How to clean your wood fence without using a pressure washer

Person scrubbing a wooden fence with a brush in a contemporary UK garden
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Maintaining a clean and presentable wooden fence can be a challenging task. Not only do you have to contend with the elements, but you also have to worry about dirt, grime, and other build-up.

Fortunately, there are a number of different ways to clean a wooden fence. In this article, we will explore both home remedies and chemical solutions. We’ll also provide some tips on how to prevent build-up in the future.

So whether your fence is in dire need of a deep cleaning or you’re simply looking for a way to keep it looking its best, be sure to check out our blog on cleaning wooden fences.

What’s making your fence look dirty?

A wooden fence is a beautiful addition to any home, but it can quickly become dirty and dull if it isn’t properly maintained.

Before you set to work on cleaning your fence it’s important to understand what is making it look dirty. This way you can know what to expect after cleaning and understand how to take care of your fence in the future.

algae on fence

General dirt & grime

General dirt and grime can build up on the surface of the wooden fence, and if it’s not cleaned off regularly, it can start to form a thick layer that is difficult to remove. Some things that can cause your fence to become dirty are rain, wind, and dust.

Green fences

Green algae and moss can also grow on the fence, and while it’s not harmful to the wood, it can be unsightly. You can read more about specific causes of green fences and how to treat them here.

Black mold

Black mold is another common issue, and it can cause the wood to rot if it’s not removed quickly.


Finally, ageing can also take its toll on a fence, making the wood more fragile and susceptible to damage. Whilst cleaning an old fence can give it a new lease of life, chances are the fence will still show its age, you might want to consider replacing your fence panels to get a brand-new look.

cleaning bucket with sprays

Commercial fence cleaners

There are a few different cleaner options that can be used to clean a wooden fence. First let’s look at commercial cleaners specifically designed for use on wooden fences.

These often contain chemicals that can help to prevent the growth of mold and mildew, making them a good option for areas that are prone to these problems.

You can find these cleaning solutions at most hardware stores, and they usually come with specific instructions on how to use them. You’ll find options from cheaper to expensive.

Whichever cleaner you choose, be sure to test it on a small area of the fence first to make sure it will not cause any damage.

Protect your garden plants

Chemical fence cleaners contain chemicals which may damage your garden plants. To prevent damage whilst cleaning your fence, we recommend that you cover any plants or flowers that are close to the fence with a tarp or sheet.

vinegar and baking powder

Home remedy fence cleaners

Even though there are plenty good commercial fence cleaners, home remedies will often do the trick just as well. Fortunately, there are a number of home remedies that can help to clean wooden fences and restore their natural beauty.

Bleach solution

One popular option is to mix one part bleach with four parts water, which can be used to remove mildew and mold.

Vinegar solutions

Another possibility is a vinegar-based cleaner, which is also effective against mold and mildew and can be used on a more regular basis than bleach. To make this cleaner, simply mix one part vinegar with four parts water. Suitable types of vinegar are white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and balsamic vinegar.

For tougher stains, a paste made from baking soda and vinegar can be scrubbed into the wood.

To make a baking soda and vinegar paste, mix together equal parts baking soda and vinegar. For example, if you use one cup of baking soda, use one cup of vinegar.

Lemon Juice

For an environmentally-friendly option, consider using a mixture of lemon juice and salt. Mix together one part lemon juice with two parts salt, and use this to scrub the fence.

This mixture is also effective against mold and mildew.


Another good option you might find around your home is Borax. Borax is a natural cleaning agent that can be used on its own or mixed with water. You can buy borax online or at most hardware stores.

To use borax, either use it on its own or mix together one part borax with four parts water.

Whatever cleaner you choose, be sure to test it in an inconspicuous area first to ensure that it won’t damage the wood.

With a little bit of elbow grease, you can keep your wooden fence looking like new for years to come.

How to choose the right cleaning method for your wooden fence

There are a few different things you’ll want to consider when choosing the best cleaner for your wooden fence.

