How Long Does it Take for Stain to Dry? Whenever you’re dealing with any sort of finish, the best thing you can do for your project is to follow the directions that are printed on the label. Every finish and stain is different, and drying times can vary widely from brand to brand or product to product.

As a rule of thumb, you should wait 24-48 hours to allow the stain to fully dry before applying your polyurethane. If you’re extra cautious, you may even choose to wait 72 hours before applying your poly.

Keep in mind that beyond the baseline information the manufacturer provides on their label, drying times can still vary widely depending on the conditions you’re in. Below, we’ll cover some of the factors that can affect stain drying time.

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How Long Does it Take for Stain to Dry

Drying time largely depends on the type of wood stain you are using (see Types of Wood Stain). But other factors can also affect their drying time, including the brand of stain you are using, room ventilation, room temperature, and humidity.

When you go to the store and read the label of different wood stains, you’ll notice that different brands state different drying times. You’ll need only a couple of hours before you can apply a second coat of stain or polyurethane varnish when you use some brands, while others can take anywhere between 8 hours and overnight to fully dry. Some can even go as long as 24 hours before it’s safe to apply varnish, wax, or oil to the surface.

Temperature can also affect the stain’s drying time. The ideal temperature for staining wood ranges from 50° to 90° Fahrenheit. But the best time of day to stain wood is when it hits 70° Fahrenheit. Always check the stain’s label as brands vary and the stain bases they use affect the drying time.

Humidity is another important factor to consider when staining wood. If you want the stain to dry faster, find a time during the day when the humidity ranges between 50 to 70 percent. Anything higher or lower than these and you’re going to have to wait longer for the stain to dry. Using a dehumidifier and setting it to 50 percent can speed up drying time.

Another factor you should consider is the amount of air circulating in your room. Work in a well-ventilated area to speed up the stain drying process, and turn on your garage or workshop’s exhaust fan if you have one. You can also open the door and windows if you don’t have an exhaust fan in your workshop.

Oil-Based Stains

Oil-Based Stains

  • Minwax oil-based stain takes an average of 12 hours
  • Varathane stains take a minimum of 8 hours before applying a topcoat.
  • Behr stain takes 72 hours
  • Cabot stains take a minimum of 24 hours to completely dry.
  • Osmo stains take more than 12 hours to dry.

Water-Based Stains

Water-Based Stains

  • Minwax water-based stain – it takes approximately 3 hours to dry.
  • General finishes wood stain, which takes around 3 to 4 hours drying time.

Water-based stains take a much shorter time to dry than oil-based stains. Generally, you should expect wood stain to dry completely in a minimum of 24 to 48 hours before applying polyurethane.

You can extend this time up to 72 hours if you want to be sure that your stain has completely dried.

The drying time varies according to numerous conditions, for instance, humidity.

Minwax Oil-Based Stains

Minwax Oil-Based Stains

Minwax offers a variety of oil-based stains in liquid form, aerosol and gel form. There are also standard stains and performance stains.

Minwax’s standard and performance (oil-based) stains require the same amount of drying time recommended to them.

For all of them, it is 8 hours before recoating. After recoat, the time will vary according to the brand used, and it varies from 2 to 12 hours.

You can shorten the drying time by sealing the wood with dewaxed shellac like Zinsser seal coat after 2 to 3 hours and then apply a water-based polyurethane.

Minwax’s Gel (oil-based) stains require more time to dry, which is a minimum of 24 hours. The recoat time required is from 8 to 10 hours for the gel stain.

Varathane Stains

Varathane Stains

Varathane also offers different stains like Minwax. They have a standard stain(liquid), a gel-based stain, and an aerosol.

Varathane gives the dry times of their stains a controlled environment of between 70and 80 degrees and humidity of 50%.

Varathane Standard Stains

They refer to it as their premium stain. It takes 2 hours to dry and after recoating it is handled and dry enough to touch in 1 to 2 hours.

Varathane Gel Stains

This stain requires about 2 hours to dry before applying a recoat which also takes between 1 to 2 hours to dry after its application.

Overall it takes a minimum of 8 hours to dry before applying polyurethane thoroughly.

Behr Oil-Based Stain

All Behr wood stains have nearly the same recommended drying time frames.

The standard time for all of them is 1 to 2 hours until the stain is dry to touch. It is at this point that a recoat can be applied if you want to.

