How Long Does It Take For Stain To Dry Before Polyurethane?

Sometimes, all you need to do is to alter the outlook of your woodwork with stain and come up with something breathtaking. Sad but true, stains would bring out the rich color of any wood pieces and enhance its texture.

Wood staining could be hair-raising because it’s everlasting, and once it’s done, it’s done forever.

So the trick is to make sure no stones are left unturned and give the stain enough time to dry. Your stains could end up a blockbuster or a mess depending on the amount of time you provide it to dry. But don’t worry. There’s a solution.

In this article, I’m going to show you how long does it take for stain to dry. But before I share it with you, you should know about the different types of wood stains.

What Is A Wood Stain, And The Different Types Of Wood Stain?

how long does it take for stain to dry

Of course, the wood stain comes in different colors and shades of colors. But one thing is common to all of them. They’re colorants either suspended or dissolved in a medium commonly referred to as vehicle, and this vehicle could be alcohol, water, or petroleum.

Here’s the secret…

Dyes or pigments are typically used as the colorants dissolved in the vehicle, and often times both are employed in varying ratios and colors to give a remarkable effect.

Most importantly, binders are included in the mixture to help stick the stain to the wood.

Not all stains are the same. And today’s market boasts of 7 different wood stains, and it’s better if you know them all and how they work. Their composition determines how long does it take stain to dry. So here it is.

  • Oil Stain

This is the most commonly used oil stain by commercial woodworkers, and it’s not surprising that it’s first on the list. Wood oil stains consist of all-natural, non-toxic linseed oil that ensures you have an even stain while allowing you to clean up spills quickly.

Commercial woodworkers can stain with large numbers of wood projects thanks to oil stains requiring no Micromanagement of brushstrokes. And it can be further thinned with aliphatic hydrocarbon.

Note: Oil stain accommodates all kinds of finishes except water-based finishes.

  • Water-Based Stain

First, let’s get the drawback out of the way. Water-based stains are tough to apply on woods because the water present in the stain would raise your wood pieces’ grains and disrupt the texture.

Secondly, they dry off quickly and would require you to clean up immediately as you apply. But on the face of this, water-based stains are the safest to use—no irritations to your eyes, windpipes, and skin as you apply.

It’s the best choice if you would be using a water-based finish for the project.

  • Lacquer Stain

Judging from the name, you would expect a lacquer stain to contain lacquer, but that’s not it. This strain got its name from its ability to have a pigmented lacquer when mixed with lacquer.

In the real sense, the vehicle for lacquer stain is somewhat a fast drying varnish.

The vehicle vaporizes fast, which makes the stain dry really quick, unlike most other stains. It’s usually recommended for experts who are less likely to come up with mistakes in wood staining.

  • Varnish


woodcutting saw

Instead of linseed oil in oil stain, polyurethane varnish is used as a binder in varnish stain. And in this case, you need no finishing coat to complete your wood project. It does both the work of a stain and a finish.

Varnish dries slowly and would be perfect for worked out wood surfaces and smaller projects. Most times, varnish does not need to be wiped out after applying since it’s impossible to get an uneven coat with varnish.

  • Gel Stain

This is also oil-based, like an oil-based stain, but it has a thicker consistency when compared to an oil-based stain. If you want to have a very pure coat for your project, gel stain is matchless to other stains and would give you exactly what you want.

But here’s the rub. Gel stain can be a real mess and time-wasting, especially in the hands of a newbie. But if you are up to the task, it is worth every effort.

  • Metalized Dye Stain

From its name, metalized dye stain contains metals like copper, nickel, chromium, and cobalt in a dye. It dries quickly and gives an even deeper coat. It comes ready to apply and has no water, which would raise the grains of woods.

Additionally, metalized dye stain can be mixed with water to slow down the dryness of the stain or mixed with lacquer to tonewood pieces. Frankly speaking, metalized dye stain is a good stain that has stood the test of time.

  • Water-Soluble Dye Stain

Another name for this stain is aniline dyes. This stain’s original plan was for fabrics, not until much later when it was converted to a wood stain.

The water-soluble dye stain is presented in powder to woodworkers who finalize the preparation by just adding water. But note that this stain does better in hot water. A few of these stains can be dissolved in oil or alcohol.

You would get water-soluble dye stains in a variety of colors that would be able to bring out the true beauty of your woodwork.

What Are The Benefits Of A Wood Stain?

time for wood stain to dry

To a layman, a wood stain is beneficial because it helps you create the look you want other than the natural wood appearance. But ask a woodworker, and he has up to 4 good points to tell you why you should stain a wood. And as one experienced woodworker, I’ll expose these good points to you.

  • Protects it from elements

Snow, stormy rain, and heat can take their toll on outdoor wooden works and cause their natural openings to crack and also be raised. This will further lead to the wood rotting owing to the presence of excess moisture in it.

Now, this is what a wood stain does to prevent this havoc. The wood stain would ultimately seal the openings and protect the wood from retaining moisture.

  • Makes maintenance easy

With stains applied to your wooden items, it becomes easy for you to use and maintain them. All you have to do is to re-stain once every few years, depending on how often you use the wooden piece.

  • Elongates the lifespan

Again a non-stained wooden piece is likely to split or rot from water retention, and this would result in a shortened lifespan. But the good news is that a wood stain helps prevent all these and allow your wooden piece to live longer.

  • Enhances the aesthetic value

Sometimes the natural wood appearance may not compliment the interior design of your home. That’s where a wood stain fits in, and it would help to enhance the aesthetic value of your Wood, So It Matches Up To Your Interiors

So, How Long Does Wood Stain Take To Dry?

As much as you’re wondering how long does it take wood stain to dry before Polyurethane, let me first say this straight. No one of the seven wood stains has the same drying time. Let’s take a closer look.

If the same amount of two different stains is applied to the same wood material and at the same time under the same condition, still the two wood stains would dry at a different time. Why? This is because the composition of the two wood stains differs.

So what this means is that the drying time for wood stains varies with their compositions. While some would dry in about an hour, some would take up to a few days to dry off.

But the gold standard for how long for stain to dry is a period between 18 and 24 hours after application. By then, you can be entirely sure of a dried stain.

Tips For Wood Staining

  • Test stains on wood samples before use.
  • Do not mix oil-based stain and water-base stain together.
  • Wear hand gloves and old clothes while staining wood because stains are hard to get off from the body.
  • Always give a finish on wood stains except for varnish.
  • Follow the instructions given on how long does stain take to dry to get the best result

But the bottom line is this. The staining environment and the kind of wood stain you use would determine how long it would take the stain to dry. If the staining environment is more sunny than humid, expect a fast drying due to the air’s absence of moisture.

And by now, you’ll have figured out which stain would dry faster and why.

Finally, you can look up at your wood stain container to know how long does it take for stain to dry because most brands would usually provide this information to their users.

And if you choose, you can speed up the drying process on your own by giving a more intense heated environment or providing a fan for the drying process.

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