October 4, 2023
If you would make a visual assessment of any wooden deck that had seen no refinishing for two years, you would readily notice some wear and tear, chafing, and scratches on it. These damages are only natural because the wooden deck had been continuously used and exposed to harsh outdoor elements like UV rays and rain for many years. However, if you like to restore its pristine colors and condition, you need to refinish it.
Refinishing would require you to strip it of its previous stains using a deck stripper. Of course, you can seal the wood decks with different finishes, depending on your preference. You can choose, for example, a semi-transparent stain or settle for a full-latex paint. The trick is to refinish your wood deck every two to five years, depending on your area’s climate.
Different Types of Deck Stain Remover
As mentioned above, cleaning wood and prepping it for refinishing requires deck strippers. If it is your first time stripping wooden deck stains, you might get confused during the selection process. So, it will be best to know the different types of deck stain remover options at hand so that you can make a good choice of deck stain remover:
1) Solvent-based Stain Stripper
If you are looking for a powerful stain stripper, you might as well consider solvent-based strippers. Examples of solvent-based strippers are alcohol, acetone, toluene, and methylene chloride. One disadvantage of using this type of stripper is that it is toxic. It is made of chemicals that can be injurious or harmful to you or the environment.
So, when handling a solvent-based stain stripper, you should handle it carefully and follow the label instructions. Methylene chloride, for example, has been banned in some countries. So, you may as well check if you can use this chemical in your place for your wood decks.
2) Caustic Stain Stripper
Caustic stain strippers work differently when used in removing deck stains. It works by raising the previous finish’s PH level, which, in turn, weakens or softens the wood substrate and the finish. Hence, you can remove the old finish quickly using caustic agents.
One compound that caustic strippers have is Sodium Hydroxide which works well against the existing deck stain. Caustic agents can be very effective and quick in removing existing finishes. They can work against multiple layers of stains and paints.
To use the caustic agent, you need to apply it on the wood deck boards and leave it there for up to a maximum of one hour. Check the label guidelines to see how long you should leave the caustic agent on the boards.
The caustic agents transform the old finish into a different substance. Hence, it enables chemical reactions during the stripping process. Thus, you should be careful when handling this type of deck stripper. Famous examples of caustic agents are lye and oxalic acid.
3) Biochemical Deck Stain Stripper
Another option is the use of a biochemical stain stripper. This stripper doesn’t contain harsh chemicals and may not be that harmful to you compared to the aforementioned stain strippers. Hence, you are not required to wear a respirator or mask when applying it. However, the downside of its use is the long waiting period it requires to maximize the effectiveness of this agent.
When applying this stripping agent, you must ensure that the surface is soaked or wet with this solution for three days or more. This long waiting period may not be suitable for those who are impatient and busy.
Moreover, you need to time your application of these stain strippers on days that will see no rain. Otherwise, the waiting process becomes futile if the rain soaks the application during the waiting period.
Of course, the biochemical strippers are safer for the environment. Moreover, it elicits fewer bad odors. Some examples of these strippers include soy oil, lactic acid, citric acid, wood pulp extract, and terpenes from pine or citrus.
The Best Deck Strippers in The Market Today
Given the strong and consistent demands for wood deck strippers, you will find many deck stripper brands in the market today, which makes choosing a bit confusing. To facilitate the choosing process for you, we have listed, based on testing and reviews from experts, the most recommended deck strippers in the market today:
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1) DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper
One excellent wood deck stripper you should check out is the DEFY Exterior Stripper. It facilitates the removal of old stains and paint. It is quite easy to apply. You only need to spray it on the wood surface using a sprayer. Afterward, you can rinse the wood surface using a power washer.
It is not designed to remove solid stains and paints. Nevertheless, since it can remove mill glaze, stains, and dirt, it can restore the wood’s original beauty.
When preparing this wood stripper, you need not do any mixing, for it is ready to use. You can use a pump spray to apply it on the surface. This product is certified safe to use on any type of wood.
- Its ease of use is commendable since it is already pre-mixed.
- It is affordable.
- It is hard to apply and may not be effective on a vertical surface.
- It may fail to remove paint and solid stains.
2) Dumond Chemicals 3332 Smart Strip
The Dumond Chemicals 3332 comes with a biodegradable formulation that makes it safe to use for anyone and is environmentally friendly. It is formulated to remove multiple layers of stains. Moreover, it is odor-free, making it ideal for those with allergies to strong odors. It is also water-based, which makes it easy for you to remove it.
