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After preparing outdoor decks to look their best throughout the spring and summer seasons, and stripping old stains on furniture to try something new, we have listed the most efficient and effective products for stripping woods. By applying each type of solution, the best wood stain remover options were conclusive based on the amount applied, time left on, and additional sanding required before re-staining.
Determine what type of finish has been applied to the wood (shellac, wax, oil, varnish, etc.), and this will help you determine what needs to be done in order to remove it. Solutions are pretty difficult to fully remove without sanding because they are so embedded into the wood fibers. However, the products we have recommended here pick up most of the slack and do not require as much sanding as common overpriced options.
How to strip stained wood
Stripping a wood stain is not nearly as complicated as it is tedious, and potentially harmful. You’re going to focus a great deal of time sanding to completely get rid of all the wood fibers with the solution still attached. In doing this, it causes saw dust, and when inhaled, saw dust can be harmful. According to the US Department of Labor, the adverse effects from exposure to wood dust include “dermatitis, allergic respiratory effects, mucosal and nonallergic respiratory effects, and cancer.” We heavily advise purchasing a respiratory mask to avoid any health effects that could come from this.
After taking necessary precautions to prevent respiratory complications, then you may start stripping the wood. Check out our tutorial on how to remove stain from wood without sanding, in case you do not have a respiratory mask available. Keep in mind that applying a stain remover outside during the cold will take the chemical reaction 2-3x longer to react than in the spring time.
Step 1: Apply product
Putting on whatever solution you decide on can be done a couple different ways. Some products you can use with pump sprays, others can only be done with a brush. Brushes are stable, accurate, and appropriate for any one best wood stain remover.
Step 2: Wait and let dry
Time limitations could supposedly be anywhere from 2 minutes to 24 hours, and it is recommended to acknowledge the requirements we have written in their review before using the product.
Step 3: Scrape or Rinse
More often than not, the junk that’s accumulated after letting it dry can be removed in different ways. However, unless otherwise specified, it can be removed with a plastic scraping tool. Some are known to use a combination of methods including toothbrush, hard bristle brush, and pressure washer.
Finding the best wood stain remover
You could be dealing with a variety of types of stains, so consider the options available before determining which is most applicable to your situation. For example, the type of solution necessary to strip an outside deck probably won’t be the same one you’ll use for indoor furniture. Outdoor wood stains most often utilize oil based stains due to their longevity, whereas indoor furniture uses water based because they do not emit harmful fumes. Thankfully, a lot of products include what coatings they can be applied to.
- Strips water and oil based finishes, sealers (clear & semi-transparent), and varnishes
- Does not remove solid stains, paint, or film-forming finishes
- 1 Gallon/100-150 sq. ft.
- Rinse with pressure washer
Outdoor applications, like fences and decks, often have a water or oil based stain attached to its fibers. They’re famously complementary for preserving the nature of the wood against weather conditions, and at the end of their coating cycle it can look pretty worn. SaverSystems #1Deck has the best deck stain remover for eliminating weathered sealers and stains. Just make sure to wait 3-5 days after using this stripper before applying a new stain.
Performance wise, SaverSystems #1Deck has 100-150 square feet of coverage per gallon, and, depending on the size of your project, you’ll need enough in case additional coats are required during the stripping process. However, I had zero trouble with this solution penetrating the wood and removing its existing stain. Get a good deck brush when applying this so you’re able to spread it thoroughly all over. Speaking of thorough, use an eco friendly bleach for removing the dye and then pressure wash it. If you haven’t had much experience using a pressure washer, just know that you don’t need to use too much pressure to wash it. 500-1500psi should be fine with 25 degree tip before fibers are lifted. Less pressure can lift fibers with 15 degree tip. Regardless if the fibers are lifted or not, sand it down, because that will get the end result to stand out a lot more.
The downside for the SaverSystems stripper is that it is a little limited as far as where and what it can be applied to. Obviously, indoor use is prohibited, but I’ve come across stripping solutions that can be used on more than just stains and sealers. Paint finishes are pretty popular to find on wood fences, decks, and outdoor furniture. It’s also worth mentioning that the solution dries up fast if you’re applying it in the sun, so use the shade to your advantage or wait until there’s no direct sunlight.
Good thing about being able to try different wood stain strippers is you can experiment with different types for various situations to see how well it does or doesn’t work. When compared with SaverSystems #1Deck, DEFY’s stain remover held significantly better against applying in direct sunlight. Additionally, DEFY was most compatible with removing more finishes than SaverSystems.
- Works on stains and varnishes along with accumulated dirt, mold, mildew, and mill glaze
- Eliminates most oil and latex based finishes such as: clear film-forming varnishes, polyurethanes, solid color and semitransparent stains
- Does not remove paint, solid color stains, or film-forming coatings
DEFY specializes in restoring the natural beauty of the wood by removing expired, worn finishes. It is the first part of a 3 step-application for re-staining outdoor wood projects. Generally, just stripping the wood’s previous finish isn’t enough to bring out the healthy texture of it. A bleach or brightener that’s applicable to wood is required, then you apply your desired finishes to make it look lively. DEFY does a fantastic job at rejuvenating weathered lumber and starting from scratch in its original form.
