Best Wood Stain Remover – Guide on Removing Wood Stains
This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission from purchases made through them, at no additional cost to you.
The purpose of wood stain is to enrich and protect your wood surfaces, like flooring and furniture by absorbing the stain into the surface of the wood. So, if you intend to enrich the look of your furniture or if you want to remodel rooms in your home, it is important that you first know how to remove stain from wood. In this article, we will be guiding you through all the steps you need to know how to remove stain from wood.
Table of Contents
- 1 Is Wood Stain Remover Necessary?
- 2 How Does a Stain Stripper Work
- 3 Top Products for Removing Wood Stains
- 4 Considerations When Buying Wood Stain Remover
- 5 Types of Wood Stain Stripper Available
- 6 Process for Removing Stains from Wood
- 7 Ideas for Perfect Deck Stain Stripping
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions
- 8.1 Can You Use Vinegar to Remove Wood Stains?
- 8.2 Can You Use Mineral Spirits to Remove Wood Stains?
- 8.3 Can You Use Paint Thinner to Remove Varnish?
- 8.4 Can You Use a Homemade Varnish Remover to Remove Varnish?
- 8.5 Can You Use Acetone to Remove Wood Stains?
- 8.6 Can You Use Bleach to Brighten your Wood Stains?
- 8.7 Can You Remove Wood Stains by Sanding?
Is Wood Stain Remover Necessary?
Do you specifically need to use a wood stain stripper? There are many methods you could use for removing wood stain, but the use of a wood stain remover is the quickest and most suitable method. Another method is to use a scrapper, but this is slow and takes a lot of time to complete.
The same applies to a heat gun, which can take hours to complete. You could also make use of a power sander, which is fast, but this method causes dust and paint chips to fly all over. This creates a health hazard if you breathe them in, and also takes effort to clean up afterward. removing wood stain
How Does a Stain Stripper Work
Removing wood stain, how is it done? There are deck strippers available on the market that are specially designed to remove a stain, sealer, or varnish from your wooden deck surface. What you need to do is apply the deck stripper to the deck surface, then give it some time to penetrate the wooden surface. After you are satisfied it has filtered through sufficiently, you can use some water to wash it off.
Is there only one way to apply a deck stripper? This depends entirely on you. Many of the deck stripper manufacturers recommend you apply the stripper using a weed sprayer. This method of application will always give you consistent and even coverage.
Another suggested application method is making use of a pressure washer that is equipped with a detergent injection feature. However, no special equipment is really needed to apply a deck stripper. You can always just use a wide paintbrush, an ordinary mop, or a paint roller. All of these methods will end up with the same results.
The only variation will be the time you spend applying the deck stripper. So, this means that if you are not a fast worker, you need to divide the deck surface into sections and complete a specific section before carrying on with the rest. This is important, as the stripper may dry before you can wash it off.
To do the job effectively, you should use a pressure washer to remove the deck stripper. However, if you do not possess a pressure washer, it is not necessary to go and purchase one just for this job, an ordinary garden hose should do the job just as well.
Top Products for Removing Wood Stains
When buying wood stain remover, good quality makes a big difference. Here are some of the top product picks to consider in order to achieve the best results.
RESTORE-A-DECK Wood Stain Stripper
This brand of wood stain stripper is supplied in a powder form. Diluting it in the water will help you to strip up to 1,000 square feet of wood stain from your outdoor wood surface. The formula is designed to be biodegradable, but we do suggest that before you apply it, you use some sort of covering over your plants, as it will burn their leaves if the stripper comes into contact with them.
- Removes most coatings (clear. semi-transparent, semi-solid)
- Powdered formula makes 5 liquid gallons when mixed
- Can be mixed stronger or weaker depending on the finish
Another way to avoid this is for you to wet the leaves as well as the soil around the plants, then if anything does fall on them, it will automatically be diluted thereby causing no harm. The purpose of the stain remover is to remove any dirt, semi-transparent or transparent stains, mildew, latex-based sealer and oil, mold as well as any varnish.
If you want a 100% successful job done, the manufacturers all recommend you use a garden sprayer or pressure washer to apply it. When encountering any stubborn stains, you may need to do a second application or simply use less water when you mix the stripper. Less water will give you a more concentrated solution you can apply.
