A Beginner Guide to Pressure Washing Wood Decks and Fences

Pressure washing is an extremely effective way to clean and restore the appearance of exterior surfaces such as Power Wash wood decks and Fences. When done right, this intense pressure washing can remove years of accumulated dirt, grime, mold and mildew and make the underlying material look new again.

A Brief Definition of Power Wash Wood Decks and Fences

Pressure washing involves the use of a specialized pressure washer and nozzle attachments that deliver an intense jet of water. This concentrated jet, which can be 30 to 80 times more powerful than a normal garden hose, cleans surfaces by forcibly removing contaminants.

why clean wood decking and vinyl fencing with a pressure washer?

Over time, wood decking and fencing become soiled with dirt, pollen, grime, mold, mildew, spilt food and drink, etc. These stubborn deposits can penetrate deep into the microscopic pores of the material and are difficult to remove with conventional cleaning.

Pressure washing is an effective solution that cleans worn exterior surfaces with less time and effort than hand scrubbing, giving them a like-new appearance.

The intense water pressure removes stubborn stains and loosens deeper stains from the crevices of wood or vinyl, leaving you with a refreshed surface ready for a new stain or sealer.

In addition to the aesthetic benefits, pressure washing your deck or fence provides important maintenance that will prolong its life by preventing rot and decay.

Main reasons for Power Wash wood decks and Fences

  • Removes surface dirt and debris such as pollen, leaves and soil
  • Removes mold and mildew caused by damp weather
  • Removes food stains such as grease, oil and wine
  • Refreshes faded color caused by sunlight
  • Prepares the surface for a new protective coating

Top reasons to pressure wash vinyl fences

  • Removes chalky oxidation and UV damage
  • Removes exhaust fumes, rust stains and dirt
  • Removes mildew deposits
  • Restores vivid colors hidden under dirt and grime
  • Makes the vinyl fence look new

Preparing to clean your Power Wash wood decks and Fences

Careful preparation is crucial for effective and safe cleaning with a pressure washer. Depending on your exterior structure and the degree of soiling, you’ll need to do the following:

Evaluate the material of the deck

Before cleaning, determine what material your deck or fence is made of, as some materials have special requirements:

  • Wood: teak, cedar, pine, redwood, composite
  • PVC vinyl
  • Concrete
  • Brick

Wood and vinyl can usually tolerate pressure washing, but you should be careful with softer woods and use lower pressure. Masonry may need chemical cleaners to avoid burns.

Check for existing damage

Check for cracked boards, wraps, chips, loose nails/screws or other defects that may be aggravated by pressure washing. For best results, make minor repairs first.

Remove surface debris before Power Wash wood decks and Fences

Remove everything on top of the deck, e.g., deck furniture, flower pots, rugs, and toys. In the case of fences, remove vegetation and other objects leaning against the fence. Removing obstacles allows for systematic cleaning.

Cover nearby areas Power Wash wood decks and Fences

Protect areas around the pressure washer with tarps and tarpaulins that you support with weights. This will prevent water spray from causing damage.  Also cover exterior walls and windows if you are working near the house. Consider using covers such as plastic tarps if you want to contain water mist over a wide area

Get the necessary pressure washer equipment

Cleaning is much easier with the right equipment:

  • Pressure washer: gas or electric
  • Nozzles: different spray nozzles for different tasks
  • Extensions: extensions for hard-to-reach areas
  • Cleaner: pressure washer concentrate for patios or fences
  • Broom: for surface pre-cleaning
  • Garden hose: for rinsing
  • Scrub brush: for spot cleaning
  • Protective equipment: at least safety goggles and gloves

Choosing the right pressure washer

Pressure washers are available in both electric and gas models. Choosing the best appliance for cleaning yards and fences depends on several factors.

Gas vs. electric pressure washers

Gas-powered pressure washers generate higher water pressure due to their powerful engines. They are best suited for larger cleaning jobs. However, they produce loud noises and exhaust fumes. They are also less mobile due to the weight of the engine and fuel.

