How Long Does Stain Take To Dry?

How Long Does Stain Take To Dry

Stain is usually the finishing touch to a long project. It’s that thing that makes everything just look complete.

With so many stains available to get the perfect finish on the wood, there are often a lot of questions about it.

Not only “what color stain goes best with this” or “what type of stain should I use”, but there are questions about the timing. 

It comes as no surprise that a stain isn’t something that dries immediately. A common problem that many people have is overestimating how quickly the stain can dry.

They apply the stain and immediately want to use the item. That’s a surefire way to ruin the whole project. You need to have patience when it comes to wood stains – because some of them can take days to dry!

If you want to learn more about stains, just keep reading. We’re going to go through

What Is Stain?

What Is Stain

First off, let’s clarify – what is stain? Stain is a product that is used to color wood. It’s a great way to help hide any imperfections such as scratches on a wooden surface.

There are a number of different stains with different recipes. Some stains are thick, others are thin, and of course there are hundreds of different colors. 

These products are typically applied to a surface using a kind of brush, but other implements can be used, too. Some stains can even be sprayed onto surfaces! It all depends on the type of stain you have. 

It’s important to note that a stain is not a finish. The product doesn’t protect the wood in any way, it merely adds color to it.

So, once you stain a piece, you will still need to apply a finish before your wood is protected from the environment

The only exception to this rule are the 2-in-1 polyurethane and stain combo products you can buy, which is both a stain and a finish.

You may be able to find these products in your local hardware store, as well as various sites online. 

What Can it Be Used On?

As you might have guessed, stains are used on wooden surfaces. However, some stains can also be used on other surfaces, though this is not their main use. 

How Long Does It Take To Dry?

Stain drying time depend on the type of stain, environmental factors, and how it was applied. Generally, you would expect a stain to need around 24-48 hours to dry properly, but there are always exceptions to this. 

Let’s take a look at what factors will have an effect on how long you need to wait before doing anything else to your stain. 

What Factors Affect How Long It Takes To Dry?

Below, we will take a look at some important things that will determine how long you will need to wait before applying a second coat of finishing coat to your project. 

First, let’s take a look at this list of some popular stain products and their drying time:

  • General Finishes Dye Stain (water-based) – 1 hour
  • Varathane Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain (oil-based) – 1 hour
  • Minwax Water-Based Wood Stain (water-based) – 3 hours
  • Tried and True Wood Stain (oil-based) – 3 hours
  • Defy Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain (water-based) – 3-4 hours
  • General Finishes Wood Stain (water-based) – 3-4 hours
  • #1 Deck Wood Stain Deck Stain and Sealer (water-based) – 4 hours
  • Varathane Premium Gel Stain (oil-based/gel) – 4 hours
  • Minwax PolyShades Semi-Transparent (oil-based) – 8 hours 
  • Osmo Decking Soils Natural Exterior Wood Finishes (oil-based) – 12 hours
  • Behr Advanced Formula Wood Stain (oil-based) – 12 hours
  • Minwax Gel Stain (oil-based/gel) – 24 hours
  • Cabot Wood Toned Deck & Siding Stain (oil-based) – 24 hours
  • General Finishes Gel Stain (oil-based/gel) – 24 hours
  • SamaN Interior Wood Stain (water-based) 24-48 hours
  • Olympic Elite Wood Stain and Sealant (water-based) – 24-48 hours
  • Olympic Elite Woodland Stain (oil-based) 24-48 hours
  • Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood (oil-based) 48-72 hours
  • Krylon Exterior Semi-Transparent Wood Stain (oil-based/aerosol) – 48 hours
  • Tried and True Wood Stain (oil-based) – 48 hours

The Type Of Stain You Applied

Generally, water-based stains will dry a lot faster than stains that are gel-based.

The weather conditions will have more impact on their drying times if they’re water-based, though. Oil-based stains are popular as they are relatively fast drying.

Times will also simply vary by brand. The drying time is typically written on the product, so always refer to this. 

The Weather Conditions / Environment 

As we briefly mentioned, the weather conditions will impact the time a stain needs to dry.

Humid or wet environments will result in a longer drying time needed. Similarly, if there is little to no ventilation, the stain will need more time to thoroughly dry. 

Stains generally dry best at temperatures between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit, with 70 being the best.

However, this can vary once again depending on the brand, so always check this, so you can make any alterations you need to. 

The Type Of Wood The Stain Was Applied To 

Drying time is heavily impacted by the type of wood you’re applying the stain to, as well. If you’re applying the stain to soft wood, or a wood that’s porous, it will need more time to dry.

This is because the stain will unevenly be absorbed into the wood. This often results in imperfect staining, too, because of the unevenness. 

Wood that you will need to be careful of when it comes to staining include:

  • Spruce
  • Fir
  • Maple
  • Alder
  • Pine
  • Aspen

To avoid this issue, however, you can apply a wood conditioner. If you’re worried about the type of wood you’re using, the smart option would be to choose a gel-based stain.

Final Thoughts

Stains can turn a dull piece of wood into something beautiful, but they can take a lot of time to dry. Depending on the product you use, the drying time can take between 1 and 72 hours. 

This drying will also depend on the type of wood you are working with, and the environment in which it will dry.

If you are unsure about these aspects, we recommend letting it dry 50% longer than the recommended time. 

Hopefully this article helped you understand stains a little more, and will help you in your future project! If you have any question, please leave them in the comments below!


Diarmuid Brock

I'm a carpenter by day and an amateur woodworker by night. I don't believe in limitations, and I love to help others. I'm here to answer your questions and make your life simpler. I craft and create with all-natural, reclaimed, and repurposed materials.

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