NOTE: Do not use this best wood stain remover on acrylic-based or solid paint stains. It is designed and recommended as the first step for use in the cycle of wood refurbishing. Once this first step has been completed, you then need to apply a wood brightener to counterbalance the pH in the wood.
- Once mixed it produces a large amount of solution
- It is biodegradable
- Reasonably priced
- Needs to be followed up with an application of wood brightener
- Is not effective when applied to acrylic-based or solid paint stains
SAVERSYSTEMS Deck Wood Stain Stripper
This brand of best wood stain remover is supplied in a ready-to-use form and, therefore, requires no diluting. One gallon of the solution can cover up to 150 square feet of a deck surface. It is designed to remove semi-transparent, clear, or sealer stains, dirt, mold, algae, or mildew. You can use a garden sprayer, a wide paintbrush, or a mop to apply it.
- A ready to use wood stain stripper
- Covers 100 - 150 sq. ft. per gallon
- Restores the natural look of wood
Once applied, leave the deck stain remover for about 1 hour to allow it to penetrate the wood. Then using a pressure washer, wash off all of the solutions. This stripper is not recommended for use on solid color or paint stains. You need to be incredibly careful during the drying time, not to allow the stripper solution to dry out. If you see it beginning to dry and the stain is still there, apply a second coat to help it from drying out too fast. For the stripper to work effectively make sure you apply it on a cool day to avoid the sun from drying it out too fast.
- It is easy to use
- The formula is supplied in a ready-to-use form
- If you encounter layered stains, you will have to apply several coats
- A pressure wash is necessary to remove the stripper
DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper
This paint stain remover is designed to remove varnish, semi-transparent stains, and sealers from all types of wood. The product comes ready-to-use and needs no diluting. First, wet your wood surface and then using a garden sprayer to apply the stripper. Preferably using a pressure washer, you can then wash the solution off.
- Removes worn semi-transparent stains and sealers
- Works with all types of outdoor wood
- Helps to restore the natural beauty of the wood
This brand is designed to restore the original beauty of your wood, as it removes the old worn finish. However, applying the stripper is only the first step in rejuvenating your outdoor wooden projects. This means that just stripping off the wood’s previous finish will not suffice in bringing back the beautiful quality of your wood. You also need to apply a wood brightener, then the wood finish will bring your wood back to life again. DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper is exceptional in bringing your old worn out wood back to its original state.
The paint stain remover is biodegradable; however, it still contains sodium metasilicate and sodium hydroxide substances, which can pose a health risk if they are absorbed into the skin. Therefore, we recommend when using this product, you wear protective equipment like a respirator, boots, gloves, goggles, and also protective clothing. When applying, attempt to do it at a fairly cool temperature, say above 50° F (10° C).
We suggest you wet your wood surface lightly before applying stripper by using a sprayer or polyester brush. The brush is more acceptable, as it can control the amount of water you apply to the wood surface.
When you apply the stripper, do it out of direct sunlight, as the sun’s rays tend to dry it much faster and it may leave streaks. The application will be successful if the wood surface remains slightly wet, then wait for about 15 to 25 minutes and you will notice the wood finish start lifting off. Now it is time to take a power washer and scrub the wood surface along the grain to remove the solution. You can also successfully remove the solution using a garden hose. This stripper is easy to apply and the process used is fairly standard, but the results are very impressive.
- Fairly cost-effective
- Easy to apply
- Customer service is exceptional
- Supplied in ready-to-use form
- Possibly require several applications
- Very time-consuming to apply
Considerations When Buying Wood Stain Remover
There are a couple of different things to consider when buying a wood stain remover. This is to make sure that the product works well and is also safe and suitable for the job.
The main reason for using a stain stripper is to remove all those unwelcome and unpleasant stains from the surface of your wood. So, you need to buy one that is going to be effective and solve your problem.
If the stain remover is to be effective, at least 99% of the wood stain should be removed. We always recommend you read the manufactures instructions on the container; this will tell you what specific type of stain the stripper can remove. Some stain strippers work well for new furniture, while others are more effective in removing those stubborn stains. You also get some that are effective in doing both.
