The Best Way to Remove Staples From Wood

Staples seem to be everywhere. It's a given you'll find them in reclaimed lumber, and if they're not removed, they do serious damage to woodworking equipment. Hundreds of them show up in floors when remodeling or working with furniture. Don't force them out; use a few home remedies to ease them out.

Lumber and the Cat's Paw

The ordinary cat's paw is one of the most common ways to deal with staples in reclaimed lumber. New lumber has stapled-on tags. The cat's paw is a short -- sometimes only 6 inches in length -- tool with a sharp, bent end. The sharp end typically has a notch that makes it look like a two-pronged fork. Tap one or both sides of the fork under the staple and pry it out.

Subflooring and Shovels

Flooring installers don't use a cat's paw to remove staples after old carpet has been removed -- there are just too many of them. Instead, they've developed a smart, efficient way to remove staples with a shovel or long-handled floor scraper. Hold the tool at about a 45-degree angle and slide it forcefully along the floor. When the sharp edge catches the edge of the staples, it rips them right out.

Hand Tools

Remodeling furniture is rewarding -- if you can get the multitude of staples out. Hand tools are best for this. Pliers are probably the most widely used, followed by screwdrivers, pocket knives and the reliable staple puller.

The Obvious

Staple pullers are the most obvious tool out there for removing staples. They're used mostly for upholstery staples but work on just about any type of staple. Staple pullers are short, stubby tools with a fork at the end. Force the forks under the staple, and rock it sideways to pull the staple.

Diagonal Pliers

Diagonal Pliers are a multipurpose tool that's often used for removing single staples. The sharp, bent claws can be driven under imbedded staples to grip and hold. The bent end allows for the prying force needed to get the staple up and out. It's important to use diagonal pliers -- also known as side cutters -- gently because they can cut the staple off in the blink of an eye.

Standard Pliers

Standard pliers work fine when there's enough of the staple exposed to get a good grip. They also have a rounded nose that provides the prying force.


Needle-nose pliers are best for small, delicate staples. The pointed tips serve to grip the tiniest staples for a quick jerk.

Knives and Screwdrivers

Pocket knives are used all the time by woodworkers to remove staples. Keep one handy, and when you need to, slip the sharp point under the staple and pop it out. Screwdrivers can be used in the same manner, only take care on finished or delicate woodworking to avoid damaging the wood.

Chisels and Depressions

Chisels may be the last option for removing staples from wood. Chisels allow you to chip or carve a small depression around the staple, so that you can get a good grip on it with pliers or other tools.

The Final Solution

If all else fails, you can always bury the staple, especially if you cut the head of it off with other tools. Use a nail set to punch the legs of the staple below the surface of the wood, and then putty the holes.

Wade Shaddy

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.