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How to Start Your Next Staining Project

The right weather and the right stain need the right preparation

Staining your wood deck is a great way to protect it from the elements. However, successful staining isn't just a matter of selecting a stain and applying it to your deck when you can find the time. You want to pick the right tools for your unique job, properly prepare your wood surface and then choose the right stain product before the application begins to ensure great results. 

Use this guide to make sure your prep steps are all covered. 

1. Choose the right tools to stain your deck

Every staining project has its own unique needs that require specific tools. Colour and opacity are really important, but the tools you use to clean your surfaces and apply fresh stain also impact the final look of your project. 

Watch this video for a quick overview on the necessary tools you will need for your next staining project. 

Tool cheat sheet:

  1. A stiff broom for scrubbing
  2. A hose for cleaning
  3. Tarp for covering vegetation and any areas you want to protect
  4. A pump-style sprayer
  5. A hammer and drill for repairing damaged boards
  6. A pole sander and hand sander
  7. One large bucket for intermixing containers and several stirring sticks
  8. A roller and roller tray (or if you prefer a different method, a stain pad with pole)
  9. The correct kind of stain brushes

For alkyd-oil stains, use a brush with natural bristles. For acrylic or latex products, use a brush with synthetic bristles. Also, staining brushes don’t have angled edges like paint brushes. These straight edges allow the stain brushes to hold more product than their paint counterparts.

Now that you have your list of staining tools, you are ready to prepare your surface!

2. Clean your deck for stain

Cleaning your deck prior to applying a fresh coat of stain is a critical step in the staining process. You need to remove the stains caused by dirt, mold, mildew and algae to help ensure long-lasting, beautiful stain results. Your stain has a better chance of absorbing into and adhering to the wood to protect it if you do a thorough job of removing any foreign substances.

See exactly how to clean your surface before applying a fresh coat of stain. 

Cleaning cheat sheet

  1. Remove furniture and sweep the deck clear of debris (remember to remove leaves and sticks left in the gaps of each board)
  2. Cover any plants, vegetation, walls and delicate surfaces to protect them from damage
  3. If your deck is older, this is a good time to add new screws or nails wherever necessary
  4. Repair structural damage and replace rotting boards
  5. If you have a finish on your deck that’s peeling, scrape it off* and then sand the surface.  Or, use Olympic Premium Stain Stripper to remove the old finish.
  6. Apply Olympic Premium Deck Cleaner across the surface of the wood to draw out stains
  7. Wait 5-10 minutes to let the Deck Cleaner work
  8. While scrubbing isn’t required, you may need to use a stiff bristled broom or brush on any stubborn stains
  9. After 5-10 minutes, rinse thoroughly with water to remove any dirt or residue
  10. Allow your deck to dry completely
  11. Lightly sand all surfaces of your deck with 120 to 150 grit sandpaper to give the stain a fresh surface to penetrate (be sure to sand with the grain)
  12. Remove any dust left over from the sanding

Once you finish these steps, you are now ready to find the right stain product for your project.

* WARNING! If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust or fumes. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST OR FUMES CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE.  Wear a properly fitted NIOSH-approved respirator and prevent skin contact to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the USEPA National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log on to Follow these instructions to control exposure to other hazardous substances that may be released during surface preparation. Please refer to the Product Label, Technical Data Sheet (TDS) or Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for safety and detailed application instructions.

3. Choose the right stain

You have the right tools and your surface is thoroughly cleaned. Now you get to the fun part of actually choosing the stain that's going to protect and beautify your wood. Let's look at some tips for choosing the right stain for your project. 

Key points

  • Assess the condition of your deck.
    • Are you staining new wood or refinishing an older wood surface that already had stain applied to it?
  • Consider the age of your wood:
    • For newer decks,consider using tonerclear and semi-transparent Olympic stains because they allow the natural beauty and wood grain to show through
    • For older decks, consider re-staining with the same finish that was used in the past.
    • For older wood that has seen some abuse, solid color and semi-solid Olympic stains would make great finishes that cover marks and protect the surface
    • For older decks with hairline cracks in the boards, prevent early deterioration with Olympic Rescue It® MAX, which will extend the life of your worn and weathered surface


Now you should be well prepared for the staining ahead. You have your tools, a properly cleaned deck and know the kind of stain you will be using for your wood surface.

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Variance in monitor calibrations can affect the on-screen representations of our actual paint and stain colours. Your local Olympic® Stains retailer can match and/or order the exact colour that you desire with the help of the Olympic Stain colour name or number.