Best Wood Stain Removers – Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

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Top pick

DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper


The Best Wood Stain Remover


DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper is an easy to use stain remover which is suitable for the most stripping jobs.

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There are many different ways to finish a piece of wood. With so many options, it can be difficult to choose the right one. However, you might be relieved to know that you’ve always got more than one chance. Any sort of wood finish can be sanded away, but it’s much more efficient to use a wood stain remover.

Also called wood strippers, these products can save you a lot of work. Since you may not know much about these products, let’s look at our top five picks for the best wood stain removers.

Best Wood Stain Removers in May, 2021

 Stain removerCovers 
1DEFY Stain Stripper
Editor's Choice
100 - 150 sq ft (gal) Check Price
2OXALIC ACIDup to 2000 sq ft per pack Check Price
3Extreme Solutions up to 3000 sq ft Check Price
4Restore-A-Deck500 - 1000 sq ft per pack Check Price
5#1 Deck Stripper100 - 150 sq ft (gal) Check Price

1. DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper – Easy to Use

This one is a little more convenient, and it offers good performance at a price that is hard to beat. While it may not be the strongest on my list, it is a great choice for most jobs.

Made For Convenience

The main selling point of this product is the fact that it’s easy to use. There’s no mixing or measuring, you just put it into a pump sprayer and go to work. It only takes about 30 minutes for this cleaner to do its work, so there will be less delay.

The Problems

This one doesn’t work on paint, and it won’t remove certain film-type finishes, either. That’s kind of surprising because the warnings on the label indicate toxicity. With such harsh chemicals, you would expect this one to be a little stronger.

  • Somewhat toxic
  • Doesn’t remove paint or certain coatings

2. Florida Laboratories Oxalic Acid Crystals – The Hardcore Stripper

If you want to skip all the fillers, you can always just buy pure laboratory-grade oxalic acid. Florida laboratories makes some of the best, and each bag is guaranteed to be 99.6% pure.

Value And Versatility

When you are mixing the solution yourself, you can customize its strength to fit the job. For jobs that don’t require all that much power, you can save some material by mixing it weak. For harsh jobs, you can make it extra-strong (within reason, of course).

The other big advantage of this product is value. On a cost-per-gallon basis, this is one of the cheapest products on the list. So, it may be a little more difficult to use, but it will definitely save you some money.

The Problems

There is only one problem here: Pure oxalic acid is pretty corrosive. It’s not as bad as sulfuric acid or nitric acid, but it can do some serious damage if handled improperly. Always use gloves, goggles, and breathing protection when using this stuff. Very important point: Make sure to keep it away from your children and pets!

  • Cheap stain remover
  • Lab-grade purity
  • Mixing allows an opportunity for customization
  • Removes any kind of stain
  • Somewhat dangerous to use
  • Hazardous to pets and small children

3. Woodrich Extreme Solutions EFC-38 Wood Cleaner – Top Stain Remover for Difficult Jobs

As the name of this stripper implies, it is meant for the toughest of jobs. This is the “big gun” that you can break out for those occasions when nothing less will do. It is strong enough to get rid of mold, mildew, old paint, rotted wood, and most other problems.

Strength And Safety

The best thing about this stain remover is the fact that it provides plenty of cleaning power without the use of overly dangerous chemicals. Of course, you don’t want to get too careless because there are still a few warnings on the package. Still, this product has a rare combination of strength and safety.

The Problems

This one is sold as a powder, which means that it has to be mixed. This adds an extra step, but the price is a bigger problem. This is the most expensive product on our list by a significant margin.

  • Very strong cleaner
  • Mixing allows you to customize the results
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Works well on grayed wood
  • One of the most expensive removers on the list

4. Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain Stripper – The All-Around Choice

This product offers a mix of versatility, strength, affordability and safety. If you aren’t sure what you need, a product like this is your best bet. With a little experimentation, it should be able to handle any deck stripping job.

Cheapest Per Gallon

On a cost-per-gallon basis, this one offers the lowest price. Of course, your cost will vary depending on how strong you mix your cleaning solution. This product gets pretty good coverage, so you shouldn’t have to mix too much at one time.

The Problems

The only problem I see here is the fact that this product might be a little more dangerous than advertised. It is “eco-safe” in the sense that sodium carbonate (its main ingredient) is found in nature. Thus, it doesn’t pose a huge threat to the environment. However, the crystals and the solution can still pose a threat to you.

  • Very cost-effective
  • Relatively eco-friendly
  • Strong enough for any job
  • Won’t interfere with staining when wet
  • Not as safe as advertised

5. #1 Deck Wood Stain Stripper – Very Convenient

This one is probably the most convenient option we’ve seen. It’s a simple and ready-mixed product much like the “Defy” stripper we looked at before.

Specialized For Deck Staining

This product is meant for those who are planning to stain their deck, and it does a great job in that department. It brings out the color and grain of the natural wood while removing that ugly old finish. Best of all, it will help the stain to adhere a little better to the surface.

The Problems

Like many of the cheaper choices, this product isn’t all that strong. It won’t remove paint, and certain coatings can also give it a hard time. On top of that, the coverage is only about 100-150 square feet per gallon, which isn’t that great.

