How to Remove Solid Stain from Wood Deck

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removing wood stain from deckYears ago, my porch was painted bright blue. And no, I’m not talking about a subtle pale blue, no, but a freshly-picked-blueberry bright, which makes the property difficult to miss. It also makes any unwanted stains or blemishes on the house much more obvious.

One day, I was outside on the porch staining a set of bookcases with a dark finish. When I stood to admire my hard work, my foot bumped the can of stain and it toppled over. Quickly, I whipped around in horror as the dark stain spread across the bright blue woodwork. After that force majeure, I do all wood finishing only in the workshop now.


Getting rid of finish

We’ve all been there–I mean, accidents happen right? Have you ever spilled a freshly opened can of finish? Accidentally stained a deck the wrong color? Or maybe you’re just sick of your old stain chipping away, and want to replace it with a fresh coat. For any project, it’s important to understand how to remove solid stain from a wooden deck. Once you know these tricks, you’ll be able to remove all kinds of solid stains.

Painting Versus Staining and What is It?

stainingPeople often confuse the terms painting and staining and use them interchangeably. But they are two very different things, and it’s important to know the difference. Painting is what we think of when we change the color of our bedrooms walls or siding. For example, the bright blue coat my house wears was painted. Paint can go on a variety of surfaces beyond wood, like siding, plastic and metal.

Make your wood look gorgeous

Stain, however, is a finish applied to wood, not to change the color, but enhance the natural look of wood. When you use it, the richness of the wood’s unique grain and knots will appear.

Most stains come in natural wood colors, like oak or walnut, but you can find color to fit any design. Some woods don’t absorb the stain as well as others, so you might have to apply extra coats to achieve your desired look.

Taking time to research the best kind of stain for the type of wood you’re using is a smart move.

When you’re working with stain, it’s good to use long strokes and work with the grain, not against it.

However, similarly to paint, heavier stains will form a film on the wood surface to protect it against weather damage. This stronger type of stain is even more challenging to get off.

Removing stain from deck

So, here are the steps to follow:

1. Power Washing

power washingIf you’ve ever stained a deck before, you know the wood must be correctly prepared before the staining can even begin. You need to power wash your deck, making sure to remove all the built up dirt, mold and mildew. You may use a deck cleaner for this purpose. You can’t skip this step, or all the grime will be trapped under the new coat of stain, and the wood won’t hold the new coat as well. The first step in ensuring your solid stain is effectively removed is thoroughly washing your deck.

2. Deck Stain Strippers

Even then, simply washing your deck might not be enough. Most decks, especially with older, chipped stains, will need a deck stain stripper.

Deck strippers soften the existing stain so it’s easier to remove.

The formula for deck strippers often includes Sodium Hydroxide, along with other surfactants to create a more aggressive stripper than your typical wood cleaner.

Applying stripper

You can apply the stripper with paint brushes and rollers, just like you would paint or another stain. Or, when combined with water, stain strippers can also be applied with a pump sprayer. Once the stripper is on, it’s best to let the product sit on the wood for ten to fifteen minutes before removing it. This way, the stripper has a chance to soak into the stain and really break it down.

If you used solid or semi-solid stains, or if your finish particularly stubborn or thick, you might need to put on an extra coat and give the stripper more processing time.

After the deck stripper has soaked in enough, you’ll notice the old stain begin to break away from the wood. That’s a sign it’s time to power wash that deck one more time to ensure all leftover stain is removed.

If, even after all that, the stubborn stain is still there, you can use sandpaper or a sander to remove the remaining stain. Once the old stain is completely gone, you’re ready to move onto the next step.

3. Wood Deck Brightener

wood-deck-brightenerSo let’s say you use a deck stain stripper, you spend hours applying coat after coat of the stuff, and still, your deck still doesn’t look anything like it used to. Don’t worry, it’s very common for wood to appear darker after a stripping treatment. This is because the stripper raises the pH of the wood, and therefore alters the color. It’s a common problem for wood cleaners as well.

Lighten up the wood

One surefire way to solve this problem is with a wooden deck brightener. All you have to do is apply a coat of deck brightener to the wood, and it’ll restore the color and pH of your deck. It’ll also help the new coat of stain take better to the wood, as it opens the wood’s pores for deep penetration. Once you’re finished with this step, be sure to rinse your deck thoroughly.

You must let the deck stripper and the deck brightener dry for a minimum of 48 hours before putting on the new stain.

