Best Deck Strippers 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks
Wooden decks make great entertaining areas and perfect places to enjoy a meal with family and friends when the weather allows. Like all other parts of a home, decks require close attention and occasional maintenance. Wood decks are typically sealed with some type of finish. Depending on the desired outcome and appearance, this finish ranges from semi-transparent stain to full latex paint. All these finishes have something in common: depending on the weather, a wooden deck should be refinished every 2 to 5 years.
The first step in the refinishing process is cleaning and prepping the wood to accept a new finish. Chemical deck strippers are a vital part of this process. We have created a list of reviews for commonly available wood deck strippers. We have sorted through the piles of deck strippers and created a list of the top deck strippers to make your purchasing experience a little easier.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper||
|Best Value||Dumond Chemicals 3332 Smart Strip||
|Premium Choice||Expert Solutions Wood Cleaner & Wood Stripper||
|#1 Deck Wood Stain Stripper||
|Woodrich Brand Heavy-Duty Wood Stripper||
The 9 Best Deck Strippers – Reviews 2020
1. DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper – Best Overall
The DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper exceeded all our expectations and outperformed all the other deck strippers in our testing. Many decks are finished with a semi-transparent stain or another clear finish. This stripper is proven to remove these types of finishes. The stripper is applied, allowed to sit for a while, and removed with a pressure washer. The DEFY stripper contains sodium hydroxide, which softens the bond between the finish and the substrate (in this case, the deck boards).
The only real negative with this stripper is that it will not remove paint or a solid color stain. The manufacturer also recommends wearing the proper PPE during use. One item to note, however, is the user should plan on installing a brightener after using any caustic wood stripper such as the DEFY stripper.
2. Dumond Chemicals 3332 Smart Strip – Best Value
We were surprised by the effectiveness of the Dumond Chemicals 3332 Smart Strip, which is without a doubt the best deck stripper for the money. It is composed of biodegradable materials and contains zero volatile organic compounds (VOC). Available in a 1-quart can, this paste can be applied to your wooden deck with a roller. The paste should then be left alone for 3 to 24 hours. At this point, the paste and existing deck finish can be scraped off easily. The Dumond stripper will work for almost any finish, ranging from light semi-transparent stains to multiple coats of solid paint. For the price, you’re unlikely to find a better product.
3. Expert Solutions Wood Cleaner & Stripper – Premium Choice
The Expert Solutions Wood Cleaner & Wood Stripper was the leader of the pack in our testing. This caustic stripper comes in a 10-pound container, and it is capable of some amazing things. The Expert Solutions stripper is not only a wood stripper, but it is an excellent cleaner as well. From faded wood to moss-covered deck boards, this cleaner will prep any deck. The stripper is shipped as a dry powder and is mixed with warm water when it is ready to be applied. The paste is then applied using a brush or a roller. After waiting for mere minutes, the mixture can be rinsed off with a pressure washer.
On the downside, you will need to wear PPE when using this product, and of course, it’s more expensive than other strippers on the list. You will also need a brightener after using it. The size of the container softens the price, but you may need more than one for larger decks.
4. #1 Deck Wood Stain Stripper
The #1 Deck Wood Stain Stripper performed well in our testing of wood deck strippers. Consisting of a caustic solution, it shares many of the same pros and cons as the other caustic strippers on our list. If someone is looking to use this stripper for their deck, it should be noted that several gallons will need to be purchased to treat the entire deck. The #1 Deck brand stripper was also not as powerful as the other caustic deck strippers in our tests. The deck will need to be thoroughly cleaned before the stripper application, as the stripper will not remove mold or mill scale.
5. Woodrich Brand Heavy-Duty Wood Stripper
The Woodrich Brand Heavy-Duty Wood Stripper is a caustic stripper that is available in 2 and 10-pound containers. This stripper had one advantage over the others in our testing: it can remove solid stains and paints. The dry powder is mixed with hot water, and then it is applied with a brush or a roller. After sitting on the wooden substrate for about 1 hour, the Woodrich stripper can then be removed with a pressure washer.
