Zinsser Wolman DeckBrite Wood Cleaner And Coating Prep

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How to Get your Weathered, Gray Cedar Looking Brand New!

Jan 11, 2010 (Updated Mar 23, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Easy to use; mild, biodegradable formula; removes dull, weathered finish

Cons:none

The Bottom Line: DeckBrite works great at removing the dull, gray UV damage from fences and decks


A little over a year ago, we took out our old, worn, ugly fence and put up a cedar fence. We chose cedar because it was affordable and is typically a good choice in the midwest. Cedar will weather to a dull, gray color if left unprotected, which many people don't mind. We, on the other hand, wanted to keep our fence looking new, so we decided that we would stain and protect it ourselves (the fence company wanted $650 to stain it). Since it was early December when the fence was put up, we decided to wait until spring when it was warmer to stain it. The weathering of cedar takes up to six months before it is noticeable, so we had plenty of time. Spring came and went and then we got busy with summertime weekend activities and basically forgot about staining the fence until it was visibly gray. In late summer, we finally got our butts in gear!

Since our fence was now a dull gray and it had to be thoroughly cleaned before staining, we decided to use a deck/fence brightener to get it prepped for staining. My husband picked up Wolman DeckBrite Wood Cleaner Wood Cleaner & Coating Prep. I was under the impression that this would simply clean the fence and brighten up the gray a little bit. I figured we would have to choose a relatively dark stain to mask the gray look of the fence. Even after looking at the before/after pictures and reading the directions on the container, I was skeptical. I shouldn’t have been. Wolman DeckBrite Wood Cleaner really works! I was amazed that we were able to literally wash away the weathered gray surface of our fence. After using Wolman DeckBrite Wood Cleaner, our fence looked almost brand new!

The Product
Wolman DeckBrite Wood Cleaner is a product that is intended for preparing new or old exterior wood surfaces prior to staining or sealing. This particular product is intended for use on any type of wood including cedar, redwood, pine, maple, oak, teak, hemlock and fir. It removes mill glaze and surface wax from new wood. It also restores weathered, UV-damaged decks and fences to their natural appearance and removes mildew and algae stains. Using DeckBrite also prepares wood to be stained or sealed--finishes will penetrate and adhere to the wood properly.

Wolman DeckBrite Wood Cleaner is concentrated and is available in a 1 lb. pouch or a 2.5 lb. container. It can be purchased at home improvement or hardware stores like Menards or Ace Hardware. It costs about $26 for the 2.5 lb. container. Wolman DeckBrite Wood Cleaner is a powder that is mixed with water and applied to the wood surface, is left on for 10 minutes, and is then either pressure washed or cleaned with a brush and rinsed. The manufacturer recommends letting wood dry for at least 24 hours before applying an oil-based finish. One gallon will clean about 375 square feet depending on the age of the wood and how the product is applied. I believe that we used a little more than one 2.5 lb. container for cleaning our fence (120 feet by five feet, with one-inch spaces). This product can be used on decks, fences, wood siding, wood shakes and shingles, boat docks, landscaping timbers, outdoor furniture, sheds, wood gym sets and more. DeckBrite should only be used when the temperature is above 40˚.

This product does not contain bleach so it will not "whiten" the wood. It actually cleans it. I was surprised to read on the package that DeckBrite is biodegradable and won't harm plants, trees or shrubs, although rinsing grass and plants is recommended to remove residue. This is a plus for us since we have flowers, plants, and shrubs growing so close to our fence. The active ingredient in DeckBrite is Sodium Percarbonate which is very mild and causes little to no irritation to skin. The powder is a severe eye irritant and is harmful if swallowed, so as always, this needs to be mixed carefully and kept away from children.

Our Experience
When we were ready to clean our fence, my husband mixed the solution according to the directions: 3/4 cup of powder is mixed with one gallon of water. He then got the fence wet and then applied the DeckBrite using a garden sprayer (the plastic pump-type sprayer that is commonly used to spray weed killer). The solution can also be applied with a mop, a brush, or a roller. Our fence is not that large, but spending a few bucks on a spray is, in my opinion, the best option.

We applied the cleaner to two 6-foot sections of fence at a time making sure that all surfaces were covered. The solution bubbles up slightly as it's working, and remains looking dirty and almost slimy. As per the directions, we let the product work for about 10 minutes and then used a pressure washer to remove it. As my husband sprayed, he revealed bright, natural-looking cedar! I was truly amazed at how quickly and easily the gray surface was removed. Every stroke of the pressure washer revealed more and more beautiful wood. Wolman DeckBrite Wood Cleaner actually works as good as the before and after pictures showed on the container! Needless to say I was pleased with this product.

While the process of spraying on the cleaner, waiting for it to work and pressure washing it clean is quite easy, we still found it to be fairly time consuming. Our fence is only about 120 feet long and five feet tall, but it still took my husband and I most of the day (about 10 hours) to clean both sides of the fence. The pressure washing takes a bit longer on some parts of the fence than others. Where the fence was more heavily stained, it took a second pass or a slower pass with the pressure washer to get it clean. It also takes a more precise spray to clean nooks and corners of the cross boards and the fence posts. According to the manufacturer, a second application can be used if some discoloration remains. When power washing too close to the wood surface, I did find that in some places the wood could be dented by the spray of the water and that splinters of wood would actually come loose. It is recommended to use less pressure (1000 to 1500 psi) on cedar or redwood. Overall I didn't find this to be a huge problem. Since it is just a fence outside and not a piece of fine furniture, a few dents and minor chips cannot be distinguished from any other imperfections in the wood, and were not a problem for us.

End Result
We waited another six weeks until we had some nice weekend weather before we stained our fence with an oil-based stain/sealer. It adhered nicely and our fence really looks great. I'm glad we didn't just let it remain gray and dull.

Yes, cleaning our fence made for a long day, and I almost wish we had just let the fence company stain it when it was new since we still wound up spending about $275 to clean and stain it ourselves. In the end, however, the fence looks great and we saved a few bucks. Wolman DeckBrite Wood Cleaner Wood Cleaner & Coating Prep certainly played a big part in making our fence look new!

Wolman DeckBrite Wood Cleaner is manufactured by the Wolman Company which is part of the Rust-Oleum Corporation. 


Recommend this product? Yes

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