Why Deck Stain Stripping can be Easier Than Deck Cleaning 4.9/5 (18)

by Deck Stain Help

Updated February 2020

Deck Stain Stripping or Deck Cleaning?

Those who are familiar with the deck staining process are aware of how important it is to properly prep your deck before staining for beautiful results. In this article, we discuss why deck stain stripping can be easier than deck cleaning. We always appreciate your input, so feel free to leave a comment below with pictures of your deck stain projects.

Note: See here if you need to remove a Difficult to Remove Deck or Wood Stain.


The difference between deck cleaning and deck stain stripping is simple. With deck cleaning, you are simply washing the wood to remove any dirt, grime, mildew, and graying. With deck stripping the same contaminants are removed but you are also removing any old remnants of deck stain. In many cases, deck stain stripping is better because you are removing old deck stain in addition to other contaminants like dirt and graying.

Another difference between the two techniques is the chemical used. With deck cleaning, a wood cleaner is used which helps loosen dirt and gray wood fibers prior to washing with a scrub brush or pressure washer. With deck stain stripping, a stripping agent is used which softens most transparent and semi-transparent deck stains so they are washed away along with dirt, graying, grime, etc. This makes the case that deck stripping is better because it goes a step further. In some instances, there may be old stain remnants that are not visible on the surface but could still keep the new stain from penetrating the wood pores properly. Removal of all contaminants including old faded stains is the key to a long-lasting finish.

It is widely agreed upon that deck stain stripping is better and easier than deck cleaning because the deck stripping chemicals do a better job of cleaning altogether. Although wood cleaning products do a nice job with moderate dirt and graying, deck strippers are more concentrated and do a better job of loosening all contaminants prior to washing. If you are not sure which to use or not sure if there is an old stain on your deck, it is best to use a deck stain stripper just to be safe. Deck cleaners will work on most contaminants but will not remove most failing deck stains as a deck stripper will.

In both instances, a wood deck brightener should be used following a deck clean or stripping product. The cleaning and stripping products are caustic and will raise the pH level of the wood and make it appear very dark. Once the wood is cleaned, applying a wood brightener will make the wood more acidic which results in better stain penetration and it will lighten the wood back up increasing its natural beauty.

Any Questions on this Topic? Please Ask Below!


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Marg
Marg

New house has wooden slats. Hi shine. When wet are far too slippery and very dangerous to me.
Please advise how to make less slippery.

chris
chris

Dear Deck Stain, My husband built a deck at xmas using Redwood. Its weathered for about 2 months so I stained the fence panels and they look great but the deck is a bit dirty from building it near mud etc, can I use exterior wood stripper to clean the floor or do I need wood cleaner? It has no stain on it yet? Also with it being new do I really need a brightener? The fence panels were fine without though understand time will tell

Ruth
Ruth

Hello. If I use a stain stripper and then Brightener on my deck, can I wash these off with a garden hose, or do I need a power washer no matter what? Thanks.

Kevin
Kevin

What is a good PSI for a pressure washer? I do not want something too strong for obvious reasons.

Mike
Mike

I used a deck stripper and am in the process now of sanding the deck before I apply a stripper (I started a month ago and it’s been extremely rainy so I haven’t been able to really get it done). My question is i don’t think I got all of the stain from the old wood out. I live in a city with tight yards and I got a lot of the old stain out but I couldn’t power wash it out as it’s splash onto the neighbors (or my) house/windows/etc. How clean does it have to be to apply new stain? We are going a shade darker than the last of that helps. I’ve also attached a pic.

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Christine
Christine

Hi! I have 2 large green treated decks, about 10-12 years old. Last summer they were completely sanded, power washed and cleaned. They did dry for several days. Then Pittsburg Ultra Advanced Stain and Seal In One, Solid Color for Decks was used. Says it was also a “Advanced 2-way Waterproofing” Stain and Sealant. They both looked fantastic for Fall! We had a horrible cold, snowy Minnesota winter, but no metal shovels were used on either deck. The stain is ALL peeling up and looks like it hasn’t been done for years. It’s horrible and disappointing. So much work went into redoing both decks and i have no clue what possibly happened. Obviously it’s all going to need to be redone, but were the products not the best for the wood? Should other steps have been taken? We followed all recommendations. Any help would be appreciated!!! Thanks.