Of course, you’ll need a brightener after stripping, and you may not want to use a solution as toxic as the Woodrich. It goes without saying that you should always wear PPE when using products like this, but take extra caution with this one. Even though it has the potential to be a great product, you may need two applications to get the full effect.
6. Citristrip Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel
The Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel is sold in affordably priced 1-quart containers. Citristrip claims that this stripper will remove latex paint, oil-based stains, and other finishes; however, we did not see a great performance from this product. Many containers of this Citristrip stripper must be purchased to complete a deck. While the product is bio-friendly, the wait time after applying is around 24 hours. This leaves the deck owner open to some risks, such as impending rain or other inclement weather.
We found that this product required several coats to remove stain. Many deck owners who have purchased this product have claimed they left the application sit for up to 72 hours. In our opinion, this amount of time is simply unacceptable.
7. MAX Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper
The MAX Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper is another bio-friendly and non-caustic stripper that’s sold in 1-quart containers. This stripper is advertised as safe to use indoors. This could come in handy in the event you did not want your house to have a chemical smell for a short while. However, this comes at a great cost. Like most other bio-friendly paint strippers, the MAX brand needs to remain wet on the surface of the finish that you are trying to remove for up to 72 hours. In our tests, the MAX brand stripper barely removed stain, and it would hardly touch latex and solid paints.
8. Sunnyside 658G1A Ready-Strip
The Sunnyside 658G1A Ready-Strip is sold in 1-gallon containers, and it is another bio-friendly stain and varnish stripper that we have tested. Advertised as bio-friendly, the manufacturer claims that no breathing apparatus is required during the application of this stripper. With no caustic or solvent solution, this stripper relies on natural agents to loosen the bond between the finish and the substrate. This Sunnyside stripper fell subject to the same pitfalls as many other bio-friendly strippers: the waiting time after application is simply too long. The manufacturer claims the product can be scraped off in around 60 minutes, but our testing showed the product needs much longer to work effectively.
9. Klean Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper
The Klean Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper is very unique in comparison with the other deck strippers in our testing. This stripper is sold in a 16-ounce aerosol can and technically falls in the caustic stripper category. The manufacturer recommends spraying a 9 square foot area at a time, to avoid the user inhaling toxic fumes. Once the product has been allowed to sit for approximately 30 minutes, the residue can be scraped off with a 5-in-1 tool. The Klean stripper worked well in our testing, but is simply not cost-effective, nor is it an efficient product for stripping an entire deck. This product would work very well for a small project, perhaps stripping and refinishing hardwood thresholds.
Wooden decks can really transform the backyard. They create an inviting space that is perfect for entertaining and enjoying meals with family and friends. The only drawback to wooden decks is the maintenance. Upkeep is required for all wooden decks, and the frequency of this maintenance is determined by weather and the type of finish that is applied to the deck.
Regardless of the type of finish that is on your deck, one thing is for certain: your deck will require re-finishing eventually. This process begins with a thorough cleaning, and then a stripping of the existing finish. This prep work can make all of the difference in the world in the finished product. Deck strippers can use many different chemical cleaning agents, and the whole process can be confusing. We have highlighted key features to be on the look-out for when purchasing stripper for your next deck project.
Removal Agent (Caustic or Biochemical)
The removal agent that is present in a wooden deck stripper is the magic ingredient of the whole solution. The reaction simply cannot happen without it. While each removal agent has its pros and cons, they are typically best suited for different scenarios. User preference also comes into play, as well as the time required to get the job done.
Caustic agents bring the existing finish of the wood and the wood substrate to a much higher PH level. This in turn softens the bond of the finish to the wood substrate, making the finish easy to remove. Sodium Hydroxide is commonly used in caustic deck strippers. Caustic deck strippers are well known for the speed and effectiveness of their removal of the existing finish. They are powerful, and they are a great choice if the deck has multiple layers of existing paint or stain.
Caustic agents work in an incredibly fast manner. They are first applied on the wooden deck boards and left alone to soak for anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour. The length of time required is driven by the manufacturer’s guidelines, as well as the number of existing coatings you are looking to remove.
Biochemical agents utilize an environmentally-safe chemical to soften the bond of the existing finish and the wood substrate. These agents have a few benefits, such as the general requirement of users to not wear a respirator. These chemicals are usually not very harsh and do not pose significant threat to the user. Users should always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for PPE.