The first is the type of wood your fence is made from. If you have a softwood fence, you’ll want to avoid using harsh chemicals as they can damage the wood. Instead, opt for a mild soap and water solution.

If you have a hardwood fence, you can use a stronger cleaner, but be sure to test it on a small area first.

The second is the level of dirt and grime build-up. If your fence isn’t too dirty, you might be able to get away with using just water. But if it’s extremely dirty, you’ll need to use a stronger solution.

Finally, consider the age of your fence. If it’s an old fence, you’ll want to be extra careful as the wood is more likely to be fragile. In this case, we recommend using a mild soap and water solution.

What you’ll need

1. Your cleaning solution and plenty water

2. A bucket

3. A garden hose (if you have one)

4. A brush or sponge

5. A sealant (optional)

scrubbing brush for fence

The best type of brushes for cleaning a wooden fence

There are a few different types of brushes and sponges that can be used to clean a wooden fence. A stiff bristled brush is good for breaking up dirt and grime, while a softer sponge can be used for more delicate areas.

Wire brushes can be good for very stubborn areas, but test them on a small area first to make sure that it won’t damage your fence.

If you’re using a chemical solution, be sure to choose one that is compatible with the type of brush or sponge you’re using. This will help to prevent any damage to the fence.

How to clean your wooden fence step-by-step

1.Start by mixing together your chosen cleaning solution.

If you are using a commercial solution, follow the instructions on the bottle.

If you are using a home remedy, mix it together according to the instructions above.

2.Next, use a garden hose or a very wet sponge to wet down the fence.

The fence should be wet but not dripping.

3.Then, using a suitable brush for your fence type, scrub the fence in small sections.

Start at the top of the fence and work your way down. Be sure to rinse the brush frequently in your bucket of cleaning solution.

4.Scrub the fence thoroughly, paying special attention to areas that are especially dirty.

For stubborn grime and stains, try using a wire brush, toothbrush or sandpaper.

5.Once you’ve scrubbed the entire fence, rinse it off with a garden hose, if you have one, or rinse a few times with a bucket of water and clean sponge.

Start at the top of the fence and work your way down, rinsing each section thoroughly.

6.Finally, let the fence dry completely.

Depending on the weather, this could take anywhere from a few hours to a full day.

Applying a sealant

After your fence is dry its a good time to apply a sealant to help protect the wood.

There are a variety of sealants available, so be sure to choose one that is suitable for the type of wood your fence is made from.

Also, take into account the age of your fence. If it’s an old fence, you might want to choose a sealant that contains UV protection to help prevent the wood from fading.

To apply the sealant, follow the instructions on the bottle. In most cases, you’ll just need to brush it on.

Be sure to apply the sealant in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself from fumes.

After you’ve applied the sealant, let the fence dry completely before using it.

Extra cleaning tips

Here are a few extra tips to keep in mind when cleaning your wooden fence:

-To remove tree sap, rub the sap with a rag soaked in mineral spirits.

-If your fence is painted or stained, be extra careful when choosing a cleaner as some can damage the finish.

garden hose clean a fence

Maintaining a clean fence

To help prevent dirt and grime from building up on your fence in the future, we recommend washing it down at least once a year. You can do this more often if you live in an area that is especially dusty or dirty.

If possible, try to wash your fence in the spring and autumn. This will help to remove any pollen or other allergens that might have settled on the fence during the winter.

In addition to washing your fence, you can also help to protect it by applying a sealant every few years. This will create a barrier between the wood and the elements, and it will also help to prevent fading.

Finally, be sure to repair any cracks or damage to the fence as soon as possible. This will help to prevent water from getting in and causing further damage.


Cleaning your wooden fence doesn’t have to be a difficult task. With a little elbow grease and the right cleaner, you can have it looking like new in no time. Just be sure to follow the tips above to ensure that you don’t damage the wood.

If you’re still not sure how to clean your fence, we recommend contacting a professional. They will be able to advise you on the best way to clean your particular type of fence.

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