Mary
Mary

I’ve got a cedar porch, about 12 years old. We had it stained at least four years ago wit Cabot semi-solid oil finish stain and as soon as the job was completed, I thought it looked terrible….just so dull and flat. I want to redo it now and am so confused about what to do. Is there any way to brighten up the wood, like how it was when the porch was first built? We are also planning to re-stain the interior, which hasn’t been touched since we built it. At least it still looks fairly close to how it looked back when we first built the porch, although there are water stains. How do I remove those? The floor, stained four years ago, is also just dull! No luster to the wood. Strip? I just want my porch to look like it did when we built it…wishful thinking?
Indoor pic taken 12 years ago.
Other pic is of the exterior now.

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Neil
Neil

Rather than deck clean or strip would use of an abrasive measure like a screen mesh on a polivac or like machine be as or more effective?

Jo C
Jo C

We purchased our home a year ago and the home had 2 new decks built on. We bought cleaner and cleaned both decks first. Then we applied the stain on one of the decks after giving it enough time to try. Now we ran into two issues and I am at a loss for what to do. First, my fiancé stained the floor of the deck, and being that he never did it before he did not do it properly. There are streaks for where he did not follo the grain of the wood. And also there are spots where he put the stain on too thick and did not spread it out so there are parts of the deck that are extremely darker and splotchier than the rest of the deck. The second issue was that it rained overnight on stain that he painted just a few hours earlier. The weather called for no rain for days, but of course Mother Nature had a different idea. So on top of the splotchy floor the posts, railings, and rungs have spots where the stain did not hold because of the rain. Now I am worried because we are in a state where fall and winter are right around the corner brining lots of rain and snow and I want to protect our deck from the weather. I have been looking online and can’t find anywhere to give me a set answer on what the best thing to do is. Should I strip it and start fresh? Or is it something that a new coat of stain will solve? I love my deck and want it to look great! Any help is greatly appreciated.

KevinW
KevinW

We have a log home we purchased 5 years ago near the twin cities in Minnesota. The logs are northern pine with pine plywood and rough cedar battens. We also have green treated decking around a large part of the perimeter that has been all stained the same. We found a empty 5 gallon bucket of Defy which I am assuming is what they used. The condition of the logs are varied with some sun beaten and very little stain and other areas under the overhangs looking very good. I have several questions:
1) What prep would you recommend if I tried to use the same Defy product?
2) If I were to strip everything what stripper and brightener would you use?
3) For the climate and various surfaces and species of wood what stain would you suggest?

Thank you

KevinW
KevinW

Between the two approachs of cleaning and using same product Defy or completely strip and use same or different product; which is less costly or less labor intensive? And would there be any different in the quality of the finished product in your opinion?

Leslie
Leslie

We have used Superdeck on our cedar house siding (rough) since it was built. I cant remember if it was a tinted transparent or a semi-transparent, but we did not have to strip it before reapplying years later. We need to restain it again, and I’m seeing on your sight that Superdeck was bought out and changed formulas. It appears it is no longer good. The house is large and tall. We DO NOT want to strip it. What do you recommend?

Britta
Britta

Our house painter just put 2 coats of Behr Weatherproofing semi-transparent stain on our old deck and it looks just horrible. I’ve searched for professional deck cleaners/strippers in los angeles, but can’t find one. Should we just rent a sander or do we need to use a stripper first? What’s the best semi-transparent stain for an old deck in Los Angeles that gets morning to mid-afternoon sun? We also have a year old cedar railing/banaster for front steps that was coated wtih the Behr. Should we follow the same procedure – strip and/or sand?. What stain would you recommend for that? Thanks! Wish I’d read your reviews first! Attaching before and after photos!

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Leanne
Leanne

I stained my cedar patio last year and used a brightener this spring to clean off all the pollution. Somehow the stain came off as well. Any suggestions of what went wrong and how to fix?

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Patty
Patty

I used stain remover followed by a brightener on my Redwood deck. Some, but not all, of the top railing has a yellowish residue (no matter how much I rinsed it). I want to stain it but am concerned about how this area will turn out. Any thoughts?

