How to Remove Paint From a Deck With Pressure Washing

Removing paint from a deck is a job done by a combination of two methods. Mechanical and chemical means are available to the homeowner for a professional finish. There are also two types of paint to consider. Chemicals and pressure washing alone can remove latex paint, while oil based paint will require more equipment and diligence. Following these steps will allow for an easier and more efficient removal.

Things You'll Need

  • Clean shop rag or cotton swab
  • Alcohol
  • Painters drop cloth or plastic
  • Push broom or compressed air gun
  • Bug sprayer or paint brush
  • Paint stripper
  • Pressure washer

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Using a clean shop rag or cotton swab, rub a small amount of alcohol into the wood. If the paint transfers to the rag or swab it is latex. If not, it is an oil based paint. An oil based paint requires more than pressure washing alone to remove it.

Remove all plants, deck furniture and anything else sitting on the deck. Lay down a ten foot section of plastic or painters drop cloth around the outside of the deck to protect plants and grass. Clean the deck surface using pressurized air or a push broom.

Working from the outside of the deck, apply stripper with a brush or bug sprayer to the rails and steps. Let the stripper sit for the manufacturer's recommended amount of time.

Starting at the top of the rails, spray the stripper off of the rails with cold water and low pressure (800-1200 psi). Rinse until all stripper is removed.

Pick out a ten by ten foot section of deck, starting in the farthest corner from the exit. Apply the stripper with a bug sprayer or, if it is a gel, with a paint brush to the section. Let the chemical sit for the manufacturer's recommended time.

Using a pressure washer, set your nozzle for a 3 foot wide spray (about 15 to 25 degrees). Use low pressure (800-1200 psi.) and cold water only. Begin rinsing at the outside of the 10 by 10 section and work your way across one board at a time. Use a sweeping motion with the spray wand nozzle about 18 inches from the surface. Move with the grain of the wood.

Repeat the process until the entire deck surface is clean. Check for any missed areas of paint and spot clean by applying the stripper with a brush and rinsing.

Once the deck is clean, wait 48 hours before painting or staining.

Tips & Warnings

  • Gel stripper is superior to thinner strippers that can be sprayed. It will cling to vertical surfaces.
  • Work in a manner that allows you to avoid walking on the chemical.
  • Do not use hot water. This can ruin a deck.
  • Cover all plants and greenery, as stripper is very caustic and can kill vegetation.
  • Wear goggles and rubber gloves.
  • Wear boots instead of tennis shoes.
  • Stripper will make the surface very slick. Avoid walking on the surface until it is rinsed free of stripper.


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