The most important step in any exterior wood restoration or maintenance project is to prep the surface properly prior to staining. Armstrong Clark Wood Stains are quality formulated wood coatings with five generations worth of experience that will give your deck lasting beauty and protection.

To ensure you get the expected results from any of the Armstrong Clark Oil Based Wood Stain products it is essential that the wood surface is cleaned and prepped prior to staining.

The exterior wood surface being refinished needs to be free of any dirt, grime, gray wood fibers, and any old deck stain or sealer. Even new wood needs to be cleaned to remove mill glaze and contaminants. For newer or grayed out wood we highly recommend using Restore-A-Deck Wood Cleaner. This two-step powder system is specially designed to clean and prepare wood for new stain.

 

Armstrong Clark Prepping Instructions

For wood surfaces that have any old deck stains or sealers on them, we recommend the Restore-A-Deck Stain Stripper. This product is designed to break down and soften transparent and semi-transparent wood stains so they can be washed away.

This process of cleaning or stripping the wood will ensure that the Armstrong Clark Wood Stain will penetrate the wood and perform properly. Use the simple to follow step-by-step instructions for either RAD product for properly prepping the wood surface.

Applying a new coat of Armstrong Clark Stain (maintenance coat) over an old coat is made easy. Prior to applying a maintenance coat of any Armstrong Clark Stain, it is still important to clean the wood surface. It is not necessary however to remove the old Armstrong Clark stain, simply clean the surface using the RAD Wood Cleaner and any old Armstrong Stain that remains will bond with the new stain coat.

Following either the RAD Cleaner or RAD Stain Stripper is step two of the system. The RAD step two is a Wood Brightener that will counteract the causticity of the cleaner or stripper and will correct the pH level of the wood making it more acidic. This opens the pores of the wood and allows it to accept as much new stain as possible.

Once the exterior wood surface is ready following the prepping instructions allow 1-2 days for the wood surface to dry. With proper prepping you can expect the most from your new Armstrong Clark Oil Based Wood Stain. It will enhance the wood’s beauty and give you extended use for many years to come.

Ask Below for Questions on Prepping for Armstrong Clark Stains

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  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Joe P · 06/17/2020
    What is the best way to clean my cedar deck without having to restrain it afterwords. I’m not planning to restain until next year.
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 06/17/2020
      Just use warm water and some dish soap.
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    Sash · 06/17/2020
    Hi there, I prepped and put one coat of Transparent Natural Tone on a 4 year old cedar deck. Mostly it looks good, but the area around knots seems to need another coat in most areas. These pics are taken 15 hours after first coat. Should I touch up those areas with more stain? Or does it looks like it needs a second coat everywhere?
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      Armstrong · 06/17/2020
      That is normal for knots to be lighter in color as the density of the wood is different there. You cannot spot touch up. You can try another light coat to all but not sure if that will make it go away or not.
      • We will reply to your comment shortly
        Sash · 06/17/2020
        Ok thanks. I'm not overly sensitive about the knot areas. But your reply opens another question for me... is it visible to you that it could/should get a second light coat?
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          Armstrong · 06/17/2020
          It looks good. It would be better to add another coat next year if needed.
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    Jane & Doug · 06/16/2020
    We need help fixing a big ugly problem. We built a new 1,200 SF redwood deck over the span of about a year (ending around July 2019). Then we sanded the entire surface and applied two coats of AC Redwood Tone transparent stain (one coat each on two consecutive weekends). Each time we wiped off the excess stain with rags.

    Come October or November we started to find black stuff on our bare feet or shoes, which has been tracked into the house and really made a mess of the carpet. Around January we scrubbed the entire deck with a little detergent and water and a stiff broom. Everything was clean at that time, but within a month it started turning black again.

    We have obtained a Restore-A-Deck cleaner/brightener kit with the intention of cleaning and then re-staining the deck. Sure don’t want to end up where we started. Please HELP!
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 06/17/2020
      You did a couple of things incorrect originally. For new wood (and sanded wood) you are only supposed to apply one coat of the stain: https://www.armstrongclarkstain.com/new-decking-and-armstrong-clark-stain

      You back wiped the excess right away. This is not good as it then removes the curing-drying oils before it dries and seals in the non-drying oils. This left your stain so that it can never properly cure correctly. When dirt from your environment falls on the deck, it will then "stick" to the non-drying oils and this would lead to your traction issue on shoes, etc.

