How Long After Pressure Washing to Stain Deck? Easy Guide to Pressure Washing a Deck

A pressure washer in use but How Long After Pressure Washing to Stain Deck?It is a standard procedure that you must wash your deck before you can stain it. There are different ways to clean your deck, and one of them is pressure washing. When conducted with caution, pressure washing has proven to be an effective way of removing “problematic” stains from the surface of a deck. So, how long after pressure washing to stain deck?

48 hours. After you have pressure washed your deck, it will have retained some water in the wood pores. It would be best if you allowed your wood to dry thoroughly so that no water gets trapped under your stain finish. Under the perfect conditions, it will take 48 hours for the wood to dry before you can proceed with the staining projects.

In my early days of woodworking, I made a mistake staining my deck about two days following pressure washing. As much as 48 hours are enough for the deck to dry, I would like to urge you to confirm that your deck is dry before staining. You can use two methods to verify if your deck has dried or not after 48 hours. These methods are:

Use a Wood Moisture Meter: Wood moisture meters are devices that help to determine the moisture content inside the wood and whether or not your wood has dried enough for you to conduct subsequent procedures such as staining and painting. There are two types of moisture meters, pinned and a pinless wood moisture meter. So, feel free to use any that pleases you to determine water levels in your wood.

Sprinkle Test: The sprinkle test is a basic yet effective way of determining the moisture content inside your wooden structures. In this method, all you have to do is to sprinkle water over your deck and observe how it behaves. If the wood absorbs the water sprinkles, it means that the deck has dried, and you can go on with the staining. However, if you sprinkle water over the surface of the wood and you notice it beading up, then it means that your deck has not dried, and you should allow it more days to dry before you can do the staining work.

How to Pressure Wash Wood Deck

You need to follow a set procedure to ensure that you pressure wash your deck the right way. Here are the steps:

Requirements for Cleaning

  • Tools-Sandpaper (optional)Pressure washer with a rotating tip, Sheets of plastic (optional), Cordless Random orbit sander (optional)
  • Materials-Deck stripper(optional)

Steps by Step Guide to Pressure Washing

  • Step One: Pressure Setting of the Washer

Before you think of any other thing, you must ensure that you choose the correct pressure setting for your pressure washer. One major factor that should help you choose the right pressure setting is the age and condition of your deck. Old decks do not require a high pressure setting.

Overall, I’d encourage you to use the lowest possible pressure that you will still see the job done. If you are working with softwoods (pine, cedar), for example, ensure that you set your pressure to a range of 500 to 600 psi (pounds per square inch). For the hardwoods( Oak, Mahogany), you can work with high pressures with 1,200 psi as the maximum.

As for the fan tip, it should be a range of 40- to 60-degree spread. You can also use a rotating tip but ensure that you do it carefully. 

The final step in setting up your pressure washer is to test and verify if it works properly. It would help if you did your tests in inconspicuous areas, like a stair tread and not the surface of the deck boards. In case the pressure is high and compromises the stair tread, you will find it easy to replace compared to the boards on the deck’s surface.

  • Step Two: Pressure Wash the Deck

I will always advise that you start with a pressure range of 500 to 600 psi and do that on inconspicuous areas regardless of whether the wood is soft or hard. Gradually increase the pressure as per your needs, provided you are not damaging your deck. A standard pressure for softwoods needs to be 500-600 psi.

While engaging the trigger, ensure that you are holding the wand tip a few feet away from the surface of the deck. Slowly lower the wand to about 12 inches over the surface. Do your deck cleaning in a sweeping motion, and ensure that you are not pivoting your arm at all cost. Pivoting of the arm usually results in ​an inconsistent distance between your spray tip and the deck’s surface. You can maintain consistency in the distance by a lateral movement of your arm, back and forth.

When cleaning the deck boards, start from the house outward. Work along the wood grain by feathering your spray lengthwise in a parallel way to the deck boards. Ensure that you slightly overlap each area. 

Note: Your objective should be to achieve even cleaning that does not have “cleaning edges.”

  • Step Three: Application of Chemical Deck Stripper (Optional)

This step is usually optional and only necessary if the wood on the surface of your deck is darkened or stained with milds. If that’s the case, wash it with a deck-cleaning solution with sodium hydroxide as a component. You should specifically go for a product whose primary role is to brighten deck wood and is usable in a pressure washer. Ensure that your pressure washer allows you to use cleaning solutions.

Before mixing the solution, ensure that you read all the recommendations by the manufacturer. Use the exact cleaning procedure, then rinse the surfaces again by pressure washing with clean water.

The deck stripper or brightener usually leaves your deck with roughen up wood fibers, so it will be best if you sand the deck before moving to the next step.

Note: The chemical components of deck strippers are toxic and can harm plants and shrubs around your deck. Ensure that you cover the plants before you start to clean your deck.

  • Step Four: Sanding 

So why do you need to sand? Power washing a wood deck does not etch your deck, not necessarily. Even so, as soon as the wood gets wet, the fibers tend to take in water and rise; this results in a rough surface. Raised fiber can lead to the formation of splinters on wood, so it would help if you sand the wood as soon as it has dried.

You don’t have to sand the entire deck if it is not necessary. First, you need to ask yourself this question, are you just doing a routine cleaning or looking to restrain your deck afterward? If you are just on your everyday cleaning of the deck, you don’t have to sand the entire deck; you can go about spot sanding to remove unwanted stains.

