How to Clean a Fence Before Staining

Learning how to clean a fence before staining is essential to make sure that your stain gets absorbed into your wood and is applied evenly.  Then, you know your wood fence is protected from the elements. 

Follow our directions below to clean your fence properly before staining with or without a pressure washer. 

how to clean a fence before staining
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How to Clean a Fence Before Staining

As mentioned above, there are 2 main methods to cleaning your fence before staining it.  The first and fastest one is a pressure washer.  But, how do you clean a fence WITHOUT a pressure washer?  Don’t worry, we will cover the sure fire way to clean up that fence good as new with some elbow grease. 

Pressure Washing Your Fence Before Staining 

Should I pressure wash my fence before staining?  Absolutely.  Staining a fence is a great way to add new life and beauty to your outdoor space. However, before you can start applying stain, you need to make sure the fence is clean and free of debris. Your results will look professional when you invest time in the prep work like power washing.  Let’s discuss the first of two ways to clean your fence. 

The first method to clean your fence is by using a pressure washer.  You can buy one online and they can be used for a ton of things, from fence cleaning, to driveway cleaning, to removing paint from your house or wood furniture projects.   

Unless you have a new fence, you must always clean it before applying any stain or paint.  Same thing goes if you’re staining a fence that is already stained.  Let’s discuss the power washing steps (and some tips and tricks) to get your fence clean. 

Supplies for Power Washing Your Fence 

Get the following things together before you get started on your fence. 

  1. Work Clothes (water resistant if you’ve got them) 
  2. Power Washer  
  3. Long Enough Extension Cord (if needed) 
  4. Proper Tips for Spraying your Fence (25 degree is fine, the green tip) 
  5. Bucket 
  6. Rags 
  7. Long Enough Garden Hose 
  8. Safety Goggles 
  9. Gloves 

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Prepping the Area

Before you start cleaning, make sure to prep the area around the fence. Move any outdoor furniture or plants away from the fence, and cover any nearby surfaces, such as decks or patios, with plastic sheeting to protect them from the cleaning solution.

Steps to Cleaning Your Fence with a Pressure Washer 

First things first.  Get that safety gear on.  Attach your garden hose to your power washer.  Then attach the high-pressure hose that goes from the washer to your spray wand.  Fill your power washer with water before turning it on.  

How to pressure wash wood without damaging it?  The key is to know that pressure washing your fence requires a PSI of less than 2000.  Higher PSI means the water shoots out at high pressure which will damage your fence.  You want to spray with the least amount of pressure possible while still removing the gunk from your fence wood. 

Starting at the top of your fence, spray a small area at an angle and from about 12 to 24 inches away.  Using a downward motion, work your way from the top to the bottom of the small section of fence you’re working on.  Keep the wand and water flow moving.  If you stop in one spot for too long, you’ll damage the wood! 

Once you’re done that section give it a quick check to make sure it’s clean.  If not, repeat the cleaning steps above until you’re satisfied.  Move onto the next section and so on, until your entire fence is cleaned for staining.   

There will be some gunk at the bottom of your fence that you washed off that you’ll need to pile into your bucket and either compost or throw out. 

The best Guide on Youtube to Prepping, Cleaning and Power Washing your Fence.  It’s long, but, its an awesome How To Guide.

Clean Green Algae From Your Wooden Fence 

Now, if you have green algae, mold or mildew on your fence you will have to take extra prep steps.  While power washing your fence removes a ton of gunk, those 3 things can grow into the pores of your wood, slowly rotting the wood and keeping your stain from deeply penetrating the surface.   

You’ll need to kill algae, mold and mildew before you start staining.  Get yourself a bucket, water resistant work clothes, some gloves, goggles and a stiff wire brush, with the option to attach it to a broom handle is best.  Please be careful of any plants or your grass, the solutions below could damage them.  Cover them where possible to keep them looking great. 

How to Remove Green Algae, Mold and Mildew from my Fence? 

So, what do you use to clean a wooden fence? There are several ways to remove those 3 nasty things from your wooden fence and deck.  You can use homemade fence cleaner, the best wood fence cleaner, or bleach your fence before staining.   

What Do You Use to Clean a Wooden Fence: Homemade Fence Cleaner 

Everyone has these common ingredients in their home.  Don’t let being stuck inside limit your DIY.  You can clean your fence to pass the time (it’s basically free!) and get a head start on the summer! 

Grab the following ingredients and supplies to get started making your homemade fence cleaner. 

  1. Bucket 
  2. Stiff Brush  
  3. Gloves 
  4. Safety Goggles 
  5. Hos
  6. White Vinegar 

Now mix 1 gallon of water to 1 cup of vinegar and some dish soap in your bucket.  Add more vinegar if you like.  Stir it around with your wire brush to make sure its fully mixed and get scrubbing! 

What Do You Use to Clean a Wooden Fence: Best Wood Fence Cleaner 

We really love Mold Armor Fence, Deck & Patio Wash.  It’s a bleach based wood cleaner that kills mold & mildew.  It comes in a gallon size and helps to restore your weathered or discolored fence. 

What’s awesome about some store bought cleaners is you can attach a hose to the container and spray it directly onto your fence.  Saves you some time!

What Do You Use to Clean a Wooden Fence: Bleach Fence Before Staining 

Diluted bleach can be used to clean algae, mold and mildew from wood.  2 parts water to 1 part bleach is strong enough to kill anything growing on your fence.  Always wear your safety gear when using anything with bleach or any chemicals in it.  Make sure to rinse your fence off with your power washer or a hose after you’re done scrubbing with the brush. 

How Do You Clean a Fence Without a Pressure Washer? 

Without a power washer, you are going to have to use a lot more elbow grease and time to get the job done.  Grab yourself a helper and it won’t be a problem!  The supply list is basically the same as using a power washer, minus the washer. 

  1. Work Clothes (water resistant if you’ve got them) 
  2. Bucket 
  3. Stiff Bristle Brush (preferably with a handle) 
  4. Rags 
  5. Long Enough Garden Hose 
  6. Safety Goggles 
  7. Gloves 

Mix up one of the above fence cleaner recipes, or buy one online.  Starting from the top of your fence slats, dip you brush into your bucket full of cleaner and start scrubbing.  Try to scrub as lightly as possible to remove the buildup.   

Minimal pressure from the brush will ensure that your wood doesn’t get damaged.  Hose of each section of fence as your done cleaning it.  Move onto the next section and so on, until finished.  Let your fence sit until dry and then apply the rot protector and stain. 

Final Steps After You’ve Cleaned Your Fence 

Once your fence is nice and clean, wait for it to dry before moving onto the repair phase.  Depending on the weather conditions, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day. There might be some repairs that need to be done on your fence before you stain.  This will add years to the life of your fence.   

Everything from patching wood, to fixing nails and screws, to tightening loose boards and gluing broken pieces back onto your fence.  Don’t skip this step, you’ll be super happy with the results when your fence looks like new. 

Using a product to prevent rot is a great idea, especially in the areas that are in contact with the ground, might sit in water, or in areas with high humidity and/or lots of rain. 


How to clean a fence before staining is important knowledge to guarantee your staining work turns out so well, that your neighbors and family will envy your backyard all summer.  By following the steps outlined above, you can ensure that your fence is clean and ready for stain, which will help your stain adhere better and last longer. Remember to wear protective gear, use the right tools, and take your time to ensure that your fence looks its best.


Can you spray fence stain with a paint gun?

Yes, check out or detailed post about the best fence stain sprayer HERE.