How to Remove Deck Stain

If you’ve recently moved into a new house with a deck, or have a deck that you haven’t given much attention to over the years, then chances are it needs some TLC. Your best bet is to start over and restain your deck. But how do you remove deck stain?

Decks add tons of value to your home, but they also require quite a bit of upkeep. Whether you are cleaning, sealing, staining, or repairing your deck, chances are you are doing it every year.

In this article, we’ll go over the best ways to remove the old wood stain from your deck. We’ll also have a look at the best paint, stain, and sealer removers for all types of decks. Soon you’ll be able to restore your peeling deck into a place you’ll want to look at again.

How to Remove Deck Stain

Can I Remove Old Stain from My Decking?

Your first question might be, “Can I even remove this old stain without destroying my decking?” Yes, you can remove old stain from all types of decking without hurting your wood.

Whether you want to stain a previously stained deck that is peeling or remove paint from a deck so that you can stain, understand that a lot of hard work s involved no matter what the condition of your deck is in.

With that being said, the health of your deck long term depends on you regularly restaining your deck. There is no such thing as a “lifetime” stain. Sun, rain, snow, and foot traffic cause any stain or sealer to deteriorate much faster than you’d like to know.

There are tons of deck stain remover products on the market and just as many techniques. Understand there is a right way and a wrong way to remove deck stain. Below we’ll look at some of those techniques and see if they are right for your deck.

Do I Need to Remove My Deck Stain?

Yes, you do need to remove your old deck stain. The old stain left on when applying a new stain will prevent the new stain from penetrating. The old stain will block it from getting into the wood and cause the new stain to fail and peel prematurely.

You might not even know if you need a new deck stain. In most cases, this is good news because it means you haven’t noticed a discernible difference in your deck surface. Carry on and don’t worry about it until next year!

On the other hand, if you’ve noticed a peel here or a peel there, or discoloration or fading, then you need to test your deck.

If you have an old stain, take a utility knife and make a shallow slash or two in one spot on a deck board. Don’t cut the wood – just the old stain on top. Then cover it with duct tape. Pull it back up. Did any old stain stick to the tape? If so, you probably need a new stain and will need to strip your decking.

If you just have a semi-transparent sealer and want to stain your deck, first do the water test. Clean several different small spots on your deck and drop some water onto those spots. If it absorbs under 8 minutes, then you can go ahead and stain over the old sealer.

Otherwise, you’ll need to remove the old sealer before you restain. 8 minutes is not a hard and fast rule. If the water penetrates in just over 8 minutes, then I’d still go ahead and stain without stripping.

How to Remove Deck Stain

Removing deck stain can be a tedious, time-intensive process. But revitalizing a deck not only adds years to the lifespan of your deck, saving you money but also improves the appearance.

An unsightly, rough-looking deck is unwelcoming as much as a beautiful, finished deck is inviting – take a weekend or two and put in the work. Let’s take a look below about how to remove stain from a deck.

Remove Any Peeling Stain

If your deck is in really rough shape, then you probably have bits of stain that are peeling back and flaking off. Before you apply stain stripper, you’ll want to take an ordinary paint scraper and get rid of the peeling flakes.

Neglecting this step could result in your stripper not working as effectively as it should. When applying your stain stripper, flakes will come off and mix with the solution, rubbing the old, peeling stain in with the stripper.

Just as you wouldn’t paint over a previously painted surface that had peeling paint, you also wouldn’t stain over a surface with old, peeling stain. This step won’t take as long as you think, as the peeling stain will likely just come right off.

Prepare Area for Stain Stripper

Before you apply your stain stripper, it should be obvious based on the warning labels of the product that you need to be careful when handling it.

Although many deck stripping products are biodegradable, it doesn’t mean you can lather your hands in it and expect no reaction. You’ll need gloves, some type of apron or old clothes, goggles, and a mask.

Protecting around your deck is important, too, especially if you’ve landscaped nicely with bushes, plants, etc. Cover them up with plastic to avoid getting the stripper on them. While the stripper degrades in the soil, it probably won’t react well if it gets on leaves or flowers.

You will also need a hose with a decent nozzle attachment. Stripper requires constant misting water to keep the wood damp. The product reacts with the water to draw the old stain out. If it is too dry or hot, then the stripper won’t work properly and you’ll have to start over.

It is especially important to avoid using these products on very hot, very sunny, or very cold days. That first, perfect spring weekend is a great time to start – not too hot and not too cold with some cloud cover.

Apply Deck Stain Stripper

remove stain from deckNow it’s time to apply the stain stripper. I recommend using an all-in-one product like Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain Stripper, as it will strip latex, oil, and acrylic sealers and finishes. If you weren’t the one to stain or finish your deck in the first place, then an all-in-one stripper is essential since it is probably hard to tell what the original deck finish was in the first place.

Use a nylon paint roller with a standard nap to apply the stripper. As a water-based stripper, don’t use a natural fiber roller as it will not apply evenly. Use a long-handled roller frame to save your back from days of aching afterward.

Do not use any kind of sprayer to apply the stain stripper. It will likely gum up the nozzle and you’ll waste time and money. A roller makes the job simple. Make sure you continue to mist the surface as you apply, which is critical. Also, mist the surfaces around your deck to ensure you are coating just your deck and not your patio or lawn.