Woodworker using Rigid, the Best Cordless Random Orbital SanderHowever, if you are cleaning your deck intending to restain it, it would be mandatory to sand the entire surface of the deck. Sanding before staining or sealing helps open up the wood’s pores; therefore, the wood will soak up the sealer or stain with consistency to offer maximum protection against elements.

When you are sanding your deck, ensure that you are not using very fine sandpaper because it stands a chance of blocking the wood pores, preventing the stain/sealer from soaking in the wood. If you are working on the handrail, ensure that you use sandpaper that is not finer than 100-grit. For the surface of the deck, use 60- to 80-grit sandpaper. It would be best to choose a cordless random orbit sander with a 5-inch sanding pad for this project. A cordless tool allows you the flexibility of working in different parts of the deck without a worry of power cord length.

  • Step Five: Staining or Sealing

This is the final step, ensure that you stain your deck as per the guidelines that I have provided below.

How to Stain Wood Deck

You don’t wake on a random day and stain your deck, no! You have to prepare and have proper planning for the staining of your wooden deck. Here’s what you need for successful staining of a deck:


  • Tools- Painter’s Tape, Garden Hoses, Pressure Washer, Angle Brooms, Sandpaper, and scrub brushes.
  • Materials-Wood Stains, Repair Materials, Paint Thinner

Step by Step Guide to Staining Deck

  • Step One: Check and Choose the Right Weather and Stain

Before you restrain your deck, you should test and confirm if you need to restrain or the previous stain can still hold. So how do you tell if your deck needs restaining? Sprinkle water on the surface of the wood; if the wood absorbs the water within 10 minutes, then you should plan to stain your deck as soon as possible.

If you notice that the water you sprinkled over the surface of your deck pools, then it means that you don’t have to necessarily stain your deck because the previous stain is still in excellent working condition.

Note: You should maintain your stained wooden deck at least once every one to three years. 

If you are working on a newly installed deck, you don’t need to go through the cleaning steps. However, you’ll have to clean the surface for an existing deck and allow it to dry, and follow up with the staining.

Note: All stains require time to absorb into the wood; they also dry quickly. So, it would help if you avoid applying the stain under direct sunlight. Therefore, you should schedule your staining work during the days forecasted for 50 to 90-degree temperatures and without rainfall.

When it comes to staining, ensure that you match the stain to the type of wood on your deck.

Tips: For the previously stained wood decks, you should know that you can apply an oil-based stain over a water-based stain, but you cannot apply a water-based stain over oil-based stain. If you are looking for the best results possible, then you should use water-based stains over old water-based stains and oil-based stains over old oil-based stains.

Ensure that you go for an exterior wood stain with features such as water repellency and the ability to resist damage by the harmful UV rays.

  • Step Two: Preparation of the Deck for Staining

Remove all furniture from the deck’s surface and keep them in a secure location to give room for preparation.

Carry out deck inspection to rectify damages and replace missing deck screws.

After fixing the screws and nails and sand any wood splinters using 80-grit paper, you can use a belt sander for this task, then sweep clean the dust and debris. Remember to remove debris between the deck boards.

If you have plants or shrubs close to your deck, you should protect them by covering them using sheeting to keep the stain from getting on them. It would be best if you moist them before covering.

  • Step Three: Wash the Wood Deck

Cleaning the deck is essential to ensure that there is no dirt or any form of mold on the surface of your deck before you can apply the stain.

Wash the surface of your wood deck using a deck cleaner, scrub the surface with a brush in the direction of the wood grains.

You must allow the cleaner to soak on the surface of the deck for up to 10 minutes before scrubbing.

Rinse your deck thoroughly using a garden hose or pressure washer and allow the deck 48 hours to dry, as stated earlier in this post.

  • Step Four: Stain Deck Railings and Other Raised Parts

Even as you look to stain, you should first protect other parts of the house, such as the sidings; you can protect them using painter’s tape., if necessary. 

Stir your stain thoroughly before you apply, then pour the formula into a paint tray.

Test the color of the stain on a piece of wood to verify if it is the actual color that you want on your deck.

Start painting the highest wood features on your decks, such as the posts, railings, and balusters. Stain from the top, going down, making long even strokes in the process.

  • Step Five: Stain Your Deck Boards

Image of wood being painted but How Long Can I Wait to Paint After Priming?Usually, a paint pad applicator is the best for staining the deck boards because it is easier than brushing over a large deck using hands. Besides, it is more accurate than when you use a sprayer.

Apply a single coat of the deck stain in long, even strokes.

With the help of a paintbrush, stain between cracks and in hard to reach areas.

You must identify the point in your deck that you will use as an exit and stain towards that direction. Such points could be your house’s backdoor or the stairs of your deck. A single layer of the stain will do the job just right.

Clean your tools after staining the deck.

Allow your deck at least 24 hours to dry.

Watch the video below on how to clean and stain a deck


Pressure washing of decks is a common practice for most homeowners and wood structure owners. It helps with the cleaning of the deck as a routine maintenance practice. Also, a pressure washer is excellent in the preparation of the deck for staining. You should, however, ensure that you are working with the proper pressure to avoid inflicting damage to your deck. One question, though, is…

How Long After Pressure Washing to Stain Deck?

It is standard that you allow your deck at least 48 hours after washing it to ensure that it dries. It could take a little longer for your deck to dry, especially if the conditions are below the average daily atmospheric standards.

At this point, I believe you know how long it takes a washed deck to dry. Even so, ensure that you verify if your deck is dry before you can stain it. 

Do you have any questions regarding pressure washing and staining of the deck? Kindly let me know your thoughts through the comment section below. 

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.