For the stain to completely cure, it requires at least 72 hours.

Cabot Oil-Based Stains

Cabot has a lot of different types of oil-based stains.

Most of them have almost the same drying time frame, as per the recommended.

Most of them dry after 24 hours while others take between 24 and 48 hours like their Australian Timber Oil.

Here is a list of some of the Cabot oil-based stains that have a minimum drying time of 24 hours.

Osmo Stains

Osmo recommends 12 hours at conditions of 73.4 degrees(F) and humidity of 50% for the stain to dry.

The time will be longer than 12 hours if the temperature is lower than 73.4 degrees and humidity higher.

Olympic Elite

This is a high quality wood stain. It takes around 24 to 48 hours to cure after drying depending on the moisture level of your deck the quality of wood your deck is from.

General Finishes Wood Stain

It takes around 3 to 4 hours for this brand of stain to dry under ideal conditions of 70% humidity and 70 degrees.

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity tend to prolong the dry time. Air movement and higher temperatures will make the drying processes to be faster.

Minwax Water-Based Stain

Minwax Water-Based Stain

It takes 2 hours for the stain to be touched; hence, an application of a second coat applies at that time. The dry time for this stain is 3 hours under ideal conditions.

This time is pushed forward if there is a heavy application, high humidity or low temperatures. Polyurethane can be applied after the stain is all dried up.

How Long Does Interior and Exterior Stains Take to Dry?

How Long Does Interior and Exterior Stains Take to Dry

The drying time for this two varies because of the difference in their environment.

For interior stains, the air is warmer and can be controlled with a lower humidity level which of course entirely depends on where you live. It takes around 6 to 24 hours for this stain to dry.

The outdoor stain takes longer to dry and from my experience, the general time taken is 24 to 72 hours.

This is because an outdoor environment has temperature fluctuations and can have a difference of 20 degrees or more in other cases. The humidity is also higher, especially in the early morning hours and at night.

How to Apply Wood Stain

How to Apply Wood Stain

  • Applying stain is easy. First, you need to prep your workpiece by sanding it with 100-grit sandpaper. Follow it up with 150-grit sandpaper, then with 220-grit sandpaper. Manually sand the workpiece by following the direction of the grain.
  • Use your shop vac’s soft brush attachment to get rid of dust. Dip a lint-free cloth in a little mineral spirit to remove any dust left behind by the shop vac.
  • Apply wood conditioner on the surface to prevent unsightly blotches and streaks from forming when you finally apply the stain. Let the wood conditioner dry for at least 15 minutes but no more than 2 hours. Go in the direction of the grain of the wood when you apply the wood conditioner. Wipe off any excess conditioner the wood didn’t absorb.
  • Stir the can of stain thoroughly with a stick to mix the pigment or dye that had settled at the bottom of the can before dipping a high-quality brush or a clean rag into the liquid. With a brush or a rag, gently apply the stain onto the surface. Wipe off any excess stain with a clean cloth before it dries.
  • When wiping the stain off, go in the direction of the grain of the wood. Let it dry for at least eight hours for oil-based stains. If you have a lot of time, you can wait at least overnight before applying a second coat. Apply a second coat if you want a darker hue.

How to Apply Polyurethane Finish 

How to Apply Polyurethane Finish

Water Based Polyurethane Wood Floor Finishwater based polyurethane hardwood floor finish carpet vidalondon – Wood Flooring

  • The best way to apply a polyurethane finish is by using a natural bristle brush. Brush gently in the direction of the grain with long, smooth strokes.
  • Let it dry for four hours or longer until the surface doesn’t feel wet and sticky to the touch anymore.
  • Use 220-grit sandpaper to sand it lightly.
  • Wipe off any dust with a clean cloth, and apply a second coat of polyurethane. Let it dry.
  • Keep in mind that when you use oil-based stains, you also need to use an oil-based finish. Use a water-based finish if you started with a water-based stain, and so on.

Questions and Answers

How do you know when stain is dry?

There are several ways to determine whether a surface is dry: OIL BASED products are dry if they are no longer tacky and do not emit a smell. WATER BASED products are try if they no longer feel cool to the touch and a powder will form with light sanding.

Why is my stain not drying?

