Learn about the 4 most common types of wood stain with product examples!
Wood stain is a great way to add color and protection to your woodworking and furniture project. It’s a perfect alternative to painting the surface of a project. There are many different types of wood stain available, each with its own unique characteristics. Let me show you four of the most common types of wood stain and discuss their advantages and disadvantages. I’ll also share examples with some of my favorite products.
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Table of Contents
Oil-based stains are one of the most popular types of wood stains due to their ease of use and long-lasting finish. These stains penetrate deep into the wood grain, creating a durable finish that can last for years. Oil-based stains come in a variety of colors, so you can easily find one that matches your project’s aesthetic. The downside to oil-based stains is that they take longer to dry than other types of wood stain, and they can be difficult to clean up after use and are more toxic. See a full tutorial on how to clean paint brushes after using oil based products here.
Interior oil based stain products:
- Varathane Classic Wood Stain – Easy to apply, recoat in only 2 hours, available in at least 25 colors
- Varathane Poly Stain– Combines stain and sealer in one, recoat in 2 hours, available in at least 13 colors
- Minwax Penetrating Stain – Dries in 2 hours, available in 25 plus colors, easy to use
- General Finishes Penetrating oil based stain– Highest quality oil based stain, most expensive and only available in at least 13 colors.
Exterior oil based stain products:
- Cabot Exterior Wood Stain – Ideal for use on exterior wood decks, siding, fences and outdoor furniture, available in at least 4 colors, 1 coat penetrates and second coat adds dimension and seals.
- Cabot Australian Timber oil – Australian Timber Oil penetrates deep into woods to accentuate natural wood depth and patina while allowing the wood grain to still show, available in 5 colors.
- Behr Premium Semi Transparent Oil based exterior stain and sealer– One coat application, can be tinted to a range of colors
Water-based stains are becoming increasingly popular due to their ease of use and quick drying time. These stains are easy to apply and provide excellent coverage with minimal effort. Water-based stains also come in a wide range of colors, so you can find one that perfectly matches your project’s design. The downside to water-based stains is that they don’t penetrate as deeply into the wood grain as oil-based stains do, so they may not last as long over time.
Interior water based stain products:
- General Finishes Water Based Stain– General Finishes water based stains have the advantages of oil based stains but in a water based formula. This is a high quality water based stain in at least 20 different color options.
- Minwax® Wood Finish® Water-Based Semi-Transparent Color Stain– One coat finish and dries in one hour. This penetrating, water-based stain is ideal for small projects, unfinished furniture, cabinets, doors and trim.
- Varathane Classic Water based stain – Water based penetrating stain offers timeless color with low odor. Available in at least 13 colors. Recoat in 2 hours.
Exterior water based Stain products:
- Valspar One-Coat Solid Stain and Sealer – One coat stain and sealer, 4 hour dry time, many color options
- Cabot Neutral Base Solid Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer – Acrylic water based formula, 6 hour dry time, 50 plus colors
- BEHR Premium Solid Color Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer – 2 coats recommended, available in 60 plus colors, 2 hour dry time
Gel stains are a great option for those looking for an easy way to add color and protection to their projects without having to worry about brush strokes or drips. Gel stains come in a variety of colors and have a thick consistency that makes them easy to apply evenly without creating brush strokes or drips. The downside is that gel stains take longer than other types of wood stain to dry, so you may need more patience when using them on larger projects.
Gel stain products:
- General Finishes Gel Stain – Easy-to-use stains; simply wipe on with a cloth or applied with a foam brush. At least 15 colors options.
- Minwax Gel Stain – Great non drip stain that can be used on different surfaces including: wood, plywood, veneer, fiberglass, metal and molded fiberboard. Available in at least 7 different colors.
- Unicorn Spit Gel stain– If you are looking for a vibrant, colorful, and non toxic gel stain product this is it! Can be used on a handful of different surfaces. Quick drying and easy to use. Unicorn SPit also comes in more traditional stain colors as well.
Wax finishes provide an attractive sheen while also protecting the surface from dirt and moisture damage. Wax finishes come in both paste form and liquid form, making them easy to apply with minimal effort. The downside is that wax finishes don’t penetrate into the wood grain like other types of wood stain do, so they may not last as long over time or be as durable as other options. Additionally, wax finishes require regular maintenance in order for them to remain effective at protecting the surface from dirt and moisture damage.
Wax finish products:
- Minwax paste finishing wax – This wax product is available in two colors; natural and dark. It protects and adds hand-rubbed luster to any finished wood surface. It is recommended for furniture, antiques, woodwork, cabinets, doors, paneling and accessories that do not need a hard protective coat of polyurethane.
- Dixie Belle Best Dang Furniture Wax– If you are looking for a wax color other than dark or light, Dixie Belle might have you covered. Their wax products come in 5 different shades from black, gray, clear, brown and white.
- Amy Howard wax products – Amy Howard has a great wax product line from Beeswax to clear wax to liming wax. They are high quality wax products that are fairly affordable.
When it comes to choosing the right type of wood stain for your project, there are many factors you should consider such as ease of use, drying time, color selection, durability, etc.. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages which should be taken into account when making your decision. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference which type will work best for your project!