curiosity | Dec 06, 2023

How To Properly Stain or Seal a Swing Set

By Blue Squirrel Team

How To Properly Stain or Seal a Swing Set


Just like our children grow, their playground equipment will begin to age too. While you can’t prevent either situation, you can take steps to maintain your playground equipment, keeping it pristine for years to come. 

Today, we want to talk about the process of sealing or staining your playground equipment in a step-by-step guide. To ensure you’re completely prepared, we’ll answer a few of the most common questions DIY-ers have before starting the process. 

By the end of this read, you’ll be able to stain or seal your playground equipment with ease and keep your kids enjoying their outdoor playground for years to come. 


How Do You Stain or Seal a Swing Set? A Step-by-Step Guide


Without a proper stain or seal that is maintained every few years, your playground equipment is at risk of rusting and deteriorating due to weather or wear and tear from children. 

While your playground will, of course, show wear and tear over time regardless of a stain or seal, it will last years longer than it will if you neglect to take care of it. 


Step One: Take Off Any Non-Wooden Parts


The first step is to remove non-wooden pieces or parts. This means items like canopies, steering wheels, any attached toys, or anything else you can think of that is easy to remove and put back on after the process. 

You can work around these objects if it’s too much trouble to remove them. There are pieces you likely need to work around anyway, like rope ladders, slides, climbing walls, etc. With these items, you’ll need to be careful when staining or sealing around them, but you can help yourself in the process with painter’s tape and construction paper. 

Just like painters that cover carpet and windows before painting a room, you can cover the areas you can’t or don’t want to remove first. Then, you can go about sealing and staining your swing set with minimal interference. 


Step Two: Give Your Swing Set a Thorough Clean


It would be a waste to try to stain or seal the swings unless you clean them first. Give it a thorough and detailed wash before attempting to seal or stain it.

You’ll want to make a 50:50 solution of bleach and water (Diluting bleach is essential). Add this mixture to a pressure washing hose or a spray bottle and clean every inch of the playground. This will remove any mildew or dirt that could have accumulated since the last time it was maintained. Bleach is also fairly effective at killing bacteria. 

After the cleaning job is done, wash away the bleach/water mixture, as it could eat away at your stain or seal or even degrade your equipment from the inside once you have properly sealed it. 

Critical Safety Note: Bleach can be very dangerous, especially around kids and animals who don’t know enough to be wary. When cleaning with bleach, take extreme measures to ensure it’s done in a manner safe for the whole family. Never use bleach inside, and store it far away from curious minds. 

For natural alternatives to bleach, consider options like hydrogen peroxide or vinegar (mixed with water and baking soda). 


Step Three: Let the Swing Set Dry for 24 Hours


Give the swings at least 24 hours to fully dry once you’ve washed them down with the cleaning solution since wood tends to absorb moisture.  

If you get tired of waiting and start sealing or staining it early, you run the risk of sealing in the moisture, causing the wood to corrode over time. This corrosion wouldn’t take much, and you’ll be buying a new swing set before you know it. Corroded structures are dangerous, and if there’s one basic requirement for play equipment — it’s safety. 


Step Four: Do One Final Inspection


Now that your playground equipment is clean and dry, it’s time to start the staining and sealing process. Before you jump right in, do a thorough and close-up inspection of the entire structure. 

Look for any signs of erosion or rust, and replace any bolts that don’t look like they’re holding up the same way they used to. You should also check for any raised or rough spots in the wood, as these will cause an issue during the next step. If you find any notable imperfections, sand them out and brush off any residues or dust left behind. 


Step Five: Apply Stain or Sealer


Once the swing set is dry and completely smooth, you’re ready to stain or seal. Use a wide brush to apply stain or seal in fluid motions on the wood until the entirety of the structure has been covered. 

You can use a paint sprayer to save time, especially if you’re doing this project alone. If you don’t own one, many hardware stores will allow you to rent a pump sprayer.

If you have chosen the stain route, you’ll still need that brush to go over certain areas to smooth out the stain and ensure it is applied evenly. If you choose a seal, you won’t have to worry about brushing it smooth and even, as it is clear and won’t ruin or manipulate the aesthetic of the wood. 

If you have a lot of areas that you’re trying to keep clean of either stain or seal, you will want to use a brush, even if it’s a clear stain or seal. You don’t want that material all over the other components of your backyard playset. Even if you don’t think it’s harmful, it could tarnish the integrity of the pieces. 


Step Six: Let the Swing Set Dry for 24 Hours (Again)


Now that your stain or seal is in place, the next step is to wait for it to dry. The kids may not be happy, but you need to allow your stain or seal to dry for at least 24 hours before opening it back up for playtime. 

