How to Remove Staples from Wood

9 EASY Ways to Remove Staples From Wood (2023 Guide)

If you’re dealing with old wood, it’s not uncommon to find a few staples buried in it.

Whether you’re building something out of reclaimed lumber or ripping up your flooring, there’s a good chance you’ll find them here and there.

Luckily, there are several different methods you can use to remove staples from wood – whether they’re in a hardwood floor or a piece of furniture you’re refurbishing.

In this post, I’ll explore the best ways to remove staples from wood so you can get the finish you’re looking for. Let’s get started!

KEY TAKEAWAYS:
  • The best way to remove staples from wood is by using a cats paw tool. If you’re wondering how to remove heavy duty staples from wood – this is your best bet.
  • If you don’t have a cats paw tool, you can also use pliers, staple pullers, or a screwdriver to remove them.

How to Get Staples Out Of Wood

1. Utilize a Cat’s Paw Tool

A cat’s paw tool looks just the way it sounds. It’s a short metal rod with two bent claws at the end, meant to pull nails out of the ground. It is an excellent staple remover, especially for carpet staples that can mess up a wood floor.

Cats Paw Tool

With a nail, you put the forked end of the cat’s paw around the nail and rock it back and forth to get it out. When removing staples, the process is a little different.

Take the end of the tool typically reserved for nails and tap it under the staple area. Then, pull it gently upward to pull the staple out.

It might take a little practice to perfect the slide and pull method, but it’s a practical choice and it works great.

2. Try Diagonal Pliers

Next up are diagonal pliers, one of many pliers that will work for removing staples from wood.

Unlike the cat’s paw, diagonal pliers are ideal for cutting wires, nails, and screws – but they also function as staple removers. Diagonal pliers are one of the most common ways to get stapes out of a floor to avoid damaging the surface.

When using diagonal pliers, open them up and slide one end under the exposed area of the staple. Gently push it until it is under and the bent end has a grip. Once you have a grasp, wiggle it around until the nail comes up on its own. If you are careful not to pry with too much force, everything should be fine.

Since diagonal pliers are typically used for cutting, it’s vital to ensure you are not pulling too hard with this tool. Excessive force could break the staple, and then it will be impossible to remove it with these side cutters. Get a good grip and move slowly from there for the best results.

3. Use Needle-Nose Pliers

Needle Nose Pliers

Needle-nose pliers are the best tool if you have smaller staples and can’t get them out of the wood.

Although the handles are big enough to hold onto, needle nose pliers have small tips that will work well if you need to work with a small area.

To use this tool, grasp it firmly in one hand. It’s best to wear safety goggles, especially with small staples. You never know when one might fly up.

Once you grasp your tool, slide the nose under the staple. Gently wiggle it around until it looks like the metal is coming out of the ground. Repeat the motion until it comes out of the wood. If you have any more tiny staples, you should put the needle-nose pliers to work. They might seem delicate, but they’re one of the mightiest tools out there.

4. Take Advantage of Standard Pliers

Looking for a tool that you probably have laying around your home?

Standard pliers are a tool everyone should have in their belt. For standard pliers, the staple will need to be exposed enough to allow a good grip underneath. If it is pressed deep into the wood, standard pliers will not be thin enough to push their way underneath.

If you have a few staples pushed up, you’re ready to go. Ensure you have protective equipment on to defend your eyes. Then, slide one jaw of the standard pliers underneath the staple until you can get a good grip on the metal. Wiggle it gently until the metal comes out of the wood. Repeat the motion if it’s stuck.

5. Utilize Knives and Screwdrivers

Use Knife to Remove Staple

If you’ve got nothing in your toolkit at home, knives and screwdrivers will work fine if you need to pry up staples from wood.

This process works best with pocket knives, but a sturdy, short, blunt knife from your kitchen will also work.

A screwdriver is an alternative to a knife in this case. Look for one that is short, thin, and strong. You want something that can fit under the staple but can handle the pressure it will experience as you pry. You don’t want a knife that will snap off and potentially injure someone.