Take care when using paint stain strippers, as some of the brands require protective equipment and clothing because they propose health hazards. However, others are safe to use without any protective wear. Some stain strippers are safe to use indoors and they offer no health hazards for kids, plants, or pets.
The paint stain strippers that require protective equipment, are intended for outdoor use, such as wooden fences, wood sidings, and decks. You need to handle these strippers with care, and you might want to think of getting in somebody with more experience.
Many stain removers are easy to use and come in a ready-to-use form, but others need to be formulated before you use them. The mixing process may be time-consuming, which will then make the job that much longer to finish.
This is the reason why many buy the ready-to-use strippers, as they are easy to use and save you lots of time. This does not mean the strippers in powder form are no good; on the contrary, they are more suited for those stubborn stains. This type of stain stripper has an added advantage, as you can change its consistency to suit your particular need.
Note: Irrespective of the type of stain remover you decide to use, the above factors need to be considered when you purchase your stain stripper. This is to ensure you end up with the results you want.
Types of Wood Stain Stripper Available
There is no simple answer to this, as stain stripper products are all made up of various types of ingredients. Despite the different ingredients found in wood stain stripper products, they can be identified by one of the three following types.
The solvent in the stain stripper chemically dissolves the old existing wood finish. Some of the chemicals used as solvents in wood stain removers are acetone, methylene chloride, and toluene.
The main advantage of solvents in strippers is to do an intense cleaning operation. Also, in some cases, it is the only stain remover that is effective in dissolving the old existing paint. However, the main disadvantage of these products is that they are very toxic and can be harmful if inhaled.
The caustic stain remover operates by dissolving the existing wood surface finish and then converts it into a different substance. These types of strippers are popular but need caution when using.
They consist of a strong base or acid that is inclined to be very corrosive. These caustic types of wood stain strippers contain sodium or potassium hydroxide and oxalic acid. These caustic substances are considered the harshest option to use, but it may be just what is needed to remove those stubborn stains.
These types of stain removers seem to satisfy both options, as they contain chemical substances that are not as aggressive. With this type of stripper, the manufacturers have tried to use more natural ingredients. This creates a stain stripper that is safer to use and is also more environmentally friendly.
These biochemical strippers make use of substances like:
- Lactic acid
- Soy oil
- Wood pulp extract
- Various kinds of terpenes
- Citric acid
Process for Removing Stains from Wood
In order to remove a wood stain successfully, there are a couple of different steps to take. We have outlined these methods below to help you achieve the best results.
Preparing the Wood Surface and the Work Area
- Ensure the wood surface area is clean from grit or dust, using warm soapy water. Then make sure the surface is dry before you continue, by using paper towels or a clean cloth
- If you are going to apply the stain stripper on a wooden floor, make use of some painters tape and tape the area where the floor meets with the walls
- When applying the stain stripper, ensure that it does not splash onto any other surface. For example, if you are using the stripper on a furniture item, position the item in the center of a drop cloth and use tape to cover all the metal fittings
- As the wood stain stripper can produce some strong fumes, we suggest you work outside or in a well-ventilated space, and out of strong winds or direct sunlight
Be sure to wear protective equipment and clothing when you are applying any chemical wood stain strippers. This will include goggles, respirators, gloves, and protective clothing that has long sleeves to protect your arms.
Applying the Wood Stain Stripper
- Decant the Stain Stripper into a metal or glass container and then apply the stripper strictly according to the manufactures instructions. All standard chemical and citrus strippers will do a perfect job
- To apply, use an ordinary paintbrush with organic fibers. Apply to the wood surface in even and thick layers. If there are any recesses or corners, use the brush tip to apply the stripper to these areas
- Leave the stripper for around 20 minutes, then if the surface seems to be drying out, apply a further coat to keep it wet
If you are a beginner in the field of stain removal, or if you are working on a wooden floor or a large item of furniture, we suggest you only do small areas at a time. For example, around 1 square foot.
