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How to Power Wash a Deck the Right Way

If you’ve recently purchased a house with a deck, or you’ve been procrastinating power washing your old deck for a while, you might be feeling intimidated by the project.

It’s okay, you’re in the right place to learn how to power wash a deck.

This article is here to help guide you through the easiest and safest way to power wash a deck, so you can confidently complete the job. Read on to learn all about power washing a deck the right way.

A man showing how to power wash a deck

Pressure Washing vs. Power Washing

When researching how to power wash a deck, the first thing to know is that people use the terms power washer and pressure washer interchangeably, but they’re actually different processes.

A power washer uses highly pressurized steam to clean the deck, and a pressure washer uses cold, unheated tap water.

Pressure washing is better for delicate surfaces but may not remove everything. Power washing cleans faster, but the heat may be damaging to some decks. If you’re not sure if your deck can handle power washing, consult a deck expert.

You’ll find that many machines do both tasks, but not all do. Pay close attention to how hot the water gets in the product description.

Power Washing Your Deck with the Best Equipment

Ideally, from now on, you’ll be power washing your deck at least once a year, so it’s a good idea to invest in a good power washer.

These electric power washers will all do a great job:

BOSEN Electric Power

Suyncil Electric Pressure Washer

Homdox Electric Power Washer

Sun Joe Power Washer

When buying an electric power washer for your deck, consider how long of a cord you need. How big is your deck, and where is your power source located? Consider whether you’ll use your new power washer for other household cleanings, like siding or driveways, and how far those are from the power source.

Gas washers tend to provide much more power than electric, which is not necessary for the safe power washing of your deck.

You don’t need a lot of power to power wash your deck, so you need to make sure your power washer is adjustable to lower settings. For softwoods, like cedar or pine, you only need 500 to 600 pounds per square inch (PSI). Harder woods can safely go up to 1200 to 1500 PSI.

Your power washer should allow for adding chemical cleaners so that you can spray them around easily like a wand.

If you’re not ready to buy a power washer, you can rent one from a home store like Home Depot.

How to Power Wash a Deck with the Right Cleaner

Choosing the right deck cleaner is a little overwhelming with all the choices out there. Successfully power washing your deck relies heavily on finding the right deck cleaner.

These store-bought cleaners will do the job wonderfully:

RMR-86 Pro

30 SECONDS Outdoor Cleaner

STAR BRITE Non-Skid Deck Cleaner

Homemade Cleaners

You can easily find products in your house to make your own homemade cleaner, like the following:

  • Water, dish soap, and non-toxic bleach
  • Water, vinegar, and baking soda
  • Water, Borax, Oxygen bleach, and dish soap
  • Water, Chlorine bleach, and Murphy’s oil soap

Warning: Never mix ammonia or rubbing alcohol with bleach; these mixtures can become extremely hazardous.

Preparing Your Deck

Remove all furniture and plants from your deck, and sweep off the dust and dirt. Before you power wash, prepare your deck by covering all electrical units, closing nearby doors and windows, and making sure all pets and children are indoors.

Deck with furniture removed before power washing

Sanding Your Deck

If your deck is older, you should sand your deck before you do anything else. Sand down rough spots, cracks, and splinters. If you have mold or moss in the deck’s cracks, you’ll need to use a deck cleaner to loosen it all up.

Newer decks can be sanded down after pressure washing. Decks should always be sanded before staining.

Get Your Deck Wet and Apply a Pre-Treatment

Get your deck wet so that the solution absorbs better.

Option one is to apply a pre-treatment using a deck brush.

Option two is to use a cleaning tool like the RYOBI RY120350 One+ to apply a cleaning solution.

Note: This tool should not be expected to power wash your deck, as it only reaches 320 PSI; it is for applying cleaner only. If your power washer comes with a wand tool, you can use that, although some experts prefer using a portable cleaning tool because it’s easier to maneuver.

Check Your Grime Level

Pay attention to how much grime is on your deck. If you don’t have any worn-in grime, mold, or mildew, then good news! You actually don’t need to power wash your deck. You can just wash these suds away with a regular garden hose.

If you have worn-in grime, get ready to go to the next step to power washing a deck.

Power Wash Your Deck Safely

Put on your safety goggles, and pay attention to the direction of your wind before you get started. The wind will carry the water with it. High wind gusts can be dangerous, so avoid power washing in extreme wind.

Practice maneuvering your power washer before pointing it at your deck. Do this in an unnoticeable area, like the area between your steps. Practice maneuvering the on and off switch as well as the adjustment settings.

