Deck Cleaing & Sealing: Some Questions....

Hi all,
This group has been so helpful to me in the past, I am hopeful some of you with knowledge and experience may again be able to come through for me here.
I have a small 12x12 deck on the second story of my home, full stairway leading up to it. 4 years ago, it was sealed with Thompsons Stain & Seal. I bought the most natural-looking light color they offered, yet the finish ended up much darker than I wanted. Years later, it's starting to fade on the flat surfaces, but the rails are still fairly dark due to less weathering. So, it's LONG overdue I do something about the deck.
My first call was to a Pro deck sealing company. They quoted me $750 to powerwash and seal the deck, but told me that they could not go with a lighter stain or seal due to its already dark color. I assume this is because they do not want to have to risk damaging the wood with a heavy cleaner or powerwash. So between the high price, and them not being able to offer what I want, I have decided to take this on myself.
I have access to a powerwasher and my first goal is to get the deck as light as possible again. Can anyone recommend me a good product to use, in the powerwasher, to get this result? I'm of course trying not to spend a FORTUNE, so the best bet for the money is what I am hoping to find. The labor doesn't bother me as much. I'm also fine using a stiff bristle brush if I have to, but assume the powerwasher would be simpler, with better results. I realize this may roughen up the wood, but have a small belt sander I can use to smooth the surfaces over before the stain, should that occur.
Next, I want to apply a good natural stain and seal to the deck. I have access to 50% off Olympic Maximum's line of stains. Can anyone first tell me if they are a good quality product (for the money, around $10 per gallon is what I would pay) and what a good color with a lighter, more natural look, would be?
Then, do you recommend using a standard paint roller for the deck surface and a brush for the rails, etc, or a brush for it all?
Even if you can only partially answer, any input would be GREATLY appreciated. I'm not a pro at home improvement, but feel I can tackle this myself, I just want to do it well and feel that proper materials will be the key.
Thanks for taking the time to look at this post! Look forward to any input.
Brad
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There are several sites on the net which talk about deck cleaning. Most advise not to use a power washer. It can damage the wood, if you get it to close. And if you keep it away from the wood, it does not clean much. I know it's a hassle, but stiff brush is the way to go. Been there :-)
Get the deck real dry after washing, so the wood will soak up the stain. Last time I did it, it took 4 coats to before the wood was saturated. I did it on a dry hot day, with a 4 day drying period after wash.

Behr products have good reputation.

Whatever works. On flat surface, use a roller. Smaller places a brush will be better. You'll find out soon after you start :-)
Rich
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Here are couple of good articles: http://masterhandyman.com/columndetails.cfm?pubdate 050514 http://masterhandyman.com/columndetails.cfm?pubdate 050521
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In a bucket of water add 1/2 cup dish washer power and 1 cup bleach. Scrub with a long handle course bristle brush rinse with a hose after about 15 minutes, this worked well for me. Be sure not to track liquid into the house for obvious reasons. Recommend a hot day as well.

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Thanks for all the replies! Really appreciate that. I think I forgot to mention, by the way, my deck is built from pressure treated lumber. Nothing fancy.
Once I get to the staining point, I am pretty comfortable I should be in good shape. My key concern now is taking the proper steps to get all that old stain off of the deck and get it ready for a newer, lighter stain. So I suppose it's just a matter of finding the right product and the right method of using it.
I purchased a gallon jug of "Behr No. 64 15 minute Quick Fix Deck Finish Remover and Wood Resurfacer" from Home Depot. The bottle claims it removes weathered stains and sealers, loose wood fibers, and oil and water based finishes. Does it sound like this, along with just a scrub brush or pump sprayer, will do the trick? Doing the flat surfaces sounds pretty easy, but I'm wondering how a product like this will fare on all the vertical slats of the rails around the deck. I have a ton of them and worry I'll need a pressure washer to work those smaller spaces. Thoughts, anyone?
Assuming that does the trick, I also bought the companion wood cleaner brightener No. 63 to use afterward, which I think is necessary.
Am I on the right track here? I noticed the suggestions to use a bleach mixture, etc, but I think, in order to get the dark stain that's still prevalent in many parts of the deck, I am going to need something stronger than just a cleaning solution. Am I right to assume that? Jeff: Is your mix meant more for removing grease, etc stains and weathering? I don't think that's powerful enough to strip old stain/seal color off and get back to the natural wood color again, is it?
Thanks again!
Brad
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