How To Remove Old Deck Stains

How To Remove Old Deck Stains

No outdoor living space can escape the withering effects of continuous exposure to changing weather, moisture, or sunlight. Even the best solid-finished deck can eventually flake away and lose its original shine and appeal over time. When your deck faces this ugly truth, it is probably the best time to remove old deck stains and apply a new one. Old deck stains should be removed properly before slapping on a fresh coat of new stain to prevent any tremendous problem in the future. You could wait for another year or so, and new stains will eventually peel off easily if old deck stains are not completely removed. To make sure that you are not wasting your precious time and energy, we put together a step-by-step guide to remove old deck stains, so you can bring your outdoor living space to its original finish, luster, and beauty.remove old deck stains

Why Deck Stain Peels Off?

Dealing with a lot of deck owners, we normally receive this kind of question: Why does my deck flake away and how can I remove old deck stains? We understand that nothing ruins an enjoyable outdoor experience more than the ragged-looking deck. So, it is helpful that you should know some common reasons why your deck stains peel off, and what you must do to mitigate these issues. Let’s find it out here.  

Reason 1: Improper Prepping Of Deck

A new deck stain will eventually fail if you did not prepare it properly. When your deck was not cleaned thoroughly before you apply a new finish, deck stains will surely peel off easily. Also, when you fail to use a deck brightener after applying a deck cleaner or stripper, you can expect that deck stains will peel off along the way. But the most common way of improper deck preparation is when you fail to remove old deck stains before applying a new one. It is important to remember that these practices can affect the cellular structure of your deck and it will only cause more trouble by the time that you need to apply a new stain. If your deck is not properly cleaned and prepared, new deck stains won’t penetrate the deck surface.  

Reason 2: Using a Wrong Type of Stain Or Sealer

There is a rationale behind every interior and exterior stain, and it is pretty obvious: interior stains and coatings will not work for exterior wood decks and vice versa. When you use a coating not specifically formulated for exterior wood decking, you can already expect that it won’t penetrate wood surfaces. Make sure not to use any varnish type for coating wood. When it comes to applying stains or sealers, always check the manufacturer’s label, so it won’t cause too much of your time and a big hassle in the long run.  

Reason 3: Improper Deck Sanding

Sanding your deck to a super smooth surface may lead to some penetration issues. If you won’t choose the right paper grit for sanding, deck stains may peel off easily. As much as possible, you want to achieve a more porous wood deck, so we recommend using a paper of 60 grit or below. 

Reason 4: Using Poor Quality Deck Stain

While it is true that deck stains are readily available in the market, they are not created equal. When you’re planning to stain your deck with a fresh coat, always do your own research. Check the products’ specifications and browse some reviews online. When it comes to keeping your deck in pristine condition, it pays to be knowledgeable. You may want to ask your local deck contractor to find out which deck stain products are very much suitable for your outdoor living space.  

Reason 5: Over Application

Too much stain on your deck surface is not good. The rule of thumb in applying stains is to apply as much product as the wood deck can easily absorb. This is because the wood typically absorbs water and moisture from snow or rain. And when the sun comes out, it will eventually dry up the wood, so the moisture vapor from your wood deck needs to pass through the stain and should escape. The major concern with too much application of staining products is that it can restrict the moisture from evaporating, which can cause the stains to peel off quickly.  

Reason 6: Improper Application 

Even the best deck stain will peel away over time if it is applied incorrectly. When it comes to staining and painting, the initial application is crucial. You need to make sure that the material will adhere to the surface, so it takes expertise and experience to learn how to properly stain your deck. If deck staining or painting is not something you are good at, it is always best to ask help from a professional deck contractor near you to prevent any mishaps in the future.  

Reason 7: Poor Adhesion 

If the stain does not adhere sufficiently to the wood, it will eventually peel away even if you properly apply a good amount of stain. To guarantee that the stain will stick to your wood, do not forget to clean your deck, and let it dry completely. If you won’t do this initial step, you can anticipate that some portions of the stain will stick to moist areas and debris, making it easier to peel off. Also, poor adhesion is related to improper sanding. 

Reason 8: Poor Maintenance

Inclement weather, fluctuations in temperature, and any inevitable environmental factors can easily ruin any deck over the years. Deck stains will peel off eventually due to these forces. However, there’s a lot you can do to maximize the lifespan of your deck and protect it from any harm. Proper maintenance and care are essential to keep your deck in great shape and prevent stains from peeling off easily. One of the best ways to provide extra protection to your deck is through the application of deck sealant. By applying sealers, it will make your deck waterproof or water-resistant to keep moisture from penetrating the deck surface. It is important to not let sitting water or moisture on your deck for a long period of time as it can also cause mildew or mold infestation.  

Steps To Remove Old Deck Stains

Removing old deck stains can never be so easy. Follow this step-by-step guide, so you can smoothly transform your deck into a stunning outdoor living space.  