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Jon Woodman
Jon Woodman

I’m stripping a deck of unknown tropical hardwood using 60-80 grit sandpaper on a random orbital sander. The deck was done years ago with Cabot’s Timber Oil that turned black. My plan is to use either an oil based stain or tropical wood specific oil to show off the wood decking once I have removed the Timber Oil.

After hours of sanding I rinsed off the deck to remove the dust and look for water beading on the wood, which I saw.

Would it be a good idea to give the hardwood a dose of deck stripper, and brightener, to remove any residual Timber Oil lurking in the wood, or should I re-sand the areas where the water isn’t absorbing immediately?
Thanks

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Tanya
Tanya

Ive removed the old stain with stain stripper and power washer but now have wood fuzzies. Is this normal or did I ruin the wood? I plan to sand after another 2 warm days to let the deck dry and remove any remaining stain that was stubborn. Hoping I can sand to repair any rough areas as well. Then I plan to use a semi-transparent Oak tinted water based stain, but want your suggestions on the best stain to reduce future maintenance as I’m not eager to do this again any time soon! Oil based? Solid? What would you use?

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Tracy
Tracy

My husband restrained the decking at the weekend , on,y trouble is he used the wrong tin!! And ended up using the shed and fence paint by mistake, then a few days later it rained and now some of it has washed off and it looks a mess, would it be ok just justbgo,over it all with the proper decking stain or would it still stay patchy, any help or advice would be greatly appreciated

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rjacobs408
rjacobs408

What is the effect on landscaping surrounding the deck? Is there residue on rocks? Our deck is needing stripping. However, we have a variety of plantings (hosta, shrubs and trees) around the deck. Also, this is a rock bed. What will be the effects for residue (including coloring) and toxicity to the the landscaping bedding?

Melinda
Melinda

We have a ipe deck that previous owners painted with a solid stain. They left lower deck with the natural wood. The stain is starting to peel in some places. What’s the best way to remove the stain and restore the deck? Also, what should we use to keep the portion that is not stained in good condition? It’s hard to find information on ipe wood.

Wanda
Wanda

We need to refinish our cedar porch that has Sikkens stain for over 20 years on it. Some places on the porch have and are peeling and some places have not peeled. What do you suggest?

Mike
Mike

I replaced the cedar planking on our deck 5 years ago. At that time I applied a semi-transparent Acrylic stain/sealer. With dogs and general usage the traffic areas started to go back to bare wood and when I reapplied the same product I noticed a color difference between the original acrylic and the bare wood spots The cedar itself is in very good condition. At this point I am thinking about a redo with a full oil product. What are your opinions about changing to an all oil product and is oil a better approach than Acrylic? And if I go the oil route what product and approach would be best to remove the current acrylic stain to prepare for the oil? Do you have any opinions on what oil-based stain brands to consider? What about the choice between transparent, semi-transparent and opaque? Thank you.

Teresa
Teresa

When inquiring about the Flood stain mentioned on this blog, a sales representative at a local paint store suggested we use exterior paint instead of stain. However, we were planning on applying a solid deck stain on this old deck, see pictures attached (some new boards with plans to remove and replace entire deck in 2 years). We are looking for a short term, quick fix. Two questions:
1) if applying a solid stain do we still need to strip old deck satin? If yes, any tips on removing stain on rails?
2) can solid deck stain be sprayed on?

We are located outside of Toronto, Canada with a SW facing deck in a wooded area.

Thanks!

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LarryB
LarryB

How long after I strip off the old stain must I restain my deck? Can I wait long or must I do within a time frame? Thanks

Jan McNett
Jan McNett

We just stained our deck with CETOL SRD Semi Transparent stain, Hazelnut and it is black. Nothing like the example shown to us. What can we use to remove it and have only the bare wood with a sealer on it? We really need help with this. It looks terrible.
Thank You

Evan
Evan

Can I get the proper order of steps to take please?

PT wood, unknown stain. Replaced two boards about a year ago. Sorry I do not have a picture at the moment, but because I do not know which stain the previous owners used, I gather that I should strip it, then stain it, but then there are the other minor steps. Does this sound right:

1. Apply deck stripper (thinking of RAD kit), let soak, scrub, wash away with hose or pressure washer?
2. Let dry then sand?? or use brightener then let dry and sand? (This is where most of my confusion lays).
3. Do I have to rinse again after sanding?
4. Stain railings and spindles first, then deck floor.

