How long does it take for the stain to dry?

Many of us were hesitant about staining tables, cabinets, chairs, and various other equipment. The sharp edges were rounded off using your trusty router, and the surface sanded to perfection.

It is very important to choose the best stain, the time it takes for the stain to dry, and the best way to present a polyurethane finish.

How long to let the stain dry before applying the polyurethane?

To answer this question, several factors and conditions must be taken into consideration. In this article, we will give you the necessary information that you need.

In addition, choosing an oil or water-based or gel-based wood stain are necessary questions to ask when making a decision.

In this article, we will try to introduce you to wood stains. Besides, we will show you the different types of stains available on the market, apply the stain, and especially the time required for the stain layer to dry.

Factors that affect drying time:

The label of each product gives you a good idea of ​​the drying time before applying the polyurethane.

However, several factors (Temperature, brand, Circulation, and humidity) will affect the drying time.


The first factor that affects drying time is the dye brand. Some brands require a drying time of 12 to 24 hours. Others require a drying time of 6 to 12 hours. So when coloring your project, you will want to consider that depending on the brand and the product itself, the drying time will generally vary between 6 and 24 hours.


The temperature in your room affects the drying time. There are polyurethanes, which can be applied from 50 to 90 degrees. The optimum temperature for a stain to dry is between 70-75 degrees.

Also, sometimes you need to add extra drying time if the room is warmer or colder.


Moisture is an important factor that can have a profound effect on drying time. Therefore, the moisture from the stain affected their drying. In a very humid environment, it takes longer to dry the stain.

Preferably, choose a place and a less humid time to color your spots. If that’s not possible, add extra drying time for your task.

Applying poly over a wet stain can damage your finish over time.


Another factor to consider is the amount of traffic in the room. A place where there is more air circulating in the room facilitates and speeds up the drying time.

Therefore, if you can’t find a place with traffic, you can use the fans to speed up the drying process. Also, add windows to the room to increase air circulation.

Different Types of Wood Stain 

1.Oil-based wood stain

An oil stain is the most famous wood stain. It is characterized, mainly, by its deep penetration and which lasts a long time.

Flaxseed oil is among the best oils applied because it is natural and non-toxic.

In making an oil stain, you can use mineral spirits, a solvent often classified under the popular description of wood stain.

Commercial oil stains contain the binder that helps bind pigments to a wood surface and prevents deep penetration into the wood.

It is possible to select an oil stain under the different wood finish types after knowing its compatibility with the wood while avoiding its use before a water finish.

An oil stain takes between 2 to 3 hours to dry. Wait 9-10 hours before applying a wood finish and 3 hours before applying another stain coat.

Brel, the advantages of using an oil-based stain are long durability, deeper penetration, and a guarantee of a uniform finish. The disadvantages of using an oil-based stain are very few: the slow drying process and the difficulty of mold compatibility.

2. Water-based stain

In water-based stains, water is used instead of organic thinners. To transmit the color, there are water-soluble aniline dyes, which are dyes of chemical origin. They are a powder derived from coal tar.

Water-based stains respect the environment since they contain less polluted particles and do not produce volatile organic compounds. In addition, they are of high-quality pigments. Its use is difficult because they dry quickly.

To slow down it’s rapid drying, you can add a slowly evaporating solvent such as propylene glycol, but be careful to reduce the stain’s color.

Its application is very delicate. So prepare and clean the wood surface before using a water-based stain. Then, wet the wood and leave it for a good period (e.g., overnight). Then smooth the surface. Finally, apply your first coat of water-based stain. This process is very time consuming and does not go deep into the wood.

In short, the advantages of water-based dyeing are quick-drying and respect for the environment. The disadvantages are the long working period and the low penetration into the wood.

3. Gel-Based Wood Stain

A gel stain is popular because of its thickened pigments.

This high consistency liquid allows a gel spot to stay uniform and not run or drip. This implies ease of control compared to many other wood stains. However, due to their thixotropic nature, gel spots sometimes have a limited penetrating capacity.

Working on different types of porous and non-porous wood gives a very good stain. Often its gel spots are oil or varnish based. The application and use of the dyes is a very easy and predictable task. It is recommended that you test a sample on your wood before applying a gel stain in order to get the best results possible.

