Use Wood Brightener Before Staining Your Deck

Wood Brightener does 3 things for your deck – it neutralizes any remaining stain stripper or wood cleaner, it restores and brightens wood to its natural, bare state, and it opens the pores of the wood. All 3 of these things are critical to getting the longest lifespan out of your deck stain and will save you time and money in the long run.


  1. Brian Preston says:

    Our deck is about 50 ft long by 20 ft wide. Rather than risk over application or missing the wet on wet window, should I apply one coat now (autumn), then use Deck Brightener in the spring followed by the second coat?
    Thank you.

    • defyadmin says:

      Brian, there shouldn’t be any problem with you applying 2 wet-on-wet coats now. Just make sure the stain isn’t puddling on the surface. This can be avoided by applying the stain with a car wash type brush. It forces the stain into the pores of the wood so that it doesn’t form a film. Both coats should be applied within 10-20 minutes of each other.

  2. Tom says:

    We put on a deck in August of 2014. We waited until July 2015 to stain it. We used Restore A Deck Cleaner and Brightner as directed. We purchased DEFY Semi Transparent stain from the sealer store. Unfortunately someone told me to only put one coat on since it was new wood and to put a second coat on this year. We also applied the stain when it was 90 and sunny as we were running out of dry days in the forecast. The stain has not worn well. I realize it is from only one coat and applying in the hot sun. I have just purchased DEFY semi transparent 5 gallon bucket and want to do it right. Can I use the cleaner and then the brighter before I stain or do I need to use a stripper instead of the cleaner. There is no peeling just weather look, like areas that didn’t take as much stain as others. Thanks for your help.

    • defyadmin says:

      Tom, you should be able to just use the cleaner and brightener. Once that’s done, allow the deck to dry out and then apply the stain. This time, don’t apply in direct sunlight as that can cause it to dry too quickly. You’ll want to apply as much stain as the wood can absorb. That may mean 1 coat, or it could be 2 wet-on-wet coats. If you use a car wash brush like in these videos, it will help force the stain into the pores of the wood, which will increase the longevity.

  3. Greg says:

    Our deck was finished 2016 and we applied an oil base stain the following year. How well does your product cover over oil base stains?

    • customerservice says:

      Greg, You will need to remove the oil stain before applying Defy. It’s a penetrating product and needs to go into bare wood in order for it to perform.

  4. Larry Willbur says:

    We are in Florida. Installed a new PT deck 4 months ago and cleaned and brightened the deck two weeks ago but have not been able to stain it due to weather. Do I need to clean and brighten again before staining?

    • customerservice says:

      Larry, If the wood hasn’t turned gray and gotten dirty again you shouldn’t need to clean and brighten again. Typically it takes more than a few weeks to start graying.


    My deck has a solid stain on it that was peeling in spots after 3 years. I tried a stripper on a portion of it but it did not work well. I followed up there and on the rest of the deck with scraping and sanding the areas that were peeling. What are the next steps to do before applying your solid stain?

    • defyadmin says:

      Hi Darlene, as long as the solid stain that’s currently on your deck has good adhesion and is not peeling, you can apply our solid stain over top of it. It sounds like you’ve already prepped it, so the next step would simply be to stain it.

      • Tammy Aldrich says:

        Hello! Do you need to clean and use a brighter before applying the solid stain over the existing solid stain?

        • defyadmin says:

          Tammy, cleaning and brightening is never a bad idea, but for the solid stain, as long as the wood is clean and there’s no dirt or mold, and the stain isn’t peeling off, then you may be able to skip the cleaning and brightening. Cleaning and brightening is much more important for the semi-transparent and clear stains.

  6. James Rogler says:

    I’m going to do my cedar shake siding. I plan to clean it, rinse then put your Defy Wood brightener on. I’d like to use just a clear water repellent Wood stain.
    First, does this plan sound good an secondly, does Defy make a clear water repellent stain? Thanks

  7. Ted says:

    How do I know when to stain over new cedar? Also should I use a cleaner and brighter on new cedar?

    • defyadmin says:

      Ted, because of cedar’s oily nature, it’s best to wait up to a year to allow it to weather so that it becomes porous enough to accept a stain. And yes, cleaning and brightening will help to open the pores so the product gets absorbed properly.

  8. Karl D says:

    Hi. Cedar deck unfinished 2 years old. Power washed it today. Intend to sand entire surface after dry with random orbital. Owner damaged with power washer last year so it has to be sanded. Do i still need to use brightener? Seems unnecessary but want to do it right. Thanks!!!!

