Tired of seeing your deck look like this?

failed_finishLeft unchecked, nature's assault on a wooden deck will cause it to warp, gray and become a haven for mold growth. Moisture, pollen, and the sun can all wreak havoc on wood. You may have tried to perform maintenance by cleaning and applying a sealer, but with the same end result. Finish failure is a combination of factors. The key to success lies in starting with a thorough deck cleaning.

Improperly preparing the wood or using the wrong type of deck stain sets the finish up for failure. You may be spending too much of your valuable time just spinning your wheels.

Home Centers: The Place To Buy Deck Cleaning Products?

bleach_cleaner2Most of the deck cleaners you find in home centers are merely inexpensive household bleach (look for the chemical sodium hypochlorite on the label) mixed with a little soap. Examples would be the Olympic pictured left. These products may remove mold or mildew but they do nothing to address removing a failed finish, removing gray or pH balancing a deck to prepare it for staining.

A 2 Part Process: What professionals use to prep for staining

RADwebanimationStep-1: Get Rid of the mold, gray, dirt and old finish

The first stage that needs to be done is deep cleaning. Bleach based cleaners cause unnecessary damage to wood. When viewed microscopically the wood fibers become a jumbled mess that makes it difficult for stain to penetrate. Bleach also causes an unnatural whitening and drying of the wood. A much safer alternative is a sodium percarbonate based product.

Sodium percarbonate is a precursor to hydrogen peroxide and is classified as a mildewcide. When mixed with water you get a solution that will penetrate the wood and kill the mold spores. The oxygenating power of this landscape friendly, user-safe chemical will bubble dirt that is trapped in the wood to the surface. This action is much milder on the wood and causes far less long term issues than the inexpensive cleaners that contain bleach.

deckcleaner_RADRestore-A-Deck's Step-1 cleaner takes the concept further. The addition of five other cleaning agents and surfactants work to emulsify any stain that may remain on the deck. RAD's step-1 will also loosen gray fibers meaning with mild brushing or a pressure washer used at very low pressure you will be able to move quickly through the cleaning process. You get the cleaning power of much stronger chemicals without the risk to yourself, pets, children or your landscape.

Step-2: pH balance the wood, preclude the "blotchy" look

b4_after_stripThe second part of the process is equally important. This step is what sets a professional preparation apart. The first stage of cleaning will leave the wood in improper pH balance. Prior to staining or sealing the wood should be slightly below neutral (acidic). Mold does not thrive in acidic environments, so this is further insurance against leaving any spores in the wood. Mold is the number one destroyer of deck finishes.

The second step has additional benefits. Before your eyes, you will see the wood brighten. The transformation is almost magical. At this point, the wood is restored and will dry to looking much more like new lumber. Your deck will now be "open" to accept a high-quality staining product.

In designing the Step-2 of the Restore-A-Deck restoration kit we sought just the right blend of acids. Many products like Cabot's Problem Solver brightener contain straight oxalic acid. This is a harsh acid that is irritating to a person's lungs and will etch metal quickly. We found a combination that includes citric acid that is far less irritating to bronchial passageways and is not nearly as harsh on the wood.

The Real Value

We are not promising miracles, nor do we want to mislead you. Deck maintenance can be hard work. Making it quick and simple while achieving professional grade results should be your goal.  Here are the benefits to using Restore-A-Deck:

  • Make the prep and cleaning process do-it-yourself friendly
  • Your stains will last longer because you performed the proper preparation.
  • Eliminate the need for pressure washing. A scrub brush and garden hose do the job.
  • You will spend as little as $.07 per square foot by doing the project yourself. A professional contractor will charge you six to ten times that amount in labor alone.

Restore-A-Deck is endorsed by East Teak Fine Hardwoods

Read this testimonial from Vice President George Guy after he tried a sample. East Teak now recommends Restore-A-Deck to all of his customers.

"Restore-A-Deck is FANTASTIC!!!!! I applied your 2 step product to my deck last week. This would be considered new construction I guess as the deck was installed in late November. I used a regular hose.. not a pressure washer. I had much enjoyment watching the dirt and scum bubble up. I would not have thought that much dirt could have possibly been in the grain. A valuable learning lesson for me. After the cleaning, I went to step 2 and again the same end results. Beautiful prep work for my [stain]. I will be sure and tell everyone I sell to that they certainly need to seriously consider having Restore a Deck on hand to complete their deck jobs. Keep up the good work.

