Best Wood Stain Remover
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I Tested 5 Wood Stain Removers: Here are the Best (2024)

Are you looking to refurbish a piece of furniture or prepping to stain your deck? Wood stain removers are key!

But you need to find the right one.

I’ve removed stain from wood countless times, and I know some stain strippers are great while others leave a lot to be desired.

In this post, I discuss the best wood stain strippers you can buy to help you determine which wood stain stripper is best for your project. Let’s go!

In a hurry? The best wood stain remover is the DEFY Wood Paint Stripper. This stain and paint remover can remove just about any paint or stain from your surface with ease. It’s both powerful and eco-friendly – which I’m a huge fan of.

Quick Answer: Here are My Favorite Wood Stain Removers 👇

Best Wood Stain Stripper and Remover

1. DEFY Wood Stain Remover – #1 Best Overall

DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper, 1 Gallon
  • WOOD DECK STAIN REMOVER STRIPS WORN FINISHES – Easy to use stain stripper removes weathered, clear or…
  • RESTORES WOOD’S NATURAL BEAUTY – In addition to removing weathered deck stains, this product will also…
  • READY TO USE – This product comes ready to use. Simply pour in a pump-up sprayer and spray on any wood…

For a water-based stain and paint stripper, DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper is not only powerful but easy to use, and that’s a winning combination in my book.

It can efficiently strip clear finishes, semi-transparent stains, varnishes, and penetrating sealers from a variety of wood species, and after it’s done its thing you’ll be looking at the wood’s natural surface.

Don’t want to mix before using? You don’t have to with this wood stain stripper. Simply pour it into a pump-up sprayer and you’re ready to start spraying.

After you apply a generous amount, wait 20-30 minutes for the stain stripper to break down the stain. Once it’s obvious the stain has been broken down, pressure-wash the broken-down stain from the wood’s surface. It’s that easy.

What I Liked:

  • This eco-friendly stain stripper can efficiently remove a variety of stains and sealers, even more durable oil-based products.
  • All you need to do to use this stain stripper is follow a simple three-step process, which makes it easy for anyone.
  • The stain stripper is ready to go when you open the container, i.e. there’s no mixing required.
  • It gets right to work once applied, and usually it doesn’t take longer than 30 minutes to break down all the finish.
  • It can be used in combination with other DEFY products to achieve a dazzling new finish.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • This stain stripper isn’t great to remove paint, solid color stains, or film-forming coatings.
  • If you don’t have a power washer, you’ll need to scrub the broken-down stain off, which can be a pain.
  • More porous woods can be tough, but with enough elbow grease these too can have stain removed.
  • If you don’t wear gloves when spraying, this stripper can burn your hands, wrists, etc. since it contains some heavy-duty chemicals.
  • You can damage the wood’s natural surface if you scrub too hard when trying to remove caked-on stain.

My Thoughts

DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper is one of the more expensive products you’ll find, but its price is definitely justified by its size and the range of benefits. This is a powerful, fast-acting, and easy-to-apply stain stripper that can break down a range of stains and finishes. And since it’s a water-based product, it doesn’t contain a ton of volatile organic compounds (VOC). Plus, it’s ready to be sprayed on right when you get it—there’s no mixing required. But if you don’t have a power-washer, removing the stripper and the broken-down stain can be tough, since a lot of scrubbing may be required.

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2. MAX Strip Paint and Varnish Stripper – Best Wood Stain Remover without Pressure Washing

MAX Strip Paint Stripper
Max Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper 32oz – Paint Stripper for multiple…
  • DESIGNED TO REMOVE PAINT AND VARNISH FROM MULTIPLE SURFACES – Remove Paint, Latex, Polyurethane, Shellac,…
  • EASY TO USE WITHOUT CAUSTIC CHEMICALS – Contains NO Methylene Chloride or NMP. Apply to the surface and check…
  • THE “DO-IT-YOURSELF” CHOICE – Powerful enough for painting contractors and restorers, but user-friendly enough…

MAX Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper is a powerful, easy-to-use, and affordable paint and stain stripper.

Featuring a patented wet work system, this gel-based stripper doesn’t create any dust during removal, meaning it’s safer than dust-generating strippers.

And speaking of safety, this product emits no toxic fumes or toxic chemicals when in action, so if it gets on your skin you don’t have to worry about irritation.

It can even be applied in places with poor ventilation because it’s so non-toxic.

