How to Prepare a Cedar Deck for Stain

While the real work comes when you begin staining, preparing your deck to receive the stain will contribute greatly to the finished result. New cedar decks will need to experience at least one rainstorm, and older cedar decks may require some repair work. Whether new or old, all cedar decks require a thorough cleaning before they can be stained. Dirt and mildew will ruin the finish if you do not remove them before staining.

To get a great finish on a cedar deck, you need to properly prepare it before staining.
  1. Remove any furniture, plants or decorations from the deck.

  2. Sweep the deck thoroughly, making sure to sweep between railings and in corners to remove as much dust, dirt and cobwebs as possible.

  3. Inspect the cedar deck for any rough or loose boards, stains, scrapes or areas that need repairing.

  4. Secure any loose boards by nailing or screwing them into place.

  5. Sand away any rough areas, scrapes or stains with 80-grit sandpaper. Cedar can be sanded easily, so only light sanding will be required.

  6. Wait for at least one rainstorm to thoroughly wet the cedar deck if the deck is brand new. You can skip this step if the deck is old. Some deck stain manufacturers recommend letting a new cedar deck weather several storms before staining.

  7. Mix the deck cleaner according to the manufacturer's directions.

  8. Spray the cleaner onto the deck, completely saturating it. Make sure to get in the corners and any areas where mildew might be hiding.

  9. Scrub any areas that are especially stained or dirty with a scrub brush.

  10. Allow the cleaner to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

  11. Rinse away the cleaner with fresh water.

  12. Allow the deck to dry completely before staining.


  • Do not use a pressure washer on its highest setting. You risk damaging the cedar.
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