Questions people ask about Restore-A-Deckarrow
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    Robert M Souter · 05/18/2020
    My deck is 10x50 with railings on 3 sides. I have power washed and drum sanded the entire deck. I am getting ready to use RAD stripper, brightner and stain. What is the best approach for dealing with such a large deck? Should I do the railings and ballister first, a section at a time and then the deck a section at a time. I am concerned about trying to accomplish the prep and staining in the required timeframes. Your recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
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      RAD Products · 05/18/2020
      Strip in sections until all done. Rinse well and then brighten all at once. Rince that after 20 minutes. Stain all to either damp or dry wood.
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    Stanley Cienava · 05/03/2020
    Last summer we used RAD products to prep our deck floor and finished it with Light Walnut stain, wet on wet application. This year the floor looks okay, but
    we would like to clean it. Can we use RAD cleaner without removing the stain?
    If so, how? If not, what is a safe way to clean the floor? Thank you.
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      RAD Products · 05/03/2020
      The RAD Cleaner is only to be used if recoating. Try warm water with dish soap. Lightly wash with a very of bristle car wash brush.
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    Christina · 04/20/2020
    Can I buy cleaner without brightener?
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      RAD Products · 04/05/2020
      Thre is not a way to remove sap outside of sanding it off.
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    Julie Lynne · 04/05/2020
    I live in New Orleans and bought a house 4 years ago that had a new pine deck. I bought a full package of RAD products to clean, brighten and stain the deck but discovered sap surfacing from the wood in the first year. I decided to wait another year to let the sap finish surfacing to the top. 4 years later, it is still coming out (mostly in the pieces that get full sun for several hours). I’m not sure how to proceed. I tried scraping off as much of the sap as I can but not all of it is oxidized.

    In the 4 years since it was new, it now also has many problem areas of black mold and warping since it has not been stained yet. My deck is roughly 24 feet by 5 feet in size. My guess is that the sellers put in some really cheap quality pine in.

    Does anyone have suggestions on how to get rid of the sap before staining? Or would it be better to just scrap the whole thing and start over? Maybe this time with a product that isn’t wood. We have very bad luck with termites here as well.

    Thank you in advance for your help!

    I’ve included a few pictures.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    B Taylor · 11/04/2019
    I live in North Georgia. I just finished stripping and brightening two large decks. I used a pressure washer and got a little aggressive and raised the grain significantly in some places trying to remove the old stain.

    I feel like the decks need to be sanded. I have a random orbital sander and belt sander (both recommended on your site). However, both decks are large (one is 12 x 36 and the other smaller).

    My concern is I won’t get it all sanded before cold weather sets in. The decks are 2 and 4 years old - both having previously been stained with Cabot transparent stain.

    Is it best to sand as time and weather permits and then stain next Spring? Or to sand as much as possible or forego sanding and get stain on it sooner?

    I have RAD stain. I also have more of the Cabot oil based transparent stain. Is it okay to use Cabot on the newer deck and RAD on the older deck?

    Thank you,

    B Taylor
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      RAD Products · 11/04/2019
      If you cannot get it done before it gets cold then just wait to sand and stain in the Spring. Brighten as well after the sanding.
      • We will reply to your comment shortly
        B Taylor · 11/05/2019
        Due to size of the decks, would it be safe to use a drum sander?

        Also, is Cabot oil based transparent stain good to use for the two-year-old deck or is RAD a better choice?
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          RAD Products · 11/05/2019
          RAD stain is much better than Cabot. Drum sanding may be too aggressive. Do not sand any finer than 60 or 80 grit paper.
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            B Taylor · 11/05/2019
            Thank you so much! I’ve surely been happy with the RAD stripper and brightener.

