Pressure washing your deck can remove years of wear and tear in just a few hours. This tutorial will walk you through the process from start to finish, with detailed instructions for both wood and composite decks (plus optional instructions for staining after).
Tools and materials
Besides a pressure washer, you’ll need a few other tools and materials to clean your deck. You may need everything on the list below, or you may just need some things depending on the condition of your deck, whether it’s wood or composite and more.
Use 2,000-3,000 PSI for wood, or 1,500-2,000 PSI for composite.
Use a product that’s made for your conditions (mold, mildew, etc.).
Use a push broom if you have one, otherwise any broom will work.
Use safety glasses, work gloves, work shoes and hearing protection.
Get if you want to cover anything (doors, walls, electrical, etc.).
Get if your cleaning solution isn’t made for pressure washers.
Get if you need to do any scrubbing (to remove old stain, etc.).
Get if you want to restore natural color to a faded deck.
Get if you want to stain your deck after pressure washing.
Get if you want to give your deck a smooth finish, or prep for staining.
If this is your first time using a pressure washer, read our guide on how to use a pressure washer to learn the basics. Then, follow the instructions below to pressure wash your deck (each step explains what to do for wood or composite, when necessary).
Step 1: Prepare deck
Remove any objects that are blocking the deck (furniture, pottery, etc.), then use your plastic sheeting to cover anything that can’t be moved (doors, plants, etc.). Once the surface is clear, use your push broom to sweep away any loose dirt or debris.
Step 2: Set up equipment
Pull out your pressure washer and connect your garden hose, high pressure hose and spray gun. Prepare your cleaning solution following the manufacturer’s instructions (some need to be diluted, others don’t), then fill your pressure washer (some models have an onboard detergent tank, others have a siphon that you put directly in your solution), or fill your garden sprayer if you’re using one. When you’re ready, turn on your water and start your pressure washer.
Step 3: Apply cleaner
Connect the 65° nozzle (usually black), or use your garden sprayer, and spray the cleaning solution onto the deck. Let it soak for a few minutes, then use your deck brush to scrub the surface. If you have a large deck, consider working in sections so you can rinse the solution off before it starts to dry.
Step 4: Rinse cleaner
Switch to the 25° nozzle (usually green) for wood, or the 40° nozzle (usually white) for composite, and rinse the cleaning solution from the deck (starting with the side that borders the house, if applicable). Work one or two boards at a time, rinsing in the direction of the grain, and make sure you don’t spray too close to cause any damage (generally, you want to keep the nozzle at least a foot away).
Step 5: Apply brightener
If you bought a brightening solution, use it now following the same instructions as cleaning: prepare the solution, apply it and rinse it.
Step 6: Let dry
Take down your sheeting, put away your equipment and make sure you properly dispose of any leftover cleaning solution (if you used toxic chemicals). Wait at least 24 hours for the deck to dry before enjoying it again, or before staining.
Step 7: Sand and stain
Use your sander (with 80-grit sandpaper for wood, or 240-grit for composite) to prep the deck, then use your push broom to sweep away the dust. Prepare your stain following the manufacturer’s instructions, then use your preferred applicator (pad, roller, etc.) to begin staining. Work one or two boards at a time, brushing in the direction of the grain, and make sure you apply the recommended number of coats (two coats is standard, but again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions).
Frequently asked questions
The most common questions about pressure washing a deck are answered below. For other questions, you can reach out to us at any time. If you have a question about a specific product, you may need to contact the manufacturer.
How much does it cost to pressure wash a deck?
The average cost to pressure wash a deck is between $0.50-0.75 per square foot, which comes out to $150-225 for the average deck size (around 300 square feet). Keep in mind, this doesn’t include stain. Expect an additional $0.25-0.50 per square foot for staining.
How long should you wait to stain your deck after pressure washing?
You need to wait until the deck is dry before staining. With non-pressure-treated wood or composite, expect to wait a few days. With pressure-treated wood, expect to wait a few weeks. If you’re not sure how to tell when it’s dry, drip some water on it; if the water beads up, it’s not dry yet.
Can a pressure washer damage a deck?
Pressure washers can damage anything, especially soft deck materials like wood and composite. With that said, it’s easy to prevent damage: simply use the recommended PSI (2,000-3,000 PSI) and nozzles (25° or 40°), and spray at a safe distance from the surface (1-2 feet).