While waiting might seem tedious, it’s all part of the process. Once the wood is completely dry, you are ready to stain your freshly cleaned deck. If you attempt to restain your deck before the 48 hours is up, you might find inconsistencies in the color or strength of the stain.

And then finally, after hours of waiting and prepping, your wooden deck will be ready for a brand new stain. You can take comfort knowing the wood is properly prepared and will give you a rich stain that brings out the beautiful qualities of your wood.


It’s important to know how to remove a solid stain from your deck because outdoor stains require a lot of maintenance. Unpredictable weather conditions combined with general wear and tear can cause a lot of damage to even the highest quality finishes. With the proper use of stripping treatments, deck brighteners and fresh coats of stain, you can keep your wooden deck looking beautiful for years. These techniques are also great for correcting mistakes. Even if you spill some, you can use a small amount of stripper and brightener to fix up any mess. Even a dark brown solid stain on top of bright blue paint.

I stood on the front porch of my bright blue house and stared at the solid stain spreading its way across the woodwork. But still, I didn’t panic. I used a light duty stripper to remove the mess, and then power washed the remaining bits away. Before I knew it, the stain was gone and the cringe-worthy blue was back in full force. Because I had the proper knowledge and tools, I was able to solve the problem–long before my landlord found out.

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48 thoughts on “How to Remove Solid Stain from Wood Deck

    1. My painter applied a solid cedar stain and sealer. I absolutely hate it. It is a bright clay red color. I had no idea it would look like this. He never showed me the color, but pointed to a light transparent lattice fence he painted at a neighbor’s house. It looked benign. My deck was unsealed/unstained and five years old, and weathering badly. I told painter I want him to redo it. He told me to buy another stain and he’ll reapply (at additional cost). He sprayed it the stain on. I asked him if he plans to strip the old stain and he said no. I am thinking of going into a blue (my house is done in a bright pistachio greens) to calm it down. Is he cutting more corners or is it not necessary to strip? The blue is not really deeper than the orange cedar. Will the this work, in your opinion? Thanks.

      1. Hi Kay, sorry to hear about the unpleasant situation 🙁
        It is always good to know what you will get in the end.
        1. Manufacturers make color samples and they can be seen in any warehouse or store. The box also shows the color you will receive.
        2. Of course there is a difference in color depending on what wood is applied. For this, it is good to test on a small plot or on a board of the same tree.
        All this is good to do before the big application of the stain. That’s why I recommend you test before applying another stain.
        In your case, if you want a lighter laying new will certainly not help. With each subsequent layer, the color will become darker.
        Some stains can be applied on the sealant (of course if they are on the same base and the same brand for safety) it is good to check in the manufacturer’s recommendations. This will make sense if you like the color after applying the new stain (small area test).
        It is worth trying because it will save a lot of work and you will have a thicker coating.
        Keep in mind that you will probably get a dark purple color if you use blue over red.
        The safest (and most difficult) option is to remove the vegan coating and apply a new one with the right stain.

  1. I installed a cedar a month ago. The cedar is untreated. I stained it on one section and HATE the color. When I put the stain on I rubbed it in with a rag like you would a new floor. ( although I know this is not the way to stain a deck, but when I rolled it on it was way to RED for my liking). Can I remove it with the process above? Should I try to power wash first or use the stripper first and rinse with power washer? Then use the brighter ? Appreciate the help. I do not want to ruin the new cedar. I hope I haven’t waited to long to treat the brand new cedar deck…

    Thanks for your help,
    Renee from Michigan

    1. Hi, Renee.

      You should follow the steps. Please, keep in mind that strippers and brighteners may change the color of the wood after removing the stain since they contain chemicals. The final cleaned decks may look lighter a little bit than others. But this isn’t a big problem since following staining can hide this effect.

  2. Hi William,

    I have a brand new deck, we used untreated cedar. It’s been up over 2 months without being treated because we are finishing up the final touches. Is this too long to wait too treat with stain/sealer for this type of wood? We did treat one area however we HATE the color.. Can we remove it the same way you listed above being it’s new? I started rolling it on and did not like how it looked so i thought by using a rag and rubbing it in I would get a different look… Appreciate any advise on how to remove so I can finish the deck before the Michigan cold weather kicks in…

    1. Hi, Ren.

      2 months is okay. Yep, you can remove the stain the same way I listed. But after removing, the wood may slightly change the color because of power washing, strippers, and brighteners. In other words, it’s hard to get back the initial color of the wood. It isn’t a problem when removing stain from all the decks. But you’re going to strip only the certain part of your wood, so the color may differ slightly. Subsequent staining may hide this disadvantage.