            So thankful I found this site and help! Thank you...
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    Gia Gale · 09/02/2019
    Help! We hit a snag in our cleaning process today. We mixed and applied the RAD Cleaner, but our pressure washer malfunctioned on us and we were unable to wash it off before nightfall. Tomorrow we plan to rent a new pressure washer and rinse off the cleaner. My question is - can we pick up with the Step 2 Brightener as usual? (Brightener was mixed today - is that a problem?). If not, what can we do? We have an event in 4 days so no time to order and wait for another bag of cleaner to come in. Is there another product we can purchase in store that will suffice? Any advice is much appreciated.
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      RAD Products · 09/03/2019
      You will need to reapply the cleaner as it is not active at this point. It has a shelf life of about 6 hours. The Brightener will be fine. There is not a comparable or as good of a cleaner but there are other deck cleaners out there if you are having to use another brand.
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    Hipohemi · 07/04/2019
    I have a 20 yr old deck that has several coats of a Cabot Deck and Siding Finish. I used a BEHR stripper (two applications) to try and remove the old stain, but still have areas with the old product in place (splotchy is best description). Will your RAD stripper remove this, or do I need to sand these areas? Based upon several reviews, I also plan to use your stain to complete the process. Thank you, in advance, for the response.
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    S · 05/16/2019
    I'm brightened a week ago and it just keeps raining.....and raining. I was told to stain within 2 weeks of brightening. I'm afraid it might be longer. Should I brighten again....or ok to stain once its finally dried out? Will be using Read Seal semi-transparent stain.
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      RAD Products · 05/16/2019
      If more than 2 weeks, lightly pressure rinse and brighten again.
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    Jeff · 05/14/2019
    I built a new 30' x 14' treated pine deck with one 6' wide stairway. 2 x 6 deck and handrail with 2 x 3 colonial treated pine spindles. It is 2 feet off the ground. We plan to use dark walnut and have tried sample on spare board. I have sanded 1/4 of deck floor and full handrail. Will complete floor sanding and stain within 4 weeks or so. We originally wanted to stain only the floor and handrail and do the railing and framing white to match the house color. Question - is it more difficult doing this 2 tone method? Taping off everything etc. My guess is the white would need to be done first. This would be more permanent as white paint would likely never be changed back to stain. Would I have to worry about knot bleed thru on this as I have seen this with other projects and needed good primer. If using the RAD solid classic white is it off white? House is bright white. Is there normally bleed through after deck has seasoned a full year? The 4 x 4 posts have knots but the spindles do not. I do have a power washer and plan to do the suggested full process. How much stain for this size deck?
    Thank you!
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      RAD Products · 05/14/2019
      See this for new wood tips: https://www.restore-a-deck.com/Deck-Cleaning-Reviews-and-Tips/restore-a-deck-stain-for-new-wood.html

      It is not that hard to do the two-toned look. solid stains first, semi-transparent last. Keep the Solid off the floor and you will be fine. If you get a little bit of semi-trans on the white, wipe it off right away and you should be fine. Do not prime. The classic white is not a bright white but slightly off white.

      As for the amount needed, we need a total sq footage added up for both the solids stained areas and the semi-transparent areas.
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    Steve · 03/30/2019
    I have a small deck, 10'x 6' w/ 1 step (8"). my question is, should I crawl under and treat the underside and structure to protect it from mold, mildew, etc. That would be a tough job, not a lot of room under there to work. (2x8 joists only 8" off cement pad)
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    Andrew · 06/09/2018
    I’ve stripped pain off
    my deck and I have this sappy sticky stuff which gums up the sandpaper when sanding it. Do I need to get it off before using the cleaner? I’ve attached a couple pictures.
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      RAD Products · 06/10/2018
      That is sap leaching out of the wood. It should be removed if possible before staining.
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        Andrew · 06/10/2018
        Will the RAD cleaning product remove it or is there another way to remove it? Sanding it doesn’t appear to work well.
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          RAD Products · 06/10/2018
          No, it will not remove it. Not sure what will. Try a google search on removing sap from a deck board. If it is only a few boards, you might want to consider replacing them.
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    Bill Grabau · 05/19/2018
    I've used the RAD step 1 & 2 cleaner/brightener plan and will be using a RAD stain in a few days. Do I need to add a sealant over the stain for added protection?
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      RAD Products · 05/20/2018
      No need. Just an FYI, you cannot add a deck sealer over the top of a deck stain. It will not work or soak in.
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    Jeni · 05/09/2018
    Hi, newbie to deck refinishing/staining. From tutorials I’ve read online it says after you clean/brighten you should sand down rough spots in boards, replace any as needed, then stain. Can we do the clean/brighten/sand steps, and then stain a few days later? The reason I ask is because the days we were hoping to do it (and would have help), it is supposed to rain. Or is cleaning it too early moot, because we would have to clean it again to get pollen/leaves off (a large oak tree hangs over the deck)? Including a few pics to show the boards I think we need replaced.

    we ordered the RAD clean kit and should be here today.
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    Gaylord · 05/02/2018
    I cleaned prior year's TWP 1500 stain with RAD cleaner by power washing and then applied and rinsed off RAD brightener and have waited 2 days for drying. It appears most of the stain has been removed.

    Do I need to sand treated pine before I apply a new coat of TWP 1500 stain?