Why is my stain not drying

They dry very hard and fast so brush marks can be an issue. Usually a polyurethane varnish as the finish. If you are having an issue with stain not drying it is usually going to be an oil stain or oils stain/dye stain combo. It is not uncommon to get an oil based stain that has the color adjusted with dye.

Can you speed up stain drying time?

Yes if you blow air (especially heated air) over various oil-based finishes they will dry faster.

What happens if you don’t wipe off stain?

Wood stain is designed to penetrate into the grain of the wood, not to remain on the surface. If you happen to spread it too thickly, or you forget to wipe off excess, the material that remains on the surface will become sticky.

How long should stain sit before wiping?

Don’t worry about being neat; all that matters is getting a nice, even, liberal coat over the wood. At this point, wipe the stain off immediately for a lighter tone, or for a deeper tone, leave it on for five or even 10 minutes before wiping.

Will tacky stain eventually dry?

Will tacky stain eventually dry? Penetrating wood stains are not intended to be a surface finish. If applied too thickly, they won’t dry properly and will remain tacky to the touch. Any excess stain will redissolve and come off, leaving only the stain that penetrated into the wood.

Can you leave stain on without wiping?

There’s no risk of separation at the stain level because there’s no build. If you spray the dye and leave it without wiping, you won’t get good grain definition. To improve the grain definition, apply an oil stain after the dye has dried — or over the sealer coat — and wipe off the excess.

How long should stain dry before second coat?

For a deeper color and sheen, wait one hour and apply a second coat. 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.

Should stain be sticky after drying?

Did you wipe away the excess after you applied your coat of stain? If you didn’t, the stain may still be tacky. You should not apply your clear topcoat until the stain is no longer tacky and has been allowed to dry at least as long as the label recommends.

Does heat make stain dry faster?

Temperature plays a vital role in how long the wood stains take to dry. Experts say that if the environment around the stained wooden piece is warm the stain work is more likely to dry faster than if it was in a cold environment.

What happens if you stain over stain?

Staining over stain is easy and works beautifully if your applying a dark stain over a lighter stain on raw wood. You can mix 2 or more stains together to make DIY custom stains.

Is wood stain toxic after it dries?

Is wood stain toxic after it dries

Is wood stain toxic after it dries? Whenever the stain dries and its solvent evaporates, it will be releasing a volatile organic compound or VOC. This is the one that can contribute to air pollution and can also cause health problems. … The lesser the VOC, the better it is for you.

What happens if you apply polyurethane before stain is dry?

If you apply poly before the stain is adequately dry, you’re going to end up with stain mixing into your poly, poly that takes forever to dry, or worse. In some cases, applying poly over wet stain can reduce the bonding ability of the poly, which will end up ruining your finish over time.

Can I apply a second coat of stain a week later?

Can I apply a second coat of stain a week later? You should never apply a second coat of any oil stain. The first coat is going to stain all it will and seal the wood in the process. It won’t adhere to the wood well enough to stay there.

Can you speed up polyurethane drying time?

One of the simplest ways to speed up the drying time of your polyurethane finish is by applying very thin layers. … Alternatively, if you have applied your polyurethane finish and you notice that it is taking longer to dry, then you can apply heat to it by the use of a blow dryer.

How long should stain dry before rain?

Remember, no rain 24 hours before you apply stain and no rain 48 hours after the staining project. Assuming the deck is dry and thirsty for stain, it’s time to make your deck amazing. When applying stain, a pad, brush, roller, or rag can be used to apply the stain.

What happens if it rains on fresh stain?

What happens if it rains on fresh stain

If it rains within 48 hours after you apply the stain, the water will soak into the wood pores and try to displace the stain. This will result in a splotchy surface rather than an even tone. If it rains right after you apply the stain, the stain will peel and flake off.

Why is stain still tacky?

If you applied the stain correctly, and it still remained tacky, it could be due to rainy weather or high humidity. … In either case if the tackiness doesn’t go away, wipe the wood down with mineral spirits or naphtha to remove most of the stain, let it dry thoroughly, then try again using a fresh can of stain.

Can you walk on floors after staining?

What happens if it rains on fresh stain

On average, you can walk on the floors approximately 24 hours after the application of the final coat. We recommend that for hours 24-48 that you wear socks only – no shoes, no bare feet.

What can I use to wipe stains off?

