of my boards were bowed… so while plenty of stain was being applied to the edges, nothing was making it into the middle. Thank goodness for my handy paint brush!


If you have a deck where the boards are not tightly pressed up against one another you’ll find it in your best interest to use a brush to apply stain in between the cracks. If you don’t take this extra step you’ll be able to see the much lighter wood peeking through when the deck is viewed on an angle.


Step 3 // Let It Dry… And Marvel Away!
Ensuring the deck has enough time to dry before being exposed to rain is the hardest part. I mean, it’s May in Canada… it could snow tomorrow! Lucky for us the deck had a full 24+ hours to dry before being exposed to rain. We also waited a full 72 hours for the stain to cure before walking on it.


Seeing the completed project makes the 12+ hours of crouching, kneeling, laying down, standing on tippy toes and major hand cramps was all worth it! I honestly couldn’t be happier! And now we are ready for our next major backyard project… which will be revealed in a few short weeks!


// Project Breakdown \\

For those of you who are interested in the materials breakdown of this project, you can find everything listed below. The amount of products may vary for you, depending on the size of your deck



Looking for more #HDBlogSquad project inspiration? Check out the other talented bloggers that are a part of the squad:

Disclosure: I was provided with a gift card from The Home Depot in order purchase supplies to complete the this HDBlogSquad project.

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  1. What a great transformation!! Your before pictures look like my current deck *hands over face. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips, now I know what I need to improve mine 🙂

  2. Beautiful deck, lady!! I'm curious about your hydrangeas… Do they grow well being potted? I think i want to do the same for our patio without digging up the ground.

  3. You said you used Antique Oak, but the can in the picture says Natural. I love the color. Our local Home Depot has been having trouble with the Antique Oak Formula in their computer being wrong. It turns out greenish. Do you still have your can with the label on it? Maybe I could see if their formula matches yours.

  4. Hi Julie, the custom colour is Antique Oak which is a tint added to the can of "Natural #500." When I first opened the can I literally gasped in horror because it looked very green! We did a test swatch and it turned out fine. Here is the sticker on the top of the can…

  5. I have had them in the pots for about 3 weeks now and they are doing… alright. They definitely need to be watered everyday. The flowers on mine are started to scorch in the sun (because our backyard has no shade from 10am to 4pm) so I might have to find a new home for them until they come back…

  6. Thanks Kassandra! I am really impressed with the cleaner and the stain! Even if you just took the time to clean your deck… it's a huge improvement!

  7. I have a small set of wooden steps out my back door. They have gotten very dirt ridden as of late. For some reason, it strikes me as odd that I need to keep the steps wet in order to apply the all in one wood cleaner. What does the moisture do for the wood cleaner?