Unlike paint, this is a product that you should have no reservations about applying liberally. The more stripper you apply, the better it will strip – period. With that being said, if you give your deck one thorough, even coat while keeping it moist, you should be fine.

Unless you have several layers of old stain, you’ll likely start to see fairly immediate results. Be sure to re-apply stain stripper to any spots that dry out before moving on to the next step.

Scrub With a Stiff Brush

removing stain from deckWhen you’ve noticed that the old stain is stripping off significantly, it’s time to get a stiff-bristled brush to scrub it off.

Simply take the brush and scrub the wood. You will not have to use too much pressure as the stain stripper will do most of the work. Scrub the deck and then rinse it very thoroughly.

Using your hose at high pressure is not necessary, as a regular rinse will do. Blasting your deck with water at high pressure is not usually a good idea, as the pressure of the water can permanently damage the wood fibers of your decking.

If after these steps you find that there is still an old stain on your deck, just re-start the process. You’ll only have to apply the deck stain stripper to the spots that were missed. Thoroughly coat the missed spots, keep them wet, and then wait. After, scrub, rinse, and repeat if necessary.

Apply Wood Deck Brightener

stripping deck stainAfter the deck dries, use a wood brightener to prep your deck for the new stain. The wood brightener will bring out the original colors of the decking and have them looking like new for your new stain.

The application of this product is similar to the deck stain stripper. Use a roller to apply to a moistened deck. Let it sit for half an hour, then scrub using a stiff-bristled brush. Do not use the same brush you used for the deck stripper, or at least clean it thoroughly before using it with the cleaner.

After brushing, rinse the deck thoroughly. At this point, you should have a deck that looks completely devoid of any type of treatment. When dry, you’ll have a fresh surface ready for a new stain or sealer.

Other Methods for Removing Old Deck Stain

Relying solely on chemical deck stain strippers is probably the most common way a homeowner will maintain their deck. However, using chemical strippers in conjunction with pressure washers and sanders may result in better staining after the stripping is complete. Let’s take a look at other deck stain stripping options below.


strip deck stainMany deck professionals will maintain that sanding your deck before restaining is essential. While sanding can clog the pores of your wood and result in an uneven stain, it can be used in conjunction with a wood cleaner to produce an effective surface for restaining.

In terms of stripping old stain, using a chemical stripper first is best. Sanding off old stain may just bury old stain within the surface of your deck. Not to mention, the old stain will gum up the grit on your sandpaper, making the job much, much slower.

Wait to sand your deck until after you’ve stripped it. Use 80 grit and clean your deck afterward, and you’ll see your deck like it looked the first day you installed it. Just make sure to restain immediately, as a freshly sanded deck exposed to the elements can quickly stain if moisture is present.

Pressure Washing

how to remove solid stain from wood deckPressure washing is often the alternative to sanding and stripping because it’s easy. The problem with relying solely on pressure washers is that you can’t use a high-pressure setting. Too much psi can destroy the surface of the deck, resulting in a surface that won’t readily accept stain.

Instead, use pressure washers to assist in rinsing paint stripper and cleaners from your deck. Using a low psi setting from a safe distance away from your deck surface, a pressure washer can effectively rinse stripped remnants of old stain away. Using the washer in the same manner as the deck cleaner is also effective.

Power washers can gouge your deck. Decking is softwood, and using a 3000 psi gas-powered washer will rip up your deck if you aren’t careful. Start at 500 psi or so and about 18” from your decking. If you need to, you can turn up the pressure and get closer.

Stripping Painted Decks

Some folks out there don’t have a stain or sealed decks, but rather painted decks with something like latex paint. While this is all good and fine, the nature of paint often results in deck owners having many layers of paint on their deck.

The reason is that paint does not behave in the same way as a stain. Stain penetrates the wood, while paint stays on the surface. This requires more paint touch-ups from the deck owner, which, over time, results in many coatings of paint.

A powerful pressure washer – gas, not electric – will remove any amount of paint. However, since the risk of wood damage is high when using a powerful pressure washer, the best way to remove the paint is by using a low grit of sandpaper on either a floor sander or 6” orbital sander. A 40 grit will remove pretty well any amount of paint, and after your deck will be ready for restaining.

Best Deck Stain Remover

Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain Stripper is a cheap yet effective option for removing deck stain. It comes in a powder that you dilute in water, and makes over 5 gallons with one bag.

Meant to be used with sealants and semi-transparent stains, this stain remover will strip oil and latex finishes. The best part about Restore-A-Deck is that you can use a pump sprayer to apply the product. Using a sprayer truncates the amount of time you’ll need to strip your deck.

If you have a stubborn stain, you can up the concentration of the formula for more effectiveness. Also, the product is environmentally friendly as the product biodegrades with water.

While the product does not work with solid stains or painted surfaces, it will tackle nearly every other deck finish including clear, transparent, and semi-transparent surfaces.

This product is meant to be used in conjunction with Restore-A-Deck cleaner and stain, as the product markets itself as being able to clean, prep, and stain a deck in one day.


Thanks for taking the time to read this article about how to remove deck stain. Remember, when using deck stripping products to always take the appropriate safety precautions, such as using gloves, masks, and eyewear to protect yourself.

If you have any questions or comments about how you stripped your old deck stain, then please leave a comment below. I hope you found this article helpful – best of luck on your next deck stripping and staining project!

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