How to Stain Wood

How to Stain Wood: Tips and Guides

Even though the natural state of wood offers marvelous beauty, it may not match the other colors in your home all the time. Introducing stain to stripped or bare wood can both improve its color, highlighting the pattern of grain to any wood. Because wood is a natural product, there are still some differences from one type of wood to another, even with woods under the same species. To avoid surprises, learning how to stain the wood the proper way will surely make things more beautiful in your home. Achieve the color that you desire through this artistic process.

What You Need

  • Brushes
  • Scrap wood (for testing)
  • Stain (either old-based or water-based)
  • Wood conditioner

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1 – Test First

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Before starting the process of staining wood, it is recommended to test a stain first on a piece of wood, preferably scrab, before actually starting on actual furniture. Keep in mind that staining will be applied permanently, so any mistake may be too costly to reverse.

Step 2 – Apply Wood Conditioner

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This part of the process is very important in order to make sure that stain will not leave some unsightly blotches on the wood. To do this, make sure to apply a very thin coat of wood conditioner ahead, and use a modest brush. Allow the conditioner to stay for about 15 minutes, allowing it to dry before actually applying the stain. There is no need to sand the wood at this point.

Step 3 – Preparing Oil-Based Stains

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The most common types of stains used for these projects are oil-based stains. They usually consist of pigments and dyes, combined with mineral spirits. At this point, it is very important to ensure that the can is thoroughly stirred before staining. This will help in bringing the pigments and dyes to the surface from the bottom, thus allowing you to achieve the full color for the stain. With oil-based stains, you can also expect to see fumes, which is why it is very important to do the staining in an area that is well-ventilated.

Step 4 – Apply the Stain

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Use a rag or a brush to apply stain, according to your preference. With the use of a staining brush, apply stain both in the direction of the grain and against it. You can never expect to be neat while working with stains, which is why there is no need to stress it out. What is important is that you can get an even, nice and liberal coating of stain over the wood.

Step 5 – Wipe Off Excess Stain

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In order to achieve a lighter tone, immediately wipe the stain off. In order to achieve a deeper tone, you can allow it to stay for about 5 to 10 minutes before wiping. For all other excess stains, wipe them off in the direction of the wood grain. This will provide a guarantee that the stain goes into the wood, rather than staying on top. This will show the grain off of the wood, making it more beautiful.

In order to avoid those fumes, you may want to use a water-based stain. An advantage that you can expect is that they are available in different colors. The process of applying water-based stain is similar to that of applying oil-based.

Step 6 – Apply Finish

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Since stain does not give a finish, it is helpful to apply the finish on top. If you do not have enough time for this, you may want to go for a product that offers both stains and finish in a single coat. However, these types of products may need to be brushed carefully, brushing along the wood grain. If possible, make sure to use a high-quality brush for this.

Step 7 – Cleanup and Reminders

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It would help to keep old stain cans. The stains could be pricey, but a good thing about stains is that they do not have the tendency to set inside the can, unlike the finish. A stain can is still good for future use.

Stain can be mixed in order to achieve a customized color, given that both of the stains are created by the same manufacturer. Both should be either oil-based or water-based. Avoid mixing water with oil. Take time in measuring the amounts of every stain, recording them down, so that you can duplicate them if required.


By learning how to stain wood, you can save money. However, staining can turn out to be a scary endeavor since it is permanent. By following the steps mentioned above, you can perform the process carefully. Whether you are planning to improve the way your furniture at home looks, or create a uniformity in the items indoors, staining wood is a good process that you may want to take into consideration. If this article has helped you, please feel free to share. You can also leave your thoughts in the comments section below.