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White color paint spilled on floor of walking street way during color painting

Homeowner's Guide

How to Remove Unwanted Stain

Sometimes, you may have wood stain that needs to be chemically removed. This could be because you used the wrong transparency stain (applied solid when you should have applied semi-transparent), or because you are removing the stain to return the wood to its original state and replacing that stain with a transparent or semi-transparent stain. In this article, we will explain when you need to remove old stain, different methods of removal, and when to use each method.

When do I need stain removed?

You may need stain removed if you are preparing a deck to be stained or if you are looking to return the wood back to its original state to alter the appearance or transparency of the stain. You do not need all of the wood stain removed if you are preparing a deck for a standard deck stain, you only need to remove the flaking layers. If you want to return the wood to its original state, you will need to remove all of the stain.


Scraping is a common method of removing large flakes of solid stain to reveal the bare wood underneath. This is an essential preparation process for staining a deck or fence. This will result in a spotty appearance as areas with flaking solid stain are seemingly random. Removing this stain by scraping will usually be all the preparation (aside from pressure washing) that a deck or fence may need.

6-in-one tool

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Sanding is a method of smoothing a surface by using sandpaper with varying grits to even out an uneven surface. Sanding is generally a good idea for staining a deck as it can make the wood feel more even and can smooth our surface imperfections that can result from pressure washing or scraping. Sanding is not necessary and may be skipped as it does essentially nothing to prolong the life of your deck or fence.


If your deck has been stained with a product such as Behr DeckOver, which is an extremely thick product, it can require a floor sander to even partially remove this product. If this is the case, we will stop our work on the project and discuss options to move forward. This is not always noticeable immediately but will be very clear as soon as chemicals do not work and standard processes are not effective.

Sanding kit


Sanding Kit
Paint Sanding Mask

Chemical Stripping

Chemicals are your best bet for stripping a deck of all stain. It is not necessary whatsoever for a standard deck staining service and would add a significant charge. 


The chemical we use most often for stain removal is Sherwin-Williams SuperDeck Stain & Sealant Remover. This product is extremely effective for most deck stains and it is a fairly simple process to apply and remove the stain completely. 


To apply SuperDeck Stain & Sealant Remover, pour the chemical into a pump sprayer and evenly coat the surface. While doing this, wear a mask and gloves to avoid contact with the chemical. Let the chemical sit for 15 minutes and ensure that it does not dry. If you are doing this in an area with direct sunlight, mist the chemical every 5 minutes. 


After the chemical has been applied and sat for 15 minutes, use a pressure washer to wash off the now loose stain. This will create quite a mess, but it will remove the stain nearly entirely. You may have some remaining stain in cracks or on knots in the underlying wood that can be sanded or scraped off. 

Stain and Sealer Remover

Deck Tank Sprayer

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Chapin Chemical Sprayer

Pressure Washing

We have an entire article on deck washing that you can read here. Pressure washing is a useful step for preparing a deck and it may remove some loose stain as well. It is not a recommended tool for stripping a deck of stain but can be used with a stripper for a great end result.

Stain Stripping Service

How to know which method to use

Scraping- Solid Stained deck that is getting another coat of solid stain put on top. Scrape off the flaking parts only and leave the rest as it does not require removal.


Sanding- Any surface that you want to be smoothed out. Sanding is largely unnecessary but can lead to a nicer appearance if the surface is very uneven.


Chemical Stripping- Only use this if you want the entire surface to be completely bare. This is a significant service and will come with a large charge. Not recommended unless completely necessary and it is not part of our standard service, unlike scraping and pressure washing. 


Pressure Washing- Pressure washing is a great tool for preparing a deck or fence for stain but it is not useful for removing stain. If you have a few loose flakes of stain, it will not get everything off as efficiently or completely as a scraper will and if you want to strip the deck it will be essentially useless without a chemical to assist.

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