Remove the excess stain with cleaning wipes – old t-shirts work in a pinch, too – by wiping with the grain.
If the stain has dried too much, it will be difficult to remove. Loosen it by applying more stain and rubbing vigorously. If it dries hard, paint thinner will loosen it.

Will stain lighten as it dries?

Stains lighten as they dry, then return to their damp color when a finish is applied. So the quick method of seeing the color you’ll get with the finish applied is to look at the stain while it is still damp. … It will dull the brightness of the color a little.

Do you have to topcoat stain?

While staining creates a rich, deep color that highlights natural wood grain, it does not provide long-term protection. Without a protective top coat, wood can be damaged easily due to contact with water, food, or sharp objects. A polyurethane top coat protects the wood from scratches, stains and water damage.

How do you fix staining mistakes?

How do you fix staining mistakes

  • Find Out The Problem You’re Dealing With Before Going For The Fix
  • 1. Apply Another Layer Of Stain On The Uneven Color Area
  • 2. Apply Thinner To Fix The Uneven Shade
  • 3. Apply An Extra Coating of Wood Stain To Even Out
  • 4. Sanding Stained Wood To Restart
  • 5. Fixing Blotchy Wood Stain With Sanding And Gel Stain
  • 6. Fixing Sticky Wood Stain
    • a) Using Stain Thinner
    • b) Applying More Stain
  • 7. Dealing With Stains Not Penetrating Wood
  • 8. Apply Mineral Spirit To Fix Drips And Streaks In Stained Wood
  • 9. Using Chemical Stain Stripper

Should I sand between coats of stain?

Should I sand between coats of stain

Note: Sanding between coats is not necessary, but it will provide a better finish. After a coat has dried, use 220 or 240 grit sandpaper or extra fine steel wool to lightly sand surface. … Sanding produces a white film over the finish, but will disappear as you apply the next coat. Do not sand the final coat.

What temperature is good for staining a deck?

70 degrees Fahrenheit
Apply stain only at the proper temperature. For most stains, 70 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimum, with the safety range from 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Stains do vary, so check the label first. Avoid high humidity and staining on hot surfaces.

Can you stain wood in direct sunlight?

Can you stain wood in direct sunlight

Extreme heat or sun can work against you when you are staining your deck. The direct sunlight can cause the deck to dry too quickly which will leave water marks. If the weather is forecasting for no rain, and you can expect the temperatures to be below 80 or 85 degrees Fahrenheit, make a plan to stain your deck.

How can I speed up varnish drying?

Pointing a fan at the drying varnish may also help. Wipe the surface of the varnish lightly with a rag moistened with turpentine or mineral spirits. Don’t rub the varnish, just wipe it lightly enough to remove the tackiness from the surface. Give the varnish another day or two under the breeze of a fan to cure.

Do you have to remove old stain before restaining?

Yes, it would be best if you stripped, remove the old stain before you restain. If the stain on the surface of your deck is old, worn out and peeling, the first thing you should do in your quest to renew the deck is to remove all the old stain. Solid deck stains offer much-needed protection to the wood.

Can wood stain fumes kill you?

Wood stain fumes are harmful to human health, but there are things you can do to prevent risking your health and safety. Proper ventilation is very important until the strong smell of wood stains fade. You can use activated charcoal or baking soda to help eliminate odor.

Even though fumes from latex and oil paints can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, they do not poison the body when used as directed. … This can happen in a poorly ventilated space or when large areas are being painted or stained.

How long does it take for wood stain smell to go away?

Allow at least eight hours for the air to circulate out of your home. Turn off fans and purifiers if the odor has faded after this time has elapsed. If it has not faded, keep your home ventilated until the stain cures.

Can I use old stain?

According to Rockler, manufacturers of wood stains that are oil, water or solvent based say the stains have a general shelf life of three years. Three years is a good baseline if you’re looking for one, but the truth is, with proper care and storage, wood stain can last much longer.

Can you sleep in house after staining floors?

Can you sleep in house after staining floors

The house is not inhabitable for a minimum of 2 days after the job is completed, and better to stay out for at least 5 as the fumes/off-gassing is not advisable to breathe in, even if there are other rooms to sleep in.

What kind of rag is best for staining?

Reclaimed white polo. Rags made from reclaimed white polo shirts are the ideal, most cost-effective solution for staining. …
Amber knit rags. …
New cotton white t-shirts. …
Paper/disposable wipes.

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How Long Does it Take for Stain to Dry