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If you don’t like the color of your deck, dining table, or any other wooden object around your home, it can be easily changed using wood stain. This special type of paint is specifically designed for use on wood, and it’s available in a wide range of natural colors, emulating the appearance of mahogany, walnut, oak, and more. Some wood stains also come in more colorful hues, such as blue or pink, but they’re not as common.
When you’re shopping for wood stain, it’s important to consider the object you’re planning to use it on. There are different formulas for interior vs. exterior use, and many exterior stains also include a sealant to increase the durability of the finished product. There are both oil- and water-based stains to choose from, both of which have benefits and drawbacks.
To help narrow down your choices, here are the best wood stains you can buy today.
Best Overall: Varathane 1 qt. Classic Wood Interior Stain
For a reliable interior wood stain that comes in dozens of colors, you really can’t go wrong with Varathane Classic. This popular stain comes in both 1-quart and 8-ounce jars, depending on the size of your project, and it’s easy to use, allowing you to enhance the natural wood grain of your material.
This wood stain covers around 150 square feet per quart, and you can recoat it in two hours to build up the color to your desired richness—the brand recommends at least two coasts for best results. The finish penetrates deeply into the wood for long-lasting protection, and the final coat dries in around four hours.
This wood stain is available in any natural shade you can think of, and for additional protection of the material, you may want to apply a polyurethane coat on top of it. The Varathane stain cleans up with mineral spirits, and reviewers love that it delivers beautiful, rich color with just a few coats.
Best for Interior: Minwax Wood Finish Oil-Based Interior Stain
Another popular wood stain for interior use is from Minwax. This oil-based stain comes in 1-quart containers, and you can choose from several popular finishes that deliver natural wood shades. The Minwax stain penetrates deep into the wood, enhancing its natural grain, and it delivers rich color in just one coat.
This interior wood stain resists lapping, delivering more even coverage, and it dries in around two hours, allowing you to apply multiple coats in just one day. It covers around 137.5 square feet per quart of stain, and when you’re done, you can clean up your brushes with mineral spirits.
Best for Exterior: Ready Seal 1-Gallon Can Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer
For outdoor projects, such as staining a porch or deck, you’ll need a product like the Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer. This stain is sold in 1- and 5-gallon jars, as outdoor projects are typically larger, and it covers around 125 square feet per gallon. This stain and sealer combo can be applied to all types of hard and soft wood, and it will help protect the material from mold, mildew, and ultraviolet rays.
This particular stain has a Natural Cedar color, but the brand offers other shades, as well. The stain penetrates deep into wood in minutes, no matter the temperature outside, and dries to a durable, flat finish that resists chipping, cracking, and flaking. Plus, there’s no back-brushing necessary, making application significantly easier, and if you ever need to reapply, you don’t have to sand or strip the wood.
Best for Pressure-Treated Wood: DEFY Extreme 1 Gallon Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain
Pressure-treated wood is popular for outdoor projects, as the material has undergone treatment that forces preservative agents deep into the wood, helping to prevent decay and increase its longevity. However, because the wood is already saturated with these preservatives, it doesn’t soak up the stain quite as easily.
To stain pressure-treated wood, you’ll need a product like the DEFY Extreme Exterior Wood Stain, and you’ll need to apply it when the lumber is as dry as possible. This semi-transparent water-based stain comes in 1- and 5-gallon sizes, and you can select from seven natural colors, all of which will enhance the wood’s natural grain pattern. The DEFY Extreme Stain is fortified with zinc, which helps to prevent color loss over time, and when you need to apply a maintenance coat, you don’t have to strip or sand the surface again.
Best Water-Based: SamaN TEW-212-12 Interior Water Based Stain
The majority of wood stains today are oil-based, but you can still find water-based products like this stain from SamaN. While water-based stains are trickier to apply, they’re eco-friendly, quick-drying, and easy to clean.
This stain comes in 1-quart and 12-ounce containers, and there is a wide range of colors available, including several non-brown shades. The SamaN stain is designed for interior use, and it delivers exceptional coverage, with 12 ounces covering up to 75 square feet. The formula typically delivers great results with just one coat, and it doesn’t raise the wood grain or leave overlap marks, making it easier to apply,
Reviewers say this water-based stain is surprisingly easy to use, even if you’re new to working with wood, and many love that the product is odorless during application.
Best with Sealant: BEHR Premium 1 gal. Cedar Naturaltone Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer
You can color and protect exterior wood in one step with this wood stain and sealer from BEHR Premium. This product is available in 8-ounce, 1-quart, 1-gallon, and 5-gallon containers, and you can also choose between semi-transparent and transparent finishes. The 100 percent acrylic formula is ideal for wooden decks, fences, siding, and more, as it provides a weatherproof finish that will resist UV damage, mold, and mildew for seasons to come.
The BEHR Premium Stain and Sealer can be applied using a brush, roller, sprayer, or pad applicator, and one gallon should cover up to 300 square feet on the first coat. The formula resists rain after just four hours, and the brand says it lasts up to six years on decks and up to eight years on fences. Plus, reviewers confirm that it’s easy to apply and clean up after, and many say it totally transformed their outdoor projects.
Best Colors: Varathane 1 qt. Premium Fast Dry Interior Wood Stain
For an unbeatable selection of colors, you can’t go wrong with the top-rated Varathane Fast Dry Interior Wood Stain, which is available in dozens of hues. There are both natural options like Dark Walnut and Golden Oak, as well as more vibrant hues, including Barn Red and Vintage Aqua.
This interior stain comes in 1-quart jars, and it delivers up to 275 square feet of coverage per container. The semi-transparent stain features nano pigments for rich, clear color, and it dries in just one hour, allowing you to finish your project faster. Then, all you have to do is clean up with mineral spirits and enjoy your newly colored decor!
Best Wipes: Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths
Most wood stain needs to be applied with a paintbrush, but for small projects, you can simply use the Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths. These convenient wipes are saturated with stain, so you can simply swipe them over the wood for easy application.
These Wood Finishing Cloths are available in several popular shades, and you get eight wipes per package. The stain dries in one hour and is easy to clean up with soap and water—just be sure to wear plastic gloves to protect your hands during application—and reviewers say the clothes are effective and easy to use.