  3. Is it too late in the year for this project? We live in Missouri and the temps are now 60 in day and 40s at night.


    1. Hi Gary.

      It’s okay until temp is below 32 F (0 C) at night. Otherwise, it’s better to wait for spring to come.

    1. Hi James.

      There are environment-friendly stain removers and harsh removers. Look for environment-friendly options, but it doesn’t mean that you should let this remover get into the lake, try to avoid it anyway. I don’t think that fish will be hurt in that case but it’s better not to do so.

  4. Hi, I would like to remove old red wood stain from the cedar railing along my deck. The balusters are black finish aluminum slats. Do I need to remove them before putting on the stripper or can I leave them in place?

  5. I used a dark chestnut color t stain my wooden deck. I dont like it and want to remove it to go a little lighter.

    What should I do to remove the stain?

  6. My deck had a three year old solid stain on it. I have power washed and sanded rough spots out of the deck but the old solid stain is still obvious. Can i stain the deck with a new, darker, stain? Going from a red solid stain to a solid dark brown.

    1. Hi Lesley,

      Did you power wash your deck with some stain stripper? If you didn’t, then try to do so. Otherwise, yes, you can try to use some darker wood stain.

  7. Last year my son thought he would surprise me… (which he did) he put a deep red color stain on my new front porch deck. It is a deep red/burgundy color stain and it does not match anything. I would like to remove it this summer do you think the process you are recommending will remove a deep red stain color? I sure do hope so..

  8. Hi William,

    My husband and I bought a house a few years ago and the deck was a horrid red solid stain. We heard that once you use a solid stain you can never go back to using just a clear stain. So we removed as much as possible of the red and stained it again with a solid stain in a gray color. We live in upstate NY so the weather just kills the deck every year. I would really love to see our beautiful deck restored to its natural wood state. Is is possible to remove the gray stain even from the spindles and return it to its original form? Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Yes, it is possible to get the wood back to its original state or close to it. It will take some work but it can be done. I would recommend this stain stripper from Amazon. I would use this stripper or something like it and also sand the wood really well. You can also use acetone or paint stripper too if you can’t find anything else.

  9. I need to remove a very very thick layer of what I think is deck paint. If I peel up a chipped area, it comes up like long, peeling strips of vinyl or plastic. It’s quite thick. Is there a special deck paint remover for this type of extra thick deck paint?

    1. I don’t think there is a specific paint stripper for that thick of paint. I recommend that you get paint stripper like this and get a stripper tool or a stiff-bristled brush like this and see what comes off. I would also sand the paint/wood to make it easier as well.

  10. Hi. Our deck was stained or painted (by previous owners) with a forest green stain or paint ?. We want to remove it, we tried stripper with very little success…do you suggest sanding the deck with professional sander ? Thank you

    1. You can sand the deck to get the paint off, it just might take a while. You can also use acetone or a stain stripper, not a paint stripper to help get it off. I would recommend trying this stain stripper if you wanna take that route.

  11. I am wanting to stain my deck with a semi-transparent stain. I power washed the deck and then used a stain stripper to remove the old stain. I was not able to get all of the old stain off. Do I need to keep reapplying the stain stripper until all of the old stain is gone or can I apply the new stain over what is still there from the old stain?

    1. You can apply the new stain over the old stain but I wouldn’t recommend it because it might not come out the best it could. I would keep trying the stripper or even acetone to try and get it out as well as pressure washing and even sanding the wood. Here’s a good stain stripper on Amazon if needed

  12. Hello,

    I am wanting to restain my deck. I used stain stripper to remove the old stain after power washing the deck. I was not able to get all of the old stain off. Do I need to try again to get it all off or can I use a semi-transparent stain over the remaining old stain?

    Thanks for your help.

    1. You can apply the new stain over the old stain but I wouldn’t recommend it because it might not come out or show up the best it could, especially since it is semi-transparent. I would keep trying the stripper or even acetone to try and get it out as well as pressure washing and even sanding the wood. Here’s a good stain stripper on Amazon if needed.

  13. My deck boards have peeled but my railings have not. I’m stripping to add a different stain. Do I have to still strip the railings? Can I just sand them and add new stain? It’s the same cedar color, but a better staining product.