    • defyadmin says:

      Karl, we usually recommend the Brightener as will neutralize the surface of the wood so that it’s the correct ph, as well as help the stain absorb more evenly. Whether you use the brightener or not, make sure you rinse the wood well after sanding. The fine sawdust left in the pores of the wood after sanding can create an uneven appearance as it will absorb the stain differently, depending on how much sawdust is on the surface.

  9. Sarah says:

    I just sanded the cedar down to it’s natural color. Do I need to apply the brightener?

    • defyadmin says:

      Sarah, a couple of thoughts here. Sanding is not a bad idea, and can bring your wood back to life. However, as you sand it, it crushes the grain of the wood, and makes it harder for the stain to absorb as the pores are closed. In these cases, we still usually recommend using both the Wood Cleaner and Wood Brightener as they accomplish 2 things. The Wood Cleaner opens the pores of the wood back up, and the Brightener will neutralize the surface, making the surface conditions ideal for maximum absorption of the stain. Ultimately, whether you use the prep products is up to you, but we’ve found that stains last longer when using both a cleaner and brightener.

  10. Methia Gordon says:

    I’m trying to plan out my time with the weather for stripping, brightening and staining our deck. I’m ready to go with the stripper and the brightener but I just ordered the stain and it won’t be here for another week or two. If I go ahead with the stripper and the brightener how long can I let it sit until I apply stain with the possibility of some rain until the stain arrives? What would you advise? Our deck is 8 years old cedar.

  11. Murphy says:

    Our deck was built 16 months ago. Should I apply neutralizer prior to staining it?

    • defyadmin says:

      Murphy, to get the longest lifespan out of our stain, we recommend applying DEFY Wood Cleaner and Brightener first, as these products prep the surface of the wood and create an ideal surface for staining. Watch this video for the complete recommended process –

  12. Leanne says:

    I have read this whole thread and almost have an answer to my question but just to be sure….
    I started working on my deck in early August. The stain the previous owners had applied had started peeling within one year. I ended up having to sand the entire deck down. I have a deck that is over 1000 sqft, but because of all the rainy days in August and September I am just now ready to use the cleaner and brightener, however it is still raining several times per week and since I live in Fairbanks, Alaska, the temperature in the afternoons is now in the 40s and 50s and occasionally in the low 60s. My problem is this, I can still use the cleaner and brightener to prep the wood but I am not at all confident that the wood will get dry enough or the weather will remain warm enough for me to stain. If I clean and brighten it now and then end up having to wait until May or June to stain, can I assume I will need to use the cleaner and brightener again? Or when spring comes, can I just wash the deck down and follow all of the other directions to correctly apply the stain? Or would it be better to leave the wood as is and just wait until spring to clean and brighten and then stain? I have already purchased my cleaner and brightener and my Defy Extreme semi transparent stain because I thought I was going to be able to get it finished before it got too cold. Thanks for the advice.

    • defyadmin says:

      Leanne, if you clean and brighten it now, you’ll want to stain it within a few weeks. Otherwise, you’ll need to reapply next spring/summer. If you think you may not get to it this year, I’d wait until next year so you don’t have to redo it.

  13. Megan says:

    I am sanding the solid stain off the floor boards of our deck and plan to use defy semi-transparent stain. A few boards need to be replaced. Do I need to wait until spring to stain the replacement boards since they will be new? How is this usually handled? Also, do I need to clean and brighten if the older boards are being sanded?

    • defyadmin says:

      Megan, yes, if they are pressure treated boards, you’ll want them to weather for a few months before staining. Even if you’re sanding the boards back to bare wood, it’s helpful to use the cleaner and brightener as they open the pores of the wood, so the stain can absorb better and more evenly. Sometimes when you sand, it crushes the grain shut and the wood doesn’t absorb the stain evenly. The cleaner and brightener will counteract this and give you a better finish.

  14. Justin says:

    I am prepping a 3 yr old (never stained) fence for semi transparent stain, and after using the cleaner and brightener it looks good but there is some furring. A nylon stripping pad works pretty well at quickly knocking most of it off and getting into the grooves without generating a lot of fine dust. Before stain do I need to brighten again, dust it off, or rinse with water? I have only done about a quarter of the fence, so if I should sand between cleaning and brightening I will do that for the rest, but I understand the brightener should be used while still wet from washing.

    • defyadmin says:

      Justin, you probably don’t need to sand after cleaning and brightening, but you may consider rinsing to get rid of any sawdust. Any remaining sawdust on the wood can create an uneven appearance.

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