Any advice would be helpful!

Thanks

Margret
Margret

A new pressure treated wood deck was installed at the back of our Ottawa home in August 2015; the wood was purchased at Home Depot and our contractor advised that it be allowed to dry out for at least three months before any treatment. Unfortunately, the following September and October, though usually very pleasant, were unusually wet months and, by October, brown staining started to appear. After some research, we concluded this was the result of tannin bleed, which was made worse by the fact our backyard is shaded by 100 year old maples Adding to the puddling and general dampness, these shed copious amounts of autumn leaves that, accumulating in the rain, really locked in the moisture.

The following spring, we set about removing the tannin bleed with cleaners and brighteners from the relevant line of Penofin products. Individual tannin bleed stains were successfully removed –
completely and without additional problems on our cedar wood counter tops. On our pressure treated wood deck, however, the overall effect on the deck was blotchy. We thought we could live with it so proceeded with Penofin oil application. Thinly applied to our fencing, where tannin bleed and blotchiness had not been an issue, it looked and has remained looking very good. As for the deck, not so great. In addition to which, we have determined the main cause of the blotchiness was the effect all the cleaning and brightening had inflicted on the brown stain which we learned is now injected into pressure treated wood to make it look more attractive!

Apart from some annoyance about why this crucial bit of information is not made routinely available by lumber dealers, manufacturers, or those supplying treatment applications, this suggests the solution to dealing with the blotchiness is to completely strip the original brown stain from the pressure treated wood. We have tried CIL’s bleach deck cleaner to some small effect – certainly the deck is hyper clean and there’s no graying and the like – but there’s got to be another way.

What do you think?

Jacob
Jacob

It’s time for us to put a new coat of stain on our deck. Along with the weather we have a dog whose nails have warn down our once beautiful deck. I was just going to put a new coat of stain on top but after reading this article I’m worried the new coat will not penetrate the wood where the remaining old stain exists. Do you recommend I strip the deck and then stain? This time around we plan to do a better job keeping the dogs nails trimmed but do you have any other tips for resisting claw marks? I will be using TWP 1500 stain. Thank you for the help. This website has been valuable to me over the years.

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Katherine
Katherine

We are trying to remove deck stain that was done (most likely quite a few years ago) by the previous owners of our home. There is visible dirt and stain we need to remove so that we can re stain the deck. We have also replaced a few boards last year and stained them and it did not match well – which is part of what started this whole project. What is the best way to remove the stain and dirt? Should we power wash and then sand? Is it okay to just power wash? Or just sand? I powerwashed a small area and it removed some of the dirt and stain well and then was creating grooves in the boards in other places. Recommendations of what to do and/or products to use would be extremly helpful!!

George
George

I am selling my house and need to restore my 650 sq foot cedar deck as quickly and cheaply as possible. I replaced some of the floor boards and the entire rail cap with new cedar. The previous application of BenMoore semi-solid oil stain (not Arborcoat) has mostly held up well over the last 7 years, but there are a few spots where the stain is flaking, mainly on and around the bottom rail. Can I get away with sanding the flaking areas, cleaning and brightening the entire deck and putting down a first coat of solid stain on just the new wood followed by a second coat over the entire deck? Or am I going to need to strip the entire deck down the bare wood? I am planning to switch to acrylic stain for ease of use / clean up and can match the original color through computerized tinting. I would like to avoid having to strip if I can get away with it due to the added time and cost. Thanks for advising.

Karen C Coble
Karen C Coble

I think there is paint on my wood deck. What would I use to remove paint from treated deck? We pressure washer it with 50/50 Clorox and water. It is about 20 years old.

