Best Practices for Cleaning a Wooden Fence

A wooden fence can be a beautiful and functional addition to a residence, but you do need to put a little effort into keeping it clean. Cleaning dirt is easy, but removing moss, mold, and other outdoor contaminants can take a little bit of skill, so it pays to do some research before you get started. Fortunately, there are a few techniques that can make it quick and easy.


The quickest and easiest way to clean a wooden fence is to use a pressure washer. These devices can clean the fence in a matter of minutes, but there are still a few important things to remember when using them.

Many pressure washers can spit out water with enough force to damage a wooden structure. To make sure that there are no problems, start by washing the fence with the lowest power setting. If that isn’t enough, try again with the next setting, and so on until you find the weakest setting that will still get the fence clean. If your washer doesn’t offer multiple settings, briefly use it on the edge of the fence, or even on a replica, and then check for damage to make sure it is safe to use it on the rest of the fence.

You should also check the water temperature before you use it. In general, it is better to use cold water than hot, since hot water can raise the wood’s grain. This isn’t a big deal if you aren’t planning to seal the fence again after washing it, but it’s still best to play it safe and stick to cold water.


A pressure washer is helpful, but it isn’t necessary. You can also clean a fence the traditional way. Soap and water will get rid of dirt and grease, but you might need a special cleaning solution to get rid of moss and other organic debris.

Most of the outdoor cleaning solutions that are available from home improvement stores should work, but you can also make your own. The process is simple, although you should always remember to wear gloves and mix the chemicals either outdoors or in a very well-ventilated area.

Combine approximately one gallon of warm water with one cup of bleach, which helps to kill microorganisms. Add in one cup of trisodium phosphate (TSP) to help deal with grease. These quantities may need to be adjusted if your fence is unusually large or small, but they are a good place to start. If you need a different quantity, be sure to preserve the ratio of the ingredients. Mix them thoroughly, and then apply them to a dry fence. Scrub, and then let the cleaning solution rest on the fence for about a minute before you rinse it off. This will clean most things off of the fence, although a few stains might remain. In that case, apply a deck cleaner or a mixture of oxalic acid to the stained areas. Take care not to expose any nearby plants to this mixture, since many of them will have an adverse reaction to it.