The biodegradable stripping solution contains sodium hydroxide and sodium metasilicate, which is harmful if exposed through orifices or absorbed by skin. Always wear chemical resistant gloves, boots; googles and additional protective clothing. A respirator is important to have while using any stripping solution as well. Its best to be applied in a climate temperature above 50°F.
Its best to lightly dampen stripping surface before using either a polyester brush or pump-up sprayer, I use a brush for accuracy. Avoid doing it in direct sunlight, tends to dry up faster and prone to streaks. When it all goes well and remains wet on the surface, give it 15 to 25 minutes before expecting the finish to start lifting. DEFY works quickly and effectively, and when its ready, grab a stiff bristle and scrub along the grain with a power washer (you could get away with a garden hose if your technique is right). After letting it dry then sand it, the results are honestly exciting, it’s night and day. DEFY’s wood prepping stripping solution is easy to apply, pretty standard as far as processes go, and the results are impressive enough to be rely on for next time.
Still, both DEFY and #1Deck are limited in their capabilities with other finishes and indoor application. The best wood stain remover for indoor use that’s most consistently used is CitriStrip. You don’t have to be a sucker for the citrus fragrance emitted instead of toxic fumes, you just need to want a reliable option for stripping paints and varnishes.
- Citrus fragrance; can be applied indoors
- Removes paints and varnish finishes
- Can be applied to wood, metal, and masonry surfaces
- Best varnish remover for wood
- Only for paint and varnish
Even though CitriStrip’s formula is most effective up to 24 hours after applying, it is able to thoroughly penetrates through multiple layers of finishes like dried latex and oil based paint. Opposite the best deck stain remover, in order to remove this stripping gel, you’ll need to use a scraping tool to remove the raised finish.
Counter-tops, coffee and dining tables, and vanities are most associated for having varnish, so this particular chemical solution needs to compromise with indoor application. The citrus fragrance significantly compliments that obstacle, but still requires mandatory safety protection. So if applying outside isn’t an option then you’re fine doing it inside.
Using the CitriStrip is smooth and easy. After scraping off all the sludge close to the end of your process, dowse mineral spirit on a rag and rub off excess material and clean it up once or twice. Repeat process for desired effect. After sanding the wood, it gets pretty exciting to realize what the best varnish remover is really able to accomplish. IKEA wood furniture notoriously comes in pretty bland colors, and this could easily be applied to make it look way better.
Ultimately, CitriStrip acts as a compliment to other stain removers that aren’t capable of removing varnish and paint. Its strength is simultaneously its weakness, leaving the best wood stain remover to take care of the rest. Sunnyside Corporation provides a fast acting liquid stripping ingredient that pairs up great with CitriStrip.
- Fast acting stripping product for paint & epoxies and clear finishes & stains
- Works on wood, metal, masonry
- Apply up to 25 square feet per gallon
Sunnyside, a paint and hardware retailor, offers an advanced liquid stripper that removes latex and oil based paint, lacquer, shellac, varnish, epoxy, and polyurethane finishes. Though it’s not used for water based finishes, it is obviously adequate for its intended purpose.
The 2 minutes finish removal process doubles as a 2 for 1 wood brightener, so it strips and brightens at the same time. If you typically strip and bleach/brighten separately then you may not be aware that it is a short cut to what you’re trying to accomplish the wood. Performing them separately is without a doubt more thorough, but the stain you want to add is, most often, more important.
Alternatively, Sunnyside Corporation also offers a more diligent product that is next to universal for all types of finishes. Basically, it operates as the best wood stain remover for multipurpose applications.
- Eliminates oil and water based stains, varnishes, paints, lacquers & urethanes
- Use indoors and outdoor surfaces consisting of wood, plaster, concrete, brick, stone, masonry, marble, metal, and veneers
- Clears up to 15 layers of various paint & varnish
- Apply 1-4 layers of light coats, heavy for more effect
The Multi-Strip advertises as a safer formula, which is more than likely a result of it being non-flammable. By comparison, they are correct, but don’t let that make you believe it isn’t harmful in other ways. It is comparably advanced to other strippers in its capacity to remove the layers of any finish. All was possible with just a portion of the amount I would apply with alternative options. It adheres to vertical spread easily just by using a brush or roller, and onto a wide variety of materials (not just wood).
It reacts like a durably when done appropriately, and the conclusion itself shows to be potent. I would recommend to decide whether or not to add more coats once the first one reacts, chances are you might not need it. When spreading the glue like compound, experiment with various densities. This will help formulate an understand of how to make those previous finishes slide clean off. Applying a thicker layer and letting it sit for a couple hours is expected to bring fantastic results, even for two part epoxy and urethanes.
Multiple reasons contribute to Multi-Strip being able to be used indoors including: low odor, contains no Methylene Chloride, NMP or Caustic, non-flammable, and biodegradable. Stripping gets a little messy, so I find it’s easier to work on projects outside, however if its floors, or immovable furniture, then at least the option is there. Due to its diversity, the best wood stain remover out of this list is conclusively the Sunnyside Multi-Strip
For outside decks, fences, and furniture: #1Deck is compatible with water and oil bases, whereas DEFY only takes off oil. Both are perfect for what they do, but if all of the stains you’re trying to remove are oil based then definitely get DEFY.
The best wood stain remover that has the widest amount of potential is the Multi-Strip. It seems like a no brainer in determining this when it works reliably for as it’s used.