Deck care can be an art but it is one of those arts that anybody can master by following some simple guidelines. Deck care in general refers to cleaning and staining wood on a regular basis. Typically a deck needs cleaned and retreated every year or two. Quality wood cleaners or stain strippers are essential in prepping the wood correctly prior to staining. Most professionals suggest using an oxygenated cleaner like Restore-A-Deck. RAD Step 1 Cleaner, RAD Deck Stain Stripper, as well as other cleaner/stain stripper brands, are high in pH and although they do a great job of prepping the wood they do not leave the wood in an ideal state.

Wood cleaners and stain strippers raise the pH level of the wood during the prepping process. This darkens the wood’s appearance and does not offer the perfect surface conditions for the new stain to penetrate properly. In order to correct this issue, a deck brightener should be applied. This is step number two in the RAD kit. The brightener (also called a neutralizer) will lower the pH of the wood brightening it up again and helping to enhance the beauty of the wood grain. These acidic conditions open up the wood pores so they are more accepting of wood stain. These are the perfect conditions for a long lasting beautiful finish.

So the question is when to apply the brightener? Right away or let dry? Right away after cleaning is when to apply brightener. After washing the wood and rinsing well, mix the brightener up according to the directions. Apply with a pump sprayer and let it sit for several minutes. You should notice the wood brightening up right away. After the brightener has done its job simply rinse the deck again for 20 minutes until all soap suds are removed. It is best to always brighten when the deck is still wet from washing. Not brightening right away could cause wood furring. If the deck as been allowed to dry and brightened at a later time, the furring can always be sanded off prior to staining.

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  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Jess · 09/22/2020
    Currently in the process of cleaning our new kiln dried cedar. It’s been weathered for 4 months. Noticing a lot of wood fuzzies... how should we proceed?
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    Nathan · 09/02/2020
    If I’ve followed all the proper prep to apply a transparent sealer or semi transparent sealer the first year, in the subsequent years can I just reapply the sealer or do I need to strip and brighten again?
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      RAD Products · 09/03/2020
      You will always have to prep when reapplying. Use the Cleaner and Brightener kit.
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    Sandra · 08/30/2020
    If I use cleaner, and it started to rain. And it looks like its gonna rain the next 2 to 3 days
    How long can I wait to use brightener. Also what happens if due to weather I can't stain deck what then?
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      RAD Products · 08/30/2020
      Brighten as soon as you are able. Stain within two weeks of the prep.
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    Mark · 08/28/2020
    After stripping and sanding, can I just vacuum remaining sawdust before brightening or should I rinse with water? I have an oscillating sander with dust bag.
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    Kat · 08/16/2020
    I didn't use the brightener because I had to wait 3 weeks to receive the stripper after I had already cleaned wit RAD cleaner. Is my deck wood okay at this point??
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      RAD Products · 08/16/2020
      You still need to brighten after the stripping. It will be fine.
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        Kat · 08/16/2020
        Ok, whew! Thank you :)
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    Sam · 08/12/2020
    Can I sand and brighten (after sanding) in the same day? This is new, untreated wood that is ready for staining.
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    Joanna · 08/12/2020
    Is brightener needed if I plan to use solid stain?
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    Jessica · 07/24/2020
    I've applied a stripper to my deck and power washed it off. There is still lots of paint left that needs to be sanded. Should I sand before I brighten, and then stain? Or should I brighten, then sand and then stain? Also, after I apply the brighter and hose it off, do I need to wait 24 hours before I stain/seal? Thanks!
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      RAD Products · 07/24/2020
      Sand first and then brighten the wood. As for when to stain after, that would depend on the stain you are using?
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    Steve · 07/19/2020
    Should I apply the brighter before or after sanding. My wood grain has "furred" (as expected) after stripping. TIA
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    Alex M · 07/18/2020
    Should i use a brightener after doing a mid-summer deck wash? (Not staining after)
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    Shan hose · 06/26/2020
    I have sanded my deck. Did not power wash. Do I need to use cleaner followed by brightener now? If I use cleaner, scrub it will that compromise sanding?
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      RAD Products · 06/27/2020
      Yes, use both cleaner and brightener. This helps to open up the pores of the wood after sanding.
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    Kim · 06/13/2020
    I applied the remove/stripper product about 2 weeks ago to my rough sawn cedar fences and did not apply brightener right away as we have had rain daily. Above it states to apply brighten right away after cleaning. What should I do now? We are still having daily rain. Our job is a very very large one and want to get it right. Thanks in Advance
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    sandra Baugh · 06/05/2020
    is there anything I can use to repair the damaged wood that will work?
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    sandra Baugh · 06/05/2020
    I have to repair some damaged wood on my deck with wood filler. I also have to brighten my deck before I stain it. Should I apply the wood filler before or after I brighten the deck? I'm afraid the water from brightening the deck will wash out the wood filler if I do before I brighten??
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      RAD Products · 06/05/2020
      Wood filler will not work on decks and will not "stain" to blend. Do not use it, it will look very bad.
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    sandra Baugh · 06/05/2020
    Will deck brightener remove the white oxidation spots on my wood
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    Mike · 06/05/2020
    I want to use this on a log cabin. They are cedar logs that have been weathered for about a year. There is no previous stains or sealent on it. Do I need the cleaner or just the brightener?
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    Terri · 05/25/2020
    it is taking forever to clean our deck. not being able to take off of work to have some consecutive days, and dealing with rain whenever it comes, makes this project seem to go on forever. so, my questions are as follows:
    1. if i cannot clean the whole deck in 1 day, is that an issue? ( as far as being able to immediately brighten ?)
    2. once the deck is cleaned, if I cannot brighten that day, and need to wait, is that an issue? what do i do if that happens?
    3. if i have to wait to stain days after brightening, is that an issue? and then what do i do? hose the deck down and wait 2-4 hrs to stain ?

