Wood Wont Take Stain? (Answered!)
A good wood stain can do an excellent job of emphasizing the grain.
However, sometimes you are out of luck and will not get the desired results regardless of how well you apply the stain.
This can occur when the wood refuses to accept the stain.
VIDEO: Why Wood Stain Comes Off?
You stained without sanding—the wood is sealed.
It is typical for someone new to woodworking to skip a crucial step. Proper wood surface preparation is one of these steps.
Typically, any coating on the wood you want to stain must be removed. However, if you are working with a piece that has a clear coat on it, you may quickly miss the sealant and proceed to stain it without realizing it.
Because the sealant coat will block the surface, making it impenetrable, the product will not reach the wood.
Keep in mind that any penetrating wood stain must enter your wood’s pores to color it. Any sealant applied to the wood surface prevents this vital process; thus, the wood will not stain.
Is there a way to solve this problem?
Yes. Allow the surface to dry completely before sanding. Clear topcoats, such as varnish, are complex and require chemical stripping.
After removing the layer of varnish or polyurethane finish (as demonstrated in the following section), sand the wood. Sanding opens up the pores in the wood, allowing it to absorb more moisture.
How can I tell if the wood has been sealed?
Examine the wood for a rough surface. It most likely has a sealant like polyurethane or another clear coat if it appears glossy.
Most protective finishes will make a table or wood feel smooth. However, if you try to sand it, the debris that comes off will be a clear-colored material rather than sawdust—the time to use that chemical stripper first.
You did not obliterate the old finish.
You may have previously prepared wood for staining by sanding or stripping it. However, if this process is not followed correctly, some of the finish may remain on the surface, preventing the stain from penetrating.
Some wood parts will not accept the stain when the old finish is only partially removed.
Check for any areas where the stain will not soak into the wood. These sports likely have traces of the old finish that prevent the stain from passing through and penetrating the grain.
To solve this problem, you will need to let the wood dry and sand it down a little more to remove the remaining old finish. Then, clean the wood again before staining.
You used too fine sandpaper.
Sanding is required for staining, but it must be done correctly. If you use too fine a sandpaper, you risk losing the wood pores. The wood stain will not penetrate and deposit the colorant in your wood if the pores are blocked (especially on softwoods).
When sanding, keep an eye on the grit of the sandpaper you’re using. For the initial surface preparation, start with 80 to 120-grit sandpaper. Then, for the final sanding, use 180-grit or 220-grit sandpaper.
If you sand too finely, such as with a 320-grit or 400-grit sanding pad, the ultra-fine sawdust produced may clog the wood pores. As a result, a stain would be unable to penetrate such wood.
Even 220-grit sandpaper can be too delicate for staining at times. So the safest bet is to cup your preferred fine sanding at 180 grit.
The wood is dense and has refined grains.
Tight-grained hardwoods, such as maple, are less porous and need help to absorb stains. With such low porosity, there is little room in the wood for the stain.
As a result, it is best to avoid penetrating stains when staining woods such as maple. It simply will not penetrate.
Such woods benefit from a glaze or gel stain. Wood glazes are thick, pigmented stains that are either oil-based or water-based.
Gel stains are all the same thickness, with varying amounts of pigment. Rather than penetrating the grain, they both work by sitting on top.
You used a wood conditioner, which clogged the pores.
Pre-stain wood conditioners penetrate and temporarily seal the wood, allowing oil-based stains to absorb evenly. Due to this, oil-based stains should cure into a more uniform coat of stain.
However, different woods react differently to different stains. As a result, using the wood conditioner may be counterproductive by making it more difficult for the wood to absorb the stain.
While it is intended to ensure uniform staining, it can block the pores and prevent the stain from entering the wood. Unfortunately, this is a common issue with difficult-to-stain woods like pine. See our reviews of the best stains for pine wood.
You made use of exotic wood with high oil content.
Exotic woods with high structural oil content include rosewood and teak. While the oil protects them from moisture, water, and other elements, it also clogs their pores. Because of the high oil concentration in these woods, there is little room for the wood stain to penetrate.
Staining is only sometimes the best option for such woods. If you must stain them, seal them with a de-waxed shellac-based wood conditioner such as Zinsser’s Sealcoat.
The undercoat will keep the oil content from messing up your stain coat and causing adhesion issues. Then, to achieve the desired finish, use a non-penetrating stain such as a gel stain.
If you want a darker rosewood, use a dye and Tung oil mixture instead of a gel stain.
The Wood Has Not Dried
High moisture content, like high oil content in some exotic hardwoods, blocks the pores in the wood.
If you try to stain wet or damp wood, it will not take the stain because the pores are clogged with water. Frequently, the stain may take too long to cure or may remain tacky indefinitely.
It is always a good idea to check the moisture content of any wood you intend to stain ahead of time. This can save you from having to start over with the entire project.
It is not made of wood.
Many wood alternatives on the market today look exactly like natural wood. Medium-density fiberboard and other laminates are good examples.
If you are not a professional woodworker, it cannot be easy to distinguish between these alternatives and natural wood.
Your stained table or board may be made of laminate. Because these laminates lack wood grain and pores in their composite structure, they typically do not absorb stains well.
