This post was updated on January 19, 2022
How to remove deck stain properly from your wood before reapplying.
No matter how well you protect your stained deck, you may eventually have to strip and restain the wood. If you choose to change the color or brand of stain on your deck, you will have to strip it before applying the new stain or sealer. A stripper makes it easier to remove the old stain by weakening the bond between the stain and wood particles. The old stain can then be easily removed by using a pressure washer or scrub brush.
Note: See here if you need to remove a Difficult to Remove Deck or Wood Stain.
Here are some tips we recommend you follow to make deck stain removal a swift, painless process:
- Use a deck stripper if you are working with wood that has previously been stained. If you are working with a new wood surface or there is no stain on the deck, use a deck cleaner. If you are unsure about what to do, you can ask questions below.
- Remove all furniture from the area
- Wear protective clothing, gloves, and eyewear before going near the product. Mix or use the deck stain stripper according to the directions on the label. Test a small section of your deck before applying it to the whole area, as deck stain strippers vary in effectiveness. You may need a stronger formula if it doesn’t work on the tested area. See here if you need to remove a Difficult to Remove Deck or Wood Stain.
- Apply the deck stain stripper with a pump-up sprayer in sections of 100-300 square feet at a time. Saturate all the wood with one coat then wait 10-20 minutes. If the surface is slippery, that means the stain stripper is working to break the bonds effectively. If the surface is not slippery, apply another coat of the stain stripper and wait longer.
- Using either a brush or pressure washer, remove the old stain from the deck. Take precautions to wash with the grain wood whenever possible.
- Repeat this process until all of the old deck stain has been removed from the deck. Spot strip any sections where the stain didn’t come off the first time.
- Thoroughly rinse all wood and surrounding areas
- Apply a wood brightener to restore the pH balance before staining.
Do you have any questions on how to remove a deck stain? Leave any questions or comments below with any photos you may have of your projects.
How To Remove A Deck Stain – DeckStainHelp.com
Deck Stain Help & Questions
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As an article and comment contributor to the site, Scott has been around the pressure washing industry since attending college. In 1993 he started his first company called Oakland Pressure Wash specializing in exterior pressure washing and deck staining. That company evolved into OPW L.L.C. shortly thereafter concentrating more on exterior wood and deck restoration. Scott and his Deck Cleaning Michigan company have restored over 10,000 decks in the Metro Detroit area since the early years. He has become an authority in the deck restoration industry and has contributed to numerous wood restoration forums and informative sites.
All the products he suggests through this site are sold through online sites and in retail stores, allowing the consumer to choose their own means of purchase. Scott’s eCommerce sites do sell many top brands he endorses and if you appreciate any of the help he has offered then feel free to purchase from one of them.
Hi, We painted our new pine log railing with Messmer’s oil based stain in a fairly pigmented color (Sequoia Red) yesterday and aren’t wild about how the color turned out. The log we tested it on stained darker, but the railing is lighter and turned out too bright. Is it possible to strip it at this point and go with another color? Thanks!
Yes, use this kit while pressure washing: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/restore-a-deck-injectable-deck-stain-stripper-review/
Thanks so much for your advice. Is it possible to apply to some sections of the railing with a brush rather than a sprayer? Its an upper deck hanging over the house so we don’t want to get stripper on the house trim.
You still have to pressure wash off so it will most likely get on the house trim no matter what. It does not remove paint so you are okay as long as you rinse over spray right away.
I guess my photos didn’t attach earlier, so I’m sorry for all of the posts. Do you think I’ll need the additive boosters? It’s a penetrating oil finish.
The stripper will remove some of the house stain since it is not a paint. This will not be easy to strip as you will have issues with the house stain either on the sides or below. We would not strip but clean onlt and then use the same color and brand as before or a darker color.
Also, if we can’t get it all off can we stain over with another color in the same brand? Thank you
Just stained an older wood deck (pressure-treated pine) and really do not like the color or absorption. Is it possible to chemically strip new oil-based stain? The stain was Olympic brand and did not go well.
What Olympic type of stain did you use? Pictures of the can and the deck would help.
Here is a shot of the can. Just noticed it says lifetime warranty (not sure how that is possible on deck stain). Attached is also a photo of the deck. The color is not what I expected. Also this is approximately 24 hours after application and there are large areas of standing oil that may not absorb. I did not prep with brightener but did power wash. Not sure if this was a factor. At this point I would like to strip it and start over. My 7 year old son said it looks like poop. I think there is some truth in that statement.
Not easy to strip a newly applied stain, but it can be done. Use the RAD Stripper with both additives: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/restore-a-deck-stain-stripper-booster-thickening-gel-review/
Use the RAD Brightener after to neutralize.
I currently have a solid stain on my deck and plan on switching stain brands for when I do a new maintenance coat. Do i need to completely strip and sand off ALL of the old stain before applying the new one, or can I just remove the loose and peeling stain then put the new coat of stain over the old?
Just remove the loose and peeling stain then put the new coat of stain over the old intact solid stain.
I was under the impression that if you don’t remove all of the old stain when switching brand stains, the old stain can cause the new stain to fail and not perform well. Your thoughts?
No need to remove all if switching brands of solid stains.
Gotcha. So it’s only necessary to remove all old stain when switching brands of transparent, semi-transparent, & semi-solid stains?
Sorry, just wanted to ask one more thing. what are the actual steps involved in the maintenance process of reapplying a solid deck stain? pls let me know if these steps are correct: 1. pressure wash, 2. apply stripper, 3. sand off any loose stain, 4. reapply stain?
Stripper goes on first then pressure wash. The rest is correct.