Because of its biodegradable formula, it is non-carcinogenic and is free from harmful chemicals. It comes in a one-quart can and in paste form. You must apply the paste on the deck using a roller and leave the paste for three to twenty-four hours. Afterward, you can start scraping off the paste, taking off likewise the existing finish.
- It is not expensive.
- It is safe with no harmful chemicals.
- It is also pH neutral.
- You should scrape it off the surface instead of using a pressure washer to remove it.
- It takes more time to be effective.
3) Extreme Solutions EC38 Wood Cleaner & Stripper
This EC38 Stripper is a caustic stripper capable of doing fantastic stripping of old stains. It is a cleaner and a wood stripper at the same time. Using this caustic stripper, you can clean moss-covered decks to any type of deck to prepare the deck for refinishing.
It comes in a dry powder. To prepare this stripper, you need to mix it with water (warm) to create a paste. Then, you can apply the paste on the surface using a roller or brush. Afterward, you can rinse the surface using a pressure washer.
The downsides of this very effective product include its expensive price tag and you need to take extra precautions when applying this product because it contains strong chemicals. You need to wear your PPE when applying this product. You also need something to brighten the surface, and you may need more of this product when cleaning and prepping larger decks.
- It is effective and quick in stripping stains and needs only thirty minutes.
- It can remove various types of stains, including semi-transparent stains.
- You may need a brightener after using this caustic solution.
- You must also take extra care when applying this solution.
- It is expensive.
4) #1 Deck Wood Stain Stripper
The #1 Deck Wood Stain Stripper requires no further mixing, so you can use it quickly. It comes in a one-gallon container covering up to 150 square feet of wood. It is easy to apply and can do away with clear and semi-transparent stains and weathered sealer. It is easy to apply. All you need is a garden sprayer or a paintbrush.
Afterward, you only need to leave the solution for up to an hour to let it penetrate the wood. You can wash it off using a pressure washer.
One caveat, however, when using this stain stripper is that you should not let the solution dry after applying it. It is advisable likewise to apply the solution during a cool day to prevent quick drying. The stripper will do away with algae, mold, dirt, and mildew. Nevertheless, it will fail to remove solid-colored stains and paint.
- It is easy to use and requires less time.
- It can’t work well with solid stains and paints.
5) Woodrich Heavy Duty Wood Stripper
The Woodrich Wood Stripper is another caustic stripper that you can get in two types of containers (two-pounder and ten-pounder). This stripper is better than most strippers because it can remove paint and solid stains. You simply need to mix hot water with this dry powder. Afterward, you can apply it using a roller or brush.
You can then remove it within an hour. You can remove it using a pressure washer.
The thing is, you will need a brightener after using this. Another thing is that it is toxic. So, you must take extra precautions and wear PPE when using it. It also requires two applications to get optimum results from it.
- It is an effective caustic stripper.
- It works in under an hour.
- It can remove paint and solid stains.
- It is toxic and not environmentally friendly.
- It requires the use of a brightener after use.
6) Sunnyside 658G1A
Another option if you want to strip your deck of stain is Sunnyside 658G1A. You can buy this deck stripper solution in one-gallon containers. This one is eco-friendly and bio-friendly because it doesn’t exude any irritating smell. Hence, you don’t need to use any breathing apparatus when applying this decking stripper. This deck stripper depends solely on natural agents to loosen the finish and substrate bond.
The downside of this bio-friendly solution is the long waiting time after applying it. The manufacturer claims that you can scrape off the old stain after sixty minutes. Yet, you will actually need more time to break the bond between the substrate and the finish.
- Effective when given enough time
- Bio-friendly and easy to apply
- A bit expensive
- Might take longer before scraping
7) Citristrip QCSG801
The Citristrip QCSG801 is another good option if you’re looking for a deck stripper. It is designed to remove oil-based stains, latex paint, and other finishes. Yet, there might be better options than this product out there. You will also need more bottles of this decking stripper solution to strip a deck completely.
One upside of this deck stripper is its being bio-friendly. However, it will take you around a day of wait time after applying this stripper. Besides, it may take longer for this decking stripper to achieve its full effects. You will also need to apply several coats of this decking stripper to remove the old finish or stain.