    1. You don’t have to strip the railings but I would recommend it for the best results of the new stain.

  14. I have a question. I recently installed brand new deck and want to leave it in its natural color. I was painting another area and few splotches of brown paint got onto the deck. I wiped it up quickly but it couldn’t get it off completely.
    It was wood ( deck ) paint. How can I get these splotches off ? HELP

    1. You can use denatured alcohol and a rag to try and remove the paint splotches or you can use a paint stripper. If you use the alcohol and the rag, dampen the rag with the alcohol but make sure it isn’t too much that the rag is dripping wet. Rinse, resoak, and repeat as needed. If you decide to go with a paint stripper, I would recommend one by Dumond or Citristrip on Amazon.

  15. Can I remove stain from cedar shakes on the side of my house the same way you described for decks?

  16. Yesterday, a deck was stained using one coat Valspar transparent stain & sealer in redwood. We are not happy with the color. Can we strip it off this Summer, following your instructions?

    1. Yes, you can strip this off using the instructions on the website. You can use a stain stripper and a sealer stripper to get it off, you can pressure wash it, and you can scrub and sand it.

  17. Hello!

    I am purchasing a house that is being flipped right now and have been working with the flipper on finishing touches such as lights, door knobs, etc. He did an amazing job of restoring the amazing cedar beams throughout the kitchen and dining room. The house was built in 1966 and at some point they were painted with glossy chocolate paint. The beam are what sold me on purhasing the house. One of his finishing guys that did the caulk, used a stain caulk to seal the edge between the beams and ceiling. In the process, he got it all over the beams, and it is much darker than the beams. It looks horrible! And the caulk doesn’t match the original beams, it’s much lighter, but yet stained the beams so dark it’s almost black. It’s in all of the corners and there are big splotches of it in random places. Is there anything I can do besides stain the beams the darker color? I can send pictures if that ould help. Thank you for yoru help! Nicholas

  18. Mr Stewart, could you advise how you would correct lapping from stain application on a deck? We are deciding to tolerate the color for the Summer but need to correct some over lapping.
    I do appreciate your service.

    1. You can stain down what you want to fix and then redo it or you can strip the overlapping parts and then redo it.

  19. Hello,

    We have recently purchased some pine untreated wood that we need to stain. We used Thompson’s water seal and combination stain. We used a sprayer we should not have it’s very uneven. My question is this we are stripping and cleaning and starting over. Before using the stripper and cleaner does it have to have a clear sealant on it or
    Can we do this and just restain with brushes to make it all even?

    1. Hi Jamie.
      Unpleasantly started working with your pine, but in the end, it can be a fun story with a happy ending 🙂
      My advice is to always test and train yourself when you start something unfamiliar. Take a board and apply the stain with a brush. wait for it to dry and see the result, if you like it you can continue, if you don’t like it you change tactics. The color will become darker and will erase some flaws.
      Honestly, it is unlikely that the second application with a brush will work well enough, but it is worth a try because it will save a lot of work.
      Another option is to use a coating remover to clear the uneven coating and to apply a new one.
      Since you will not change the color pale spots from the old coating will not be a problem (you do not need to be perfect in removing).
      It is not necessary to apply a transparent coating before removing the old one.
      The good look is the one that pleases your eye!

  20. I bought a small cedar sided house twenty years ago, and the boards needed refurbishing about ten years ago. I didn’t know anything about stains, but let a contractor convince me to use an acrylic solid stain on the house. He worked when I was out of town, and when I got back I was horrified. I have hated that stain from day one and I still hate it. Is there any practical way to remove solid stain from cedar siding that would leave it able to be recoated in semi-transparent?


    1. Hello David.
      To have a good result it is good to follow the instructions in this article: Wash with power, stripper, lightener and then stain.
      This may not be very easy, but compared to sanding, it’s like doing nothing.
      You can use this stripper by DEFY, it is suitable for removing cedar stains.
      In addition, there is a full range of products from cleaning to applying the new stain. You will need a pressure wash, sprayer and brush.
      Advice: check the color of the stain on the cedar.
      For more security, apply a stain on a small surface that is not very visible so I can check if you like the color and then apply on a large area.
      after you apply the stain, cover it with a transparent sealant, it will give you additional protection and will keep the stain. In a few years, you will only renew the sealant without having to apply a stain or remove the stain first and then apply a new one.

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