Wood Stain Ideas and Tips

Some might say that staining is actually more satisfying and easier than painting. There’s less area to cover, so you have plenty of time on your hands.

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And not to mention, seeing the richness of the wood grain coming through can be very satisfying as well.

But, at the same time, staining can be a temperamental and unforgiving task. The odor can be strong depending on the type of stain, hard to clean and darken some areas while leaving the rest looking mismatched.

Thankfully, this is where we step in! We’re providing you with a small guide about how to stain wood and what tips you should follow for a smooth and consistent finish all the way through.

So, without further ado, let’s jump right into it!

What is Wood Staining?

Before we tell you how to stain wood, it’s important to know what wood staining actually is.

To stain wood, you’ll need a freshly sanded wood surface. From there, you apply a coat of stain to transform the wood’s color or emphasize the wood grain.

The process of staining and sanding a piece of wood is called refinishing. When you refinish a wood surface you strip the wood of any pre-existing varnish or stain.

Next, apply a new coat of stain followed by a wood finish of your choice, such as polyurethane, and that’s it!

Don’t forget to take a look at this amazing woodworking guide to learn more about paints and stains on wood and what you can do with it!

Staining Wood: What You’ll Need

Now that you know what wood staining is, here are some essential materials you should have in your arsenal:

Pre-stain Wood Conditioner

You’ll need a light application of pre-stained wood conditioner for porous or delicate woods like cherry or pine. This conditioner will help to avoid blotchiness, and that’s very important!

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Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner
Wood is porous, and tends to absorb stain unevenly. But this wood conditioner for staining evens out the absorption of oil-based stains for natural, even results. Wood may be stained immediately after application.

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Test Runs with the Stain

Thanks to the vast number of stains that are available within your reach, it’s wise to take some time to figure out which stain type and color will complement your home’s beautiful interior.

It’s best to do some test runs on scrap pieces of wood first and see which will suit your home best.

Also, if you’re using pine wood, then you’ll be needing a gel stain to make sure to avoid any blotches that might be caused by irregular absorption.

CuttingBoard Food Grade Mineral Oil for Cutting Boards
Treats Countertops & Cutting Boards: Helps maintain the integrity of the wood on countertops and butcher blocks.

The food grade mineral oil hydrates, seals and penetrates deeply to protect from the effects of water.

Prevents cracking and drying.

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Sandpaper and Tack-Cloths

A tack cloth is a sticky cloth you use to wipe away the dust accumulated between sanding and staining. As for sandpapers, having 120, 180, and 220 grit sandpaper should be enough to get the job done.

Assorted Grit Sandpaper for Wood Furniture Finishing
Made of waterproof silicon carbide, electro coated ensures the grit distributed homogeneously, good for wet and dry sanding.

Suitable for use in art and craft, wood work, automotive, metal, and plastic applications for buffing and polishing.

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A Stain Applicator – Brushes and Foams

Based on the type of stain you’ll be using, you’ll either need a foam brush, a natural bristle paint brush, or a clean rag to apply your stain.

Remember to always read the instructions on your stain can before choosing your applicator for the job.

Stain Brush Applicator by Foxtrot
Save Time With Less Effort When You Use the Giant 7” Brush Head. Easy To Load Up and Cover More Space, Coat More Cracks All With Leaving Behind a Great Finish.

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Lint-Free Cloth, Drop Cloth, and Mineral Spirits

A lint-free cloth will help you to clean and wipe away any excess stain.

Meanwhile, the drop cloth is essential to protect your floors from oil stains or drips. And lastly, to clean out any oil-based stains from your brush, you’ll need mineral spirits.

Microfiber Cleaning Cloth,Pack of 12
Premium microfiber towels that are also perfect dish rags which don't smell, removes grease and particles from microwave oven, plates, pots or pans effortlessly.

Not only that, you will be amazed they are also terrific duster that removes fingertips from silverware and glasses easily and leaves your kitchen spotless.

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Water-Based Stains vs. Oil-Based Stains

The most common types that are used are water-based and oil-based stains.

Both these stains come in a variety of finishes and colors.

So, choosing which type will be perfect for your wood staining project will depend solely on the type of color and wood you’re using.

Water-Based Stains

If you don’t care about seeing the wood grain plan to use softwoods such as cedar or pine, then a water-based stain would be a perfect choice.

Water-based stains come in a wide range of pigments and even non-traditional colors like blues and pinks as well. Not only are they fast drying, but they’re also super easy to clean and have a low odor.

Oil-Based Stains

If you’re thinking about refinishing hardwoods such as maple or oak, then an oil-based stain is the way to go.

This stain type is essential in bringing out the elaborateness of the wood grain and is most common amongst professional woodworkers.

However, oil-based stains take longer to dry, have a strong odor, are difficult to clean up, and require more sanding.

But, if you have proper ventilation, the right tools, and are willing to put in a little elbow grease, then oil-based stains can give impressive results.

The 4 Easy Steps to Stain Wood

Finally, it’s time to get to the important part of this article – how to stain wood. Here are four easy steps that you can follow to help with your wood staining project.

Sanding the Wood

First off, start by sanding the unfinished wood with 120 grit sandpaper and make sure to sand in the direction of the grain. What the medium-grit sandpaper will do is open up the pores of the wood.

Repeat the procedure using 180 grit sandpaper, then 220 grit sandpaper, until the top of your wood feels smooth and shiny.

Once you’re done, just wipe off the dust with a tack cloth and move on to the next step.

Stirring and Applying the Stain

In this step, you’ll need a paint stick to stir the can of stain. This will help to fully mix in any pigments that have settled in the bottom.

It’s important to remember that some stains must be stirred only, not shaken. Read the instructions carefully given on the packaging first.

Next, apply water-based stains with foam or synthetic bristle brush. If you’re using oil-based stains, then you’ll need a clean rag or a paintbrush.

Always apply the stain in the direction of the wood grain. If you’re using deep grain woods, then apply it by working in a circular motion.

Wipe Away Any Excess Stains

Before you start wiping off any excess, it’s important to let the stain penetrate for 5-15 minutes if you’re using oil-based stains.

If you allow it to sit for the highest amount of time, it will result in a darker color.

Remember that water-based stains dry much faster than oil-based stains, so you should be able to wipe off any excess within two minutes of application.

Let it Dry Before Applying a Sealer.

Before applying a polyurethane sealer, allow oil-based stains dry for 5-6 hours and water-based stains dry for 2-3 hours.

If you want a smooth finish, apply the first coat of sealer and let it dry. Then lightly sand the surface with a 220 grit sandpaper and then apply a second coat. That’s it -your wood staining project is complete!

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, we’d like to say that you don’t have to be a professional to stain wood. If you have the right materials and the sense to know which stain will go best with your home’s interiors, then anybody can do it.

Remember to do your research well before you buy any stains and make a list of things you’ll need like brushes, rags, and such. Don’t forget to show us your results and let us know how our process helped you!