Applying Paint Stripper

This stripper removes most stains, paints, sealants, and varnishes from virtually all wood species, and it can also work on glass, metal, laminate, plastic, porcelain, ceramic brick, and other materials.

What I Liked:

  • Thanks to its patented wet work system, I don’t have to worry about inhaling dust when removing broken-down finish.
  • There’s no methylene chloride or NMP in this paint and stain stripper, so it’s not only much safer but eco-friendly too.
  • This stripper gets to work immediately, and usually it’s ready to remove 30-60 minutes after application.
  • It’s easy to remove with a scouring pad, water, and a damp rag; no pressure washing required.
  • Since this product is free of harsh chemicals, I don’t have to worry about harsh fumes overwhelming me when applying it.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Some paints and finishes are too strong for this stripper, especially oil-based ones.
  • It’s harder to remove multiple layers, especially if they’re thick layers.
  • Despite being affordable for its size, if you need a lot of stripper, relying on this product can get expensive.
  • You need to shake this product before applying it, otherwise it won’t work properly.
  • Porous woods that have been overly saturated with stain or varnish can be tough, since this stripper can’t penetrate all that deep.

My Thoughts

Overall, MAX Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper is a dependable stripper for the $10-$20 price range, especially if you’re looking for a product that’s eco-friendly yet effective. Since it isn’t rife with harsh chemicals, I didn’t have to worry about it emitting toxic fumes or irritating my skin, which is nice to know. My only complain is it’s effectiveness on caked on paints and stains, as well as on oil based stain.

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3. Smart Strip Advanced Paint Stripper – Best Eco-Friendly Stain and Paint Remover

Sale
Dumond 027691033322 Smart Strip by Peel Away One Sample Size’ Paint Remover, 1 Quart, White
  • REMOVES UP TO 15 LAYERS OF PAINTS & COATINGS – Strips Acrylic, Latex, Oil, and Water-Based Paints, Varnishes, Stains,…
  • EFFECTIVE ON ALMOST EVERY SURFACE – Wood, Brick, Stone, Metal, Marble, Terra Cotta, Granite, Terrazzo, Concrete,…
  • EASY TO USE WITHOUT CAUSTIC CHEMICALS – Contains NO Methylene Chloride or NMP. Apply to surface and check every 90…

When I first picked up Dumond’s Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover, I was a bit skeptical on its effectiveness given how environmentally-friendly this paint stripper is.

But unlike other paint and stain strippers that are on the greener side, this product packs a punch.

In fact, it can remove up to 15 layers of finish from numerous materials, including wood, cement, plastic, brick, stone, metal, and marble.

This wood stripper does an amazing job if you have some time to spare.

What I Liked:

  • This paint stripper can efficiently remove most finishes, and after it’s had sufficient time to work it’s easy to scrub off.
  • It’s cost-effective, as you don’t need to use a lot, unlike other wood strippers
  • Since it’s free of harmful chemicals and therefore doesn’t emit fumes, you can apply it indoors without worry.
  • This stripper can remove marine paints without damaging the gel coat.
  • A versatile stripper, it can be brushed, rolled, or sprayed on, whichever you prefer.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • It takes about 24 hours for this paint stripper to work its magic, making it one of the slower products available.
  • And to remove many thick layers of oil-based paint, you need to wrap the workpiece tightly in plastic wrap after the stripper is applied.
  • This can wreak havoc on a paint brush or roller if you don’t clean thoroughly right after using it.
  • Some say you can use steel wool to remove this stripper, but I think it’s too coarse; scouring pads are better.

My Thoughts

Dumond’s Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover can efficiently break down numerous finishes, including paints, stains, and varnishes – making it one of the best wood stain removers you can find. It had a slightly harder time with older shellacs and lacquers – but this is typical. It can take considerably longer (24 hours or more) to break down tough finishes, which I find inconvenient – but that’s the tradeoff considering how effective this wood stripper is. All things considered, I would highly recommend this wood stain remover for tougher stains and paints.

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4. #1 Deck Wood Stain Stripper – Best Value Wood Stripper

#1 Deck Wood Stain Stripper – 1 Gallon – Ready to Use, Wood Stain Remover…
  • Removes existing, weathered, semi-transparent stains and sealers
  • Ready to use, fast and effective – covers 100-150 sq. ft. per gallon
  • Deck stain remover strips worn finishes off decks, fences, and wood siding

When you want powerful stain stripper at an affordable price, you can’t go wrong with #1 Deck Wood Stain Stripper.

It can remove transparent and semi-transparent stains, sealers, and varnishes, but it’s not great to remove paint, solid color stains, or film-forming coatings.