      At this point, you should clean all really well with the kit and pressure washing and apply one light coat to all. Do not back wipe right away. You can if needed 24 hours later.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Mark · 06/15/2020
    Hello. I stripped and then brightened our cedar deck about 40 hours ago (with RAD products). I was told to wait 48 hours before staining, but it rained moderately last night. Do I need to wait another 48 hours after this rain before staining? Thanks!

    Mark from St. Cloud, MN
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    Tom Goemaat · 06/14/2020
    I have a mahogany deck with acrylic solid deck stain (Cabot) that is not holding up at all. I used your hardwood stain on my front porch deck, also mahogany and it looks terrific. I figure I need to sand off the old stain and apply yours. Is there another step involved? I have attached two photos of the back deck showing condition and also where I did a test sand spot. Also attached a picture of my front porch with your Amber hardwood stain ( wet with water, but you get the picture.). Love your product, would appreciate your advice for the back deck. Faces due south by the way, so the sun beats on it. We are in the Boston area.
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 06/14/2020
      Sand it all off and then use the Restore A Deck Cleaner/Brightener kits for the final prep.
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    Dorothy Tam · 06/13/2020
    The supporting pillars for our deck was cracking so my husband used adhesive to repair and then painted it using semi transparent stain from another brand without consulting me. I am not happy with the result. First, I understand from your instructions that I need to remove the stain before painting with your product. I think I will need a solid stain to cover the white adhesive but you only have semi solid stain. Will this cover the adhesive and achieve uniformity in appearance? 2nd, we painted our deck with your semi transparent stain in Cedar colour which we are happy with. What semi-solid stain colour would match that Cedar colour the best as we would like the deck to be the same colour? Thank you.
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 06/14/2020
      No, the AC stains will not cover this or stain or the filler. You will need a solid stain.
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    fgmaloziec@chartermi.net · 06/10/2020
    Living on the west side of Michigan, purchased a home that has a raised pressure treated pine deck, north side of home, built in 2004. Have no idea if it was previously treated. There was no color or treatment seen when we purchased in 2015. In the past 5 weeks I have removed mold and algae from all deck boards and rails. Hard work spraying and scrubbing with Mold Armor, followed by pressure wash. Have not sanded as yet.
    The wood looks white now, not blackened. Because of the whiteness, is RAD cleaner necessary? I have applied sample coloring, awaiting others to be delivered. Appears to take stain very well. Just can't decide on a color to complement our gray sided home. Have sampled Chestnut, Rustic Brown, and Natural Oak. Awaiting sample cans of ST Cedar, Trans Cedar Tone, and Trans Natural Tone.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    John · 06/09/2020
    I have a 200 foot cedar fence that was stained a number of years ago with transparent stain. It has weathered a lot but there are still areas of brown stain on the wood and others with no evidence of residual stain. I want to use an oil based semi-solid Armstrong stain on it. The green algae spots have been removed with a cleaner on the entire fence. Do I strip next, or will the semi-solid stain work over what is there.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Daniel · 06/04/2020
    I am about to sand, wash, brighten and then stain some Western red cedar wood wrapped around an outdoor kitchen area. When in the process should the final sanding be completed before straining?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 06/04/2020
      Between stripping and brightening.
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        DANIEL HOANG · 06/04/2020
        Thanks for the quick reply! So, I'm assuming since I am not stripping any existing stain, I'm going to perform the following steps?

        STEP 1: Sand with 80 grit sandpaper to smooth (which is also removing the natural graying over the past 9 months)