- Offers a bio-friendly solution
- It exudes a pleasant citrus smell
- It takes a longer waiting time
- It comes in small one-quart containers
Essential Factors to Consider When Buying a Deck Stripper
When choosing the type of deck stripper, you may get confused, given the different kinds of strippers and brands in the market today. If you know, however, the following essential factors to look for in a stripper, you may breeze through the choosing process and quickly zero in on the right type of desk stripper:
One essential factor you must consider when choosing a deck stripper is the stripper type. You’ve learned that there are different types of strippers, and using each type comes with advantages and disadvantages. So, you must carefully weigh which kind of stripper you would use.
If you don’t want to contribute, for example, to the degradation of the environment, go for the biodegradable deck stripper. Using this type will also let you do away with the risks concomitant with the use of toxic chemicals.
On the other hand, you can go for a different and stronger type of deck stripper but risk damaging the environment and injuring yourself in the process.
What Would You Remove?
When selecting a deck stripper, it will be best to consider the types of stain or finish you would like to remove. Deck strippers vary in their capability to remove the previous finish. Some, for example, thrive in removing paint, while some are perfect for removing varnish, solid stains, etc. You need to ensure that your choice of deck stripper is the right one for the old finish you would like to remove.
Another essential factor you must consider is whether the deck stripper is biodegradable and eco-friendly. If your deck is just adjacent to your garden, the chemicals contained in the deck stripper solution might leach out, reaching your garden soil. Hence, it will be best to look for a biodegradable deck stripper. In this way, your choice will not pose any danger to the surroundings. Besides, biodegradable products will not be harmful to your health.
Deck Cleaner Versus Stain Stripper
Another choice you need to consider when selecting a solution is the choice between a stain stripper and a deck cleaner. However, your choice depends on the wood you will strip or clean. You can use a deck cleaner if the wood is old and dirty and affected by mildew. But if you deal with a deck finished with stains, paints, or varnish, it will be best to go for a stain stripper because it is more potent. So, it all boils down to what type of deck you will deal with.
Likewise, it will be good to note that deck and paint strippers differ. The reason is that paint often forms a specific layer over the deck. Stains, however, penetrate deep into the wood fiber. Hence, the deck stripper you choose must be appropriate for removing the old finish.
Amount of Stain Stripper You Will Buy
When buying a stain stripper, you need to figure out how much stain stripper you will need for your stripping project. You can determine the amount of stain stripper you must buy by measuring the dimensions of the deck size. You can determine the amount of stripper you will use from your measurement results.
If you buy more than what you need, you might end up with too much excess product, which you need to store elsewhere. However, if you buy less than what you need, you might be forced to return to the store if you run out of deck stripper.
Determine Your Purpose
If your primary purpose is to strip old paint from your deck, you might also use a paint remover instead of a deck stripper. Deck strippers are not specifically made for removing paint. The paint remover will be more effective in doing so.
The deck stripper only emulsifies and disperses the molecules of the stains within the wood. Thus, it can clean the wooden deck perfectly. Nevertheless, it will fail to remove the paint altogether. But paint remover can surely do so.
Methods of Applications
Different types of strippers may necessitate other methods of application. These methods are usually dependent on how the stripper is formulated. You’ll find desk strippers in powder form, which you need to mix with water. On the other hand, you will find formulations that are premixed and ready to use.
So, you can always choose depending on your preference. Additionally, there are also various types of removing the applications. Some applications need to be scraped, while others need to be cleansed using a pressure washer.
Period of Applications
Various applications and formulae of deck strippers require different periods before cleaning or removing the stain and strippers. Some require a day or more of waiting for the solution to emulsify and disperse the stains effectively. Some formulations only require an hour to emulsify and disperse the stain effectively. Others, however, require less than an hour.
Advantages of Using Stain Strippers for Removing Old Stain on Your Deck
Anything that is used more often and exposed to harsh elements of the outdoors usually needs more meticulous maintenance than those which are used indoors. The wood deck, being exposed to the harsh outdoor elements, day-in, and day-out, will surely not escape the effects of these elements. So, you need to refinish these decks every two to five years, depending on the condition of the wood decks. Using a deck stain stripper will come in handy when prepping the surface for refinishing. The use of a deck stain stripper comes with the following advantages:
It Adds an Additional Curb Appeal
A deck stripper can enhance your property’s curb appeal. It can upgrade the overall look of the exterior of your house. Besides, if you have a porch or decked veranda, you can expect to improve the curb appeal of that veranda or patio by using a deck stripper.
It Unclogs the Pores of the Wood!