Also need to use a brightener after sanding and before reapplying the stain right?
Can Defy Stain Stripper be sprayed onto a cedar fence, (pump sprayer), to remove old transparent stain and then power washed? I will then be re-staining to a natural cedar color?
Yes, brighten after.
Pictures are after stripping and sanding. Still need to do the wash/brightener step. We plan on using semi-transparent stain on the horizontal boards (dark brown/mahogany tone) and an off-white solid stain on the verticals. My question is, after we clean/brighten, can we go ahead and apply the solid stain to the verticals or will they need to be completely sanded to bare wood? Any stain brand recommendations would be great, too! Thank you!
You are good to apply a solid stain. Try one of these: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/what-are-the-best-solid-color-deck-stains/
Thank you very much! Any recommendation for the horizontals? We like the color of Behr Cordovan Brown, but not sure on that brand. Any alternatives that have a similar shade that would hold up well? The deck is in full sun in Indiana a good portion of the day. The attached picture is the look we are going for. I have also heard of people adding in a varnish/polyurethane to each gallon of stain. Is that a good idea/necessary?
Behr makes very poor deck stains. All on the link we sent prior are better. You can find a dark brown with any of them. You can never add a varnish to a deck stain. It will peel. Bob Villa terrible advice.
Wow, thank you. I’m glad I asked! So any of those brands in a semi-transparent should be good to go for the horizontals then?
Do you have any other brand recommendations after those 3? I am having trouble locating any dealers in my area and unfortunately RAD is not accepting new orders at this time.
I recently purchased six distressed wood “beams” from a salvage yard. The wood is pine and the stain is slightly transparent, but way too dark for my tastes. Can you tell by looking at the photos, if Restore-A-Deck stripper will work on this? I am okay with some stain residue in the crevices, as I’d like them to look old – just lighter and more natural.
Thank you for any help! So appreciate forums and websites that offer help and suggestions, coupled with honest reviews regarding products and their limitations.
Different surface type to strip but the RAD Stripper should work when you add in the Booster and Thickening Gel.
Is it ever necessary to pressure wash (20 year old) deck before (re)staining?
Yes, you always have to prep before staining.
I know it has to be prepped but when is pressure washing necessary?
Yes, I realize you need to prep the deck but when is it necessary to pressure wash deck first?
You pressure wash while using the cleaner and brightener. Not before.
I think I read on your site that stripper could be added to intake system on pressure washer machine. My estimator said that would create a huge mess?? True?? And, after using pressure washer and stripper, you put on brightener, then wash off with pressure washer machine? Thank you!
Do you have a previous coating on the wood now?
Stain was put on about 5 years ago . It was pressure washer 2 years ago.
Post a picture of the current condition.
Does Restore -A-Deck stripper work well with Ipe wood? I need to strip a fence.
Yes but effectiveness does not matter the wood type but rather stain brand or type you are removing.
Thank you for your quick reply. The fence contractor put the mini wax stain on it and when it started fading we found out we should be using something different (bottom can). We didn’t strip in between. So it looks awful now and we just got a $5,000 quote to strip and restain, so we want to try to do it on our own.
The RAD stripper with pressure washing should remove this for the most part. Make sure to brighten as well.
What will the deck stripper do the lawn and soil underneath it? It sounds like a dangerous chemical. What are the environmental impacts?
It will not harm the lawn or soil and deck strippers while caustic (all strippers are) do not contain dangerous chemicals for the environment.
Oh, that is a relief! Good to know! Thanks so much!
Thompson Waterseal HoneyBlond water base stain.
After stripping off the old stain, how long should you wait before applying a brightener? And how long after applying the brightener should you wait before applying a new stain?
You apply the brightener as soon as you are done with the stripping. As to when to apply the stain, that depends on the brand. Typically 2 days but some stains can be applied to damp wood, the same day as the prep. See this for example:
What’s the best chem mix for stripping water base stains. I use Sodium Hydroxide for removing oil base stains but not sure about water base stains. It was mentioned to me about mixing Sodium Hydroxide with some type of Butyl but not sure about mix ratios etc. Thanks for any help.
There is not a magical additive that will make it easy to strip all acrylic water-based based stains. Butyl has little to no effect.
So I have a deck that has a semi-transparent water base stain on it that needs to be stripped and restained with RAD semi-transparent deck stain. How would I strip the previous semi-transparent water base stain off in order to apply the new stain? Are most stain strippers only made for stripping oil base stains off?
What brand is the semi-trans water based? Post a picture if you can.
It’s Thompsons Waterseal. This is for a client of mine. They want the boat dock and this land deck done. The boat dock was rebuilt, the walkway from the dock to the land deck is original and was never stained, just needs thoroughly cleaned, but the land deck and furniture was stained over the past couple of years. They want all of it stained. So I told them to wait a few months for the new wood on the boat dock to cure/dry out and then I would come in and clean, briten, stain, plus have to strip the stain off of the land deck before applying the new RAD stain. They just informed me it was water base Thompson’s semi-transparent. I know from experience that most deck stain strippers are Sodium Hydroxide base and great for oil base stains but need something to strip this semi-transparent water base stain. Didn’t know if there was a product on the market that would be sufficient for the job.
Sodium Hydroxide will remove water-based stains as well but it takes more effort. The stain in the pics do not look that “thick”. Use the RAD Stripper but at a higher strength. Mix at about 3-4 gallons (instead of 5-gallons) of water per 2lb container. Let sit for 20+ minutes. Then pressure wash off. Repeat as needed for the tough areas. It will come off but may take a few times to get it all off. Brighten all when done.
Thompson water seal