How to Clean a Wood Fence or Deck

Prior to re-stainning your deck or fence it is important to clean the wood area first.  Properly cleaning the material ensures that the stain you apply will adhere properly and last longer.  Proper cleaning of the wood will also bring the fence back to life and make it look newer.  Over time, dirt, mold, moss, grease and other materials can adhere to the fence and it is never good to apply a new stain without removing these debris first.

If you have a pressure washer you can easily clean your fence or deck by putting it on a lighter setting so as not to damage the wood.  However, there are other options besides using a pressure washer to clean your fence or deck.

If you frequent stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s you may be familiar with a product called 30 second cleaner. It is a concentrate formula that is designed to remove mildew, moss, mold and dirt from wood prior to painting.  Many professional painters will use a similar formula to prep their paint areas.  30 Second Cleaner is a great product but it can come with a somewhat high price.  If you have a huge fence you may not want to pay for that much pre-mixed product.  Alternatively, if you need a quick and easy cleanup, 30 second cleaner may be just perfect for you.

For those of you with larger projects, there is a cost effective way to reap the benefits of 30 second cleaner without having to pay the high price for the premixed concentrate.  30 second cleaner is a simple formula of household bleach and trisodium phosphate phosphate which you can mix together yourself.  Don’t believe it?  Just look at the ingredients next time you are in the store. Trisodium phosphate Phosphate, or TSP, is a chemical many painters use to prep their work areas and can usually be found in the painting area of a hardware store.  Household bleach, well you probably know where to find that.

REMEMBER, MIXING CHEMICALS CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS.  PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK AND ALWAYS WEAR PROPER SAFETY GEAR LIKE GLOVES AND SAFETY GOGGLES.

When it comes to combining TSP and bleach there are many different approaches in terms of measurements but for a great outline on how to do this visit this nice write-up on how to make your own outdoor cleaner.  The best way to apply the cleaning solution is using a pressure operated sprayer.  These can usually be picked up at a hardware store for under $15 and are well worth the investment.  The TSP and Bleach combination shouldn’t run you more than about $20 and ought to last you much longer than the large $30 bottle of 30 Second Cleaner concentrate.   The cleaner application should be done when the fence or deck is dry. For best results let the cleaner work for about a minute and then run a brush over the area and then rinse it clean with a garden hose.  You are now ready to re-stain your deck or fence!

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