Electric pressure washers plug into a standard electrical outlet. They have smaller motors that produce less pressure and are suitable for medium-intensity cleaning jobs, such as fences or patios. Electric models are much quieter, more environmentally friendly and easier to transport than gas units. Just make sure your circuit amperage allows for it.

Gas pressure washer Electric pressure washer
Power More powerful Less powerful
Noise level Noisier Quieter
Portability Heavier appliances Lighter appliances
Emit exhaust gases Emits exhaust gases Does not emit exhaust gases

PSI and GPM requirements for yard and fence cleaning PSI (pounds per square inch) measures the intensity of the water pressure supplied

PSI(pounds per square inch) measures the intensity of the water pressure delivered. Higher PSI means higher cleaning power. Most power washers produce 1300 to 1800 PSI, while gas models reach 2000 to 4000 PSI.

GPM (gallons per minute) indicates the volume of water flow, the more gallons per minute moved, the faster larger areas are cleaned.

An average garden hose has a pressure of about 40 PSI. Pressure washers used for decks typically have a pressure of 1300 to 3000 PSI, while fences only require 500 to 2000 PSI. Exceeding the material limits risks chipping wood or shredding vinyl.

The following are general guidelines for cleaning decks and fences:

Surface Pressure (PSI) Volume (GPM)
Wood decks 1800 – 3000 2.5+ GPM
Vinyl Fencing 1200 – 2000 1.2+ GPM
Concrete 2500 – 4000+ 3-4+ GPM

Nozzle Selection for Different Cleaning Tasks

Pressure washers use quick-connect nozzles to provide different water jet patterns that are optimal for different applications. Choosing the right nozzle increases cleaning efficiency and reduces the risk of surface damage.

Nozzle Type Water jet Cleaning tasks
0.5″ pencil tip Narrow jet Paint or stain removal, stubborn soiling
15″ Fan jet General cleaning of large surfaces
25″ Wide fan jet Cleaning of delicate surfaces such as wood decks
40″ Flood blasting Application of cleaning or rinsing solutions

Rotating nozzles also provide a wide spray area in a concentrated zero-degree stream when rotating continuously, allowing larger areas to be cleaned more quickly.

Some pressure washers also have special soap nozzles, so having a range of nozzles on hand can streamline cleaning tasks.

Preparing for safe and effective cleaning by Power Wash wood decks

Once you have all the necessary cleaning products, carefully prepare the work area:

  • Work in manageable sections
  • Don’t try to wash the entire yard or long sections of fence at once. Break it up into smaller, systematic sections to allow for effective cleaning from top to bottom.
    By working in sections, you can reduce drying time (to avoid potential mold and mildew and check each area to make sure no dirt or chemicals remain.
  • Start with a low-pressure pre-wash
  • Before scrubbing with detergents, first rinse the entire surface with clean water.
    This will wet the material and loosen loose dirt, making cleaning easier.
    Use a wide fan nozzle with an angle of about 40 degrees and a low spray pressure of 1100 PSI.
  • Methodical Washing
  • Repeated up and down passes over each section using a nozzle with a suitable angle, gradually increasing the pressure intensity to between 1000 and 2500 PSI depending on the surface and level of soiling. Overlap the strips a few inches to make sure you don’t skip any areas. Change nozzles routinely for different needs.
  • Maintain the correct distance
  • If you place the nozzle too close or too far away, cleaning performance will be compromised. 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) distance usually provides the best results. If you notice damage, increase the distance between the nozzle and the surface.
  • Allow to dry between passes
  • Allow surfaces to dry for 15 to 20 minutes between rinses. This will prevent moisture from being trapped beneath the surface, which can cause warping or discolouration. Proper drying also prevents the formation of mold and mildew.
  • Applying protective coatings
  • When the deck or fence appears clean after the final rinse, allow 24 to 48 hours to dry completely before applying a protective sealer or stain. This will allow any remaining moisture to evaporate and the coating to adhere well.

Safety tips for Power Wash wood decks

While pressure washers are extremely useful, they also pose certain hazards due to exposure to pressurized water, electricity in wet areas and chemicals. Follow these precautions:

Wear protective equipment

At a minimum, always wear ANSI-approved safety glasses and rubber gloves. Waterproof boots and clothing provide additional protection from standing water. Face masks also limit the inhalation of atomized droplets.

