If you want to stain wood surfaces like a professional, first prep the surface. This is the most important part of finishing a wood project. Improper or insufficient surface preparation leads to 85 percent of all coating failures, according to the Paint Decorating Contractors of America.
First, clean the surface to remove dirt, debris and flaking from the original finish. You can do this with a power washer or by scrubbing the surface with a stiff-bristled brush and a cleaner such as trisodium phosphate or a commercial cleaner. Redwood, cedar and mahogany require cleaners specially formulated for those types of woods.
If you're stripping finish, follow manufacturer instructions carefully. Work in small areas so the chemical compound won't dry before you get a chance to clean it off.
Once dried, sanding may be required to remove the remaining finish and ensure a smooth surface. Then select your new finish.
-- Sikkens/ ARA