How to Clean Your Wood Railing

Designing and building a DIY wood deck railing for your home's outdoor living space can be one of the most rewarding projects a homeowner can achieve all on their own. For years and decades to come, DIY deck builders can sit back and relax in their favorite backyard area, regaling friends and guests of the weekend that they built this deck with their own two hands.

One crucial factor, however, in how much you love to spread the story of your family's deck, porch, or patio, is how it looks and feels today. Learning how to care for your wood railing and how to clean your wood deck railing can improve and enhance the entire appearance of outdoor living space for gorgeous deck space that endures the test of time.

How to Clean Wood Deck Railing

With so many deck cleaning products and processes, it can be difficult to determine exactly how a homeowner should maintain and clean wood deck railings to protect their deck space. What's helpful and what's harmful? It can be hard to see the distinction when browsing big box stores and online shops.

At DecksDirect, we want to help homeowners and DIY deck builders create and protect their outdoor living spaces regardless of where items are purchased. Read through to learn the basics of how to care for your wood railing and how to maintain a stunning wood railing design for as long as possible.

How to Take Care of Your Wooden Railing

Warning: Before working on renovating your deck or with tough cleaning products, it's recommended to wear protective gloves and eye gear.

Cleaning Your Wood Deck Railing

Knowing how to clean your wood railing and maintain the beautiful looks of your wood deck railing can save you time and money in  years to come

How to Take Care of Your Wood Railing

1. Sweep off the space

Begin by clearing your outdoor living space from any leaves, debris, dirt, or furniture. Move any outdoor rugs or deck furniture away from the area to clean the full deck surface and wood deck railing. Once you've swept the flooring of your deck or porch, lift your broom to brush away any rubble from your wooden railing.

Be sure to remove any spiderwebs or cobwebs, dried-up leaves or plants, and pollen from the deck rails to create an open foundation for the following steps in cleaning wood railing.

2. Cover Plants and Flowers Near the Deck

To protect any landscaping surrounding your deck, porch, or patio, be sure to cover flowers, plants, shrubs, and trees with large tarps and tapestries. This will protect the products of your green thumb from any interaction with cleaners or chemicals.

3. Remove Old Stain or Paint

If you have stained your wood deck railing before, or perhaps have moved into a home with an existing wooden rail that is painted; you'll want to remove any previous sealer before cleaning your deck space.

You can use a chemical deck cleaning product to remove the stain such as a deck stain remover, paint thinner, or stripper. Using a stiff-bristled scrub brush and a bucket of clean water, you will scour this cleaner along your wood railing for about 20 - 30 minutes. Then rinse away the deck cleaning mixture and let the deck railing dry fully before continuing.

Another method of removing stain from wood railing is to use a power-sander tool to gently smooth away the painted or sealed wood rail surface. While this method does skip the use of tough chemicals, it can be quite time-consuming. Be sure to not stay in one spot too long when sanding, otherwise you may damage your wood deck railing.

4. Brush on Deck Cleaner and Brightener

Wood deck cleaners and brighteners, such as the pro cleaners from DeckWise and Messmer's, remove dirt and greying in preparation for staining and applying deck finishes and stains. Deck cleaners and brighteners are typically concentrated powders that you mix with clean water or specifically formualted gels that you scrub along your wood deck surface and railing in two steps.

Ideal for the natural color restoration of your wood rail, deck and wood cleaners will brighten wood decks, wood rails, fences, and furniture back to its original glory. Remove the musty grey appearance old wood may have gained over the years and go back to the natural appeal of hardwood.

Cleaning and taking care of a wood deck railing can be simple and painless with yearly check-ins and cleanings

5. Apply Deck Stain or Penetrating Oil

Depending upon the style and ambiance of your outdoor living space, prepare to protect your wood deck railing with either a deck stain, penetrating deck oil, or sealing paint of your choosing!

Select the shade you would like your wood railing to be as well as the shielding qualities you prefer for your deck and region. Important note: if you choose to apply a standard deck stain, paint, or sealer, you will have to strip your railing again in the following year or two to reapply.

If the homeowner chooses to apply a penetrating deck oil, such as Penofin, no stripping or paint-thinning will be necessary! Penetrating wood oils absorb into the fibers of the wood to prevent water-damage as well as shield the fibers from harmful UV rays while providing a chic transparent shade to your wood railing.

Learn more about the basics of deck railing code-compliance and installation in the Deck Railing Guide and Glossary of Deck Terms and Lingo.

Browse more deck design and railing style notes to upgrade your backyard space and deck in the DecksDirect Railing Style Guide. The quickest way to learn if your home is more suited for a classic aluminum deck railing, timeless all wood railing system, or a strong, composite railing line.

The more you know, the better your deck and backyard projects will be! Whether you're looking at a brand new start or a fresh end-of-season deck renovation, give our deck designers a call at 1-888-824-5316 or send us an email at Our deck experts will help you get the information, products, and tools you need for a gorgeous deck that you created and designed!