  • No fancy gimmicks, just an effective product
  • Helps wood stain to “stick” better
  • Brings out the woodgrain
  • Very low cost
  • Coverage isn’t great
  • Will not remove paint

Buyer’s Guide

Now let’s go a little deeper into the subject and educate you about these products. Only in this way can I help you to choose the best one.

Why Use A Wood Stain Remover?

At this point, you might be wondering why you would choose to use a wood stripper. The obvious answer is convenience. You could use some other method, but this really is the easiest way to go.

Scrapers are too slow and too much work, so they are clearly inferior. Even with the use of a heat gun, you are looking at hours of work. You could use a power sander or some other rotary grinder, which is also pretty fast. However, you are going to have dust and paint chips flying everywhere. This creates a breathing hazard and makes cleanup more of a pain.

Types Of Wood Stain Remover

There are many different ingredients that can be used in these products, so this isn’t a simple subject. While many different things are used, all wood stain remover/stripper products will work in one of the following ways.


Solvents work by chemically dissolving the old finish. Examples of solvents used in wood strippers would include methylene chloride, alcohol, acetone, and toluene. One of the main advantages of this type of product is extreme cleaning power. These are some of the only wood stain removers that can dissolve old paint. However, these also tend to be the most toxic products as well.


Caustic strippers work by dissolving the finish and converting it into some other substance. Strong caustic cleaners are very popular for wood stripping, even though they require a little more care. These are usually strong acids or bases, both of which tend to be corrosive. Examples of caustic agents used in wood strippers would include oxalic acid and lye (sodium or potassium hydroxide). These substances are the harshest option, but sometimes that is what you need.


These products attempt to get the best of both worlds by using chemical substances that are less refined. By using more natural ingredients, manufacturers attempt to create alternative wood strippers that will be safer to use and easier on the environment. Examples of biochemical agents used in these products would include citric acid, soy oil, lactic acid, wood-pulp extract, and various terpenes.


After buying your wood stain, you might be in a rush to get started. However, I would advise you to take your time and remove the old finish thoroughly. Whichever of these products you choose, you will probably get good results. The extra time and care will result in a level of beauty that pleases both the eye and the soul. I hope you have enjoyed this article and that you will come back to enjoy more of our work.

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    1. Yes, wood stain remover should work to remove wood stain gel. If not you can always use paint stripper. To help it come off even easier I would use a stiff-bristled scrub brush and wipe off the softened stain with a rag.

  1. I recently stained my new pressure treated cedar deck. In a rush to “get things done” I did not test a small area but instead just went for it. I used a semi-transparent timber oil stain hoping for a deep walnut color. The next morning I have a bright red deck. Is there a waiting time between staining and stripping? I think of coloring my hair and know to many chemicals in a short amount of time can cause damage which I would like to avoid here. The railings have not yet been stained, is there a way to get the wood back to natural so that when I stain again there is not an obvious different between pre-stained areas?

    1. I would wait for the stain to dry before stripping it but it might be easier to do it while it is still somewhat wet. I would test it in a small area before doing the whole deck. If you are looking for a good stain stripper, I would recommend this stripper by SaverSystems on Amazon.

  2. Hi William,

    We just had a new cedar fence installed and the grass company sprayed our grass before we could seal it. Now there green spray stains all along the fence. What product would you recommend to remove the stains before sealing? Thank you.

  3. I am looking for an exterior solid paint remover, which has been applied to deck. Paint age is more than 10 yrs. What do you recommend?

  4. I just had someone apply a solid stain to my porch and the color is atrocious. The porch had been previously stained with semi transparent which had worn off, and was sanded and washed in preperation. What’s the best product to remove the two coats of fresh, solid stain so that i can start over?

  5. I just applied a Perma-chink lifeline acrylic finish to the interior of my log home and now my wife decided to have me remove it for a different color. I began sanding with 60 grit sand paper and an orbital sander but it took almost 2 hours and 3 sanding disks to do a 8″ by 32″ area. What is the best remover for freshly stained yellow pine with an acrylic finish?
    (I know this would be easier than talking my wife into keeping the color)

    1. Hi Russell,
      To have a happy relationship listen to your wife (especially when it comes to home) 🙂
      The problem with removing varnish or paint is that the paper fills with sandpaper very quickly, especially when the paper is new or soft in nature.
      You have several options for action: Paint and varnish remover such as this one by Dumond.
      Once you remove 80-90% of the coating, your wounding will become much easier.
      Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and remove the grass chats with the spatula without damaging the wood.
      The staining of the wood (which has soaked into the wood) will not be removed from the preparation, only with sandpaper.
      There are special angle grinder discs that have a porous structure and are harder to fill (here’s a recommended disc).
      Be careful to use it only on straight areas (the edges can be easily rubbed), keep the disc parallel to the surface to avoid unwanted distortions on the surface.
      There is another old trick, but here, too, you must be careful not to overdo it. You put an acetone-soaked cloth on the surface and then cover it with stretch or nylon for a few hours.
      The procedure is similar to the paint remover.