Hal
Hal

i have a pressure treated deck that i installed last august. i let it sit and age. i used wolman deck cleaner on it today, but i still have some stains from a mat we left down on it. also, there is some discoloration or fading where we had a deck box on the deck and other mats layed down. should i use stain stripper in effort to correct that issue before i stain with twp 1500 ?

the deck is covered

Mike
Mike

Hi,

I have a large elevated pressure treated pine deck system ( lots of levels benches, planters, hot tub etc….). The deck is about 25 years old and is relatively good condition with less than a handful of boards that should be replaced. A deck was added on about 10 years ago so it presents a different color. The deck has only had sikkens oil based semi transparent cetol applied to it over the years. We like the look of the sikkens but maintenance is more than what we tend to keep up with. We have heard in the past from contractors and dealers that the only thing that can go over sikkens is Sikkens. Is there a safe low / non toxic stripper ( we are concerned about pets and foliage) that could be applied to effectively strip the sikkens? A contracting friend likes TWC and has recommended it to us on a clean bare surface. The vertical surfaces need to be done this time around. They have never been redone as far as I know so the job is much bigger this time around. Can we safely and effectively strip or should we just clean and repeat with the Sikkens? Thanks.

mike
mike

It's interesting I've been stripping the same deck every 2-3 yrs for 20 yrs. Sometimes I get a furring of the wood and other times not. This last time I used the BMoore stripper mixed 50/50 with water and ended up with furring. The time before I used Behr stripper and there was no furring. Does the longer dwell time of the stripper cause more furring? I will use a Makita Painter Pal sander with a 3M synthetic to buff off the fuzzies. Is there a better way to get rid of the furring? Do you have any suggestions?
It has been my practice to wet the wood again after any sanding or buffing to open up the wood grain. Do you follow a similar practice?

Dennis Olsen
Dennis Olsen

I'm not sure if the product I need to remove is a paint or stain . does it matter ?

Charlie
Charlie

We have a cedar deck in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010 we applied Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Natural Transparent Stain, followed by Arborcoat

The clear coat is flaking off. What stripper would you recommend for complete removal? Would I need a brighter? What products should I apply in restraining?

James
James

I made the mistake of listening to the advice of our local cedar supply store, who recommended applying Penofin Ultra Clear Penetrating Oil Finish to our new cedar deck. The deck, facing southwest in Colorado, turned black, gray, and a combination of the two, within two years. The only natural brown color remaining is on the vertical slats of the bench I installed. So I think I made a mistake a few days ago by mixing a small amount of TSP and bleach with water, brushing it on, and then power washing it off. The black colors are gone, but I fear I may have harmed the wood with the bleach. What would you recommend? RAD or DEFY stripper, and then brightener, and then waiting a few days before applying TWP or Armstrong?

George Cowan
George Cowan

I need to remove Olympic Rescue It from my deck. Any Suggestionss

George Cowan
George Cowan

My deck was painted with Olympic Rescue It (not by me). I wish to remove it and start over. Any suggestions on what product (stripper) to use?

Susan
Susan

I live in San Antonio and our deck was built from oak and yellow pine. I don't have any history on how the deck has been maintained. The deck faces east and only gets shade in the afternoon. I know I will need to strip and brighten the wood. Would like a recommendation on a 1500 that will minimize the appearance of the two different woods.

Jerry
Jerry

Hi, is it ok to apply deck stripper to newly constructed deck stairs? The deck was stained 2 years ago and now needs to be removed since it was not applied correctly. I was hoping I could just use the deck stripper on both the deck and the new stairs instead of using a stripper on the deck and then a cleaner on the stairs. Thanks!

Mark in Maine
Mark in Maine

I'm installing some new deck boards to an existing deck. I will be stripping/cleaning the remaining deck prior to staining.

I know I need to let the new deck boards weather prior to staining. I live in Maine. Instead of staining all but the new boards now, my thought was to strip/clean the deck now and then stain the entire deck in the spring. I will be using the TWP 1500 stain.

Is this ok to separate the stripping/cleaning to do now and then stain in the spring or would you recommend doing it all at the same time in the spring?

Thanks.

David
David

We just purchased our home last fall. The back deck looks quite aged–its grayed, peeling, fading, had algea growth, etc. But its structurally sound, no rotted boards, no mold, definitely salvageable!! We have cleaned it with detergent and scrub brush, then power washed it so far. We decided to do some research before going to the store to buy paint/stain. I'm so glad we found this sight!! We were looking at some of the deck restore products, like Olympic's Rescue It was recommended to us by a guy at Lowe's. Given the reviews and the unhappy customers we found on YouTube videos…I dont think thats a good option. But we dont know exactly whats on the deck now–the horizontal and vertical surfaces are two different colors so it might even be two totally different products. Not sure if its paint or solid stain, water based or oil based. Do we try to do deck stripper? Do we paint it? Pressure washing removed some of the worst of the peeling, but there are some places that have paint/stain still well intact. Can we do solid stain over the top of paint—no, right?