Removing the Wood Stain Stripper From the Surface
- When the stripper is ready to be removed, you will notice that the top layer starts to bubble or swell
- Now, before the stripper dries out, you need to remove it by scraping it off gently from the wood surface. This you can do by using a scraper or special putty knife. Scrape it directly into a waste bin to avoid any contact with your hands
- If there any corners or recesses, use some steel wool and scrape it off. Always move in the direction of the wood grain
- To ensure all the stripper has been removed, use a damp clean cloth to wipe it off
By following the steps above, you will successfully remove stains from your wood surface without having to sand it down. Try not to use any tools that have sharp edges to remove the stripper, as they may scratch the wood leaving behind ugly marks.
Sanding the Wooden Surface
- Before you sand the surface, leave it to dry for about 24 hours
- Make sure the surface is dry before you start to sand, then put on safety goggles as well as a face mask. Begin to sand using medium grit (100 – 150 grit) sandpaper folded around a sanding block or else make use of an orbital sander. Apply just enough pressure to remove all traces of the stain stripper, but be careful not to damage the wood surface itself
- Once you are satisfied that all the stripper has been removed, clean off all the sandpaper grit and dust
- Complete the sanding by using 180 grit sandpaper and make sure all the scratch marks have been removed and the wood surface is clean and smooth
- Using a clean cloth and mineral spirits, wipe the surface ensuring all dust has been removed
- You can now clean up your working area using a vacuum cleaner
Using Wood Bleach to Brighten the Wood Surface
If you have come this far, the job is nearly complete. Just because you have successfully removed all the old wood stain or paint, does not mean you are finished. You now need to neutralize the paint stripper by using a product known as oxalic acid and then brighten the wood surface.
This process will brighten your wood surface by restoring the natural color of your wood and will also prevent any further damage caused by the stripping process. To do this, you need to make a powerful chlorine wood bleach solution by using granular chlorine, such as used in swimming pools. You need to mix the chlorine crystals with water until dissolved.
This chlorine mixture is not remarkably effective when it comes to removing pigment stains, but there is a 2-part wood bleach product on the market that will do the job. This 2-part wood bleach is supplied in a kit form and consists of hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide. When applying it, you need to follow the manufactures directions for safe application.
However, when you have a dye stain on your wood surface, the chlorine bleach solution will do simply fine. Just remember, that once you have mixed it you need to apply it immediately, as it quickly loses its effectiveness if you let it stand for any length of time. Before you start, make sure that you are wearing a respirator and rubber gloves, then wipe or brush the bleach solution onto the wood surface. You will be able to observe the wood color lighten straight away. However, you need to leave the bleach solution on the wood overnight for optimum results.
Applying the 2-part wood bleach product correctly depends on the type of product you have purchased.
Overall, the process is as follows:
- Apply the 1-part labeled as part A
- Next, straight away apply the second part labeled as part B. There are bleach products that require you to first mix both parts and then use it on your wood.
This 2-part bleach product brings out the natural color of your wood, but you need to be careful when using it. First attempt using on a small part to see the result, then you can go ahead to complete the job.
Only Apply Paint or Wood Stain to Dry Surfaces
If you intend to apply a semi-transparent or oil-based stain, you need to make sure your wood surface is totally dry, which can take several days. To ensure this is done properly, we suggest you make use of a moisture meter that can measure the amount of moisture in the wood. Do not be too worried, as these meters are fairly reasonably priced and can be bought at any home improvement store or even online. This is an excellent investment for all of those outdoor projects you want to tackle.
We suggest you use a product called Ready Seal; this will give you the desired result. Before you apply your new stain, the amount of moisture in the wood must be at least less than 12%. You may feel that this step is not all that important and can be skipped but beware that it is vital for good results.
