Wood Planks

How Long Does Wood Stain Take to Dry? Definitive Guide



Wood is often stained for different reasons. You may want to do it for improving the look of wood, to cover up damaged surface, to protect from sun and moisture. But, one question remains the same – how long does wood stain take to dry?

If that question is haunting you before you take up a wood staining project, here is the information you are looking for.

Before knowing how long does wood stain take to dry, you must understand wood stains come in different varieties. Some are water-based, some are oil-based, a few lacquer-based, some metal-complex dye, and some are gels. Various kinds of wood stains have different drying times. Apart from their kinds, the drying time also depends on various other factors like the temperature, humidity, thickness of the coat, ventilation, etc.

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Drying time for different kinds of wood stains

Water based wood stains

Water-based wood stains are one of the fastest to dry. Most water-based stains take 24-48 hours to dry if the weather is warm and dry. As a thumb rule, lower temperatures and higher humidity will prolong the drying time for any wood stain. The process can be sped up to a certain extent by applying heat or using a fan. If you are not in a hurry, the best way to dry wood stain is to allow it to dry naturally, giving it an extra day if required. Water-based wood stains are ideal for smaller, indoor projects due to the quick drying time.

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Oil based wood stains

Oil-based wood stains are also somewhat slow drying stains that usually take about 72 hours or more to dry. Oil-based stains are popular for the even finish that they give. Additionally, oil-based wood stains are ideal for wood surfaces that have intended outdoor use. The drying time of oil-based wood stains also depends on the type of oil they contain.

The slower drying time of oil-based stains allows ample time to wipe off the excess stain from the surface. If your only concern is not how long does wood stain take to dry, oil based stains provide a better protective layer against water, sun, and rain. Oil-based stains penetrate deeper and leave a richer color. They are also easier to refresh with an additional coat. The surface adhesion is superior and gives the wood surface a more durable finish compared to water-based wood stains.

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Gel based wood stains

Gel stains are not the typical wood stains, and they are comparatively newer in the market as compared to water and oil-based stains. They are somewhere in between traditional wood stains and paint. Gel stains allow the unique wood markings and texture to shine through at the same time giving the surface a consistent finish. They are easier to control while applying because of their consistency. Gel based wood stains dry slowly. They may take 8-24 hours or more to dry depending on the thickness of the coat, manufacturer, and the opaqueness you desire. One good thing about gel based wood stains is that they hide wood flaws well without involving too much sanding effort.

There is no single answer to how long does wood stain take to dry and every product takes its own time. Read the manufacturer’s instructions to get a fair idea about the particular product that you are using.

Other factors affecting the drying time of wood stains

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Humidity plays a major role when it comes to wood stains drying quickly or slower than usual. If you want your stain to dry faster either choose a dry, sunny day to take up the job or maintain the humidity range of your work area from 45% to 70%. In case you live in a humid area, a dehumidifier can always come in handy. Set it at 50% to speed up the process.

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Just like humidity, temperature plays a major role in determining the drying time of wood stains. In colder temperatures, wood stains take a longer time to dry. The ideal temperature range for faster drying is between 50- 80 degrees. Choose a sunny day when rain is not expected for a couple of days at least. However, always keep in mind, extremely warm temperatures may speed up the drying time but may lead to uneven penetration resulting in patches or marks.

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Ventilation or circulation of air in the work area plays a crucial role in drying wood stains. The more air is in play the faster it dries! Better airflow allows the stain to lock or get settled in its place. Also, the airflow permits moisture to get released from the paint benefitting the stain. It is most advantageous for water-based stains. However, added air circulation will make all kinds of wood stains dry faster.

How to Dry Wood Stain Faster

Along with wondering how long does wood stain take to dry if you are thinking of ways to dry wood stains quicker there are certain things that you can do.

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Use a fan

If working indoors in a poorly ventilated area, improve the circulation with a fan in the work area. Open doors and windows if any to speed up the drying process.

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Try a space heater

Heated air again assists in lowering the drying time of wood stains. This is helpful, especially when using slow-drying wood stains like oil-based stains and wood stain gels. Set the temperature above 80 degrees F to make the drying process faster. Don’t make the area too hot or the stain will not penetrate the wood properly resulting in an inferior finish.

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Install a dehumidifier

High humidity is a major deterrent when it comes to the drying time of wood stains. More humidity means slower drying. An easy way to curb this is to use a dehumidifier. Keeping the humidity range between 50% – 70% is ideal for speeding up the process.

If you are eager to speed up the wood stain drying process, that’s ok. However, keep in mind, all good things take time. Sometimes a little patience proves to be more fruitful when you desire a superior finish on your wood projects. If you are not in a big hurry, the best option is to let the stain settle down naturally.