  6. I was curious, why everything else is suggested for use, except for the product that is recommended as #2, the Oxalic Acid. I was wanting to purchase that product for removing the stain on my deck, but lack confidence since it is not mentioned when people are requesting opinion of what to use for removing stain on their decks.

    1. Hi Cyndy, you can look at this product by FDC they offer an e-book with instructions and there are quite a few comments from users.
      Be very careful when using it, be sure to use personal protective equipment!

  7. I am trying to strip the strain from wood panels in my home but having no luck with the stripper I used for the paint.
    It has to stick to the wall to remove it properly but not sure what to use

    1. Hi Tracy.
      In order for the coating remover to work well, you need to do a few things in advance:

      – Do you know what the old coating is or on what basis? some coatings do not remove all types. For example, number one on the list. Try to understand what the old coating is and get a suitable remover for it.
      – Strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions. For example, if you have to wait 2 hours, wait at least 2 hours.
      – Sometimes a second or even third application is required if the old coating has many layers.
      – Keep in mind that the stain that has entered the wood will not be removed with the remover, so you will have to sand.
      – If the surface you apply is vertical, choose a remover that is thicker (gel) so it will hold better without flowing.

      You can also use discs to remove old paint like these.

  8. Hi William!
    Thanks for this great article. I have been trying to strip a vintage wood chair that was covered in very dark stain. I have been using oxalis acid and it is working…. but I think I’m on the 5th or 6th application and there is still faint staining. Am I doing something wrong? Do you have any tips for better application? I have tried increasing the strength of my mixture but I’m having weak results even with the increased dosage.

    Please help!

    1. Hi Chloe,
      Did you try to keep the acid a little longer before removing it? This will also help, but don’t overdo it so as not to damage the tree.
      If there is a little discoloration left, perhaps a light sanding can also remove the darkening.

  9. Any suggested brands to remove the staining on 80 year old living room flooring? My dogs recently spilt a container of white paint primer on my floor. So I need something with stain and paint power. There are so many choices and they are all so confusing.

    This house was built by my great grandfather so I don’t want to ruin the condition of the floor itself. Thanks.

    1. Hi Jessica,
      It’s great that you want to keep your great-grandfather’s house 🙂
      I think it’s good to use detergent number 3 on the list by Extreme Solutions. Its price is higher but gives you a good balance between efficiency and safety.

  10. This article is really very informative and good! About a month ago I had a new Pine fence installed in our side yard. I asked my contractor to paint it in a nice cedar brown stain and he painted a dark wood (tree trunk) color. It looks ghastly! Left side fence has been stained twice so it’s much much more darker than the right side. Now I want to remove the stain and keep the natural wood color. Would you know of a product that is easy to remove the water based stain that is used? Truly appreciate your advice.

    1. Hi Kal, this is really annoying 🙁
      It is always good to get a sample of the color that you will receive as a final result. This is a common problem and costs a lot of money, work, and nerves.
      Before starting work, the contractor is good to process a waste board or if there is no such small part that is not very visible. This way you will be sure that the color is correct. It takes a little time for the sample but can save a lot of headaches.
      Either way, the problem is a fact so let’s act. You can use product number one in the list by DEFY, it is suitable for removing water-based stain and penetrates deeply.
      In addition, there is a full range of products for cleaning and bleaching. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and you will soon get rid of the unwanted color.

  11. So this week I purchased Weather Guard pressure treated lumber from Home Depot to replace damaged fascia board that roofers will be installing on side gables of my house.
    Today I just bought Behr Premium Solid Color Waterproofing Stain and Sealer grey to match my siding.
    After doing Bob Vila’s bead test, water droplets are staying on top of the wood.
    Should I go ahead and try to stain it now anyway? Roof is scheduled for next week. Snow will also be here in Michigan in a few weeks until April/May. Not sure if I have any other options?

    1. Hi Sheri, it is always good to protect the tree, thus prolonging its life.
      Of course, there are many other factors that are important. It is important to prepare for the winter and finish the repairs. The wood treated under pressure has good resistance and may withstand some time without coating.
      In addition, if it has not passed through an oven, it may be high humidity and it is good to dry it before coating it. After installing the tree, just cover it as soon as possible.

  12. Hello, I bought a desk to refurbish as a makeup vanity for my wife for her birthday. What stain remover would you recommend?

    1. Hello Mike, your wife is lucky that there is a man who is ready to work for her 🙂 Congratulations!
      For your case, I think it is most appropriate to use product number 4. from the list (Restore-A-Deck). It is strong enough to remove stains and is a good price and suitable for smaller projects like yours.
      Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be careful.

  13. I have a 2 year old deck . I used Sherman Williams oil based transparent stain. The first year it was beautiful. Now it looks dark brown with no natural grain showing… what is the best stain remover to use?
    I would like to use Cobalt oil based semi transparent stain to achieve the look I want… your opinion please .

    1. Hello Karen, I would suggest you use this product by Restore-A-Deck to remove stain from your deck.
      It removes most of the clear, transparent, semi-transparent, and semi-solid coatings.

      You can mix at a stronger ratio for difficult to remove finishes.

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