Susan
Susan

We have an 8 year old pressure treated deck that has been stained twice with Sikkens Cetol SRD Translucent Wood Finish. The deck faces northeast and is located on an exposed mountain in central Vermont. The Cetol has held up fairly well since it was re-stained two years ago, but there are some bare areas, and some dirt and mold.

We just cleaned the deck with oxygen bleach and were planning to re-stain with the same Cetol product. We are no longer able to purchase the Cetol product in Vermont and are looking for a suitable alternative. Since most of the stain is intact, could we use a clear product? Or should we go with another translucent stain? What would you recommend? Also, after reading much on this website, it appears we may have to strip the old stain before applying new. Would this be your recommendation?

Lynda
Lynda

Hi, We had our deck installed in 2006. Used Penofin Marine Oil per recommendations. Deck was soon blotchy and weathered. My dates are likely off, but In 2008, we stripped it and reapplied it. In 2009, deck looked mildewy and dirty again. Our Lumber Retailer removed the product because they couldn't figure out why the deck looked so bad, and applied Sikkens (Cetol) CRD.
It looked great initially, but last year we sanded it off, and stripped it off chemically because the deck looked so bad. We used One Time Wood because they enticed us saying it will last 6-7 years before reapplication is needed. The result was blotchy and some of the product became crystallized because the One Time couldn't absorb into the wood. One Time rep says product was left behind. I'd like to use the One Time again. Anyone have suggestions out there ?

Michael McDaniel
Michael McDaniel

I have tried deck stripping products with little success. Is there a super strong product that will remove old two layers?

Ruth Fisher
Ruth Fisher

We just had a 150 foot cedar fence build. We did not know we should have waited 5 weeks before staining it so we cleaned it and started staining it with a redwood stain a week after it was built. We got 1/3 of it done and after living with it a week, I really don't like the color. It is much more orange than I wanted. I really don't want to have to pay to have the wood replaced. Can you please advise what would be the best way to go with this.

REMOND
REMOND

WHAT IS THE BEST DECK STAIN STRIPPER?

Ted
Ted

My cabin is rough-sawn cedar and needed a new coat of stain. First stain we used was too dark, so used Superdeck Stripper to remove it. The paint store said we shouldn't need to apply the brightener because the stripper took the wood much lighter than the rest of the house, yet the lightest stain we could find (Superdeck natural) takes the wood too dark again. Would the brightener prevent this ?

clay Volz
clay Volz

If I had a solid color stain, I think it's Behr, will the RAD stripper work or should I just rent a sander?

Chris
Chris

I'm getting ready to strip a 15 year PT deck (roughly 800 square feet) that gets mostly direct sun on the majority of the deck with another section covered by a 28×8 overhang from the cathedral ceiling portion of the house. The stain that had been previously applied was a Benjamin Moore Semi-Transparent Alkalyd Stain "Tahoe Brown" – a dark brown stain. Over the years, the stain on the section of the deck covered by the overhang has begun flaking and won't take on any new stain since it hasn't been exposed to the elements as the other portion of the deck. In addition, stain almost appears solid because of the multiple applications over the years and limited exposure to the elements. I want to continue to keep the deck stained a similar dark brown color but am concerned that all the existing won't come out completely due to the multiple applications over the years without stripping.

Since I'm switching stain brands, I will have to strip the railings, spindles, and lattice panels skirting the deck as well. So, based on my long-winded explanation, I have the following questions:

1) What would be the best stripper to remove the Benjamin Moore Alkalyd Semi Transparent stain ( I was considering Restore A Deck)? Can it be removed effectively given the multiple applications over the years?
2) What would be the best order to tackle the project? Railings first, deck first, lattice skirting first?
3) When restaining are the better stains for 'older' decks as opposed to newer decks?

Thanks for your advice, this is a great resource!
–Chris.