For a classic, rustic look, wooden fences may be the material of choice!
However, they can be prone to several contaminants that often lead to rotting if not correctly cared for.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to properly pressure wash a wooden fence and a few other things you might need to know.
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About The Author
Meet the expert behind this article.
Co-owner & Service Director
Hey there, I’m Cody.
A decade of residential and commercial pressure washing led me to start JCS Refresh. Now I can share my knowledge with folks like you.
Reading from Washington State?
Contact us for a free quote, and let our team help you refresh your fence.
Want to pressure wash your fence but don’t know how to start?
Check out the instructions below:
- Familiarize yourself with the machine and project
- Prepare and secure the area or any surface that needs protection
- Apply the cleaner to your fence
- Spray off the solution using the pressure washer
- Wait for it to dry – especially if you’re applying paint or stain
Quick questions before starting
First, let’s jumpstart with some quick questions and answers:
Can you pressure wash a wooden fence? Of course! Note that there are two types of material: softwood and hardwood, each requiring specific PSI settings.
What PSI setting is best for a wood fence? Softwood can only withstand a PSI between 500 to 600, requiring a delicate cleaning process to avoid any chips and steaks. On the other hand, hardwood, from the word itself, is more rigid and can handle up to 1,300 PSI.
To learn more, visit our complete guide on fence PSI settings.
How difficult is this to do? It can be difficult, especially if you’re a beginner, but the key to success is patience and research to understand the dos and don’ts.
How long does it take? Pressure washing a 500 sq. ft. wooden fence typically takes two to three hours (not inclusive of dry time).
How much do materials cost? The overall cost is around $400, assuming you’re buying a pressure washer. But you might just need cleaning solution, a hose, safety equipment, and drop cloths.
How to clean a wood fence with a pressure washer
Let’s take a close look at each step in detail.
1. Familiarize yourself with the machine and project
Before starting any action, reading the manual is essential to be familiar with the machine, nozzles, and available equipment.
2. Prepare and secure the area or any surface that needs protection
To protect nearby plants, place a drop cloth over them to safeguard them against chemicals or intense pressure.
Moreover, if you don’t have a drop cloth, we advise you to spritz water on the soil and plants to form a barrier and avoid damage.
3. Apply the cleaner to your fence
Apply cleaning solution via your pressure washer.
When applying it to your fence, utilize the bottom-up method to avoid streaking. We also suggest working in sections, so the cleaning solution doesn’t dry too quickly.
You will only need to let the solution sit for 5-10 minutes. After, if you are faced with tough stains, attach a rotating scrub brush to your wand to help loosen it up.
4. Spray off the solution using the pressure washer
After 5-10 minutes, use a 25-degree nozzle to rinse off the solution using the top-bottom method. Remember that for softwood, use 500 – 800 PSI; for hardwood, you can go up to 1,300 PSI.
Ensure that you are working in sections by alternating between the application of cleaner, waiting for 5-10 minutes to soak the fence, and then spraying it off as you cover each board.
5. Wait for it to dry
Wait 24 to 48 hours for the fence to dry, especially if you plan to put on stain, sealer, or paint after cleaning.
Here are some safety considerations to keep in mind:
Use the correct nozzle and PSI setting
Choosing a suitable nozzle and PSI setting is essential to avoid damaging your wood fence.
There are various PSI recommendations for every type of material. For example, for hardwood, we recommend 1,300 PSI. For softwood, use between 500 to 800 PSI.
We suggest using the green 25 degrees nozzle.
There are five types of nozzles available:
- Red 0 degrees – spray the most pressure and must only be used for the toughest stains.
- Yellow 15 degrees – recommended for blasting dirt and stripping paint in brick, driveways, or walkways.
- Green 25 degrees – used to remove debris from surfaces such as gutters, fences, and siding.
- White 40 degrees – advisable for windows and vehicles, typically safe for most surfaces.
- Black 65 degrees – used when applying a cleaning solution on surfaces.
Wear appropriate safety equipment
We also recommend wearing appropriate attire when cleaning, such as safety glasses, earplugs, and boots.
Never point the wand at people, animals, or plants
As mentioned, pressure washers can cause mild to severe injuries. Thus, it is crucial to handle it properly. If not in use, point it downwards.
Position yourself two feet away from the fence
While using the top-to-the-bottom method, stand two feet away from the fence when cleaning.
Test settings on a small spot before starting
After attaching the nozzle and adjusting the PSI, test everything on a small area to double-check the chosen settings.
Frequently asked questions
You may have some additional queries, check out these frequently asked questions we’ve prepared:
Do you have to seal a fence after pressure washing?
Sealing or staining your fence after pressure washing is necessary but not essential.
What do you put on wood after pressure washing?
There are two types of products you can use: sealants or stains.
Sealants are clear coats that make wood waterproof and repel moisture. Sealing also helps avoid any contaminant growth and wood rot.
On the other hand, stains are like an upgraded version of sealants. It provides the same protection but penetrates deeply into the wood and also comes in multiple colors.
Stain provides the best protection from UV rays and comes in various types.
How long should I wait after pressure washing a fence to stain it?
We advise waiting 24 to 48 hours, depending on your area’s weather or temperature.
Your main objective is to let the surface completely dry before applying. Doing so will allow the stain to penetrate the wood and leave a smooth finish.
For more info, read our complete guide about why you should pressure wash before staining.
Can you pressure wash algae off a fence?
Not without the use of product. Washing will only worsen the situation by damaging the wood and encouraging increased algae infestation due to the excess water.
Before pressure washing, it’s best to eradicate contaminants using a suitable cleaning product.
Pressure washing a wooden fence can be challenging, especially if you’re a beginner. In addition, improper use of this equipment may lead to damaged wood and/or injuries.
Though it may be challenging, it’s not impossible to do. So carefully follow the instructions above, and be safe!
If you’re reading from Washington State, reach out to us for a quote, and someone from our team will be in touch shortly. We offer various services and would love to help with your fence cleaning.
Thanks for reading!