If you’re not careful, you could put a hole in your house, so it’s especially important that you know what you’re doing with your equipment.

Be extra careful to keep the water away from your house. Water spray near your doors can seep in and cause molding.

Creating Your System for Power Washing Your Deck

Having a system prepared for power washing a deck will make the job easier and smoother and will help avoid unnecessary damage.

Hold your nozzle 12 to 18 inches from the deck’s surface. Pay attention to your wood grain’s direction because this will be the direction you will spray.

Image showing how to power wash a deck

Do not spray in a zigzag pattern. Zigzag patterns are damaging to your deck’s wood.

Also, avoid allowing your water to pool in the corner. Your deck needs to drain completely to avoid molding. Remove any standing water with a mop, a towel, or a leaf blower.

Using a Brightener (Optional)

Using a brightener is not required a required step in power washing a deck, but it does help with your deck’s appearance.

A brightener will help lower the pH of your deck, allowing it to brighten and enhance the appearance of the wood. You want to apply a deck brightener right after you finish power washing your deck.

Apply it with your sprayer and let it set for several minutes. The wood should be noticeably brighter within minutes.

These brighteners will have your deck’s wood looking like new:

Restore-A-Deck Wood Brightener

Defy Wood Brightener

#1 Deck Wood Brightener

Allow Your Deck to Dry Before Staining

Successfully power washing a deck involves letting it dry. Decks have pores like our skin that retain moisture. If you don’t allow your deck to dry before staining, the water will push the stain up in a week’s time, making your staining efforts pointless.

Consider Alternatives to Power Washing

You may want to consider alternatives to how to power wash a deck, especially if you have a composite deck. Power washing can seriously damage a composite deck, so it’s best to look at alternative deck cleaning methods.

You also want to consider alternative methods if you power washed or stained your deck within the last year. Avoid over power washing your deck because it can cause serious damage to the wood.

Clean the Stain Directly

One alternative to power washing your deck is to cover the stained area of your deck with your cleaning solution and allow it to set for 10 to 15 minutes. Rub off the stains with a stiff broom. Make sure you use plenty of water to rinse your deck because the bleach will discolor the deck if not rinsed off properly.

Pump Sprayer and Deck Brush

The easiest alternative to power washing is to apply your cleaner and agitate it with a deck brush, then rinse clean with a pump sprayer like the Deck & Home Universal Sprayer.

Hire a Professional

The easiest way to power wash a deck and avoid damaging the deck or your house is to hire a professional. If you’re not feeling confident in your abilities to successfully power wash your deck, look for a local decking company to do the job for you.

When choosing a professional, avoid choosing someone who’s only experienced in power washing. Check that they are someone who specializes specifically in decks. Power washing a deck is a completely different skill set than power washing a driveway!

Frequently Asked Questions for How to Power Wash a Deck

Is it a good idea to power wash a wooden deck?

Power washing a deck involves exercising extreme caution when power washing wood. If there is an area of your deck already starting to split apart, you’ll want to avoid power washing it because you’ll only create more damage.

Capstock decks are more forgiving and handle power washing better than many other types of wood.

Many everyday homeowners tend to be too aggressive with their decks while power washing. Never power wash your deck more than twice a year.

What is the best weather for power washing?

The best time to power wash your deck is between November and March, avoiding temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s best to wait until the temperature is above 52 degrees Fahrenheit and you see several days in the forecast without rain so that the deck can dry as quickly as possible.

It is okay to power wash during light to medium rain because the water will allow detergents to soak into the deck more effectively. Overcast skies also make it easier to see the areas that need to be cleaned most. Just make sure plenty of sun is in the forecast.

What common mistakes should be avoided when power washing?

The biggest mistake people make when power washing their decks is using too much pressure. Staying within the lowest pressure settings will leave your deck shiny and clean and damage-free.

A man power washing the railing on a deck

You also want to make sure you clean in the right direction. Your cleaning system for how to power wash a deck should always involve following the deck’s wood grain and avoiding the damaging zigzag pattern.

Can you power wash with just water and no chemicals?

You’ve probably seen guides on how to power wash a deck suggesting you just use water. Sure, you can get your deck somewhat clean with just water, but it will be much cleaner if you use cleaner. Think of it like showering: You’re cleaner when you use soap, right?

Wrapping up How to Power Wash a Deck

Learning how to power wash a deck is no joke, and it’s certainly not a job for the inexperienced. Now you’re ready to confidently complete the job on your own, or find someone with the knowledge and skills who can. After you power wash your deck, you may be prepping to stain it. Check out these guides on how to stain your deck next!