With your tool in hand, slide a few inches underneath the staple. Then wiggle it around until the metal starts to come up. Continue the movement until the staple makes its way out of the floor.

It’s critical to go slow, especially if using a knife. You never know when things could go wrong so be cautious when removing the staple.

6. Try Staple Removers

It might seem obvious, but staple removers are specifically designed for this job! And you can pick one up at your local store in most cases.

The staple remover resembles the mouth of a snake, and it operates on a hinge with two sharp front teeth that hook under a staple and pull it out.

The staple puller should be good enough that it doesn’t leave behind much damage. Ensure you invest in one big enough to handle the metal you throw at it.

7. Use Chisels

Chisels should be a last resort tool for removing staples from wood, but they can work.

They are the messiest of the bunch and can destroy your wooden surface without much effort. They come in handy if it feels like nothing else is working for you.

Using Chisel

If you have tried every tool at your disposal and it feels like the staple is packed in too tight, it’s time to take advantage of the chisel. You’ll use the tool to carve away a depression around the metal. Then, take your chisel and attempt to pull the staple out. Repeat the process until removal is possible.

This tactic requires putting holes in the wood. If you’re not okay with the potential for damage, don’t use this method.

8. Take Advantage of Shovels

A shovel comes in handy when you take up carpeting and then need to remove the carpet staples hidden underneath.

First, ensure you have protective equipment on to keep your eyes safe. Next, place the shovel at a 45-degree angle on the floor. Push it along the floor forcefully. If you give it just enough pressure, the end of the shovel should grab onto staples and rip them out of the floor with ease.

It might take a little while to master this technique but it’s one of the best ways to get rid of staples if you’re already in the middle of removing a carpet. You might as well kill two birds with one stone!

9. Bury the Staples

If nothing works for you, here’s a backup method you can attempt – burying the staple.

For this technique, you will need a nail set and putty.

Take the nail set and utilize it to push the staples under the surface. Once they’re hidden below, fill the holes with putty and allow them to dry. The staples aren’t gone, but they’re out of sight. It will look like you have new lumber once the process is complete.

It’s critical to note that this method should be the last thing you try. It will leave holes in the wood which, although filled with putty, are not pleasant to look at and take away from the beauty of the wood. Only consider burying staples in the wood if all else fails.

Which Method is the Best?

I’ve explored several methods for removing staples in wood, all excellent in their ways. But, which is the best way to get metal out of wood? Is there a particular method you can count on more than others?

If you’re dealing with standard-sized staples, a cat’s paw is the best tool you can ask for in a toolkit. They’re sturdy and easy to use. All it takes is a little effort, and you can have the staples out in no time.

If you have small staples in the wood, it’s best to take advantage of needle nose pliers for the job. They might not be as strong, but they’re effective at prying tiny pieces of metal from wood.

These tools are the best at the job, but every other technique mentioned will also work. As long as you have something metal that’s capable of prying up an object, you should be okay. Try not to resort to burying or chiseling unless necessary for the best results.

Here’s a great video discussing several of the methods!

Which Tool is Best For What Situation?

The type of situation you’re removing a staple from can help you select the best tool for the job.

For example, removing staples from hardwood floors might need a different tool than trying to remove upholstery staples in furniture.

For a wood floor, it’s best to use a multipurpose tool like needle nose pliers that won’t damage the hardwood floors.

For furniture, you can use the cats paw tool to easily remove staples and avoid a sharp end.

To remove carpet staples, it’s best to use a shovel to get rid of tiny carpet staples.

Final Thoughts

If you’re wondering how to remove staples from wood, it’s actually easier than you might think – especially if you have the right tools.

If you are working with reclaimed wood or prying up carpets, it can be inconvenient to notice carpet staples throughout the surface.

Luckily, there are many ways to remove these metal pieces from the surface. Whether you take advantage of a knife or find force in a cat’s paw, one of these is sure to work for your carpenter needs.