    thanks of all your invaluable help? and i hope i am making sense...
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      RAD Products · 05/26/2020
      1. No.
      2. Brighten all a soon as you can.
      3. No issues. You can apply to dry or samp wood. It does not matter.
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    Mariea · 05/15/2020
    I’m thinking of renting a sander. Should I tighten the wood before or after sanding?
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    Mariea · 05/14/2020
    I stripped the deck late this afternoon, I have furring, It got dark and am unable to brighten today, Is it going to hurt anything to wait till tomorrow to finish brightening ??? IS there anything I should know before brightening? I do not have a floor sander,, any suggestions?
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    Gregg · 05/11/2020
    On my two sets of wood steps on the back of our home that take a beating from the weather, I have completed pressure washed to get rid of the mildew, mold, dirt, etc. and they cleaned up really well and it also removed the majority of previous transparent stain - I just finished sanding all steps with a random orbital hand sander (60/80 grit) to remove remaining stain and also address slight burring of the wood without getting the wood to smooth - My plan now is to pre-wet the steps, apply clean and brighten with a pump sprayer, brushing if needed, let dry, and then apply new transparent stain - Am I on the right track...?
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    DHR · 05/09/2020
    Do decks need to be stained or is it ok just to clean and use brighter? If I must stain, what product do you recommend?
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    Brian Q · 04/22/2020
    My deck is old, and I’m uncertain what was applied previously. Doesn’t look to have been touched in many years. I lightly power washed already. I plan to apply RAD stripper, then RAD brightener, then RAD light walnut stain. My question is: should I lightly sand before applying stripper? Or should I sand after applying stripper and brightener? Does the order matter?
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    Jeff · 04/21/2020
    I just stripped and used the brighener on our 12 year old Garapa deck. I have attached a photo of black spots that are showing up on several boards. Is it mold and will I have to sand it to get rid of the spots?

    Also after sanding, should we strip again and brighten it up before we stain it?
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      RAD Products · 04/21/2020
      Looks internal not mold. Have you tried to sand off a spot? Not sure what it is.
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    Spencer · 04/05/2020
    I bought step 1 cleaner but forgot to buy step 2 brightener. I went ahead and applied step 1 cleaner... and the wood now has white fuzzy areas all over it. I ordered step 2 brightener and it will come in a week or so. I power washed the cleaner out but still have white fuzzy areas on the wood. Is the wood damaged? How should I proceed? Should I use step 1 cleaner again and then the step 2 brightener right after? Or just apply step 2 brightener only when it arrives?
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      RAD Products · 04/05/2020
      This happens from the oxidation/graying of the wood. The cleaner has to remove this oxidation and when heavily grayed, fuzzies can happen. It is not damaged and typically is not noticeable when stained. You can lightly sand or buff off the fuzzies now. Use the brightener when it arrives.
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    Susan Musgrove · 07/31/2019
    I’m confused. I have been hand sanding my deck because the stripper didn’t work on existing Behr stain. It will take some time to get it all done. Do I then just dampen sanded wood and apply brightener, then stain, or do I need to apply cleaner (or stripper, which I already have) after sanding? I’ll be applying the new RAD stain. Thank you.
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      RAD Products · 07/31/2019
      Best to clean and brighten after the sanding to help the stain soak in deeper.
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        Karen · 08/17/2019
        How do you apply the stripper and brightener, with a brush?

        or with a pressure washer
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          RAD Products · 08/18/2019
          Apply the prep products with a pump sprayer and then pressure wash off.
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        Susan Musgrove · 07/31/2019
        Can I use stripper to clean since I already have?
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          RAD Products · 07/31/2019
          The stripper is too aggressive to just clean.
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    Norm Garrison · 06/17/2019
    Quick question: I was told after I strip/powerwash/brighten, to let the deck dry a couple of days and then to sand/buff to remove furring on cedar deck (we had a lot of furring). Some sources say to stain with TWP after sanding the cedar, other say to brighten/rinse again after sanding then two wait 2 days and then stain. So which is it with TWP....sand then stain, or sand/brighten-rinse/dry/stain? And I assume rinsing is with a garden hose and not a power washer to prevent more furring?
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      RAD Products · 06/17/2019
      Sand/brighten-rinse/dry/stain. You can rinse with a pressure washer. That will not harm the wood.
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    Paul · 07/28/2018
    I used the stripper on my deck today, unfortunately I did not have time to use the brightener before the sunset. I will have to re dampen and use it tomorrow. My deck is Brazilian Ipe wood, will I have to sand it before I stain now?
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    Mark · 06/12/2018
    What is the minimum time from brightening to applying stain?

    On some places it says to wait 24 hours. On another place it says you can do everything (strip, brighten and stain) all in one day.
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      RAD Products · 06/12/2018
      This depends on the stain brand you are using? If the RAD stain, you can stain 2-4 hours after the prep is done on the same day. Other deck stain brands, you will need to wait 48 hours.
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    Greg · 06/07/2018
    Lots of great information here. We bought a house with a 20 year old deck that was last touched 20 years ago. I have replaced some of the boards. I pressure washed the old color away and now i am sanding the rest of the color away. We want to put a bew color on it. My question is whats next? I power washed and then sanded to get wood back to original color. Can i just brighten it now and then stain?
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    Martin · 05/26/2018
    My pine deck was put in last October and I did not stain right away based on the installer recommendation. I live in Greater Chicago so the deck has had virtually no use over the winter and spring.
    Now I want to stain the deck but because the wood is still very new is it necessary to use the prescribed cleaner and the brightener prior to staining?