How Long Does It Take for Wood Stain to Dry

The wood stain makes your craft more appealing and secure, but now the debate starts about wood stains and how long does it take for the wood stain to dry

There are so many types of wood stains available. Some are best for DIYERS, some are best for professionals, and some are types of stains meant to be used for commercial purposes.

We will discuss all types of wood stains, how much time it takes to dry, how to apply wood stains, and so on.

How Long Does It Take for Wood Stain to Dry

What is the type of Wood stains?

There are many strains available, and we can bet you don’t know about most of them. So, before learning about the drying time, you should learn about the types of wood stains. So, here are the following:


Water-based stains are most popular for their faster drying stain. Also, it doesn’t lose any harmful substances on the wood, and it’s environment-friendly too.

 However, the water-based stain should be applied faster. Otherwise, you will see rough marks of stain, which doesn’t look appealing at all.

Water-based stains provide lower penetration than other types of stains.


Oil-based stains are the most popular and dominating the stain industry.

It takes more drying time than oil-based, but the penetration rate is much higher (rich color quality) than water-based stains.

Besides color and depth, oil-based stain also adds a layer of protection to the wood.


Gel-based wood stain is a newer technology that is very easy for beginners to work with.

As it’s gel-based, it performs like jelly, which makes it easier to apply. As this jelly alike thick stain doesn’t move easily, it’s easier to work with it on difficult surfaces.

However, gel base takes a longer time than other types of stains.

Water Soluble Aniline stain

One of the most popular wood stains of the 19’s and the oldest wood staining technique. It’s a quick-drying stain too.

Long ago, aniline staining is basically used for cloth drying and later on for wood staining.

It’s a powder-based aniline dye that melts in hot water easily. 

You can get both richer and lighter colors as per your need. If you add more powders or a second coat, the wood will get a richer color.

For a lighter color, use a wet and clean mat.


Varnish wood stains are quite popular as a complete package (as they hold polyurethane and stain) and faster drying.

Polyurethane adds an extra layer of protection which saves the wood from chemicals and heat. Also, the varnish stain gives the wood a more natural and detailed look.

While many prefer it because it’s a one-stop package (you don’t have to add finish coating), it won’t be recommended for you if you are not comfortable with other stains.


As it dries pretty well, you have to work faster and carefully; otherwise, the stains will be covered with spots, which will destroy its entire look.


Lacquer is very powerful and is mostly used by professional woodworkers also for commercial purposes. It dries SUPER QUICKER.

However, it has a powerful odor because of heavy toluene, xylene, and other solvents.

While working with lacquer wood stain, make sure you are in a well-ventilated area and wearing protective gear like a mask.

Metalized (metal complex)

Metalized stains are mostly used for commercial purposes.

This stain is very thinner compared to other types of stains, and it dries faster.

Because of its thinness, someone can spray it easily, making it the best-metalized stain.

How Long Does It Take for Wood Stain to Dry?

As you already know, a different type of stain takes a different amount of time for drying.

Still, the question arises, how long does wood stain take to dry?

In order to get this result, use the best wood stains available in the markets.

Here are the following details you are looking for:

Stain TypeDrying time
Water4 hours (up to 24 hours)
Oil8 hours (fully set and ready for the next coating)
GelOver 10 hours (up to 72 hours)
Water-soluble aniline stain12-24 hours (ready for the second coating
VarnishUp to 8 hours (ready to use)
Lacquer15 minutes (right after applying)
MetalizedUp to 15 minutes (mostly in the first few minutes)

How Long Does Interior and Exterior Stains Take to Dry?

Basically, interior and exterior stain’s drying time depends on many characteristics, and it also depends on the stain you are using.

For exterior stains, temperature and environment matter the most. Still, it takes a minimum of 24 hours (up to 72 hours), and once it’s completely dry, you have to add a protective finishing coat that takes additional drying time.

Whereas interior stain takes 6 hours(up to 24 hours) to dry, one coat is appreciable. However, you can add a protective finish, but not that essential. 

Why does outdoor take more time than indoor stain drying?

In outdoor areas, humidity is higher, weather and temperature keep fluctuating, whereas indoor staining takes less time because everything is under your control.

Also, the air is warmer, and the humidity level is lower than outside, which is a tremendous advantage.

Factors That Impact Stain Dry Time

Besides, more stain types more factors can affect stain dry time. Which are:

  • Wood type: Wood can be a time-consumer too. If you are working with softwood like pine, it absorbs stain disproportionately, which is why it takes longer to dry.
  • Temperature: Temperature plays an important role in drying. Between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees F is best) is the ideal temperature for staining wood. For the best performance, read the label before using stain and assure the workspace have the ideal temperature.
  • Humidity: While stain dries, the rich color gets into the wood’s surface while the paint’s moisture fades, and HUMIDITY plays the most important role in this process. If the humidity level isn’t balanced (not around 50-70) or it’s a rainy day, it will impact the stain’s drying time.
  • Ventilation: Ventilation is another essential part of stain drying. The more air is circulating the application, the better and faster the stain works. Every type of stain will provide a shorter drying time if it has better air circulation. 

How to apply wood stain (complete process)?

Applying wood stain is much easier when you know how it does it, what you need. Here is how to apply wood stain:

  1. Prepare your application by sanding with 120-grit sandpaper. After that, follow the direction of an element with 150-grit and 220-grit sandpaper as final work. Also, don’t avoid hideous scratches.
  2. Clean the dust and dirt from the surface with a clean brush.
  3. Apply wood conditioner for 15 minutes- 2 hours (maximum and wipe the excessive conditioner.
  4. Prepare the stain and start applying gently on the surface with a clean brush or rug.
  5. Follow the direction of grain while applying the stain and remove the extra stain with a clean cloth.
  6. Let it dry. Once it’s completely dry, you can apply the protective coat.
  7. Apply protective coat aka polyurethane finish with a brush and brush it gently in the grain’s direction. Now, let it dry.
  8. Sand it with sandpaper gently and remove the dust with a clean cloth.
  9. Apply the polyurethane again and let it dry.

However, if you are using a varnish stain, you don’t have to apply the polyurethane.

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  • How to Make Stain Dry Faster?

There are several ways like you can use a dehumidifier (on 50%), increase airflow (heated airflow for oil-based stain), or else, you can increase the temperature (80-degree F). Otherwise, you can also apply a thinner layer of stain or clean the excessive stain properly. A thinner & balanced stain will dry faster.

  • Can you use an application after the stain is dried?

No, once it’s dry, it means it’s ready for another coating or finishing. However, if you have used the varnished stain and followed its procedure, then it’s ready to use. 

  • How do youknowwhen the stain is properly dry?

Once the stain is dry, you will be able to feel it. For instance, water-based stains don’t feel cool while touching; the oil base stain doesn’t feel sticky or release a smell. This is how you can feel if it’s properly dry or not!


Wood stain is great for giving your woodwork a natural, attractive, and an extra layer of protection too. However, different stain takes different times, and it depends on other aspects as well. We highly recommend you to use a high-quality wood stain because a high-quality stain will make your project much appealing, secure and it will dry faster too.

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