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What Is The Best Way To Remove Stain From Wood?

When you’re ready to refinish a piece of wood furniture, decking, or flooring, you need to remove the previous stain first. You can do this by sanding or using a wood stain remover to strip the current finish.

wood stain remover

If you’re looking for the perfect wood stain remover, we can help. Below, we’ll provide product reviews for five of the best wood stain removers on the market. Before delving into each of the products, however, we’ll talk about what you should look for in a wood stain remover, the different types of wood stain removers, how to go about using a wood stain remover, and more. 

Related: Extend The Life of The Furniture With The Best Wood Sealer

How To Remove Stain From Wood

Wood stain remover is toxic. Wear a face mask, google, and gloves while using it. If you’re working indoors, make sure the room is ventilated, as the remover’s fumes are strong.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and apply the remover to the wood surface. When the surface begins to bubble, it’s time to scrape.

Best Wood Stain Removers

Below are five of the best wood stain removers for interior or exterior use.

1. DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper

DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper

Defy Exterior Wood Stain Stripper will remove worn stains and sealers, but it’s also suitable for removing semi-transparent stains and clear wood finishes. It’s a water-based stain stripper that can restore a natural look to your wood surfaces. The best thing about this product is that it’s easy to use and doesn’t require hand stripping.

You’ll start by applying the wood stain remover with a pump-up sprayer. Then, wait for at least 20-30 minutes for the finish to break down. If needed, you can add additional coats to the wood to keep it wet. Finally,  rinse the remover off with a pressure washer, and you’re done.

Defy Exterior Wood Stain Stripper has a 3.7 out of 5-star rating from over 300 users. Reviewers love that this product is simple to use and provides them with the results that they need. Some negative reviews complain of splotchy results.


  • Removes weathered, clear, and semitransparent stains
  • Will restore natural beauty to your wood surfaces 
  • Easy to use – just spray on and rinse off with a power washer


  • A couple of reviewers state that it isn’t as effective for oil-based stains
  • Will not remove solid color stains, paints, or film finishes

2. Sunnyside 63532 2-Minute Remover Advanced Paint & Varnish Remover Liquid


Sunnyside 2-minute Remover comes in liquid and gel form. The newly formulated solution is methylene chloride-free and will remove more than one layer of finish with a thin layer of application. It’s ideal if you need to remove a layer of polyurethane or shellac on your wood surfaces. You can use it on wood, metal, and even automotive finishes. 

Due to its potent formula, it’s capable of removing latex and oil-based paint along with lacquer, shellac, epoxy, and floor finishes. You can strip up to 25 square feet with each gallon. To use this product, pour or brush the wood stain remover onto the surface and wait a couple of minutes. Then, scrape off the layers of stain, wipe away with a cloth, and you’re done. (You can use a wire brush to scrub stubborn areas.)

Sunnyside 2-Minute Remover has over 1,700 reviews on Amazon. Positive reviewers claim that the product is easy to use and works better than other strippers. There are a few complaints regarding this product not working on epoxy and taking a couple of coats to remove old stain.


  • Works on wood, metal, glass, and automotive finishes
  • Removes several layers of stain and varnish at the same time
  • Fast acting – the product starts lifting old finishes in only two minutes


  • May take multiple attempts to remove old stain or hardened clear coats

3. Deck Wood Stain Stripper

Deck Wood Stain Stripper

Deck Wood Stain Stripper will remove the worn or weathered stain from your fence posts, decking, and wood siding. It also removes clear finishes, penetrating sealers, semi-transparent stains, and varnishes. One gallon covers 100 to 150 square feet. 

Removing stain off of outdoor wood is simple with this product – just add it to a pump sprayer, coat your wood, wait thirty minutes, and then rinse it off with a pressure washer. They also offer a deck wood brightener you can use after you remove the stain. The wood brightener will open up the wood’s pores so it will evenly accept the new stain.

Deck Wood Stain Stripper has a 3.7 out of 5-star rating on Amazon. Positive reviewers claim that the product is easy to use and works fast. But there are some reviewers who didn’t have luck removing deck stain with this product. 


  • Easy to use – apply with a pump sprayer and wait 30 minutes before rinsing
  • Removes semi-transparent stains, penetrating sealer, and clear finishes
  • One gallon covers  100 to 150 square feet


  • Doesn’t work on solid stains, paint, or film-forming finishes 

4. Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel

 Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel

CitriStrip is an easy-to-use stripping gel. It stays wet for up to 24 hours, allowing you to strip multiple layers at once. It works for stains, varnishes, shellac, and latex paint and doesn’t contain harmful substances like methylene chloride or NMP. 

