Should You Power Wash A Fence Before Staining It?

Find Out If This Is The Best Way To Clean A Fence Before Staining It
Power wash fence before stain

In most cases, you should not power wash a fence before staining it. This might end up doing more harm than good. Instead, use a different cleaning method.

Find the method and more below-

Let’s Get To Cleaning

“Jen, I’m off to rent a power washer to clean our fence before staining day,” says Mike.

“Wait, WHAT?!” Jen comes running to the garage door. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? It sounds like it might not be good for our fence. Don’t they usually use those things on brick and siding?”

Mike pauses. “I guess, yeah. I just assumed it would be fine for wood. Do you not?” Jen shakes her head. “I feel like it might damage the wood or something. Can we look it up before you go, just to be on the safe side?”

How to clean a fence so that itll look like this halfway through

“Yeah, of course. It won’t take too long,” Mike responds. He gets out his phone and looks up ‘power wash fence before stain’ on Google. This worked when they were looking up how to stain a fence.

After some searching, here is what the couple finds:

Should You Power Wash Before Fence Staining?

More often than not, it is not a good idea to power wash a fence before staining it. Power washers can force the mold and mildew (the greying color of the fence) deeper into the wood pickets. This causes the wood to deteriorate quicker.

Power washing a stained fence can create divots on the surface of the wood. As those divots are stained, the pigment gathers in the deep areas and highlights those lines. It’s not pretty.

Wood fence with damage to stain

Powerwashing at high speeds can also wash away the soft fibers of the wood. If you power wash the fence too much or too harshly the fence pickets actually start to resemble thin ‘toothpicks’. This is where the softwood along the edges wash away. The leftover, harder wood fibers won’t accept the stain as uniformly.

The goal of cleaning a fence for staining isn’t to get the wood bare. Its’ to remove the mold, mildew, and algae as well as knock off the dirt and debris.

But Doesn’t The Old Stain Need To Be Gone?

Most people think you need to remove the old stain first. Actually, it’s usually better to leave the old stain. It helps protect the wood from drying out and other damages.

Trying to remove the old stain can actually end up damaging the wood.

Staining companies often recommend staining at least 1 shade darker for re-stains because of older stains.

Staining a fence

When To Power Wash Before Fence Staining

You’ll want to power wash a fence before staining when:

  • A fence is stained with a latex-based product and you want to remove caked-on dirt
  • A fence is being chemically stripped to remove an older latex stain so that an oil-based stain can be used in its place

You use a power washer here because of the amount of water it produces, not the strength of the spray.

The Best Way To Clean A Fence Before Staining

You’ll want to do what we call a soft wash.

In the process of cleaning a fence

A soft wash is a mixture of water and algaecides that kill the mold and mildew on the surface. It also penetrates into the wood fibers to kill stuff deep within the wood as well. You apply it using something like the “shower” mode on your handheld sprinkler.

After the soft wash, rinse the fence with fresh water. It’s important to give time for your fence to dry out before applying an oil-based stain because water and oil reject each other.

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“Ok, let’s take another look at the fence and see if we actually need to rent a power washer,” Mike suggests. “And while you do that I’m going to see what else I can find out on this website,” Jen replies.