How To Apply Wood Stain

Whether you want to stain wood furniture, décor or crafts, following four key steps can lead to a successful project. Sanding the wood, applying wood stain correctly, removing excess stain and finishing with a topcoat are good ways to achieve a great-looking and long-lasting finish.


How to Sand Wood


Preparation is a key step to any wood stain project. It’s a good idea to sand away any rough spots or imperfections, like dirt, grease or dried glue before you apply wood stain. Working in the direction of the wood grain, begin with 120-grit sandpaper or sanding block, and repeat with a slightly higher grit, like 150, and end with the highest grit, such as 180. The progression will help you work out any rough patches and end with a clean, smooth finish.


When you’re done sanding, use a vacuum or clean rag dampened with mineral spirits to remove all sanding dust. This will ensure you can apply wood stain without trapping any debris in the process.


How to Apply Wood Stain


Wearing gloves to protect your hands, apply wood stain with a brush or clean, lint-free rag. Brush or wipe on the stain in the direction of the wood’s grain. For lighter color results, wipe off excess stain right after you apply it. To achieve a richer color, let the stain sit on the wood for a few minutes before wiping away the excess. Again, work in the direction of the wood grain.


Do not let the stain dry before wiping away excess. If you want an even richer finish, apply another coat of stain after the first one is dry, repeating the same steps you took with the first coat.


How to Choose the Right Wood Stain


Wood stains come in a range of colors. In addition to traditional wood tones, you can buy wood stain in shades of blue, green, gray and more. You can also combine two wood stain colors to create a custom blend.


Other than choosing a color, the right wood stain for your project depends on a few factors. First, consider where your wood will be used. This will let you determine whether you should use an oil-based or water-based wood stain.


Oil-based stains like Varathane Ultimate Spar Urethane are ideal for outdoor surfaces because they provide protection against weathering and UV rays. Meanwhile, water-based stains like Varathane Premium Fast Dry are a good choice for indoor wood, such as furniture, trim and floors, because they dry faster and have less odor than oil-based wood stains.


Another wood stain consideration is your desired finish. Oil-based stains often deliver a golden-looking finish, while water-based stains bring out natural wood grain without the golden touch.


You can also choose specialty wood stains to help you achieve unique looks on different surfaces. For example, you can give furniture a whitewashed appearance or make bare wood look like it’s weathered or aged.


For small projects, like crafts or decor, you may not need an entire can of wood stain. In these situations, Varathane Less Mess Wood Stain can be a great option. The 4-ounce bottle is topped with a sponge tip that lets you apply wood stain in a choice of colors without rags or brushes.


How to Protect Stained Wood


After you’ve stained wood, you may want to topcoat it with polyurethane to give it extra protection. Polyurethane is available in water-based formulas that dry perfectly clear and oil-based formulas that deliver a warm, golden tone.


You’ll want to choose your polyurethane based on a few factors.


Consider, for instance:


Wood stain projects can be fun and rewarding to complete. By choosing the right wood stain for your surface, completing a little prep work and finishing with a protective topcoat, you can take pride in your project and enjoy the results for years to come.

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