You’ll need a pump sprayer to apply this stripper, and it takes 30-60 minutes to work.

Afterward, I like to power-wash this stripper off, but it can be scrubbed off too.

What I Liked:

  • This product is nearly as powerful as DEFY Wood Stain Remover (#1) at half the price.
  • No need to mix beforehand; it’s ready to go when opened.
  • It’s a great exterior wood stain remover, so it’s often used on decks, fences, sheds, and wood siding.
  • This wood stain stripper is easy to use too, if you know your way around a sprayer.
  • Once it’s had enough time to break down the stain, removing this wood stain stripper is simple and mess free.
  • It’s water-based, so it’s more eco-friendly than oil based wood strippers.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Takes a while to work (24 hours).
  • Can’t remove paint, colored stains, or coatings that have a film.
  • If you don’t have a power washer, you’ll need to scrub it off with a scouring bad, which can take a while.
  • Oil-based stain in porous wood—oak, hickory, ash, etc.—is harder to remove, especially if multiple thick coats were applied.
  • Stripper dries too quickly in hot weather.
  • Despite being water-based, it does contain chemicals that can irritate your skin, so wear gloves, long sleeves, etc.

My Thoughts

If you need a stain or varnish remover that’s affordable, efficient, and easy to use, look no further than #1 Deck Wood Stain Stripper. I’ve found this product to be especially useful as an exterior wood stain stripper and it’s a great value for the price. Even though it takes a while to remove stain, it’s worth waiting for, as it usually removes finishes in one go. Overall, this is one of the best stain removers for the money and I would recommend it.

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5. Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain Remover – Best Powder Wood Stain Remover

Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain Stripper
  • Removes most clear, transparent, semi-transparent, and semi-solid coatings.
  • Strips and restores wood surfaces.
  • Powdered formula makes 5 liquid gallons when mixed. Extremely cost effective. When mixed, the cost is less…

Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain Stripper is a powder-based wood stain stripper, which is slightly different than the others. You can get 5 gallons of stripper when you mix this powder with water.

It removes clear, semi-clear, and semi-solid stains, and it removes most penetrating sealers and varnishes as well.

If you need to remove paint, polyurethane, or solid-color stain, look elsewhere, as this wood stain stripper can’t remove any of those finishes.

It’s one of the most cost-effective wood stain strippers, costing $7-$12/gallon (depending on how you mix it).

Because it’s an eco-friendly stripper, it can be used on virtually all outdoor wood surfaces, although it’s mainly used on decks and other larger wood surfaces.

What I Liked:

  • I like how this wood stain stripper is designed specifically for decks, outdoor wood furniture, and similar wooden surfaces.
  • It doesn’t take long for this stripper to remove wood stain, provided it’s not too hot out (more than 85°F) when you apply it.
  • Spraying it on is easy and removing it is a breeze, if you have a power washer.
  • Along with removing finish, it’ll also remove the erosive elements that attach to finish, like mold, mildew, dirt, and moss.
  • It’s strong enough to remove stain that’s oil-based yet eco-friendly enough to be safe for outdoor use.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Can’t remove solid-color stains, paints, or polyurethane.
  • The success of this product is in large part determined by how well you can mix it with water.
  • Only power washing can remove this wood stripper from certain highly porous woods; even aggressive scrubbing doesn’t do much good.
  • Not good for vertical applications, railings, or banisters.
  • More toxic than some of the other wood stain strippers discussed already.

My Thoughts

If you don’t mind mixing before application, I recommend Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain Stripper. It’s one of the best wood stain removers (as far as price is concerned), and it’s one of the only powder-based wood stain removers available right now. This stain stripper can strip most stains, but it won’t work on solid-color stain, which is something to keep in mind. And even though “deck” is in the name, I’ve found that this stripper works on many outdoor wooden structures. Overall, you can’t go wrong with this wood stain remover, especially for the price.

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What to Look for in a Wood Stain Stripper

Effectiveness

When shopping for wood stain removers, effectiveness should always be a priority. In other words, if a wood stain remover isn’t effective, you don’t want it.

I’ve been woodworking a long time, and a long time ago I realized that many wood stain removers claim to be effective, yet most fail to remove even thin layers of finish. Talk about frustrating!

A good wood stain remover should be a good varnish remover too, since both are usually applied to the same wood surface.

Once a wood stain remover has shown it can’t penetrate deep enough to remove multiple layers of wood stain, it’s best to move on and try something else.

