One of the most common problems people have when staining their deck is over-application. More might be better at the ice cream shop, but not when it comes to staining decks! With staining, you’ll know if you’ve over-applied your deck stain because there will be sticky patches or puddles that just aren’t drying—the wood has absorbed all it can, so the remaining stain has nowhere to go.

Today, we’ll teach you how to fix an over-stained deck. We're using our best-selling stain: Penofin. While much of what we do probably works with other brands, it’s always a good idea to contact the stain manufacturer for the most up-to-date advice. 

Hopefully, you’ve noticed your over-application problem within 24 hours. While you’re in for a bit of elbow grease, the problem is relatively easy to solve if you notice it early.

Before you do anything else, make sure anyone with access to the deck knows to stay off of it so they don’t track stain into your home. Once you’ve cleared the space, it’s time to get to work on removing the excess stain. Let’s get started!

over applied stain on wood
over-stained deck

Step 1: Wipe areas of over-application

The best part of this DIY is there’s only one step. Simply use a lint-free rag soaked in mineral spirits or paint thinner to rub the areas of over-application—wherever the stain has puddled or is thick and sticky—to remove the excess stain. Areas of over-application may be noticeable because the stain is darker. Start with light pressure (this may be all you need). Addressing these areas with the soaked rag should remove the excess stain (without removing all of the stain), but if not, slowly increase pressure until the stain is removed.

Then, let your deck dry.

wipe areas of over-application

remove excess stain off deck
use a lint-free rag soaked with paint thinner

That’s it! Dispose of the used rags properly, and you’re all set. 

If there are blotches of lighter color where you’ve rubbed, it might be tempting to reapply the stain, but your wood has already absorbed all it can. Your best bet is to wait a few months, clean the deck (Penofin’s ProTech Cleaner is a great choice), and apply a very thin coat of stain, followed by a thorough wipe-down of the entire surface. 

If you can’t wait a few months, let everything dry for a week and then dab a very small amount of stain over the lighter spots to even out the color. Be careful though—you may end up recreating the same problem you had originally.

How to Remove Over-Applied Deck Stain

Note: This tutorial is for removing excess deck stain within 24 hours after application. If you discover you’ve over-applied several days after your project, use Penofin ProTech Cleaner to remove any excess oil. After cleaning, spots that appear lighter than the bulk of the deck can be spot treated by applying a tiny amount of stain with a lint-free rag.

Remember, while these methods probably work with other brands of stain, it’s always a good idea to contact the stain manufacturer for the most up-to-date advice. To learn more about decking and deck staining, check out our guide to staining wood, our decking guide, and this post on how to refinish a deck.