In short, among the advantages of the gel-based stain: ease of application, good masking quality, and the absence of drops. The only downside is the long drying time.

4. Lacquer Wood Stain

Lacquer Wood Stain

Lacquer stains can be applied very quickly since they are made up mainly of xylene and ketones, quick-drying varnishes.

Quick-drying only takes 15 minutes. Most ketones and xylene have a very strong bitter odor identified due to the rapid vaporization of solvents.

Penetration is easy in wood. It only takes two coatings. Occasionally, using a lacquer stain can cause bubbles on the wood surface produced by the trapped air bubbles. By controlling the room temperature or thinning with lacquer thinner, you prevent these bubbles.

Brel, the advantages of Lacquer Wood Stain are ease of application and speed of drying. The downsides are the appearance of bubbles and discoloration over time.

5. Water-Soluble Dye Stain

Before the invention of metallic complex dyes, Water-Soluble Dye Stain dyes were popular. They are used because of their several colors. The liquid form of water-soluble dye requires mixing with water. There is a standard ratio that requires adding a powder to a liter of water solution. The intense color is achieved by adding more powder to the mixture. For this preparation, preferably, use distilled water.

This stain gives a natural charm to the wood. Regardless of the number of coats applied, this stain will not completely hide the wood. Dyes can disappear under exposure to the sun by UV rays. The most commonly used dyes are alcohol and oil-soluble dyes.

In short, the advantages of Water-Soluble Dye Stain are the ease of maintenance, the natural charm, and the truth of the colors. The only downside is the fade under UV exposure.

6. Metalized Dye Stain

If you are working with bare wood, Metalized Dye Stain is the best choice.

These spots do not lift the grain since desolvation is easy, and evaporation is rapid. They offer better color depth.

They use dyes in glycol ether mixed with ethanol, methanol, and retarder.

The dyes used are concentrated and easily diluted with water, alcohol, or another lacquer thinner. Application of stains requires the use of a sprayer.

In short, the advantages of Metalized Dye Stain are resistance to fading and the best use for bare wood. The only downside is that it dries quickly.

7. Varnished wood stain

Varnish stains contain varnish as a binder. They are similar to oil-based wood stains. Also, it is a polyurethane varnish, which is an artificial resin. These varnishes are resistant to heat and acid and chemical spills. In addition, they dry hard, giving a uniform color on a wood surface and a durable coating on wood.

You do not need to use a top coat by varnishing wood stain since it forms a solid coat on the wood.

In short, the advantages of varnished wood stains are their natural charm and their protection against water. The disadvantages of using varnished wood stains are the need for more coats to make it uniform and the formation of bubbles.

Some of the brands and products on the market:

Birchwood Casey Walnut Wood Stain, 3-Ounce

Minwax 308240000 Wood Finishing Clothes, Dark Mahogany

Minwax 61420444 PolyShades – Stain & Polyurethane in 1 Step, quart, Pecan, Gloss

Minwax 227634444 Wood Finish Penetrating Interior Wood Stain, 1/2 pint, Espresso

Minwax 260914444 Interior Wood Gel Stain, 1/2 pint, Coffee

Wood Stn Int Slkgry Qt

Olympic MAXIMUM exterior wood stains

Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C-A Sample Wood Stain Morning Mist 100ml

General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain, 1 Pint, Antique Oak

Varathane 269400 Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain, Half Pint, Ebony

Best practices to apply:

The first step you need to do is see the instructions printed on the label as every product and stain is different, and drying times vary from brand to brand and product to product.

Before applying the polyurethane, you usually have to wait 24 to 48 hours for the stain to dry. You can also wait 72 hours before applying your poly.

Therefore, in addition to the brand’s basic information on the label, drying times may vary depending on the conditions and environment.


How long does it take for the stain to dry before applying polyurethane?

It is difficult to give a quick and simple answer to this question because several factors intervene during the stain’s drying.

External factors such as temperature, humidity, and air circulation have a very big effect on the drying time.

Therefore, it is important to follow the stain instructions presented previously to best apply the wood stain.

The most widely used wood stains are oil and water stains.

Regardless of the wood stains, try to test a dye sample, apply it to a piece of wood, wait for the stain to dry, and make the best decision after observing the results.

This article has introduced the different types of wood stains and the best choices for different circumstances.

We hope you find this guide helpful and provide you with some valuable information.

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