The Quick Guide to Power-Washing Your Deck

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Updated December 27, 2021
House wood deck with table and chairs
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • You should power-wash your deck at least once a year.

  • Don’t power-wash wood that isn’t pressure treated unless you plan to reseal or restrain your decking completely.

  • Spring, summer, or fall can all be a great time to power-wash your deck.

  • Always wait at least 48 hours after washing before applying any stain or sealant. 

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Your deck is an extension of your home, and from pets to plants to parties, it sees a lot of traffic. Keeping your deck in good shape means regular maintenance and seasonal cleaning. But when is the best time to power-wash your deck? Spring is a great choice but it’s not the only ideal time. 

When Is the Best Time of Year to Power-Wash Your Deck?

In general, the ideal conditions for power-washing your deck are warm weather, lots of sunshine, and little wind. The best time of year to power-wash your deck is ultimately determined by the amount of use and if you plan to stain or seal your deck. 

  • Power-wash your deck in spring before the warm season begins to remove the buildup of winter grime, mildew, and debris.

  • Get your deck ready for your next BBQ by power-washing your deck on a warm summer day.

  • Fall is also a great time to wash your deck. You can clean up some of the signs of summer, like grease from your grill, before winter weather hits.

  • Power-wash your deck anytime you plan to refinish it, but make sure it’s a sunny day to ensure the wood will dry out completely. 

  • Don’t power-wash during the rainy season. Your wood may get too wet and not dry out properly, which can lead to rot. 

What’s the Difference Between Pressure Washing, Power Washing, and Soft Washing? 

Man washing wood deck with power washer
Photo: bubutu / Adobe Stock

Before you determine the best time to power-wash your deck, you’ll want to understand the different methods' basics. 

Power washing, pressure washing, and soft washing are all effective ways to clean your deck, but they are not all the same.

Pressure Washing

Pressure washing is water applied at high pressure. It’s great for cleaning pressure-treated wood or concrete sidewalks and driveways sidewalks. It can strip paint and sealant and destroy masonry, so don’t pressure wash paver patios, painted surfaces, and stained decks made of non-pressure treated wood, as well as roofs or siding. 

Power Washing 

Power washing is very similar to pressure washing but uses heated water, which helps clean tough spots and stains. Power washing can be used on pressure-treated wooden decking, vinyl decking, and concrete. 

Soft Washing 

Soft washing uses low-pressure nozzles to remove grime and debris without damaging any wood surface. Professional soft washing services also use a biodegradable chemical solution to help remove stains, mildew, and dirt. This chemical is mild and won’t damage surfaces or nearby plant life.

How Often Should You Power-Wash Your Deck?

Depending on your needs, the best time to power-wash your deck will fluctuate. 

  • Power-wash once a year or when you plan to apply a fresh coat of stain to your decking.

  • Power-wash pressure-treated wood twice a year: once in the spring to remove winter grime and once in the fall before winter weather sets in.

  • Soft-wash your deck as often as you’d like, but usually, you’ll soft-wash it in the spring before the warm weather season and again in the fall.

How Long After Power-Washing Can You Seal a Deck?

Applying varnish to a wood deck with a brush
Photo: Marco2811 / Adobe Stock

You need your deck to be completely dry before you seal it. After power-washing, allow at least 48 hours before applying a sealant or a stain. You should also wait at least 48 hours after rain. 

The ideal conditions for applying deck stain or a sealant are low humidity, no rainfall in the forecast for at least two days, and between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid application on a windy day or in direct sunlight. 

Should You Power-Wash Your Deck Yourself or Hire a Pro?

Like most home improvement projects, there are pros and cons to doing something yourself versus hiring a professional to do it. 

Power-washing your deck isn’t tricky in terms of skill. Most homeowners can do an adequate job within a couple of hours. 

If you don’t already own a pressure washer, you can buy one: expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $1,000. You can also opt to rent one for anywhere from $35 to $175 per day.

There are a few things to remember if you’re going to DIY your deck cleaning:

  • Power washing can strip off paint and deck stain.

  • If you have a painted deck, you should clean it by hand instead.

  • Power washing can saturate non-pressure-treated wood, and if the wood doesn’t dry out completely, this can lead to rot.

  • Never use regular household bleach to clean your deck. 

If you don’t have any low-pressure nozzles, there is a risk that you will damage your wood decking, so hiring a nearby professional deck cleaning service will help ensure that there isn’t damage. 

Most pressure-washing services will offer a soft wash service for deck and patio surfaces and reserve pressure washing for concrete areas like sidewalks and driveways. The current national average cost to power wash exterior surfaces is $300, with the typical range between $190 and $400

If your goal is to get the last of the debris, old stain, or sealant to refurb your deck, doing it yourself isn’t that complex, either, but it can take a few days.  However, you prefer to hire a deck contractor to clean and refinish your deck entirely, in particular, if your decking needs any repairs. 

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