Whether you’re staining wooden floors, furniture, or a solid wood craft project, you should allow the stain to dry before using it. If you are in the process of using wood stain, can you leave it on overnight?
You can leave wood stain overnight because it is part of the drying process. After the first coat, you should allow it to dry for at least 12-24 hours. Follow the same process for the second coat.
Keep reading for some valuable tips on the drying times of wood stain products so that your finished product looks natural and beautiful. Let’s dive right in!
How Long Should You Leave Wood Stain For?
Wood staining is one of the easiest ways to give your home or old wooden furniture a facelift.
However, there are some things to keep in mind when it comes to wood stain:
- Allow the stain to dry thoroughly before applying a second coat or using it. Not doing this may result in the stain having a tacky, bubbly, or sticky appearance and finish.
- Wait at least 12 hours before applying a new coat. If the product is still wet when you apply another coat, the cure color might be darker when fully dry, causing discoloration in the finish. The underlying coats may also never fully cure, giving your item an uneven and bumpy finish.
If a stain is not completely dry after the above-mentioned period, allow the wood to sit and wait for another 24 hours. Some wood stains will require more time to dry than others. If you leave your wood stain for longer than recommended, the wood could begin to warp or shrink.
Once it is thoroughly dried and there are no signs of moisture, it is safe to begin applying finishing products.
When applying wood stains, be sure to use enough stain to cover the entire area being treated. This will ensure that your stain will properly penetrate the wood and dry in all areas.
In addition, be sure to apply the stain with a rag and wipe it on instead of painting it on, as this will help ensure even coverage. You should also know how long you can leave the stain on the surface before wiping it. [How Long Should You Leave Stain on Wood Before Wiping It?]
Take a look at this YouTube video for easy methods for wood staining:
When left for too long, the color of your wood could also fade, which can be especially problematic if you use a dark stain on light-colored wood.
How Long Does Wood Stain Take To Dry?
How long wood stain takes to dry depends on various factors. Generally speaking, the drying time for wood stain depends on the following factors:
- The wood type
- Quality of the staining product
- Room temperature and humidity levels
I’ll discuss these factors in more detail below:
Wood stain will work on any wood type, but you need to figure out which wood you are working with for the best results. This is because certain wood types (e.g., softwood or hardwood) behave differently, making the application and drying process different.
Below are some examples of the different hard and softwood types:
- Softwood (gymnosperm trees): Cedar, redwood, larch, pine, firs, spruce
- Hardwood (angiosperm trees): Maple, birch, ash, oak, teak, walnut
If you’re not sure about the type of wood you want to stain, consider the following:
- Softwood typically has an imperfect grain, often with irregular patterns or spots, making it difficult to get a consistent stain and even finish.
- On the other hand, hardwood has a smooth, uniform grain and will be heavier. Hardwoods can be stained with any product, but it may take several coats to achieve the same result as softwoods.
- Staining pressure-treated wood works best with one to two coats of oil-based staining. This is because the wood has already been treated with a preservative to reduce the growth of fungus and decay.
Each brand of wood stain should let you know if it’s best for softwood or hardwood. Let’s take a look at the drying times for the different wood types:
The drying process for softwood tends to be longer than that of hardwood. Softwoods typically take 10 to 12 hours to dry after applying wood stain, although it can sometimes take up to 72 hours to dry fully.
You should also apply a pre-stain conditioner before staining softwood to prevent an uneven and blotchy finish.
Hardwood is less porous than softwood, making it the ideal medium for staining. However, you might need more than one coat of stain to ensure that the application is even.
Hardwoods dry faster than softwoods, taking around 4 to 8 hours to dry after staining.
Pressure-treated wood takes about 4 to 8 hours to dry and can be stained with almost any staining product. You should prepare pressure-treated wood for staining by applying thin coats of stain and wiping away any excess immediately.
Although these are a general guide for drying times, they depend on optimal humidity, ventilation, and temperature conditions.
Room Temperature and Humidity Levels
Drying times also depend on the room’s temperature and humidity levels in the area.
The higher the temperature, the faster paint dries, but low temperatures (below 50°F/10°C) can slow drying times. Generally, 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 26.7 degrees Celsius) is the ideal temperature for staining wood, and no more than 90°F (32°C).
Humidity affects paint drying time because it can affect evaporation rates.
Overly humid air can lead to staining problems and a longer drying time because the product will not have enough time to dry before it is exposed to excess moisture again.
Because of these factors, it’s essential to test different types of paints for different situations.
Quality of the Staining Product
When choosing a wood stain for your project, you should consider how easy it is to apply and how long it needs to dry out before being used.
Here is some helpful information about the drying times of various stain products:
- Oil-Based Wood Stain: Some oil-based stains contain solvents and evaporate faster than oils that don’t contain solvents. Heavy oils (like linseed oil) will take longer to seep into the wood than lighter oils (such as tung oil). A typical oil-based stain will dry in about 12 to 24 hours.
- Lacquer: For safety reasons, lacquer should not be used in enclosed spaces due to its potentially hazardous fumes. If you want to use it, ensure that the area is well-ventilated to avoid breathing hazards. When working with lacquer, you should also wear a respirator mask. Regardless of how much ventilation you provide, lacquer dries within 15 minutes.
- Dye Stain: Acetone and chemical dyes are used in dye stains, which are applied as sprays. They are thin and dry fast. This means that dye stains aren’t as effective for hiding flaws in wood, and are more suitable for accentuating the wood’s intrinsic characteristics.
- Water-Based Wood Stain: An aniline dye is incorporated into these wood stains as a water-soluble solvent. It usually takes 3 – 4 hours for them to dry, but unlike other products, high humidity can prolong the drying time of water-based wood stains.
- Gel Stain: Besides being thick, gel stains can hide defects in wood without needing to be sanded. It may seem beneficial to use a gel stain, but it takes longer to dry than other products. The drying time for gel stain can take up to 24 hours
Tips for Faster Drying Times
Now that you know what affects the drying time of wood stain, you might be interested in some additional tips for speeding up the drying time:
- If you’ve cleaned or washed the wood, make sure it’s completely dry before proceeding with the stain product.
- Apply the wood stain on a warm, dry day and leave the product outside to dry in the sun. However, to help prevent warping, don’t leave your wood exposed to direct sunlight for too long.
- If you live in a hot or humid climate, consider installing a ventilation system or an AC vent cover.
- Make sure the surface is free from bumps and scratches. If you apply a thick coat of stain over an old finish or damaged wood surface, it will take longer to dry because there is more damage that may need repair or replacement before you can apply a fresh finish.
- Use thin layers. What makes wood stain work is its ability to absorb the wood to enhance its features. Thicker layers mean less absorption, and drying will take longer.
- If you’re working with a large piece of wood, you may need to allow it to dry for 72 hours before using it.
Wood stain products can make your wood look natural and beautiful, and different wood stain types yield different results. Leaving wood stain on overnight is a great idea.
Before embarking on your wood staining project, consider the following factors which will affect the drying time:
- Wood type
- Room temperature and humidity levels
- Quality of the staining product