Homeowners often get discouraged when they think about using their deck for the summer and notice it needs some work. But the truth is that getting your deck to top condition is much easier than it looks.

True, decks can suffer some damage after a long winter, but visually, they tend to look worse than they actually are. Sometimes all they need to shine again is a good power wash service – combine that with sealing and staining, and your deck will be brand new without any major repairs.

But how to power wash a deck? That’s what we’re looking into right now! Here’s everything you need to get started along with other tips to get your deck in top condition for the season!

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. – Friedrich Nietzsche

The first step

Let’s start with the power washing equipment?

You have a few options to consider:

Buy one. If you have a deck or an outdoor patio that could benefit from regular power washing, you might as well consider the investment. It’s a tool you’ll be able to use regularly and it makes cleaning much easier in some cases. Keep in mind that it may be a hefty investment and you do need a certain amount of time and effort to perform the service yourself. 

Hire a power washing company. If you don’t want to do any of this yourself, consider hiring a pro to power wash your deck who will already come with all the equipment and do everything for you.

How to set up the power washer

Assuming you want to get the job done yourself, let’s go through all the preparation you should take before your start.

First, the pressure you should use. The pressure is measured in psi (pounds per square inch), and for wood, you should use the lowest setting that is still effective – keep in mind that the pressure washer can be strong enough to damage wood if you’re not careful. This is also why you should never point it at other people, materials, or plants.

Generally speaking, you can start with 500 to 600 psi for power washing a deck. Harder wood can withstand more pressure, but still you should never go over 1200 psi.

The best way to test the efficiency is to set your pressure washer to 500 and perform a test on a small hidden area, such as the stair tread. This is a good place to start because in the unlikely event you damage the area by performing tests, it’s easier to replace a stair tread than a board from the middle of your deck, for example.

As for the tip, a 40 to 60 degree spread works perfectly. These are enough to make clean patches over the wooden boards, since you want to keep a nice even stream to prevent staining or uneven cleaning.

Finally, for the power washing itself. Pull the trigger holding the wand two feet from the surface and lower it closer to about 12 inches. Clean the boards from top to bottom and avoid turning your arm in any direction other than vertically to prevent uneven patches, as well as keeping an uniform distance from the surface all the way through.

To perfect the cleaning and patch any uneven bits, work by feathering the spray and letting it overlap with clean areas until both are evenly clean. You can also distance the wand a bit more from the surface for more control, but avoid bringing it closer than you had in other areas, since this will most likely overcompensate.

What about staining and sealing?

Staining and sealing have two different purposes, but they both bring similar benefits. Staining is most commonly used for a visual overhaul – you can dramatically change the look of your wooden deck while still respecting the natural wood look. In most cases this is preferable to painting.

Sealing is a process that usually doesn’t involve a dramatic visual change, but it’s used to protect your deck from weather conditions, humidity, heat, and so on. 

Just remember to let your deck dry completely before going for staining and sealing – give it at least 24 hours of rest, or up to 72 hours if you’re going through humid weather. A general rule of thumb is to check the weather forecast before doing anything to make sure it won’t rain for the following week, which gives you a nice and comfortable time frame to do everything.

Safety measures

Alright, now that we got the basics out of the way, let’s go over some general tips to pressure clean a deck:

Don’t touch the spray. As mentioned before, even at a lower setting the stream can be quite harsh and could easily hurt people, animals, and plants. Never point it towards anything other than your deck.

Wear the right clothing. Since you’ll be walking on potentially slippery surfaces, avoid flip flops and opt for enclosed shoes with a decent grip. Gloves and safety goggles are also great, because while the water pressure isn’t highly dangerous by itself, it is strong enough to hurt you – and your eyes are particularly exposed. Besides, the cleaning can make small debris fly away or towards you, so safety goggles, pants, and a jacket are highly recommended. 

Avoid nearby observers. The kids or your pets might find the pressure washing an interesting event, but try to get them far away from the site while you’re cleaning. Not only is the pressure washer itself potentially dangerous, the aforementioned debris can harm them if they get close enough.

Protect nearby plants. Simply covering nearby shrubs or plants with a tarp is already enough. The pressure of the water mixed with the chemicals involved can hurt them if they’re unprotected.

Avoid ladders. In fact, avoid climbing on anything at all. The kickback of the wand could be enough to make you lose your balance. The best way to clean areas you can’t reach is to use an extendable wand with protective goggles, or hiring a professional pressure cleaning service.


Sanding the deck after a power wash is a great idea to make it perfectly smooth. Not only does this make it more visually appealing, but it’s also the perfect prep for staining and sealing if that’s your next step.

Of course, you should still wait for it to dry completely over the course of 24 to 48 hours before sanding. If you don’t have a random orbit sander – the best sander for this job – you can rent one if you know what you’re doing, or hire a pro to make sure the job is done perfectly and safely!

Looking to pressure clean your deck? Get free quotes from a professional pressure cleaner in your area!


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