How To Prep For Wood Stain

How To Prep For Wood Stain?

The first time before applying stain to any wood surface is first to understand the wood you plan to stain as certain woods do not absorb the stain color for the simplest of reasons: the wood is too dense and unable to soak it up.

Even if the color is applied like paint, the process of what it does to the surface is different as the stain is needed to penetrate the wood to change color, whereas paint spreads and dries on top, leaving the finished coat with no need to be absorbed.

If the wood in question is suitable for staining, then there are many perks to applying stain.

It enhances the piece’s overall look and seals the wood surface to prevent moisture from soaking, causing the wood to rot and damp.

With various options to choose from for several different reasons, some stains are clear, colored, and more opaque or transparent, so it’s worth having a look into which suits you and your task at hand the most.

When all this has been done, and you have found a suitable stain for your piece of furniture, follow this quick and easy guide I’m about to walk you through.


The initial and crucial step is the sand of the surface intended to be painted.

It’s key to remember that too little sanding and the stain will not be able to soak into the surface unless it’s raw wood.

Too much sanding and the paint will oversoak into the fine scratches turning the finished product a different color or shade that’s wanted.

You aim for an evenly smooth finish and not leave any scratches; along the way, and any blemishes and knocks, you can but remember not to apply too much pressure when doing so.

Cleaning & Damp Wipe Down

Cleaning & Damp Wipe Down

Once you’re happy with the finish and smoothness of the item, it’s essential to thoroughly clean any remaining dust, dirt, and debris from the wood; it’s recommended to use a dry microfiber cloth or maybe a hoover if you have one to dispose of.

Once cleaned thoroughly, get a standard cloth and gently dampen it, keeping in mind that you do not want the fabric so wet that it leaves puddles or excess water on the surface of your staining, as this can interfere with the staining process and overall finish.

Slightly damp is what you’re looking for; once you have your cloth read, gently rub down all areas intended for staining.

This allows the wood’s pores to swell and open, allowing full penetration of the stain onto the surface and into its pours, exactly where you want it to be.

Only wipe down with a damp cloth if you cover the whole surface as partial dry spots will not soak as well as wipe down the surface.

This is known as “Popping the grain.”

Applying Stain

It’s essential to ensure that the furniture has had plenty of time to breathe and fully dry; this is a common mistake by many as they apply stain straight after the wipe down.

Once the furniture has dried, apply the stain with a rag or cloth generously and massage the color all over the area you wish to stain; leave for several minutes, then wipe off.

Repeat this process until all the area is covered in stain and allow time to dry.

Remember not to leave pools or puddles of any stain as this will soak into the wood similarly; an evenly spread coat of paint is the aim here.

It’s also handy to know that you should use lint-free rags, or if you have an old cotton t-shirt, these are usually perfect for the job.

Ensuring you have good rags to apply the stain is crucial as you do not want to leave the task half stained as this can later cause issues when trying to continue from where you stopped due to insufficient rags.

In Summary

There are many forms of stain, the most common being water-based or oil-based stated before.

It is highly recommended to research the wood, stain, and method on how to apply it.

Usually, the paint has instructions and guidelines on how to use each color, varying depending on the brand and type of stain.


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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