how to power wash your siding

How to Remove Wood Stain from Cedar Siding

One of the best finishes for cedar siding is applying wood stain. Besides being shiny and transparent, wood stain protects cedar siding from weathering. But you can only enjoy the shiny and protective layer of wood stain for as long as it lasts. When aging comes, it’ll be a whole different story. Often, wood stain ends up being the cause of mold and mildew on your cedar siding. So, if you’ve maintained a particular wood stain on your cedar siding for more than six months, and there is noticeable growth of mold and mildew, it might be time to remove the wood stain from your cedar siding.

What’s Wrong with Applying Wood Stain?

Wood stain is one of the best finishes for cedar siding due to its shiny and transparent outlook. It also serves as a protective layer on your cedar siding, keeping it safe and strong for a longer period. However, the issue with wood stain is that it attracts mold and mildew.

Generally, oil-based stains are prone to attracting mold and mildew. This is due to the naturally occurring particles in oil-based stains that are technically food for mold and mildew spores. Moreover, these oil-based stains usually retain humidity; a humid place is a great breeding place for mold and mildew. Add the aging factor to the mix, and you’ll discover that the wood stain applied to your cedar siding quickly becomes an eyesore.

Tools for Removing Wood Stain from Cedar Siding

Removing wood stains from cedar wood requires proper care and the right tools. For instance, the chemicals used in making wood stain are potentially harmful to your skin; hence you need to be careful when removing the wood stain. Simply scraping away at the wood stain would ruin your cedar siding.

The tools you’ll need to remove wood stain from your cedar siding include:

  • Steel wool
  • Scraper
  • Gloves (resistant to chemicals)
  • Sandpaper
  • Paintbrush
  • Safety goggles
  • Respiratory mask
  • Cleaning rags
  • Wood bleach or Oxygen bleach

How to Remove Wood Stain from Cedar Siding

Removing wood stains from cedar siding can be done in four steps: preparation, cleaning, and final touches. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Gather your equipment and prepare

Removing wood stains from your cedar siding can take the whole day, depending on the area you’re working on. Get your equipment ready, and possibly get a ladder or an elevated platform to help you reach the top siding. Put on your respiratory mask, safety goggles, and gloves. The wood bleach or chemical wood stripper you’ll use can overwhelm your nostrils and bare skin – which is why you need chemical-resistant gloves and a respiratory mask. Also, you’ll need your safety goggles, as debris is bound to fly once you start scraping.

  • Carefully apply the wood bleach.

You’ll need to apply the chemical wood bleach to strip off the protective layer of wood stain on your cedar siding. Use a paintbrush to slowly apply thick chunks of bleach to your cedar siding. Start your bleach application from the top siding, spread evenly across the siding, and move down gradually. Ensure that you apply the bleach generously across every area of your cedar siding.

Once you’re done applying the wood bleach, wait for about 20 minutes. Your waiting time is to allow the cedar siding to absorb the bleach properly, making scraping smooth and easy. If the bleach you’re using has a different waiting instruction, stick to it.

  • Scrape and wipe off the bleach and loosened wood stain

Once the bleach has been fully absorbed, it’s time for your scraper to get to work. When scraping, follow the path of the wood grain. You’ll notice that the wood stain feels a bit lose – if it’s still hard, you need to apply more bleach and wait a little more.

Once you’re done scraping, use your steel wool to wipe off the residual bleach and wood stain until the siding is relatively smooth. The siding would still feel damp after scraping and wiping – wait for 24 hours so it can dry completely.

  • Use your sandpaper for sanding the cedar siding

After waiting for 24 hours, your cedar siding should be dry enough for sanding. If you run your finger across it, you’ll notice that the wood stain is almost gone. A thin layer of wood stain is all that’ll be left for you to scrape thoroughly with sandpaper. If sanding with sandpaper is too strenuous, you can use an electric hand sander. In all, ensure that you do a thorough sanding job.

Once you’re done with sanding, all that should be left is your bare cedar siding. Use a damp cleaning rag to wipe off the sanding debris. Wipe off your cedar siding with a dry cleaning rag for the final cleaning. Your work is done, and you can either re-stain your cedar siding or keep it bare.


Removing wood stains from your cedar siding is a pretty tough job. Chances are that you’ll keep procrastinating or end up with a botched job. Rather than waiting till the time is right – which never really happens, you’ll be better off paying professionals to handle it. You’ll easily get the job done quickly and properly if you let the professionals handle it.

At Longhouse Specialty Forest Products in Parksville, B.C., we specialize in Western Red Cedar and coastal Douglas Fir custom cut to your project specifications. Our products range from posts and beams, siding (including pre-stained siding), board and batten, shingles, and decking (available in many custom profiles). Contact us today to get started!