How to Clean A Wooden Fence

Fences can be a great addition to your property, especially if you chose light, beautiful wood. Unfortunately, no wood stays the same forever, and eventually, the wood will succumb to the elements or rot. And no one likes looking at a dirty or greyed-out wooden fence, so in today’s article, we will discuss how to fix it. 

The best option (instead of ripping the entire fence out and replacing it, which is very costly) is to simply wash the fence. 

There are several ways to go about this, and we will discuss them below. But first, you need to decide on what is making your fence dirty.

What’s causing the stain?

  • Dirt, or Debris – this can be caused by such things as mud, soil, or simply grime that has been caked on over the years
  • Mold and Mildew – This is one of the most common problems in wet or frequently rainy areas. Wood is a natural substance, and so is prime real estate for mold and mildew. This can be especially problematic if you have someone in your household with a mold or mildew allergy.
  • Green algae – A common problem in areas that frequently flood. It also likes to grow in areas where there isn’t a lot of sunlight, such as behind trees, and shrubs.
  • Water stains – This can be caused by high mineral or iron content in your sprinkler that hits your fence

How do I go about fixing it?

There are a few ways to do this, and here’s the list, from gentlest to most aggressive.

  • Garden Hose – This’ll be the gentlest on your fence, and it’s useful for simply spraying off dirt or algae. It’s the most environmentally friendly option, but it’s not very powerful, so if your wood is completely greyed out, don’t expect this to work wonders. Try to keep the hose at least six inches off the ground to avoid kicking up more dirt and debris onto the fence you’re trying to clean.
  • Eco-Friendly Cleaners – You’ll want to use these first if you have pets or children. The stronger chemical options can be damaging if your yard is often occupied, so going eco-friendly for this one is worth the price. Not to mention harsher cleaners can not only damage your fence, but your grass and any shrubbery you have, as well. If you chose this option, here’s how to apply it. Start by spraying down your fence with a garden hose to open up the wood and make it easier to clean. Then, use a scrub brush to apply the cleaner to the fence. Try to work in small sections, so the cleaner doesn’t harden on the fence if you don’t get to it fast enough. If the cleaner dries on the fence, it can ruin it, and then you’d have to pay for a whole new fence.
  • Bleach – Severe stains can require bleach, as it can clean mold, mildew, water stains, and rust stains. It can also help restore the wood’s original appearance, but can be quite damaging for your plants or you. If you chose this method, make sure to lay down tarps, and wear protective gear. Mix one quart of bleach to one gallon of water – if you dilute the bleach, it’ll prevent it from discoloring your fence. We suggest pouring it into a pump sprayer for easy application. And just like the cleaners, make sure to wet your fence first, and get any dirt and debris off first. Apply the bleach from the top down and let it sit for about five minutes, then rinse away with a hose. You can reapply in stubborn spots, and you can also try scrubbing at tougher stains with a scrub brush. Don’t let it sit too long on the fence, as this will either discolor your fence, or let the bleach dry on the fence, which can damage it.
  • Pressure Washer – Yes, pressure washer, not power washer. The difference is that the power washer uses heat, which is only suited for materials that it won’t affect, such as concrete. But, if you don’t use a pressure washer properly, you can severely damage your fence. You will need a psi of between 1,500 and 2,000 (any stronger then that, and you risk ruining your fence) (psi means pounds per square inch). You will also need a 25 degree spray tip, which is gentler on your fence, since it ensures you will not be using too much pressure. The pressure washer will strip off a layer of the wood (the grey stuff) so you can see the fresh wood underneath. This doesn’t harm the fence unless you pressure wash it excessively or are too aggressive. To be careful, test it out in an area out of sight before you start on the entirety of your fence, so you can practice and get a good idea of what you need to do. Then, you can move to the rest of the fence. Stand a couple feet away and sweep the sprayer back and forth away across the fence in small sections. This can take some time, but it’s important to take your time to do it properly. Once you spray it and the color doesn’t change, don’t spray it anymore, as spraying it further will strip away more layers of the wood, and permanently damage the fence. Also, be sure to wear safety glasses to prevent debris or flakes of wood from flying into your eyes. 

So I’ve cleaned it… how to I keep it in this condition?

To preserve and protect your fence, you can use a sealer, stain, or paint your wooden fence. However, give the fence at least two days (we recommend three) to dry. With proper maintenance and regular cleaning, you can keep the fence looking nice. 

How do I use a pressure washer? What if I don’t feel comfortable?

You can always ask the people you buy the pressure washer from to demonstrate it for you, but it’s quite a simple machine to use. 

If your fence is permanently wrecked, contact Beitzell Fence. We’re the fence contractor people trust because we’ve been making good neighbors for over 30 years.

It’s always our pleasure to assist you in all things fence! 

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