Your best bet is to color your piece with a gel stain that does not need to penetrate any pores. Unfortunately, a penetrating stain cannot be used on this material.
How to tell if you’re working with wood or something else
Though fake woods can be perplexing, they are always distinguishable if you know what to look for and where to look. Here’s something to get you started in the right direction.
Look for wood grain at the tabletop’s base. If you have a wooden table with veneer, the underside is unlikely to have it. Typically, the manufacturer will only bother with the furniture’s top-facing, more visible parts.
Examine the piece for end grains. Grain will always be present in natural wood. If you can find their ends, you can be sure you are staining wood.
Check for dovetail joints if the piece has drawers – Real wood is expensive and often goes hand in hand with high-quality craftsmanship. Dovetail joints are one example of such craftsmanship. If you can see these, you know it’s natural wood.
What to Do When Wood Refuses to Take Stain
Wood stain products can be fickle. So learning how to fix wood stain mistakes can help you avoid making the same mistakes in your project.
There are several solutions you can try if your wood-staining project fails.
Replace the stain with one that sits on top of the wood.
When wood fails to absorb stain, the simplest solution is to use a gel stain instead of a penetrating stain. Gel stain does not rely on wood pores because it sits on the surface of the wood.
Because the wood type and surface condition have little impact on gel stain, this is an excellent solution when the wood will not stain.
So, first, seal the wood with a shellac-based wood conditioner. This undercoat is helpful, mainly if the wood contains a lot of structural oil, which can cause adhesion problems.
To achieve the best results, apply the pre-stain product first, then apply the gel stain according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep the coats of gel stain thin and light to allow them to dry correctly.
If you’re staining a cabin, power washes the logs to remove the mill glaze.
The boards may still have a mill glaze if you’re working on an older cabin. The glaze can prevent the stain from properly penetrating the boards.
The solution is to power wash the logs to remove the mill glaze. Then, allow them to dry completely before sanding them with an orbital sander and applying the stain.
Always wear a safety face mask and goggles when using the power sander. You do not want to breathe in the exemplary wood duct.
Remove the previous finish.
Protective finishes make wooden surfaces resistant to moisture and other weather elements, including UV rays from the sun. However, they can be an impediment when staining the wood. You must remove the rusty old finish to make room for the stain.
Method 1: Make use of a chemical stripper.
When removing a layer of lacquer or another similar hard coat, a chemical varnish stripper is your best bet. The viscous liquid reacts with the sealant on the wood surface, softening it and making it easier to scrape away with a scraper.
To qualify for a new coat of stain, clean the surface with mineral spirits and wipe it with fine-grade steel wool.
Method 2: Sand the old finish down.
You can sometimes sand it down if you want to remove paint or a polyurethane finish.
Sanding is usually sufficient to remove either of these finishes from the wood surface. However, this method is time-consuming and requires some caution.
Use the appropriate grit of sandpaper.
If the grit of the sandpaper is the issue, there should be a simple solution. For example, if you sand the wood too fine and the pores become clogged, a straightforward solution is to sand it again with the appropriate grit sanding pad.
Sanding the wood surface or hardwood floors with coarse, then medium coarse sandpaper will open the clogged wood pores and prepare it for re-staining.
Follow the directions.
Not all staining products are created equal. Please read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to apply it properly with an applicator that matches their recommendations.
For instance, if they advise you to spray rather than wipe, use an airless sprayer. Some stains necessitate the use of paint rollers, as well as specific brushes and tools. As a result, do some preliminary research.
By reading the instructions before using your stain, you can avoid many wood stain mistake.
There you have it: the possible causes of wood staining and the solutions. We hope this guide assists you in resolving your woodworking issue and achieving the desired finish.
FAQ on Wood Won’t Take Stain
Why won’t the stain dry on the wood that I’m using?
After the wood has been allowed to completely dry, sand the piece until it is down to the bare wood, and then apply one or two coats of stain, removing any excess with a rag. Even if you applied the stain in the correct manner, it could still remain tacky even if the weather is rainy or there is a lot of humidity in the air. Wait a few more days to see if it gets better after you do it.
How do you repair a wood stain that is tacky?
Put on more of the stain.
Because it does not contain a binder like paint or varnish does, stain, when applied to a wooden surface, will cause the surface to become tacky. After the solvent has evaporated, the pigment and the oil in which it is suspended are the only things that are left. Applying an additional thick coat of stain is a simple and effective method for removing this.
Does stain permeate wood?
In contrast to paint, which only covers the surface of the wood and can be removed with sandpaper, wood stain is absorbed into the wood’s fibers in the same way that a sponge would absorb water.
Why isn’t the dye penetrating into my wood?
There are a few different reasons why stain will not absorb into wood. Staining wood that has been previously sealed, sanding too finely, and working with tight-grained woods that do not absorb stain are examples of these common mistakes. Applying a sealer and a stain that lays on top of the wood is a straightforward remedy that can be used for most problems; however, there are specialized remedies that may be used for each problem.
Which one, staining wet or dry wood, is the better option?
In order to eliminate any mildew spores, weathered wood must first be cleaned and bleached before it can be stained. It doesn’t matter what kind of wood it is; before applying stain, you should always wait at least 24 to 48 hours after a rainstorm or a cleaning to make sure the surface is completely dry.