How Long To Leave Stain On Wood

How Long Does It Take Wood Stain to Dry?

Timothy Dale is a home repair expert and writer with over a decade of hands-on construction and home improvement experience. He is skilled in residential, commercial, industrial and institutional plumbing, electrical, carpentry, installation, renovations, and project management.

Published on 03/08/23

Man staining wood

In This Article
Back to Top

Staining a deck or fence is a great way to keep the wood protected from moisture, insects, and UV radiation, but before you get to work with a brush or roller, it’s important to know exactly how long it takes for wood stain to dry. After application, wood stain can quickly dry to the touch in about four to eight hours, but it will still require about 24 to 72 hours to fully dry.

The exact length of time it takes wood stain to dry depends on several key factors, including the type of wood, type of wood stain, ambient temperature, humidity, and air flow through the area. There are also methods that can be used to help speed up the drying process without negatively impacting the freshly applied stain.

Type of Wood

When you are trying to determine how long it will take for the wood stain to dry, you need to consider what type of wood you are working with. Common types of wood include hardwoods, softwoods, and pressure-treated lumber.

  • Hardwoods work well with wood stain and can typically dry to the touch within about four to eight hours after application. It takes about 24 to 48 hours for wood stain to fully dry when used with hardwood.
  • Softwood is significantly more porous than hardwood, so it tends to take more time for wood stain to dry when used with this material. You can expect the stain to dry to the touch within 10 to 12 hours after application, though it may take up to 72 hours for the stain to fully dry. Additionally, the porous nature of the material can result in a blotchy, uneven finish, so it’s a good idea to use a pre-stain conditioner on the wood beforehand.
  • Pressure-treated wood is commonly used for decking and fences. It has a similar absorbency as hardwood, allowing the stain to dry to the touch within about 4 to 8 hours after application. However, it will take about 24 to 48 hours to fully dry.
See also  How Many Gallons In Kiddie Pool

Type of Wood Stain

The type of wood stain is just as important for drying time as the type of wood. There are several types of wood stain, including water-based, oil-based, gel, lacquer, varnish, and dye stain.

  • Water-based wood stains will generally dry to the touch in three to four hours, but will still require about 24 to 48 hours to fully cure. Since water is used as the solvent in water-based wood stain, high humidity levels can extend the drying time by several hours.
  • Oil-based wood stains are typically made with a colored dye and linseed oil, which serves as a resin or binder. This formula helps improve the durability and resistance of the stain, but it also increases the drying time. You can expect oil-based stains to dry to the touch after about 12 to 24 hours, though the stain will take up to 72 hours to fully dry.
  • Gel stains take longer than any other type of stain to dry. Plan on waiting 24 hours after application before the stain is dry to the touch. It can then take up to a week for the stain to fully dry.
  • Lacquer dries incredibly quickly in just 15 minutes, but the powerful fumes it gives off can put the user at risk if they are not in a well-ventilated space.
  • Varnish is another type of stain that dries in just 15 minutes. It’s made using polyurethane as a synthetic liquid resin, allowing the varnish to act as a protective barrier against heat, chemicals, and moisture.
  • Dye stains are generally applied as a spray and take just a few minutes to dry. However, this type of stain has a very thin consistency that isn’t effective for covering flaws. Instead, use dye stains to enhance the natural appeal of the wood.
See also  Maytag Commercial Technology Washer Filter Location

Environmental Factors

Temperature, humidity, and air flow can affect the drying time of the stain. The best temperature for staining ranges from 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also recommended to start early in the day. Stain dries quicker in higher temperatures, so if you start mid-afternoon, there is a good chance that parts of your project may dry faster than other parts, resulting in a splotchy, uneven finish.

Humidity is another factor that can increase the drying time of the wood stain, especially if you are using a water-based stain. If possible, try to complete staining project when the humidity is low to avoid this issue. Additionally, you need to ensure that the area where you are working has proper air flow. This will help the stain dry and also reduce the risk of inhaling harmful fumes.

Tips for Speeding Up Wood Stain Drying Time

You can reduce the amount of time it takes for the wood stain to dry if you are pressed for time or there is inclement weather expected within the next few days. One method to speed up this process is to apply thin coats of stain and wipe off any excess stain, instead of letting it settle on top of the wood. You can also increase the air circulation to the area by setting up fans, opening windows and doors, or simply working outside.

Pressure washing the deck or fence is a good option for removing dirt and debris, but if you want a short stain drying time, then don’t apply the stain right after pressure washing. Let the wood dry for about 24 hours before staining. A final method for speeding up the drying time is scheduling. Choose a warm, low-humidity day with a mild breeze to get the best results.

See also  What Software Does Joanna Gaines Use