How To / When staining wood, use cloth rags—don’t brush!

June 21, 2022

Let’s talk about staining.

The distant cousin to the more common coat of paint, staining is prevalent in home improvement projects, such as furniture refinishing, banisters, stair treads, doors, and more.
Here’s the thing: you want to apply and wipe off the excess stain with a clean cloth wiper before it dries. We understand it is tempting to use a sprayer to cover large surfaces quickly. However, by the time you follow up with a stain wiper, areas will have dried, leaving behind blotches.

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how to apply wood stain

  1. Prep your surface. Sand the area, and remove particles using a tack cloth to ensure the surface is smooth.
  2. Before applying stain to any wood project, we recommend utilizing a pre-stain wood conditioner. These oil-based formulas can be easily applied, and help prevent streaks. No need to let the conditioner dry. Stain should actually be applied roughly within an hour after applying. If not applied quickly, the conditioner will lose its effectiveness.
  3. Patience is your friend when you begin the staining process. It’s better to work on smaller areas and wipe as you go. Be sure to wipe carefully in corners and deep fluting (sometimes a brush can work to get stain into these hard-to-reach areas).
  4. If you have oil-based stains (which dries slower), brushing or spraying large areas could work, but lacquer and water-based stains simply dry too fast. This could result in imprints of the bristles on your wood surface. You won’t have that problem when you apply and finish staining with lint-free cloth wipers.
  5. Once you’ve reached your desired hue, use a sealer to fill in any wood grains to ensure a smooth finish.
  6. Lastly, protect your surface by applying a top coat or finish. Varnishes, oil based varnishes and Polyurethane are all excellent options, depending on preference.

Trimaco’s staining materials:

  • Tack Cloth: To ensure a smooth finish, use a tack cloth to prepare a dust-free surface after sanding, before painting, and in between coats. Tack cloths are extremely sticky, therefore wear gloves and unfold the product completely to get the most use out of each cloth.
  • Staining Pad: A sponge with terry cover that is great for staining applications. The staining pad sponges hold excess liquid and are absorbent to keep messy ink blobs from happening. This ensures a smooth finish and less time re-dipping into your canister of stain. Do yourself a favor and invest in a higher quality staining pad to avoid lint on the final product. (It is important to note that staining pads soaked with stain, linseed oil and/or solvent may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. To avoid this, immediately place soaked staining pads in a sealed, water-filled, metal container and dispose of them in accordance with local fire regulations.)
  • Cheesecloth: White 100% cotton cheesecloth is great for staining. Since it is a thinner material, it is easier to fill the wood grain and covers your surface better. To use, simply bunch up and start wiping away stains on your surface. Again, gloves are a must.
  • Professional Absorbent White Knit Rags: This “variety” pack contains everything from premium wipers to economical mixed knits. These are perfect for staining, cleaning, and polishing.
  • Old School® Premium Knit T-Shirt Wipers: From a 4-pound mini bale to a 50-pound box, these all cotton t-shirt rags are absorbent, soft reusable, and perfect for staining. Your favorite t-shirt stain wiper material is ready to go.
  • ProPerfect® Premium Wiping Rags: These low-linting, 100 percent cotton wipers are cut 18” by 18” every time. They are perfect for staining with no scraps of waste. Packed by count, not weight, these wipers are the top of the line choice for any staining project.
  • Gloves: Staining can get messy. We recommend using latex or rubber gloves
  • Stay Put Canvas Plus: When staining a piece of furniture, protect the surface underneath with a slip-resistant, leak-resistant drop cloth. The Stay Put Canvas Plus is designed with a plastic middle layer, preventing stains from harming the surface underneath, and makes clean up easy.

There are a wide range of techniques on how to apply wood stain. Trimaco offers choices for every staining project and budget, including projects with gel stain, water-based stains, and oil stains. Keep these on hand year-round for whatever project comes your way.



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