Stain Adds Beautiful Color
While wood in its natural state can provide breathtaking beauty, it doesn't always match the other colors or wood tones in our home. Adding stain to bare or stripped wood can both change the color and highlight the grain pattern of any interior wood.
Since wood is a product of nature, it can vary from tree to tree, even in the same wood species. Avoid surprises: first test any stain you are considering on an inconspicuous spot to ensure that the color of the stain—in conjunction with the natural color of the wood - produces the color you desire.
Minwax® stains are available in two formats: water or oil-based. Use the guidelines below to help decide whether to use an oil-based or water-based stain on your next project:
- Give you a longer working time, enabling you to stain floors, cabinets, paneling and doors without the worry of dried lap marks.
- Do not raise the grain, eliminating the need for additional sanding.
- Are lower in odor than oil-based stains.
- Dry faster, enabling you to stain and finish in one day.
- Require only soap and water for clean-up.
- Come in a wider range of vibrant stain colors.
Oil-based penetrating stain, available in 29 colors.Learn More
Unique, non-drip oil-based formula that is ideal for vertical surfaces; can be used on both wood and non-wood surfaces.Learn More
Water Based Wood Stain
Fast-drying, available in 40 beautiful custom colors, soap and water clean-up.Learn More
|Application Tools||Recommended Preparation||Number Of Coats||Time To Recoat||Dry Time||Recommended Clear Protective Finish||Colors|
|Wood Finish™||Wood furniture, woodwork, cabinets, doors, trim, molding and hardwood floors||Natural bristle brush, foam applicator, cloth||Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner (oil-based)||1 coat. To darken the color, apply a second coat after 2-4 hours (time dependent on color).||2-4 hours depending on color||2-4 hours depending on color||Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane, Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane. For a water-based finish use Minwax® Polycrylic™ Protective Finish.||29 wood tones - click link below to see colors.|
|Gel Stain||Woodwork, doors, cabinets, furniture, molding, trim, accessories and non-wood surfaces such as metal, veneer and fiberglass - not recommended for floors||Natural bristle brush, foam applicator, cloth||Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner (oil-based)||1-2 coats depending on the surface.||8-10 hrs||24 hours||Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane and Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane.||12 wood tones - click link below to see colors.|
|Wood furniture, woodwork, cabinets, doors, molding, trim - not recommended for floors||Cloth, synthetic bristle brush, foam applicator||Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner||1 coat. For richer and darker color, additional coats may be applied.||after 2 hrs||3 hours||40 custom colors - click link below to see colors.||Minwax® Polycrylic™ Protective Finish or Minwax® Water Based Oil- Modified Polyurethane.|
|Polyshades®||Wood furniture, doors, woodwork, cabinets, accessories - not recommended for floors||Natural bristle brush||Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner (oil-based)||2 coats. To deepen the color, apply a third coat.||after 6 hrs||6 hours||Optional, for additional luster or sheen a clear protective finish can be applied. Recommended finishes include Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane or Minwax® Wipe-On Poly.||14 wood tones - click link below to see colors.|
|Water Based WoodSheen®||Wood furniture, doors, woodwork, cabinets, accessories||Cloth||Optional, to help ensure uniform acceptance of the stain and finish, use Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner||1 coat. For a deeper color and sheen, wait one hour and apply a second coat.||after 1 hr||After 1 hour, the surface is dry to the touch. Wait overnight before subjecting the wood to normal use.||Optional, for additional luster or sheen a clear protective finish can be applied. Recommended finishes include Minwax® Wipe-On Poly or Minwax® Water Based Wipe-On Poly.||6 wood tones - click link below to see colors.|
|Express Color™||Wood furniture, woodwork, cabinets, accessories||Soft cloth||Optional, to help ensure uniform acceptance of the stain and finish, use Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner||1 coat. For a deeper color and sheen, wait one hour and apply a second coat.||after 1 hr||After 1 hour, the surface is dry to the touch. Wait overnight before subjecting the wood to normal use.||Optional, for additional luster or sheen a clear protective finish can be applied. Recommended finishes include Minwax® Wipe-On Poly or Minwax® Water Based Wipe-On Poly.||4 wood tones, 4 decorative colors - click link below to see colors.|
|Wood Finishing Cloths||Wood furniture, woodwork, cabinets, accessories||n/a||Optional, to help ensure uniform acceptance of the stain and finish, use Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner||1 coat. For a deeper color and sheen, wait one hour and apply a second coat.||after 1 hr||After 1 hour, the surface is dry to the touch. Wait overnight before subjecting the wood to normal use.||Optional, for additional luster or sheen a clear protective finish can be applied. Recommended finishes include Minwax® Wipe-On Poly or Minwax® Water Based Wipe-On Poly.||5 wood tones - click link below to see colors.|
All stains require open pores for adequate absorption into the wood.
Applying stain over a finished surface will not change the color of the wood. Your cloth will simply wipe off the stain blocked from the pores by the existing finish.
Sand bare wood lightly
To open the pores in preparation for staining. Begin with a medium-grit sandpaper (#120). Work your way to a final sanding with a fine-grit sandpaper (#220). Always sand in the direction of the grain to avoid leaving unsightly scratches.