The deck stripper can penetrate the wood fibers, removing the previous stains from the pores. In this way, the deck stripper opens the wood’s pores. If you apply a round of fresh stain coat onto your deck, you can expect a uniform coating on your deck that could penetrate deep into the wood pores. The result will be a better re-staining or refinishing of your wooden deck.
Removes Texture and Color
The deck stripper can do away with sealers, varnishes, paint, or stain. It can remove the previous finish of the wood, doing away with textures and colors. Thus, using a deck stripper, you can bring back the natural condition of the wood, allowing you to start over again with a new finish.
Such capability of the deck stripper can come in handy if you have bought a new house with a deck stained with a color that you don’t like. You can completely overhaul the deck’s finish using an effective deck stripper. This way, you can have enough leeway to change the style and color of the deck.
It Cleans and Removes Varnishes & paint from the Wood’s Surface.
When refinishing the wood deck, sometimes, you will choose a different stain, and for this reason, you need to get the wood back to its original natural state. If you only put paint on the deck without stripping its previous stain, chances are, the result will not be satisfying. So, the stain stripper ensures that you can do away with the previous stain and all its vestiges before applying the new wood stain.
It Prepares the Wood for the New Coating
You can achieve smooth and without blemish results if you use the stripper to remove the previous stain. Moreover, it facilitates the removal process of stains. You also have various options for strippers at hand.
It’s More Receptive to Pre-existing Paint
It is not easy to remove paint from wood decks. The reason for this is that the pre-existing paint had sealed off the wood’s pores. So, if you don’t use strippers to remove them and apply the new paint, chances are, you will see black spots on the paint that may not be satisfying to look at.
As you apply wood deck strippers onto the painted surface, it penetrates deep within the layers of old paint, deep into the wooden pores, and weakens and dissolves the old paint. Hence, you can ensure that you can spread the paint uniformly across the surface when applying a new paint color.
Steps on Using a Deck Stripper
To maximize the use of a deck stripper, you must apply it correctly on the deck surface. You must follow the guidelines provided in the labels to ensure optimum results. It doesn’t require exceptional skills to use deck stripper, for its use is fairly straightforward. But before you engage in the following steps, you also need to be cognizant of the safety tips when applying deck strippers:
- The first step in applying deck strippers is the cleaning and preparation process of the area that you would like to strip. When cleaning, you must remove objects that may hinder you from correctly applying the deck stripper.
- Before applying the deck stripper, you need to test it in a small area to see its effect. This way, you will have an inkling of how effective the deck strippers will be.
- Afterward, you can apply the deck stripper on the deck surface and let it seep onto the wood for 30 to 60 minutes. Some stains may take longer. So, make sure to follow the guidelines in the manual.
- Once the allotted time has elapsed, you can remove the strippers. Follow the instructions on how to remove the strippers. If it requires scraping, then you should scrape it. If it requires using a pressure washer, then use the pressure washer.
- When done with the cleaning, allow the deck to dry out entirely before applying the stain or paint of your choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Aside from knowing the abovementioned essential factors to consider and the benefits of using a deck stripper, it will also help to know the following FAQs about the use of deck stripper, for these questions might also be the questions you have in mind:
Do you need to sand before you apply a stain stripper?
It depends on the product you will be using to strip the deck of stain. Some stain strippers will require you to sand the wood surface before applying a stain stripper. Others, however, will not require you to do so. Hence, it will be best to read the manufacturer’s instructions when using a deck stripper.
How long would you wait after applying the stain stripper?
The length of waiting will usually depend on the stain stripper you are using. Most stain stripper needs to be left alone for three to twenty-four hours. It will be best to check the stain stripper to ensure it never dries out.
Which is better: sanding or stripping?
Sanding might necessitate additional work and effort on your part. But if you got a very flat surface, it will be best to sand, especially if the surface requires less penetration. But if you would use a deck stripper, it can penetrate deep into the wood. It is also easier to use. Nevertheless, it is a more expensive option.
Whiling away your time on your deck is one of the best ways to get a feel of the outdoors without leaving your house. However, it is easy to neglect the deck, and over time, the deck may look worn out. The only way to bring back the natural beauty of your deck is by refinishing it. The deck, as mentioned above, requires refinishing every two to five years. Mold and mildew may build on the deck surface over time, and without refinishing, it will look shabby and unkempt.
You need to effectively clean the deck first and strip it of its old stain or paint before you can refinish it. As long as you know the aforementioned tips and the best strippers you can find in the market today, you can always zero in on the suitable deck stripper to jumpstart the refinishing process of your deck.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.