Considering my life has recently revolved around staining this beast of a library cabinet, I thought a “How-to” post was appropriate. If you haven’t stained furniture before, or just want to make sure you’re doing it the right way, I am going to walk you through the basics of exactly how to stain furniture.
What you’ll need:
Paint and varnish stripper and putty knife (if the existing finish needs to be removed); Odorless Mineral Spirits; Steel Wool; Tack Cloth; Sandpaper; Pre-Stain Conditioner; Staining cloths; Stain; Polyurethane or finishing wax; protective gloves.
(First of all, be sure to check your state’s regulations for disposing of these types of materials when you are finished. You are working with toxic chemicals that need to be disposed of properly. I usually seal my cloths etc. in a metal container filled with water.)
How to stain:
The first step is to prep your furniture, which consists of stripping off any existing finish and sanding down to bare wood. (Here is my post on stripping furniture.)
Once you have a bare wood surface to work with and all residue has been cleaned off, you should condition your wood. (I use Minwax Pre Stain Wood Conditioner. This isn’t a sponsored post, I just like the product.) This ensures that your stain will be absorbed evenly. Apply the conditioner with a cloth and let it soak in for a few minutes. Then wipe off the excess with a clean cloth. You will need to apply your stain within 2 hours of conditioning the wood.
Now it’s time to stain! You can buy staining pads, but I prefer to use plain white cloths. Stir your stain with a stir stick, and then dip your cloth in. Apply the stain in a long sweeping motion along the piece of furniture. The thicker the layer you apply, and the longer you leave it on before wiping, the darker your stain will be. Let it soak in for a few minutes and then go back over it with a clean cloth to wipe off the excess.
Depending on how dark you want your stain, you may want to apply a second coat. Just use fine steel wool between coats and be sure to get any dust off with a tack cloth before reapplying.
When your stain is the color you want it to be and it is totally dry, it’s time to seal it. I usually use Wipe-On Poly, but any polyurethane is fine. Alternately, you can use furniture wax (I’ve used Minwax Finishing Paste.) Apply the polyurethane with a clean white cloth in a long sweeping motion along the grain of the wood. If it is a surface that will get a lot of use, I recommend applying 2-3 coats, rubbing down with fine steel wool between each coat. Let it dry thoroughly (at least 24 hours) before moving it or placing items on top of it.
If you’re using furniture wax, I recommend applying it with cheesecloth and buffing it with a clean white cloth.
That’s all! Staining can be time consuming, but it’s really not difficult. The prep work tends to be the hardest part. It’s worth the work though since refinishing a piece of furniture can make it look brand new! And if you’re looking to paint furniture instead of staining, I posted a beginner’s guide on that here.
Have you stained furniture before? Do you have any additional tips you’d like to share?
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE THESE POSTS:
- How to paint furniture: A beginner’s guide
- How to Strip Paint off Furniture
- How to Tell if Wood Furniture is Real or Fake
(Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.)