How to get rid of grey wood

In this DIY article I am going to discuss how to remove grey wood which is found on exterior wood surfaces such as fences, deck, trim and even picnic tables when they haven’t been stained for some time. I am going use pictures from a fence we painted in 2010 as an example.

First before you begin you are going to need some items that can be picked up at Rona, Home Depot, Canadian Tire or Lowes.

1) A plastic gardeners sprayer. These run about $25 and are a manual hand pumped sprayer. They are very light and made of plastic. You will use this to apply wood brighter.

2) Wood brighter. Canadian Tire has 4 litre jugs for about $15 and is found in the paint department

3) Plastic or drop sheets to protect trees, shrubs and other items while you are brightening.

4) Plastic or latex gloves. Brighter is a chemical so always protect yourself.

5) A pressue washer (with low to medium pressure) or a hose that has Jet setting.

Ok, now we can get started.

First if your fence is really diry from grass, mud or spider webs, give it a quick wash with the house or pressure washer on low and let it dry.

Next, protect areas and yourself from the chemical and following the directions for mixing water and concentration (if required), mix the brighter and fill the garden sprayer up to the Max line. Once this is done, following the instructions on the type of garden sprayer you have purchased, pump the handle until the required pressure has been obtained. Usually about 20 pumps.

Now you will want to go over all areas of your fence spraying the wood brigher chemical like shown in the picture below.

Following the wood brigheners instructions you are going to now have to wait  as directed. What I suggest is that if the wait time is 30 minutes, then only proceed 30 minutes along your job, then go back and complete the next step which is washing the treated area.

Using a pressure washer on low or your garden hose on Jet setting, you are now going to wash the fence thoroughly paying special attention to the grey areas which now should be showing almost black because the fence is wet. You will see the wood brighter bubble a bit like a detergent and the grey will appear to wash away. This is what you want to accomplish and as a good rule of thumb, while you are seeing dark grey or black, you want to keep going through the brightener steps until it’s all gone, because stain will react to the grey wood the same as water does and leave dark areas in your staining job that you do not want, so wood brightening is an important step. Also, do not use too high a water pressure as you will damage the wood which the stain will just emphasize.

Once the brightening has been completed, follow the directions for the product you purchased on recommended drying time. You then need at least 24 hours after staining for no moisture and the temperature MUST be about 15 degrees.

At Paint Calgary, we spray fences with a Titan sprayer that is used exclusively for oil stains, however a good brush and roller is fine too 🙂

Note: When selecting stain, it is a good idea to find a section of fence you can take to your local paint professional. Sherwin-Williams retail locations have an excellent selection of oil based fence stains and can help you out. For decks however, never use oild based only acrylic based.


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