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How Long Does Stain Take to Dry? -[Oil, Gel, Water]



V Susan
Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com


staining wood and leaving to dry

Stains come in various types, and their drying times can significantly differ.

While some stains dry within minutes, others take several days to dry.

Hence, it’s essential to have knowledge about their drying times, especially if you’re a weekend DIY enthusiast.

Product Name Stain Type Recoating/Drying time (in hours)
Minwax Wood Finish Water-Based Solid Color StainWater-Based 1
Minwax Wood FinishOil-Based2
Minwax Wood Finish Water-Based Semi-Transparent Color StainWater-Based1
Minwax Gel StainGel Stain24
VARATHANE One Step Stain & PolyurethaneOil-Based 1
VARATHANE Fast Dry Wood StainOil-Based 1
BEHR PREMIUM® Solid Color Waterproofing Stain & SealerOil-Based1
Oil Stain by OsmoOil-Based 12
Ultra® Penetrating StainAlcohol-based 1.5
SamaN Water-based Wood StainWater-based 1
VARATHANE Water-Based Wood StainWater-based 2
General Finishes Gel StainOil-based, gel72
General Finishes Water Based StainWater-based 2
Tried and True Stain & FinishOil-Based8
Krylon Exterior Semi-Transparent Wood StainOil-based, aerosol24
DEFY Extreme Solid Color Wood StainSynthetic-resin24
DEFY Water Repellent Wood StainOil-in-water24
DEFY Deck Stain for HardwoodsSynthetic24
#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood StainWater-Based24
Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer for WoodOil-Based48
Olympic ELITE Advanced Stain + Sealant In One Solid Oil-Based 24
Olympic Elite Wood Stain and SealantWater-Based24
Cabot Wood Toned Deck & Siding StainOil-Based72
Cabot Solid Color Acrylic Siding Stain Acrylic 4
Cabot Semi-Transparent Deck & Siding StainOil-Based24
#1 Deck Premium Fence StainWater-Based24

Drying time of different stains
Staining wood
Staining Wood

How Quickly Do Different Stains Dry?

Here are the drying times for various types of stains:

Stain TypeDrying Times
Oil-Based Stains12 to 24 hours
Water-Based Stains4 to 6 hours
Gel Stains24 to 72 hours
Drying Times for Different Types of Stains

Oil-Based Stains

They are the most popular kind of stain used in various woodworking projects.

Moreover, oil-based stains are durable but take more to dry than other water-based stains.

Generally, they take up to 12 to 24 hours to dry, depending on the brand and formulation.

Water-Based Stains

Unlike oil-based wood stains, water-based stains dry rapidly, making it convenient for large projects.

Typically, they dry within 4 to 6 hours and have a milder odor compared to water-based stains.

Additionally, they are environmentally friendly and easy to clean.


Gel Stain
Gel Stain

As the name suggests, a gel stain has a higher viscosity and is less likely to spill.

Owing to their high viscosity, gel stains take up to 24 hours to be ready for recoating and 72 hours to dry completely.

The gel-like consistency also makes them suitable for vertical surfaces like doors and furniture legs.

How Can You Make Stain Dry Quicker?

There are several techniques to make the stain dry quickly and complete your project in an efficient manner.

Proper Ventilation

Adequate ventilation can speed up the drying process.

Open up doors and windows and use exhaust fans to promote air circulation.

Maintaining the Temperature

A temperature of 60 to 90o F is ideal while applying the stain.

While a temperature lower than this can prolong the drying process, a high temperature causes the stain to dry quickly, leading to a blotchy appearance as the stain cannot penetrate deep into the wood.

Dehumidifying the Air

This method involves using a dehumidifier to remove the moisture from the air and lower the humidity, allowing the stain to dry faster.

It is recommended to maintain the humidity range between 50 to 70 %.

Apply Thin Coats

The thicker the coat of stain, the longer it is going to take to dry.

Thin coats dry faster and allow for better penetration into the wood.

Type of Wood

Hardwoods, such as oak and maple, dry faster than softwoods like pine and cedar.

This is because softwoods are porous and contain more moisture content than hardwoods.

How Can You Tell if a Stain is Dry or Not?

A completely dry stain will have a dry,non-sticky surface.

To check, touch the surface lightly and see how it feels.

Another method involves lightly sanding the area in question and observing if it produces a powdery residue.

If it does, it indicates that the stain is dry.

However, if the stain remains wet, allow more time for drying.

How Do you Fix a Poorly Dried Stain?

The different ways to fix a poorly dried stain include:



Sanding the top surface of the wood using coarse grit sandpaper will result in the removal of stains.

Once the stain is completely removed, re-stain the surface.

Applying an Additional Coat of Stain

A new layer of stain over the existing stain can also correct a poorly dried stain job.

The thicker top coat not only hides the damaged base coat but also provides a better finish to your wood.

Repeat the process until you achieve the desired results.

Mineral Spirits or Paint Thinner

To remove the stain, wipe it using a rag dipped in mineral spirit or paint thinner.

After removing the stain, use a clean rag to dry the wood.

Be cautious not to apply excessive mineral spirits or thinners, as they can damage the wood.

Chemical Strippers

These strippers soften the stain, making it easier to scrape the wood stains.

Afterward, sand the surface using fine-grit sandpaper before applying a new coat of stain to the wood.


When dealing with significant staining issues, a viable option is to paint the surface.

Choose a high-quality paint that matches your desired color and finish.

Finally, apply a topcoat such as varnish or polyurethane for further protection.

Applying Polyurethane After Staining
Applying Polyurethane

Does Heat Make the Stain Dry Faster?

Burning over stain
Burning Over Stain

Heat can accelerate the drying process of stain.

However, always use heat sources at a low setting, as excess heat can damage the wood.

How to Apply Wood Stain?

Staining Wood with brush
Staining Wood with a Brush

Refer to this article below for a complete deep dive into the process of wood staining.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is a Top Coat Necessary Over Stain?

While staining can protect and enhance the appearance of wood, it is always advisable to use a topcoat such as polyurethane or lacquer.

They can act as barriers and extend the lifespan of stained wood.

Are there Differences Between Staining and Sealing the Wood?

While stains add color to the wood, sealers are transparent and protect the wood from wear and tear and environmental factors like sunlight.

Moreover, sealing is a surface process, whereas stains penetrate deep into the wood, making it more challenging to remove.

What Kind of Cloth is Best for Staining?

Lint-free cloths like microfiber, cheesecloth, and cotton t-shirts are ideal for staining wood.

These cloths absorb the stain well, ensuring a smoother finish.

V Susan
Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com