Make sure you have a safe foothold

Set up ramps or work from ladders to clean fences safely. Choose a dry, flat surface that offers good traction. Mark smooth areas with high-visibility tape. Take regular breaks, as power washing requires repetitive arm movements that can cause fatigue.

Proper handling of power cords

Use grounded extension cords for outdoor use to avoid tripping hazards and short circuits. Keep cords away from standing water and check periodically for damage.

Be careful on elevated surfaces

Avoid leaning too far over railings when washing from high terraces or balconies. Move slowly and make sure you have a safe foothold. Consider hiring a professional for multi-story jobs.

Follow chemical safety guidelines for Power Wash wood decks

Keep cleaning chemicals in a safe place and out of reach of pets and children. Check product labels and dilute concentrates properly before use. Rinse surfaces thoroughly after washing to remove all soap residue.

After Power Wash wood decks: finishing and maintenance

Proper execution of your cleaning project will ensure a great end result and lasting surface appeal.

  • Wood deck sealer application
  • Apply two thin, even coats of a high-quality penetrating sealer to the entire deck surface.
    This will condition the wood and provide waterproof protection against future weathering and wear.
    Popular choices include stains, paints or natural clear oils. Always test the product’s compatibility with wood debris first.
  • Checking and touching up the final appearance
  • Check for any remaining stains and clean them by hand, sanding or lightly repairing if necessary.
    Finally, clean off any dust. For fencing, straighten bent vinyl slats and fix loose pieces.
  • Clean equipment and work area
  • Properly dispose of used soap containers following local regulations.
    Clean the work site by picking up tarps and brushing/blowing down surrounding plants, walkways and walls. Empty, clean and safely store the pressure washer.
  • Determine maintenance frequency
  • To maintain cleanliness longer after pressure washing, typical Power Wash wood decks need to be cleaned every 6 to 12 months.
  • More durable vinyl fences only need to be washed every 2 to 3 years.
    An annual light cleaning of the surface without chemicals is also sufficient for ease of maintenance.
  • Signs that it’s time for a new cleaning
  • Recognize when your deck or fence needs a facelift with a pressure washer. Warning signs include visible dark spots of mildew, excessive chalky oxidation on the vinyl, heavy soiling that makes the surface slippery or dull, and green algae buildup. Catch the buildup early and the surface will stay new longer.
  • Prevent mildew between washes
  • To prevent mildew between full washes, regularly sweep away debris, such as leaves, that interferes with drying. use a leaf blower to clean fences. also spray surfaces with a mildew remover or weak bleach solution if you notice dark spots. allow the surface to dry completely. consider using fans or dehumidifiers after wet weather.

Frequently asked questions about Power Wash wood decks

HouseWash PA in PhiladelphiaCleaning experts and professionals receive many frequently asked questions about pressure washing, including:

should I rent or buy my own pressure washer for my yard/fence project?

Renting allows you to try the equipment without a large upfront cost, but frequent rentals over the years will cost you more in the long run than buying your own. Buy basic electric models for less than $150.

is it better to do it yourself or hire a professional for cleaning?

Do-it-yourself is fine for simple small decks if you are careful about heavy spraying, but for large/elevated decks or long multi-piece fences, it is better to have professionals do the job with commercial equipment.

what pressure is safe so I don’t damage my wood deck or vinyl fence?

Vinyl fences require a maximum of 500-2000 PSI, depending on the level of stain. For softwoods, start with 1000 PSI and then gradually increase to 1500-2500 PSI if necessary. Too much pressure will cause splintering.

how can I prevent my wood decking from quickly turning moldy again after pressure washing?

After the pressure-washed decking has completely dried for 2 days, you should apply a high-quality sealer/varnish that is rated mold resistant, sweep up any organic residue regularly and spray an antifungal agent between washes at the first sign of mold growth.

If you still have questions about pressure washing your exterior, contact  484-881-2713

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