Staining Your Deck

8 Steps to Follow for Perfectly Stained Wood

Staining wood is a wonderful way to change the color, emphasize the wood’s grain or transform weary-looking wood into something vibrant and new. It’s a very handy and relatively uncomplicated DIY project for just about any skill level. The secret to perfectly stained wood is in the step-by-step process. Remain organized in your approach and don’t be tempted to take any shortcuts and your project will be a success.

Materials Necessary for Perfectly Stained Wood

A well organized project is really your first step toward success. Here is a list of all you need for perfectly stained wood.

Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

Pine, cherry and birch for example are softer woods and therefore more porous. They have a tendency to look blotchy and the stain uneven unless you apply a preconditioned or sealant. Most woods benefit to some degree from pretreatment.


There are a variety of stain types and colors on the market. The best way to know what the end result will be like is to test a few different stains on a piece of wood before you commit. Keep in mind the more porous woods fare better when you use a gel stain. The end result will be even, non-blotchy and perfectly stained wood.

Sand Paper

You will need a variety of sand paper for your project. We recommend 120, 180 and 220-Grit sandpapers. 


You’ll need a good cloth (sometimes called ‘tack cloth’) for wiping away the dust from sanding before you stain your wood.


The type of applicator you’ll use depends on the type of stain. Look at the instructions and you’ll find out you’ll need a natural bristle brush, a foam applicator or a cloth.

Drop Cloth

This protects your floor in the area of your project. 

No-Lint Cloth

You’ll need to remove excess stain for perfectly stained wood so make sure the cloth you use doesn’t leave any lint behind.

Mineral Spirits

If you’re using an oil-based stain mineral spirits are necessary to clean up your applicator and any other accessories. Use care as mineral spirits is a highly flammable liquid.


If you’re perfectly stained wood will be exposed to the elements or a lot of wear and tear you should apply a sealant for extra-added protection.

8 Steps for Perfectly Stained Wood

Here are the 8 steps you need to follow for your DIY wood-staining project. Remember, no shortcuts!

1. Sand Your Wood

Begin by sanding the wood with 120-Grit sandpaper. Sand in the direction of the grain and use medium pressure. Wipe the dust off and sand again using 180-Grit. Repeat the process using the 220-Grit until the wood is very smooth to the touch. Wipe thoroughly with clean tack cloth.

2. Stir Your Stain

If the stain instructions indicate you need to stir your stain to mix the pigment. 

3. Apply Your Stain

Depending on the type of stain you’re using apply your stain with a natural bristle paintbrush or rag (oil-based) or a synthetic brush or foam applicator (water-based). Apply the stain evenly using long strokes in the direction of the grain. Deeper grains may require a little more work and some circular strokes to thoroughly incorporate the stain.

4. Remove Excess Stain

Allow your oil-based stain to penetrate the wood for about 15 minutes then wipe off excess with a clean lint-free cloth. The longer the oil-based stain sits on the wood the deeper the color.   Water-based stains absorb much more quickly and you’ll want to remove excess stain within a minute or two.

5. Let the Wood Dry Completely Before Applying Sealer

Before you apply a polyurethane sealer you’ll need to allow oil-based stains to dry for about six hours. Water-based stains should dry for about three hours. 

6. Seal, Sand, Seal for Perfectly Stained Wood

In order to ensure perfectly stained wood you’ll need to apply your sealer then let it dry completely. Once dry sand the sealed wood to ensure a smooth second application. Apply your second application of sealant and allow it to dry.

7. Clean Your Utensils

We always have to clean up our utensils as soon as we’re finished right? Water-based satins come out easily with soap and water. This applies to rags and drop cloths as well.

Oil based stains need to be removed from brushes using mineral spirits. 

8. Dispose of Combustible Rags

You’ll need to refer to your stain instructions or your local fire department as to how the rags and other items soaked in oil-based stain should be disposed of but we recommend soaking the rags in water overnight then laying them out away from anything combustible until the rags are dry.  Do not cover the rags with one another. Now they are safe to toss in the trash. 

Enjoy Your Perfectly Stained Wood

Now sit back and enjoy your perfectly stained wood. Go ahead and brag to anyone who will listen! You earned those bragging rights!

For all of your project needs turn to the Quad Cities most trusting neighbor, Seiffert Building Supplies. We have wood products as well as expert advice on all the DIY projects on your list. For perfectly stained wood projects and more contact Seiffert Building Supplies.