How To Fix Tacky Deck Stain – DIY Hacks

Rookie mistakes are all too common in DIY projects, including deck staining. Tacky deck stains are one of these problems, creating problems for you and your guests as you walk along the boards of your patio or deck. How do you fix this situation?

To fix tacky deck stain, wipe off excess stain with a lint-free cloth if still wet. If already dry, dampen a lint-free cloth with mineral spirits to clean off the stain instead.

This article will explore the reasons why deck stains may turn out to have a tacky texture. It will also detail how to remove and replace poor stain jobs step by step. 

Why Is My Deck Still Tacky After Painting?

As a DIYer, it’s discouraging having to fix sticky decks after long hours of prepping and staining. Heads up! Your deck stain is not the culprit. 

Your deck stain is still sticky after painting because you applied too much stain. This often happens when you lay more than one coat of stain. The excess stain does not soak into the wood, forming a thick coating that becomes sticky in hot weather. 

Is this a bit confusing? Let’s dig deeper. A typical deck stain contains dyes, pigments, and solvents. Deck wood absorbs the dye and pigment, leaving most of the solvent on the wood surface. 

stained deck 2

The solvent will evaporate if there’s not enough pigment on the surface. However, the solvent becomes sticky when there’s too much pigment not absorbed into the wood. 

Furthermore, deck stains become sticky when you apply them on days with high humidity. It’s why most professionals prefer to stain on days with mild or low humidity. Furthermore, they also choose to stain under a shed. 

Why Is My Deck Paint Still Tacky?

Sometimes, your deck wood is the culprit. Woods with high content may soak in the desk stains for a few minutes before pushing the stains back to the surface. 

As a DIYer, always do your research on the deck wood before applying deck stains. In fact, it’s best to research before the wood even leaves the construction mill. 

Exotic wood varieties like redwood, teak, and rosewood are often the culprit behind your sticky deck stains. These exotic varieties have a high oil content and may not soak in oil-based stain.

Many DIYers talk about doing a perfect deck stain on exotic woods only to return to a sticky mess after a while. Go for water-based deck stains if you are interested in staining your oily-wood deck.

Will Tacky Deck Stain Eventually Dry?

Tacky deck stains will never dry out. Instead, it will trap in more moisture content and destroy the underlying wood. The solution is to wipe off the excess stain before it’s too late. 

How to Remove Tacky Deck Stains 

There are different methods of removing excess stains from decks. Most deck stain brands have specific products to handle tacky stain. 

For example, Cabot Deck Correct manufacturers recommend using the Problem Solver Wood Cleaner to remove excess stains.

You may also try out these other methods for removing sticky desk stains;

Use Mineral Spirits to Remove Tacky Deck Stains 

  1. Get a lint-free cloth and mineral spirits and follow these steps:
  2. Soak a lint-free cloth in mineral spirits
  3. Rub it on the excess stain (areas with excess stain are usually darker or sticky) 
  4. Rub gently to avoid removing too much stain
  5. Wait for the residue of the mineral spirit to dry

You’ll notice lighter spots where you applied the mineral spirits. Don’t add a layer of stain to cover those spots; the wood has absorbed all it can. Wait for a few months to cover it up. 

Use Sandpaper to Remove Sticky Deck Stains 

Use sandpaper to remove those sticky parts. Start with low-grit sandpaper to prevent the stain from clogging it quickly. 

Start with 60-grit sandpaper until all the sticky part is gone. Then, move up to 240-grit sandpaper to smoothen the previously stained area. After sanding, clean the area with mineral spirits before applying the deck stain. 

How Do I Know If The Deck Stain Is Dry? 

There are different ways to know if your deck stain is dry. 

If your deck stain is water-based, the dried parts will have a dull appearance. Also, it will no longer feel cool to touch. On the other hand, dried oil-based deck wood stains do not emit odors or look tacky. Oil stain emits odors when wet. 

How to Make Deck Stain Dry Faster 

Deck stains become sticky when it takes too long to dry out. Thankfully, you can increase the drying time of your deck stains with these options:

Thin the Stain with a Drying Agent 

Deck stain manufacturers often advise users not to thin stains with mineral spirits or lacquer. However, these drying agents may save your deck from sticky stains. 

Drying agents make the paint dry up faster. Use a drying agent compatible with your deck stain. Don’t forget the basic rule: solvents with similar compositions are compatible. An oil-based solvent is primarily suitable for oil-based stains

You can also thin deck stains with denatured alcohol. Furthermore, always check the label on your deck stains to know which drying agent to choose. 

Apply Stain During Low Humidity 

Paint your deck in the early morning hours before it gets too hot. Don’t paint during periods. You may also use a portable dehumidifier on your deck stains for a faster result. 

Cover the Deck with a Makeshift Shed 

Be creative. Prop up a makeshift shed over the deck. Mind you, this is quite a time-consuming and stressful option. But, it’s pretty effective on hot sunny days. 

Use a Water-Based Deck Stain 

Water-based stains dry faster and do not come with all the baggage typical in oil stains. You can easily apply water-based stains in hot or sunny conditions with ease. Furthermore, it’s easy to know if the water-based stain is dry or not. 


You don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars to a contractor to fix tacky deck stains. You need the right tools to correct the damages without hiring a contractor. Who said being a DIYer isn’t fun?