        STEP 2: Clean/wash cedar boards with RAD

        STEP 3: Sand with 150 grit sandpaper

        STEP 4: Brighten cedar boards with RAD

        StEP 5: Stain
        • We will reply to your comment shortly
          Armstrong · 06/05/2020
          Clean first to remove the gray, lightly sand after with 60-80 grit max, then brighten.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Jeff L · 06/01/2020
    Is there a particular sandpaper grit that should be used if sanding is needed? Does the grit matter if it's new, replacement wood as opposed to wood on an existing deck?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 06/01/2020
      60-80 grit. New or older does not matter.
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    Zoody · 05/31/2020
    Hi! I have a 10 year old screened in porch with a mahogany floor. It has not had anything done to the wood in over 6 years and I have no idea what type of stain was used in the past. What do you suggest as my process to revitalize the floor? Does it need to be sanded before staining?
    Or should I just use your RAD Wood cleaner and stain remover, don't sand and then apply the stain? See photo.
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/31/2020
      Normally you would strip this but you have no way of washing it out so you will have to sand it.
      • We will reply to your comment shortly
        Zoody · 05/31/2020
        Thank you! One last question, after sanding do you recommend applying a pre-stain wood conditioner and if so which one?
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    JoeBots · 05/30/2020
    When applying cleaner should wood be wet or dry? Had planned on power washing any loose dirt off of fence before applying the cleaner, would that be ok?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/30/2020
      Yes, no issues if the wood is wet.
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    Mikel · 05/29/2020
    Hi,

    I just finished cleaning my 20yr old cedar deck with RAD stripper and brightener. While it worked well to remove old stain and gray fibers, it also pulled the grain to the surface creating a furry appearance, especially on the spindles and hand rails. Is it required/recommended to remove the fur prior to staining? If so, how would you recommend that be done?

    Thanks from MN

    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/29/2020
      No, you do not have to remove this. if you want, you would buff it off with a floor buffer and a sanding pad.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Ed · 05/27/2020
    Hello. This photo shows new section of fence on the left and old (2.5 years) on the right. *Both* sections were stained with AC Sierra Redwood. They don't match I think because my contractor did not follow recommendations here when staining the old section (stained a few days after install, no prepping). The new section I waited and followed instructions with RAD cleaner and brightener.

    I am ready to re-stain the old section. What steps should I follow? Can I use RAD cleaner and brightener, or do I need to use the stripper product? Thanks!
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/27/2020
      Strip and brighten all.
      • We will reply to your comment shortly
        Ed · 05/27/2020
        OK, thanks. When you say "all" do you mean the new section, too? I don't plan to re-stain the new side. If the re-stained doesn't match the left side, I'll just let it be.
        • We will reply to your comment shortly
          Armstrong · 05/27/2020
          The best way to get it to blend is to redo all but up to you.
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    stuball44 · 05/23/2020
    Hi. I’ve a wrap around mahogany porch. In good shape but looking to revitalize. There’s a dark brown/ walnut color I assume is transparent stain. It’s wearing in couple spots but still in tact.

    1- So... how do I know for sure it’s not solid stain bc that requires sanding, correct?
    2- And assuming its regular transp stain ..to prep for finish I’ll need stain remOver then brightener?

    tks very much
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/23/2020
      Send pictures.
      • We will reply to your comment shortly
        stuball44 · 05/23/2020
        Will soon. I’ll take a couple.. entire porch then I have a 4x4 square I cut for side stair post install. I’ll send underside and top to see difference.
        • We will reply to your comment shortly
          stuball44 · 05/24/2020
          Pictures of the porch
          • We will reply to your comment shortly
            Armstrong · 05/25/2020
            Strip and then brighten for prep.
            • We will reply to your comment shortly
              stuball44 · 05/25/2020
              Ok. Just 2 more questions and I’ll get out of your stain!

              1- So I assume that means it’s transparent stain on it?

              2- why is stripping w chemicals better than sanding for hardwood?

              3- is the final result (after brightened/oil)the same or better then w sanding?