I like DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper and Dumond’s Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover most because they’re both incredibly effective, and with Dumond’s product you get effectiveness and superior eco-friendliness.

Environmentally Friendliness

Eco-friendliness is another important factor to consider when choosing a wood stain remover.

It’s usually the case that the more eco-friendly something is, the less toxic it is. And if you don’t have to worry about toxicity when applying wood stain remover, it’s more likely you’ll do a good job while staying safe.

And remember: Just because a wood stain stripper is eco-friendly doesn’t mean it’s weaker—virtually all the products discussed throughout my list are proof this isn’t true.

In general, water-based wood stain removers that don’t have any methylene chloride or NMP are the most eco-friendly.

Cost

Considering price is important too. After all, just because a wood stain remover is expensive doesn’t mean it’s going to achieve the results you desire.

Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain Stripper is going to get you the most bang for your buck, but its effectiveness largely depends on how well you mix it. In other words, you could end up throwing your money away if you fail to mix well.

If you don’t want to mix but you still want top-notch effectiveness for a fair price, go with DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper.

The most expensive gallon option is Dumond’s Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover, while the cheapest option overall is MAX Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper.

Main Types of Wood Stain Strippers

Removing stain from project

Solvent Strippers

Solvent-based paint strippers target the bond paint forms with a surface as it dries.

Essentially, the stripper weakens the paint so it can no longer stay attached to the wood’s surface.

Water-based paint strippers are classified as solvent-based, but there are much stronger solvent-based strippers; the strongest ones contain methylene chloride, a chemical that’s not only toxic but highly flammable.

Caustic Strippers

Caustic paint strippers don’t target the bond between paint and a surface, rather they target paint directly to break down the chemicals within it.

These strippers are very basic (pH-wise), and most include sodium hydroxide; this is the agent responsible for breaking down paint.

Be careful when using this paint stripper, as it can burn your skin.

Don’t used this kind of stripper on hardwoods, as it turns these woods black.

Also, caustic stripper that’s combined with water can wear down wood, damaging it permanently.

In short, you need to be careful when using caustic paint strippers.

Have some spray paint on wood? Check out my guide on removing spray paint from wood!

Biochemical Strippers

Biochemical strippers are more eco-friendly and much less toxic, as they’re made of plant-based solvents.

They work on both water- and oil-based paints, and they’re affordable along with being effective.

How to Use Wood Stain Removers

1. Gather Materials & Prep

Gather all necessary materials, and then prep your workspace and the workpiece. You’ll need:

  • Stain stripper
  • An applicator (brush, roller, or sprayer)
  • Protective gear (gloves, goggles, a respirator, and long-sleeves)

Ensure there’s good ventilation and keep the workpiece away from any wind or direct sunlight. Also, have a tarp under your workpiece to prevent a mess.

Finally, ensure the workpiece is ready for stain removal by removing any attachments, like hinges and plates.

2. Apply the Stain Remover

Be generous when applying wood stain stripper with a brush, roller, or sprayer.

Especially if you’re working with solid stain (as opposed to worn-down stain), you’ll need to ensure there’s adequate coverage, otherwise the stain remover won’t be able to penetrate that deep.

3. Remove Broken-Down Stain

Once you’ve given the stain remover sufficient time to break down the stain, you need to remove the broken-down stain and leftover stripper by power washing or scrubbing it off with a scouring pad.

I recommend power washing, as it’s quicker and generally more effective. Plus, you don’t have to worry about damaging the wood grain.

4. Sand

Sand Wood

Once most of the stain has been removed, it’s time to go over the surface with fine sandpaper. I recommend 180-grit or something grittier.

You don’t want to take off a lot of material, rather you just want to rough up the surface to ensure there’s no leftover stain.

If you’re working on a deck, here are some of the best sanders for decking that can help you get the job done faster. If you’re working on furniture, check out my favorite sanders for furniture!

5. Clean

Once you’ve sanded enough, go over the surface with mineral spirits or warm soapy water; either will remove residual stain that was dislodged by sanding.

Need more help? Check out the video below!

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper is the best wood stain remover overall. It’s powerful, cost-effective, fast-acting, easy to use and remove, and relatively eco-friendly.

The most affordable option (per gallon) is the powder-based Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain Stripper, since it’s $7-$12/gallon depending on how you mix it.

Finally, the most eco-friendly and non-toxic option is Dumond’s Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover. And despite being green, it’s strong enough to break down up to 15 layers of finish.