Ideas for Perfect Deck Stain Stripping
- When you have a wooden deck that has an old deteriorating stain, just cleaning it will not be enough. This is where a stain stripper comes in, which can soften the old deck stain allowing it to be removed more effectively. This is because a wood stain stripper is a lot more aggressive in removing the old stain than a wood cleaner is
- When you use a wood stain stripper you need to leave it on the wood surface for several minutes, to get the best result. This will give the stripper enough time to penetrate and soften the old wood stain. The amount of time you let it stay on the wood will depend on the type of old wood stain. This means that an oil-based and semi-transparent stain is easier to remove than a semi-solid wood deck stain
- The most effective wooden deck stain removers all contain Sodium Hydroxide together with some other surfactants that are supplied in a powder form. When these substances are mixed with water you can apply the solution using a pump sprayer
- Before you apply a stain to your wooden deck, it is vital that you first clean the wood surface to give you the desired result. You need to remove all mildew, dirt, graying, and mold. This then allows the new wood deck stain to penetrate properly into the wood leaving a long-lasting finish
- As soon as the old deteriorating wood stain has properly broken down, you can remove it by using a power washer that is set at moderate or light pressure. Whatever type of stain stripper you use, will cause the pH level of your wood to rise giving it a much darker appearance. Therefore, as soon as you have completed the stripping process, you can apply the wood deck brightener that will again restore the pH level of your wood and so brighten its appearance. You must not ignore the brightening process, as this will give your new wood deck stain a much more natural look
- It is worth it to spend a little more on a good quality wood deck stain stripper, as it will be more effective in removing the old deteriorating wood stain. This will enable the new deck stain to penetrate the wooden surface and so give you maximum protection for your wood, as well as providing a long-lasting finish
- If you encounter difficult stains like silicone-based or acrylic stains, it may result in you having to apply several coats. You may also have to leave the stripper on the wood surface for longer before removing it. When encountering extreme stains like solid deck paint or stain, you may have to resort to sanding the surface. This will ensure all the old deteriorating stain has been removed
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use Vinegar to Remove Wood Stains?
If the wood stain has not been on for too long, then you can try removing it by using ordinary household ammonia. Take the ammonia and dilute with water using a 1:1 ratio, then apply using a sponge. You can also use vinegar by brushing it onto the stain using a stiff brush. Allow the vinegar to break down the stain for a few minutes and then rinse it off. Allow the wood to dry. If the stain still remains, follow the process again with 2 or more applications of vinegar.
Can You Use Mineral Spirits to Remove Wood Stains?
If you have used an oil-based stain and you are not happy with the result, you can change it to a certain extent. For instance, if the stain on the wood is too dark, take a clean cloth and dip it into some mineral spirits or turpentine. Firmly rub the wood surface with the cloth using even strokes and always rub with the grain. This process will help in lightening the wood stain but does not eliminate it.
Can You Use Paint Thinner to Remove Varnish?
Apply the thinner or alcohol and allow it to work for a few seconds, then using steel wool or a rough cloth wipe the thinner off. If you are fortunate and the stain comes off easily, you can proceed in removing the entire wood finish. However, you need to work fast, as the thinner or alcohol evaporates very quickly. The use of varnish or paint remover is not necessary.
Can You Use a Homemade Varnish Remover to Remove Varnish?
Yes, you can make your homemade varnish remover. Begin by mixing everything. Take 1 quart of boiling water and add 3/4 of a cup of washing soda, 1/2 a cup of ammonia, and 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Once mixed, apply to the wood surface while the mixture is still hot, and reheat if it cools down. When the varnish softens, simply wipe it off with hot water and a clean cloth.
Can You Use Acetone to Remove Wood Stains?
Yes, you can use acetone to remove wood stains, but acetone by itself may not entirely remove the wood stain from your floor.
Can You Use Bleach to Brighten your Wood Stains?
You can use ordinary chlorine or laundry bleach to effectively remove dye color or stains from your wood surface, but it will not give you that natural wood color you want. We suggest you use the 2-part wood bleach that contains two chemicals when mixed, it results in a chemical reaction that will bleach your wood stain and can also change the color of your wood.
Can You Remove Wood Stains by Sanding?
A good wood stain is normally extremely hard to remove from your wood surface. Some types of wood stains dye the wood surface, and others cause the pigment to penetrate deep into the pores of the wood. So, the only effective way to remove stains like this is to sand the surface and remove the top layer of the wood. For this purpose, fine-grit sandpaper will not do the job, you need to use medium or 100-grit sandpaper to effectively remove the stain.
Removing wood stains is a useful processs to know – and it really isn’t that tricky with the right products. We hope that this guide has taught you everything you needed to know about wood stain removal, and which products to use.