              Tks very much for you responses and pro opinion!
              • We will reply to your comment shortly
                Armstrong · 05/25/2020
                1. Semi-transparent.
                2. Easier and leaves the wood more porous.
                3. Same.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Oregon_Phil · 05/22/2020
    I have a brand new Redwood swingset that had a "water based stain" applied by the swingset manufacturer.
    I asked them what brand of stain they used, and they did not know, but they did confirm it was water based.
    I would describe the application of that water based stain as "splash and dash"...that is, some corners playset structure have very little, if no, stain.
    The structure if extremely clean (new).
    What cleaner/stripper product(s)/process do you recommend before I apply your AC semi-transparent redwood stain?
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Doug Sims · 05/20/2020
    I have prepared deck. My plan is to apply wet on wet. Can I walk on applied stain?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/20/2020
      The first coat, yes, but not the second coat.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Melissa · 05/18/2020
    I read on the Armstrong site that you did not have to buy a RAD cleaner, you could use bleach and water thus saving time and money.. is that in fact truth?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/18/2020
      We do not suggest this on our site as bleach is bad for wood and breaks down the lignin. This is a known issue.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Scott · 05/13/2020
    Do you have to power wash it before the cleaner/ brightener? After the cleaner brightener?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/13/2020
      You pressure wash while using the Cleaner and Brightener.
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    Simon · 05/13/2020
    How quickly after stripping and brightening should I apply stain? I'm trying to figure out how much time I would have between dry time plus any upcoming rain.
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/13/2020
      Stain 48 hours after prep and within 2 weeks.
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    Daniel · 05/13/2020
    I’m planning to stain some Western red cedar wood wrapped around an outdoor kitchen area. I purchased your Driftwood gray color and the RAD cleaner. The cedar planks have been installed over a period of 6 months, so it’s been exposed to the elements between 3-9 months. I was just planning to clean the wood before staining. Do I also need to use the RAD Brightener before staining?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/13/2020
      Yes.
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Daniel · 05/13/2020
      Forgot to mention that all the wood is still natural/unfinished without any stain applied
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    Jessica · 05/11/2020
    Here’s what it looks like right now !
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    Jessica · 05/11/2020
    Here’s what it looks like right now!
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Jessica · 05/11/2020
    I have a huge terrasse (IPE wood) to stain using your oil (for a second year). I cleaned it with pressure washer and only water for now since I’m in Canada and I cannot import your products... what should I do to make sure the PH is neutral before I apply the stain?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      gord · 06/20/2020
      I import them all the time. I use Crossborderpickups and they bring it in for me. 5 Gallon pails.
      • We will reply to your comment shortly
        Jessica · 08/06/2020
        I couldn't import because of the COVID... but now it's fine :) Thanks for your reply though !
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Raymond McKenzie · 05/11/2020
    Hello Armstrong Representatives,

    Need your help . I live in CA close to the coast and have a 4 year old IPE deck with bench area that I’m intending to restore and stain in the near future. The deck was stained with Penofin Transparent Natural sealer right after installment back in 2016 Please see attached photo). My deck and bench area – which have grayed over the years – are around 430 sq. ft. (Please see attached photo). I would like to use the RAD (cleaner and brightener) to prep my deck and bench area for staining with one of Armstrong’s oil based stains designed for IPE decks. I have 2 questions: (1) in looking at my deck do I need to sand it and (2) what Armstrong IPE stain should I use if I want to have the natural color of my IPE wood? Thanks for any help you can give me?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/11/2020
      1. No need to sand.

      2. Use Amber color.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Jennifer · 05/01/2020
    We stained our deck with AC semi-transparent stain last summer. This summer, my husband wants to reapply the same stain to only the horizontal deck surface (not the rails, spindles or posts), because he isn't happy with how it's held up under some areas with foot traffic. I purchased the restore-a-deck clean and brightening kit, because I assumed since it was stained last summer, we would need to take that prep step again. He doesn't think we need to, he thinks he can just go out and put another coat on the deck floor. He's worried if he goes through the clean/brighten step, it will affect the other deck surfaces he doesn't want to restain. I think if the wood is wet, the product isn't allowed to dry and we rinse well, that will not be an issue. I also think he just thinks it sounds like a lot more work. Is it correct to do the prep step since we stained almost a year ago?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 05/01/2020
      You have to prep when recoating and you can just do all the floor.
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Kevin M · 04/24/2020
    My deck currently has AC semi-transparent cedar stain on it. I’m considering going to an AC semi-solid stain. Do I use the RAD stripper & brightner or the RAD cleaner & brightner?
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Sean · 04/21/2020
    I am having a new cedar fence installed. How long do I need to wait before staining, and what prep do I need to do. It will be about 3500 sq ft. Can you also give me an idea of how much stain required. Tongue and groove panels with the top foot being lattice
  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Maribeth · 04/20/2020
    I had a new deck put in fall of 2017. Stained with Armstrong Clark- I need to restain it again, do i do the RAD before I restain?
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    Jolie · 04/10/2020
    My deck was sanded and restained last summer. It is looking mil dewy is some sections. Should I use just the cleaner or the cleaner brightener... The brightener looks like pre staining application?
    • We will reply to your comment shortly
      Armstrong · 04/11/2020
      The prep products are only used if you are planning on reapplying, not general cleaning of dirt, etc.