How to Remove Wood Stain from a Deck

Moving into a home that has a deck can be a real draw for many people that dream of socializing, eating, and relaxing outdoors. But, many decks have been neglected for years, and they need a lot of work to make them usable. Beyond any essential repairs, some decks simply need cleaning, staining, and sealing to restore them. Knowing how to remove wood stain from a deck is essential to give you a starting point. In this article, we will take a closer look at deck stain removal techniques to make this process simpler and more effective.

What Do I Need to Know Before Getting Started with deck stain removal?

Before you learn how to remove wood stain and old sealants, there are four basic principles to understand:

How to Remove Wood Stain from a Deck
  1. If the new stain color is lighter than the existing finish, you will need to remove the old stain to prevent it from showing through.
  2. If the new stain color and tone are dramatically different, it’s important to remove the old stain, or the color will not match your expectations.
  3. If the deck is excessively worn, the damage must be repaired, and the old stain needs to be removed to make the surface smooth for the new stain.
  4. If there is no peeling, cracking, or discolored stained areas it is possible to sand the imperfections and use a closely matching stain and sealant.

Further Reading: How to Sand a Deck Before Applying a Finish

Equipment Needed for Deck Stain Removal

Before you begin the deck stain removal process, gather the following protective gear, tools, and materials:

Protective Gear Needed when removing Deck Stain

  • Rubber gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Knee pads

Tools needed for Deck Stain Removal

  • Angle grinder
  • Cordless drill
  • Nail set
  • Nylon paint roller
  • Stiff brush
  • Garden hose with nozzle attachment
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Stiff brush
  • Stripping discs
  • Paintbrush
  • Clean rags

Materials Required for Deck Stain Removal

  • Masking tape
  • Plastic drop cloth
  • Wood stain
  • Deck wood conditioner/brightener
  • Deck stain remover

5 Steps How to Remove Wood Stain From a Deck  

When you’re learning how to remove wood stain, it’s important to realize that the process is time-intensive and a lot of perseverance and patience is required. Go slowly; a good deck stain application will take a couple of weekends.

But, you can add years to the deck lifespan, and this may save you a lot of money in the long term. Applying fresh stain will improve the aesthetic appeal, and there are five steps to remove the old deck stain properly.

Step 1: Remove the Peeling Stain from the Wood Deck

If the deck is in bad shape with pieces of peeling and flaking stain, these sections must be removed. Use a paint scraper to remove the flakes before you apply a stain stripper product. If you attempt to stain a surface with old peeling stain, the flakes will mix with the solution and compromise the finish. This step is pretty quick, and it’s a great way to find damaged sections that need to be repaired before you continue.

Step 2: Prepare the Wood Deck Area

Read the instructions for the stain stripper carefully to ensure that you know how to handle it safely before you begin. Some deck stripping products are biodegradable, but they can still damage skin, and you must wear rubber gloves, safety glasses, and a mask.

This protection extends to areas around the deck too, and plastic should be used to protect plants, grass, and other surfaces. You will need a garden hose with a nozzle attachment to keep the wood misted with water to draw out the old stain. This is especially true if you’re stripping the stain on hot or cold days.

Step 3: Applying the Deck Stain Stripper

An all-in-one deck stripper is a good option because it will strip away oil, latex, and acrylic sealants too. Apply the stripper with a nylon paint roller with a standard nap, and a long handled roller will reduce the potential for backaches. Don’t be tempted to use a sprayer because stain stripper will clog the nozzle and make the process harder.

Mist with water as you continue the application, and this will protect the surrounding surfaces too. Apply the deck stripper liberally; adding more will improve the stripping results. In many cases, a single pass with water misting will remove the old stain. If there are several layers of stain, you may need a few applications on dried out spots.

Step 4: Scrubbing the Deck

Prepare the Wood Deck Area

At this stage, the old stain should be stripped away, and it’s time to use the stiff brush to remove it entirely. Scrub the wood; you won’t need to apply much pressure because the stripper has done the hard work for you.

After the scrubbing, rinse the deck with a light coating of water to prevent damage to the exposed wood fibers.

Step 5: Wood Deck Brightener

After the deck has dried, use a wood brightener product to prepare the deck for a fresh coat of stain.

The original deck colors are enhanced and this improves the surface for new stain. Use a clean paint roller to apply the deck brightener to a moist deck and leave it to sit for 30 minutes.

Then scrub the surface with a thoroughly cleaned stiff brush and rinse in the same way as earlier. When the wood is fully dry, you will have the ideal surface for the new wood stain and sealant application.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Removing Deck Stain 

The biggest mistake is that the old deck stain is not fully removed from the surfaces. This prevents the new stain application from penetrating fully into the wood. The stain will sit on the surface, and it will begin to flake and peel away within a year or less.

To check that the old stain is fully removed, splash water on the surface and observe the results. If the water soaks into the wood, the stain has gone, but if it sits on top, the stain is still present. If there is water beading, there is likely to be an older failed stain on the surface that must be removed.

FAQ’sHow to Remove Wood Stain

Is it better to sand or strip a wood deck?

Sanding is a viable option, if you have a large flat deck and you need less penetration into the wood. But, sanding takes more time, and it can be hard to get consistent results. In most cases, stripping is the best way to prepare the deck, even if the costs are higher.

Will vinegar remove deck stain?

Vinegar can remove stains because it’s acidic, but there are problems that can arise if it’s allowed to sit on the wood for too long. It can sap color from wood, and undiluted vinegar can even damage the surface of the deck.

Do I need to remove all stain before re-staining?

Yes, any old stain left on the surface will prevent the penetration of the new stain. This will lead to uneven colors, faded tones, and premature peeling issues.

To test the deck, make a shallow cut on a deck board through the old stain and cover it with duct tape. Pull the tape off and check if any old stain is stuck to the tape. If there is old stain, you will need to strip the decking before you consider a fresh stain and sealant.

How long after stripping the deck can I stain?

The deck needs to dry for at least three days after stripping and then a further three days after staining.

How to Remove Wood Stain on a Deck- In Conclusion: 

We hope that you now understand how to remove wood stain from a deck. It’s important to wear protective equipment during this process, and the stripping product instructions must be followed carefully. If you take your time and follow our advice, you should have a clean and smooth surface for a fresh application of stain and sealant.