Stain can be applied with a bristle brush, a foam brush, or a cloth.
On woods with large, open pores, such as oak, mahogany and ash, increase your pressure to work the stain into the pores. Rubbing or brushing against the direction of the grain will help fill deep pores with stain. Apply a liberal amount of stain, giving the wood an ample amount to absorb.
Pay attention to how long you leave the stain on the wood before wiping off any unabsorbed liquid.
The longer the stain is left on, the deeper and richer the color will be. For consistent color, use careful timing. Never allow any stain to dry on the wood surface—it will prevent the clear finish from adhering and cause other issues.
Remove the last of any unabsorbed stain with a dry cloth, wiping in the direction of the wood grain.
Swirl marks left by a stain-saturated cloth will become even more obvious under a coat of clear finish.
When staining vertical surfaces, such as unfinished paneling or doors, try Minwax® Gel Stain.
Its thicker consistency enables it to cling to vertical surfaces without immediately running, giving you more time to apply an even coat of stain.
Remember: a stain provides color, but not protection.
Once the stain has dried, apply a clear finish to protect both the stain and the wood—and to make the final results look even more beautiful.
Always a popular hardwood, oak has a strong grain pattern and large, open pores that absorb stain readily. For that reason, oak is attractive with nearly any color of stain. It does not tend to turn blotchy, but like all woods it will stain more evenly after an application of a pre-stain wood conditioner.
To ensure that any stain penetrates and fills oak’s deep pores, apply a liberal amount of stain to the wood, then work it into the pores using a cloth in a swirling motion. Afterwards remove any unabsorbed stain by rubbing a clean cloth in the direction of the grain.
Alder and Aspen
These two hardwoods have become the darlings of the unfinished furniture industry because they’re lightweight, affordable and easy to machine. Unfortunately, they absorb stains unevenly. To help reduce blotchiness when staining, first apply a liberal coat of a pre-stain wood conditioner.
Ash and Chesnut
These hardwoods share many of the characteristics of oak and should be stained in the same manner described above for oak.
Less expensive than hard maple, birch is often substituted for maple in furniture and kitchen cabinets. But, like hard maple, birch wood does not absorb stain evenly and should not be stained with dark colored stains. When staining, first apply a pre-stain wood conditioner, then select stains lighter in color.
The distinctive reddish hue of cherry reduces the need to stain this popular hardwood. Unlike oak and ash, cherry has a subtle grain pattern and small pores which do not absorb as much stain. This makes it difficult to make significant changes to its natural color. The whitish sapwood (new growth close to the tree’s bark) often found along the edges of cherry boards can be stained using Minwax® Wood Finish™ to blend with the reddish, mature heartwood.
Mahogany (also Rosewood and IPE)
These South American hardwoods are noted for their dark, rich colors and their high levels of natural oils. In most instances, additional staining is not necessary. When it is, always use an oil-based stain, such as Minwax® Wood Finish™ or Minwax® Gel Stain, to ensure compatibility with the natural oils in these woods.
As its name implies, hard maple is an extremely dense, tight-pored wood that does not absorb much stain. Unlike oak and ash, the grain pattern of maple is uneven, causing it to absorb stains in varying degrees. To reduce any blotchiness, first apply a coat of a pre-stain wood conditioner. Even then, it is advisable to only stain maple with light to medium colored stains.
Pine (also Fraser and Cedar)
These three popular softwoods look beautiful when finished naturally or with only a light application of stain. Problems arise, however, under darker stains, for all three absorb stain unevenly, especially around knots and blemishes. Always apply a liberal coat of a pre-stain wood conditioner prior to staining and even then select light to medium colors. These woods also are less likely to exhibit blotchiness if stained and finished with Minwax® PolyShades® or Minwax® Gel Stain.
Often called “poor man’s cherry,” poplar has a grain pattern similar to prized cherry, but lacks the same reddish hue. When stained with Minwax® Wood Finish™ Cherry, Red Mahogany or other colors containing red dyes and pigments, less expensive poplar can be made to look very much like cherry.
Wood Staining Do’s and Don’ts
Always prepare the wood with a light sanding.
Stir the can thoroughly.
Stir the can thoroughly to evenly redistribute any color pigments that may have settled to the bottom.
Test any stain you are considering.
Test any stain you are considering on an inconspicuous spot to ensure that the color of the stain—in conjunction with the natural color of the wood—produces the color you desire.
Apply a second coat.
If you want a darker, richer tone, apply a second coat according to label directions.
Leave hinges, handles, knobs or pulls on a piece.
Remove hinges, handles, knobs or pulls before you start staining or finishing. Wood finishing products may change the color of any metal hardware.
Attempt to obtain a darker color by allowing any unabsorbed stain to dry on top of the wood.
This will later peel off. Stains are formulated to dry in the wood, not on the wood.
Apply a clear protective finish before the stain has dried completely.
The solvent in the finish will activate the damp stain, allowing your brush or cloth to pull the stain out of the pores of the wood.
Guide to Clear Finishes
Find out how to select and use clear protective finishes