CitriStrip has a citrus scent rather than the strong fumes that most wood strippers possess. It features a powerful formula that can work on indoor and outdoor wood finishes. 

CitriStrip is one of the highest-rated wood stain removers on Amazon, with a 4.4 out of 5-star rating from over 8,000 users. Most reviews are glowing, claiming that the product is easy to use due to its thick gel formula. The few negative reviews complain that the product didn’t meet expectations for removing paint.


  • Remains wet for up to 24 hours, removing several layers at once
  • The gel formula makes it easy to apply
  • Less harsh fumes compared to most wood strippers


  • May take several hours to work

5. Sunnyside 657G1A Multi-Strip ADVANCED Paint & Varnish Remover

Sunnyside 657G1A Multi-Strip ADVANCED Paint & Varnish Remover

Sunnyside 657G1A is a paint and varnish remover that can remove stain, urethanes, varnish, paint, and lacquer. A thin coat will remove 1-4 layers, while a heavier coat can remove up to 15 layers of finish off of wood. 

To use this product, brush, roll, or spray it on. Then, wait 30 minutes and use a metal scraper to start removing layers of finish. You can reapply to problem areas if needed. It has a low odor and is MVP-free, making it suitable for indoor or outdoor use.

Sunnyside 657G1A has a 3.8 out of 5-star rating from over 3,800 reviewers. Hundreds of reviewers claim this product works well, but there are frequent complaints that the smell is too strong.


  • Removes up to 15 layers of finish in one use
  • Multiple application methods – brush, roll, or spray it on
  • Works in only 30 minutes


  • Complaints about the smell being too strong

How to Remove Wood Stain From Your Hands

If wood stain gets on your skin, don’t panic. You can remove it with acetone or rubbing alcohol. Get a clean towel and wet it with your DIY skin-cleaning solution. Rub and apply firm pressure until the stain is gone. Rinse your skin with warm water and soap. 

How To Remove Oil-Based Stain From Wood

Removing oil-based stain from wood is more difficult than removing water-based stains, but not impossible. Here’s what to do.

  • Wear a face mask, protective eyewear, and gloves.
  • Pour the stripper into a bowl.
  • Use a clean natural bristle paintbrush, and paint the stripper over the oil-based wood stain.
  • Let the stripper sit for 20 minutes. Wait for the surface to bubble.
  • Take a scraper and remove the wood stain. Do not apply too much pressure.
  • Get a steel wood pad and let it soak in the stripper first, and then use it to wipe away the wood stain.
  • Use medium-grit sandpaper to sand the area.
  • Wipe the surface with a clean, wet towel.

Why should you use a wood stain remover? 

If you want a simple and effective way to remove stains, a wood stain remover is the way to go. There are other methods for removing stain but none are as easy as using a wood stain remover. 

Scrapers, for example, take a long time and are labor-intensive. The same goes for a heat gun. While you could use a power sander or some form of rotary grinder, you’re going to deal with large amounts of dust that you’ll need to clean up.

What to look for in a wood stain remover? 

When it comes to selecting a wood stain remover, there are four considerations to make. 

  1. Safety

If your wood stain remover consists of potent chemicals, it could be hazardous to both you and your family’s health. Look for a wood stain remover that’s safe for indoor use if you’ll be using it inside your home. 

  1. Effective removal of stains 

Not all types of wood strippers remove all stain. Some stain removers only work on weathered or semi-transparent stain. If you need to strip a piece with solid stain or urethane, make sure the product you choose is designed for those finishes.

  1. Odor 

Some wood stain removers come with strong odors. If possible, opt for a wood stain remover that has little to no odor so that it’s easier to work with. 

  1. Versatility 

If you working on several projects and need to remove stain and paint, choose a versatile product.

What are the different types of wood stain removers? 

There are a few different types of wood stain removers, and we’ll discuss each of them in greater detail below:

  1. Solvents

Solvents work by dissolving the old finish with chemicals. Examples of solvents in wood stain removers include alcohol, acetone, and toluene. Solvents are some of the only wood stain removers that can dissolve paint. Unfortunately, they’re usually the most toxic. 

