Your woodworking project is complete with a beautiful stain! Now, how long does it take for the wood stain to dry? If you are sealing your finished product, the wait time is critical to keep your project looking beautiful.
Any seasoned woodworker knows sealing a piece of wood furniture is key to preserving its beauty. Applying sealants, like polyurethane, protects the furniture from general wear and tear, moisture, and weather elements, keeping the project looking flawless for years to come.
We’ve done a lot of woodworking around here… and made our fair share of mistakes! If you are a beginner woodworker, make sure you are familiar with the best type of wood for your project, as well as the secrets to finding cheap lumber and other lumber buying tips. The type of lumber and project you are building greatly impacts how the stain will take to the surface.
Generally speaking, wood stains have very quick drying times compared to paint. However, if you are eager to put the finished product to use, a few days can seem like an eternity.
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Wood Stain Drying Time
Depending on the type of stain you are using, most stains are dry and cured within 24 hours to 48 hours. After that time, it’s safe for additional coats or to apply polyurethane or the sealer of your choice.
If you are going to do multiple coats of stain, you can typically apply another coat of wood stain after 2 to 4 hours.
Of course, the piece will need additional time to cure after any subsequent coats of stain.
How Long For Wood Stain To Dry: A Comparison Across Brands
Don’t forget that product specifications can vary across brands, so be sure to check the back of your wood stain can to see what the manufacturer recommends for the wood stain you are using.
Here’s a quick description of some of the major brands of popular stain types so you can see the broad range of suggestions from the brands for how long wood stain takes to dry.
- Minwax Oil-Based Wood Stain: recommends a minimum of 4-6 hours of drying time with the oil-based wood stains before applying your sealer.
- Varathane Oil-Based Wood Stain: stain will dry in 2-4 hours, allow you to recoat after 2 hours if needed. However, you need to allow 8 hours of drying time before using an oil-based polyurethane and 24 hours before using a water-based polyurethane.
- Minwax Water-Based Wood Stain: dries in 1 hour, and can be top coated in 23 hours
- Varathane Water-Based Wood Stain: can recoat after 2 hours, needs 3 hours before sealer
- Minwax Gel Stain: can reapply after 8-10 hours, but needs 24 hours before using a finish
- Varathane Gel Stain: need 2 hours in between coats and 4-8 hours before top coat
- General Finishes Gel Stain: will be dry within 12-24 hours, but needs 72+ hours to cure if you’re using a water-based finish.
If you are in a hurry, some brands have even come out with a specific stain to use that is fast-drying (like Varathane’s Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain, which is dry in just 1 hour).
Also, be sure to allow for plenty of time for the project to dry between applications and before using the furniture piece. It’s always best to allow the stain additional time to dry than necessary.
Staining wood furniture is a test of patience as well as logistics. Just like with any other paint or stain application, factors like weather and humidity, among others, can drastically affect drying time. Choose your environment and season carefully when planning woodworking projects.
Factors that Affect Stain Drying Time
Type of Stain
A primary consideration for drying time is the type of stain. Oil and water-based stains are two of the most popular stains in woodworking. Generally speaking, water-based stains dry much faster than other types of wood stain.
In fact, water-based wood stains are usually dry within a few hours of the first coat. Oil-based stains can take up to 3 days to completely dry. After the stain has fully cured, you can seal the project with polyurethane or apply additional coats of stain until you reach the desired shade.
Other wood stains that come in aerosol, gel, or liquid forms all have varying drying times, so be sure to review the product specifications before beginning your project
Trying to find the perfect day to complete a project is annoying, but weather conditions are a critical factor when it comes to staining. While the warmer months are closer to the ideal temperature, this could also mean higher humidity levels.
The ideal temperature for staining wood is around 70F degrees; however, temperatures between 50F and 90F degrees are also acceptable, depending on the humidity level.
Humidity is a trickier beast to tame. Because most of us choose to do our home improvement projects during warmer months, humidity is much more present. If the air is too humid, the moisture in the air will be absorbed into the stain and will drastically slow the drying time.
If the outdoors aren’t playing nice, move your project inside to a well-ventilated area. Use a dehumidifier to control the moisture levels. Even though the room will be cooler, it won’t be enough to affect drying time.
Thickness of Coat
Much like with painting, always apply a thin coat of stain instead of slathering the product onto your project. This accomplishes a few different things: the stain will dry faster, more evenly, and have an even distribution of color.
Keep in mind that you should also wipe up excess stain from the surface of the wood after applying it. Most brands recommend letting the wood stain sit for 5 to 15 minutes to absorb into the wood and then wipe off all of the excesses with a clean lint-free rag.
If the stain is applied too thick, the surface will be tacky and sticky to the touch and will not dry evenly. Thicker coats could result in longer drying times and a splotchy result as only portions of the stain could penetrate the wood’s surface.
This is why it’s critical to allow the stain to dry between each coat. It’s a process that requires patience but will save you a lot of heartaches.
A debatable point, but something to consider nonetheless. Brands can have a significant impact on the integrity of the final product. While they may be similar, each brand has its own formula for its line of stains.
If you review the product specifications, you will notice various nuances in the instructions, optimal conditions, and drying times for each wood stain. Even if they are the same color, combining different brands can leave you with an undesirable result.
I don’t recommend combining different brands or even mixing old stains and new stains. Even if they are the same color, the depth, tone, and drying times will vary.
Always follow the specific instructions on the back of your can of wood stain for the best results.
FAQs for Wood Stain Dry Time
Wood stain should feel dry to the touch when it has completely dried. Be sure to note the instructions on the container for specific drying times before applying additional coats of stain or a sealer, like polyurethane.
To make the stain dry faster, you can try to warm up the air and reduce the humidity. You can do this with a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air and a space heater to warm up the temperature of the space.
For a lighter stain, wait 5 to 15 minutes before wiping away. For a deeper shade, wait 30 minutes. However, don’t allow the stain to dry on the surface before wiping. If it dries, it will become tacky and be hard to wipe off.
For the best results, refer to the instructions on the stain’s container. Some stains are ready for another coat in as little as 1-3 hours, while others require 72 hours.
Wood stain dries faster in warmer, mild conditions with lower humidity levels.
For best results, wait at least 24 hours before sealing the wood. If you are concerned the stain isn’t quite dry enough, wait another day before applying poly.
If you’re wondering how long it takes for wood stain to try, hopefully, this guide was helpful for you. Keep in mind that there are several factors that affect the stain’s drying time, including the type and brand of stain, weather conditions, and the thickness of the coat.
For best results, always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the drying and curing times required for the specific wood stain you are using for your project.
Do you have any other questions about wood stain dry time?
Let us know in the comments below!