The wood needs time to fully absorb the stain or seal and dry before you want to allow your children to use the equipment. If it isn’t fully dried or set, your swing set will tarnish quickly in the spots where they rubbed away the wet seal or stain. 

This will cause areas of your playground set-up to degrade faster than other areas, and your playhouse won’t last as long as it would have if you had waited until it was completely dry. 


Sealing and Staining a Swing Set FAQs


When you set out to do jobs such as these, some questions commonly arise, either during or before the process begins. These are known as frequently asked questions or FAQs. 

Just like we often tell our own kids, there is no such thing as a silly question.
Even when you don’t have any specific questions, FAQs are always great to read and look into. You may get clued into a few concerns or questions that you may not have thought of yet, and now you know upfront what you’re taking on. 

To get you started, we’ve prepared a few FAQs that might pop up when staining or sealing a swing set. 


Is This a One-Person Job?


Whether or not you can tackle a job like this on your own depends on a few factors. If you are skilled with staining wood or have done it at least a few times before, you probably won’t have any trouble staining or sealing a playground or set of swings on your own. 

In fact, you may find the job sort of therapeutic and relaxing. However, doing it on your own may prove to be time-consuming, and it may take a few days to complete the job. If this is something you can work with, you can definitely tackle this job on your own. 

For some you may not have experience with this sort of work, and having a friend to aid in the job will be helpful. If you know someone who has completed jobs like this in the past, ask them for help and guidance. 

With some 1-on-1 construction tutoring, you’ll get this correct the first time and ensure that your playground stays well-maintained. You can also expect a lot of time shaved off the completion of the project, as two sets of hands will get the job done a lot more quickly. 


Do I Need To Wear a Mask?


A mask is not always necessary when adding a stain to a wooden playset. There may be a smell, but unless it bothers you, there won’t be any reason that you’ll need to protect yourself against the fumes as they won’t be heavy. You’ll also be outside, and the smell shouldn’t accumulate as if you were inside, so you shouldn’t have much trouble. 

However, if you opt for an oil-based stain or one that is a high-VOC formula, you’ll want to take extra precautions. In general, water-based stains tend to be gentler but always check the manufacturer’s specifications and recommendations. 

When applying a seal to wood, it is a different story. You will definitely need a mask for this task, as the chemical composition of the waterproof seal is strong, and you need to protect yourself from them. Find a quality aspirator to wear before beginning a sealing project. 


How Much Stain or Sealant Do I Need?


For standard projects, you will probably need no more than a gallon of stain or seal. This should provide you with more than enough product to complete your project and have it finished right and looking great. 

For larger wooden swing sets, you may want a second gallon to ensure you have enough material for the job. It might be a good idea to purchase a second gallon of seal even if you think one gallon is enough. You never know if that particular color will be available again the next year, and you will want to repeat the staining process annually to ensure proper maintenance. 


When Is the Best Time of Year To Stain or Seal a Swing Set?


The best time of year will depend on your climate and your personal schedule. If you live in an area that sees a lot of snow in the winter, treat outdoor equipment in the summer. 

By the fall and winter seasons, the moisture in the air will affect all aspects of the cleaning, staining, and drying process. It might also make it next to impossible to get the stain or seal to dry fully, making all the work you just put into the project a waste. 

For many climates, the summer and spring seasons will be dry enough that you can get a good stain or seal done in a weekend. That way, your kids have the rest of the warm, sunny weather to enjoy their backyard. 

If fall is colder but still without rain or snow, waiting until after summer break might prove to be better. The kids will be less likely to be outside using the playground, so you’ll have more time to work with. 


Do All Playsets Need To Be Stained and Sealed?


You might be reading this guide and wondering whether staining and sealing are necessary steps for any kids’ playset. While many swing sets need staining and sealing to withstand weather, wear, and tear, a Blue Squirrel Clubhouse never does. 

The Clubhouse is primarily made from high-quality HDPE (high-density polyethylene), a material that can handle the elements without any staining or sealing. That means that when you set up the Clubhouse in your backyard, you don’t have to worry about taking additional steps to keep it in optimal condition. 


Give Your Kids’ Playset a Makeover


No matter the details, staining or sealing your playground equipment annually will help improve the wear and tear on your playset and keep it going for a lot longer than a playground that is untreated. 

Knowing how important the playground is to the kids makes all the hard work worth it. With our tips and step-by-step process, you’ll have your swing set ready for play and safe from the elements in no time. 



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