  1. Caustic 

Caustic wood stain removers work by dissolving the finish and converting it into another substance. They usually consist of strong bases, which are corrosive. 

  1. Biochemical 

These are the best of both worlds as they use chemical substances with more natural ingredients. These wood stain removers consist of ingredients that are both safer to use and better for the environment. Some examples of ingredients in these wood stain removers include citric acid, soy oil, and wood pulp extract. 

How to remove wood stains? 

Once you have your wood stain remover, follow the steps below to strip your piece.

Prepare The Surface Along With Your Workspace 

Wood stain removers have strong fumes, so it’s best to work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Once you pick your workspace, clean your wood with soapy water before drying it with either a cloth or paper towels. 

If you’re using your wood stain remover on furniture, place your remover on top of a drop cloth and remove any metal objects around the area. If you’re using it on wooden floors, place painter’s tape along the seams where the wall meets the floor.  

Remember that safety is essential,  always wear protective gloves, safety goggles, and clothes with long sleeves to protect your skin. 

Apply the wood stain remover 

Pour the wood stain remover into a container or bowl and apply it according to the instructions. If there are no instructions, use a paintbrush with natural fibers to apply a thick, even layer. Use the tip of the brush to get into any nooks and crannies. Let it sit for about 20 minutes.  

Scrape the residue 

After the remover has swelled or bubbled up, scrape off the finish with a plastic scraper or a putty knife. Use gentle force, and try to scrape the finish into a trash can. 

For difficult areas, use a steel wool pad, scrubbing in the direction of the grain. Then, wipe the surface with a damp cloth. 

Sand the surface 

If you’d like, you can sand the wood surface. Allow the wood to dry for at least 24 hours first. Wear safety goggles and a face mask. Then, sand the dry surface using consistent pressure.

Wipe off the dust and resand with a finer, 180-grit sanding sponge until the surface is smooth. 

Clean up the area 

Wipe the wood surface with a cloth and vacuum all of the sawdust around the area. If you’d like, you can also use bleach to lighten the wood and remove any watermarks. The best woods for bleaching are oak, gum, beech, and ash. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How To Remove Oil-Based Stain From Wood?

Oil-base stains work best on outdoor wood that’s exposed to rain, wind, direct sunlight, and other harsh weather conditions. The oil base stain provides a layer of protection that makes the wood longer lasting and more durable.

Backyard decks and outdoor wood furniture need protection. As oil-based stains are darker than water-based stains, their color is darker and complements the wood color. Before applying an oil-based stain, remove the existing wood stain. Removal methods are available that won’t harm the surface or wood grains.

If the previous wood stain was oil-based, then you should apply a water-based stain.

How To Remove Wood Stain From Concrete?

When removing wood stain from concrete, muriatic acid is the best and cheapest method. Muriatic acid is strong and requires protective gear like rubber gloves and eye goggles. 

Mix one part of muriatic acid with 20 parts of water in a large plastic bucket. Pour the mixture over the wood stain. After the stain is removed, rinse the area with water. 

How To Remove Wood Stain From Skin?

If wood stain gets on your skin, don’t panic. It’s easy to remove. You can use an isopropyl alcohol and acetone mixture or rubbing alcohol. Get a clean towel and wet it with your DIY skin cleaning solution. Rub the stain and apply firm pressure until the stain is gone. Rinse your skin with warm water and soap. 

Another DIY home remedy is mineral spirits. Use a clean towel or rag, wet it with mineral spirits, and then wipe the wood stain off your skin. You can use the mineral spirits to remove wood stains from your skin. 

Does Wood Stain Prevent Bugs?

The chemical components in wood stains will keep insects away from your DIY wood project, but not over the long term. Wood stain soaks into wood but doesn’t offer a protective layer. The wood will be vulnerable to insects, water damage, mold, and fungus.

One thing to consider is how carpenter bees like stained wood surfaces. Because wood stain is dark and has a unique odor, it could attract carpenter bees.

How To Remove Alcohol Stains From Wood?

Make a light paste with a non-drying oil like lemon or mineral oil. Non-drying oils are risky, so make sure you remove them after they’ve treated the wood surface.

When applying the paste and rubbing over the stain, your motions need to follow the direction of the wood grain. To remove the paste and any oily residue, sprinkle the area with flour. Blot a few paper towels with water to remove the paste.

And for the final step, use a clean rag to remove moisture and then clean the wood surface.