Step 1: Scrubbing Off

Before you remove old deck stains, you need to sweep the deck thoroughly. Doing so will clear away any debris or dirt that may come in contact with the new stain. If the old stains are not stubborn, you can typically eliminate those by periodic cleaning with the help of water and mild detergent solution. Scrub it off with a soft-bristled brush, so it won’t damage the wood surfaces. Some homeowners use power washers in cleaning their decks. However, power washing might cause wood damages, especially if too much pressure is applied to the wood decking. Make sure to apply power washers with caution to prevent further damage to your deck. If in doubt, you can always ask for help from a professional deck contractor. Once you remove all dirt, rinse off the residue using a hose, then allow your deck to dry.

Step 2: Sanding

After the deck dries up completely, remove old deck stains using sandpaper. Start with coarse sandpaper, then gradually change it to a finer grit. For small areas and tough spots, sand it off using a coarse stripping pad on a drill or grinder. If the old stains don’t come off, you can use a stripping disc. Once the sanding is complete, make sure to clear off any fine wood dust or debris, so it won’t get in contact with the new stain.  

Step 3: Stripping

A stripping disc is more effective and faster than sandpaper and even orbital or belt sander. Not to mention that stripping disc works perfectly on angle grinders. You can use a coarse stripping disc on deck portions that are heavily discolored. If you opt for a chemical deck stripper, apply a generous amount of deck stripper over the deck stain. Depending on the type of stain, you can choose between water- and oil-based deck strippers. Once applied, let it stay for roughly 15 to 20 minutes. Deck strippers typically contain surfactants and sodium hydroxide, so it aims to soften and remove old deck stains easily. However, keep in mind that deck strippers are not effective in eliminating solid paints or stains. You can combine it with sandpaper, so you can achieve a better result. 

Step 4: Deck Conditioning

Applying deck strippers can make your wooden deck darker; thus, you need a wood brightener. Using a wood brightener or conditioner can help neutralize the stain remover and bring back the glow of your wooden deck. It gives a new luster to the wood grains and enhances the charm of your outdoor living space. For every gallon of wood brightener, it can cover approximately 200 square feet of your deck. 

Step 5: Applying A New Stain

Once you have followed all the preceding steps, you are now ready to apply a new stain. Deck stain is either water-based or oil-based. Whichever deck stain you will apply, make sure to use the right type of brush. Use a nylon brush for water-based stains, while a natural bristle brush for oil-based deck stains.remove old deck stainsDeck finishes are also categorized depending on their pigment density: clear or transparent, semi-transparent, semi-solid, and solid. Each has its own fair share of advantages and shortcomings. Let’s say in the case of a transparent deck stain, which contains no oil or pigment to give a natural look to the wood deck. On the other hand, clear stains offer low or no protection from UV rays. Whereas, solid deck stain has an opaque finish and provides the best protection against UV rays; however, it is densely pigmented, so it covers wood grains and is very prone to peeling and chipping.  To figure out the best finish for your deck, you may want to ask a local deck contractor near you for a piece of advice. Also, always follow precautionary measures such as wearing protective glasses, gloves, and closed-toed shoes when handling chemicals like these. If you will apply deck stains yourself, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s label to prevent any major mishaps.  

Products You Can Use

Now that you are aware of the possible reasons why deck stains peel off, and the step-by-step process to remove old deck stains, let’s focus on some products that you can use to prevent your deck from peeling off. Here are those: 


Using brighteners is straightforward and easy. Spray them on, allow to sit for a couple of minutes, and rinse the deck surface. This product won’t only neutralize any chemicals left behind by finish removers and deck cleaners, but it will also open up the grains of the wood to improve the absorption of the stain. It helps provide a more uniform and dramatic look while preventing wood stains from peeling off. 

Deck Sealers 

Deck sealers are great options for waterproofing your deck. They can repel water better than the regular stain, which means that it can also prolong the lifespan of your deck. You may also apply a primer to your deck, depending on the type of finish and deck materials. Before you stain or seal your deck surface, a good quality primer can be applied to help prevent your deck from peeling off. Just make sure to always check the manufacturer’s label and product specification. In applying deck sealers, use a natural bristle brush as it allows the product to work well into the wood fibers of your deck. 

Deck Stains 

Deck stain is undoubtedly a great product to keep your outdoor living space in perfect shape. Depending on the deck material, various kinds of stains are readily available in the market. However, you must always consider quality in choosing the right stain for your deck. Some inexpensive wood stains offer poor performance, which directly impacts the appeal of your deck. If you are in doubt about the product, you can ask a professional deck contractor near you for recommendations and options. 

Final Thoughts

It feels more enjoyable and relaxing to own a clean and solid-finished deck than having a ragged-looking one. That is why periodic maintenance and thorough inspection are essential, so you can determine if you need to spruce up your outdoor living space as soon as possible. Your goal is to make sure that every square footage of your deck is evaluated and maintained properly. So, it pays to know how to remove old deck stains as a preventive measure to keep your deck in pristine condition. If you think that you need an expert to revive your old, dull-looking deck, feel free to connect with us. Deck Ready is always here to help you create better ideas for a better outdoor living space. Schedule a free in-home consultation today!

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