How Soon After Cleaning Can You Stain or Seal?

How Soon After Cleaning Can You Stain or Seal?Cleaning and staining the wood of your log home, deck, or patio is as important as washing your car, your clothes, or your dog. Of course, you want to maintain its beauty, but at the same time, it’s critical to remove dust, dirt, mildew, and other contaminants that can deteriorate the wood and lead to decay.

Step One: Clean and Strip

Before you seal or stain, you need to get the wooden surface as clean as possible. The last thing you want is to lock contaminants into the wood, where they can continue to wreak havoc after any sealants are applied.

If you’re cleaning a wood deck or patio, your best option may be a power washer. This is especially true if the wood has been previously stained or sealed since a power washer will remove almost all of the existing coat of sealant. This allows you a fresh start with a new coat.

If you’re cleaning a log home, many options are available. Simply wiping with soap and water may suffice. If you’re combating more serious stains, power washing is a cost-effective method. Cob blasting is a more expensive option, in which the home is sprayed with a high-pressure stream of ground-up corncob.

Step Two: Wait

If you’ve used water to clean your deck or log home, you’ll need to let the wood dry completely before applying any stain. How long you need to wait depends on several variables. If you’re doing a wood deck or patio, you probably won’t need to wait as long since most of the surface is flat and therefore gets more direct sunlight. If the weather is warm, sunny, and dry, you may be able to stain in as little as 24 hours. Generally, a wait time of 48 hours is recommended.

On the other hand, a log house has mostly vertical surfaces. If the home is properly built, the exterior walls are largely protected by generous roof overhangs. This means that your working surfaces are indirectly exposed to sunlight for only portions of the day. Depending on the climate, humidity, and condition of the wood, it could be anywhere from several days to over a week before the surface is dry enough to stain.

Regardless of your project, inspect the wood before you stain. It should be firm and dry to the touch. If there’s any softness or spongy feel to the wood, it’s likely still retaining moisture.

Step Three: Stain or Seal

Once the wood is clean and dry, get yourself some good deck sealant or log home stain. The two basic types available are water-based and oil-based.

Water-based stain is easier to clean up, produces less odor, and won’t normally darken the wood over time. It doesn’t penetrate very deep into the wood’s surface, and may not last as long as its oil-based cousins.

Oil-based stains are generally easier to apply but have a much stronger odor. Any cleaning up might require the use of solvents. Oil-based stain absorbs deeper into the wood fiber and can provide more protection than water-based products.

Cleaning and staining are critical for maintaining the beauty and longevity of wood. If you choose the proper cleaning methods and treatment products, there’s no reason why your log home or deck can’t last a lifetime.

Image via Flickr by jar []