The largest negative to using a biochemical stripping agent is the waiting period. Biochemical stripping agents require the surface to remain wet with the solution, sometimes more than 3 days. For most people, this amount of time is entirely unacceptable. A small rainstorm could ruin your progress and leave you several hundred dollars short. Biochemical strippers can work well for removing single coats of stain or paint. This can usually be lifted in around a day.
Application and Removal Methods
The application of the wood stripper itself can be done in many ways. This is usually dependent on how the solution was shipped and sold.
Some stripping agents come premixed in a can, and they are immediately ready for application. Others come as a powder that will need to be mixed with hot water once it is ready to be applied. There is not a noticeable difference between the effectiveness of these two types; however, you should ensure the powder version is thoroughly mixed when getting the solution ready to use.
Once the stripping solution is ready for application, we can look at how we are going to apply it to the substrate. This can be completed in a number of different ways.
Wood strippers can be poured into a pressurized sprayer for application. This is done for a number of reasons, but the primary reasons are for ease of application and providing a consistent, even coating. With a few simple pumps of the handle, the sprayer is ready to coat a good portion of your deck. The applicator wand will apply a nice, even coat of product to the wood substrate, and you do not have to worry about applying the product too thick or thin in places.
The only real negative to apply wood stripper with a pressurized sprayer is the potential for the nozzle to gum up. This can be avoided by ensuring your sprayer is rated for the chemical stripper you are intending to use, and then making sure you are cleaning the sprayer before and after each use.
Wood strippers can also be brushed or rolled on, just like paint. Simply pour some of the solution into a pan or paint cup, and begin applying the product. As always, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions first before devising your own plan for application.
Wood strippers can then be removed in one of two ways. It can either be scraped off with a putty knife, or it can be pressure washed. Pressure washing is the quicker of the two methods. It is important to follow manufacturer’s instructions here, as you do not want to damage your deck.
Applying an after-treatment is usually the next step in the process of refinishing wooden decks. This is a hotly-debated step, as people tend to be split into two camps: those who brighten their decks before staining, and those who do not.
When using a caustic stripping agent, the color of the wooden deck boards can sometimes be affected. The caustic agent can “dull” the boards, leaving them a pale comparison of their once vibrant selves. The brightening agent corrects this issue, and it brings the entire wooden deck closer to its original color.
If you plan on applying a semi-transparent stain on your deck, then using a brightening agent is the way to go. If you are planning on applying paint or solid stain, then you may be able to get by without the brightening agent.
At the end of the day, be cognizant of the fact that using a caustic stripper will leave your deck boards looking dead. The brightening agent should be included in your project budget, just in case you are looking to bring some life back into your boards.
Also See: Must-Have Wood Working Tools
Properly stripping your deck is a necessary step to take when tackling the task of refinishing your wooden deck. This step is all too often skipped over lightly, with the brunt of the effort placed on the application and finish material itself. Prepping your substrate should be done to the best of your ability, or you will risk wishing you never took on the refinishing task yourself.
The DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper was by far the best wood stripper in all our testing and reviews. The caustic stripper worked phenomenally, and it did so in short order. The Dumond Chemicals 3332 Smart Strip product was the best value option without a doubt. This product performed arguably the best out of all the strippers in our reviews, and it was the strongest biochemical stripper.
Picking a wood deck stripper is no easy task, and it sometimes seems as if you need a degree in chemistry to make sense of it all. Hopefully, these reviews make this chore a little easier for you.
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 9 Best Deck Strippers – Reviews 2020
- 1. DEFY Exterior Wood Stain Stripper – Best Overall
- 2. Dumond Chemicals 3332 Smart Strip – Best Value
- 3. Expert Solutions Wood Cleaner & Stripper – Premium Choice
- 4. #1 Deck Wood Stain Stripper
- 5. Woodrich Brand Heavy-Duty Wood Stripper
- 6. Citristrip Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel
- 7. MAX Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper
- 8. Sunnyside 658G1A Ready-Strip
- 9. Klean Strip Paint & Varnish Stripper
- Buyer’s Guide