How Long Does It Take Stain to Dry?

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Finishing a wooden table with stain

Stain is a popular finish for all types of woodworking, furniture, floors, doors, windows and other exterior and interior wood. If you consider using a stain, you are probably aware that there are different types of stains – e.g. oil- and water-based stains, stain gels, exterior and interior stains. These products come with different characteristics and their drying time varies significantly.

For this article, we have compared 11 of the most popular staining products to determine the average drying time for each type of stain. Read on to find the answer related to the product that you intend to use.

What Is the General Drying Time of Stains?

In our comparison, the average drying times range from 1 hour to 48 hours for a coat of stain to fully dry. The drying time depends on various factors with the characteristics of the wood and the temperature and humidity as the impactful criteria. Exterior wood can be finished with 1 coat of stain yet 2 coats are usually recommended.

Under normal conditions, the average trying times for different types of stain are (for 1 coat):

  • interior water-based stain: 2 hours;
  • interior oil-based stain: 2 hours;
  • exterior oil-based stain: 48 hours;
  • exterior water-based stain: 24 hours;
  • gel stain: 10 hours.

You will find the details and the hardening times of different sample products in the following sections.

How Long Does It Take Stain for Exterior Wood to Dry?

For an oil-based exterior stain, it takes around 48-72 hours to dry while exterior wood treated with water-based stain can be used after c.24 hours.

An exterior stain is typically used for decks, fences, furniture, accessories wood siding, log homes, shake shingles, pressure-treated lumber and numerous other types of wooden surfaces outside the house.

The exact time will vary depending on the type and characteristics of the wood as well as the temperature and other environmental factors.

You will find the details for 2 sample products in this table:

Manufacturer Product Type Drying Time Time between Coats
Ready Seal

Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer exterior oil-based stain 48-72 hours before using > 45 minutes
Defy
Extreme Wood Stain (water-based) exterior water-based stain 24 hours before using 2-4 hours

Note that for exterior stains, a final coat of a protective finish (e.g. polyurethane) is recommended which requires additional drying time. However, if you are buying a combined stain and sealant product, you might be able to skip this step (check the back of the can for details).

How Long Does It Take Stain for Interior Wood to Dry?

The drying time of both water-based and oil-based interior stain is between 1 and 4 hours.

Interior stain can be used for woodwork, furniture, cabinets, moldings, hardwood floors (some products), and other wooden objects inside the house as well as metal and fiberglass surfaces (some products). While 1 coat of stain is usually sufficient, an additional protective topcoat is a worthwhile consideration.

Refer to the following tables for the detailed drying times of different interior stain products.

Drying Times of Oil-based Stain for Interior Uses

Manufacturer Product Type Drying Time Time between Coats
Minwax

Wood Finish – Penetrating Oil-based Interior Wood Stain interior oil-based stain 2 – 4 hours 2 – 4 hours
Varathane 
Fast drying oil-based wood stain interior oil-based stain 1 hour 1 hour
Rust-Oleum

Ultimate Wood Stain (oil-based, fast drying) interior oil-based stain > 1 hour 1 hour

Drying Times of Water-based Interior Stain

Manufacturer Product Type Drying Time Time between Coats
SamaN

TEW-212-12 Water-based Stain interior water-based stain 1 hour 1 hour
General Finishes

Water-based wood stain interior water-based stain > 2 hours > 2 hours
Miniwax

White Wash Pickling Stain (water based) interior water-based stain 3 hours 3 hours
PureColor

Eco-Friendly Wood Stain interior water-based stain 1 hour < 1 hour

How Long Does It Take Gel Stain to Dry?

The drying time of gel stains is between 1 and more than 10 hours, depending on the product, the condition of the wood and the environmental factors.

Gel stain can be used for all types of interior wood, such as woodwork, furniture, cabinets and moldings. However, its consistency makes it a perfect choice for vertical surfaces – e.g. wooden doors, windows, fiberglass and composite doors. The gel stain sticks to the surface while other types of stain would start running down.

Some manufacturers are using additives for fast-drying which reduces the drying time by more than 75%. You might therefore want to check the manufacturer’s recommendations before buying and using a gel stain.

The below table shows you the drying time of 2 sample gel stains.

Manufacturer Product Type Drying Time Time between Coats
Miniwax

Gel Stain gel stain > 10 hours 8-10 hours
Varathane 

Premium Gel Stain gel stain > 1 hour 1 hour

Comparison of Drying Times of Different Stains

The following table summarizes the drying times of the different products that have been compared for this article.

Manufacturer Product Type Drying Time Time between Coats
Ready Seal
Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer exterior oil-based stain 48-72 hours before using > 45 minutes
Defy

Extreme Wood Stain (water-based) exterior water-based stain 24 hours before using 2-4 hours
Miniwax
Gel Stain gel stain > 10 hours 8-10 hours
Varathane 

Premium Gel Stain gel stain > 1 hour 1 hour
Minwax

Wood Finish – Penetrating Oil-based Interior Wood Stain interior oil-based stain 2 – 4 hours 2 – 4 hours
Varathane 

Fast drying oil-based wood stain interior oil-based stain 1 hour 1 hour
Rust-Oleum

Ultimate Wood Stain (oil-based, fast drying) interior oil-based stain > 1 hour 1 hour
SamaN

TEW-212-12 Water-based Stain interior water-based stain 1 hour 1 hour
General Finishes

Water-based wood stain interior water-based stain > 2 hours > 2 hours
Miniwax

White Wash Pickling Stain (water based) interior water-based stain 3 hours 3 hours
PureColor

Eco-Friendly Wood Stain interior water-based stain 1 hour < 1 hour

Sources: Manufacturer websites and Amazon

Conclusion

The drying times of stain vary significantly among the different types of stains and the different products in this comparison. They range from as short as 1 hour (interior stain) to more than 48 hours (combined exterior stain and sealer).

Drying time may not be the most important criterion when choosing a stain. You can find a comprehensive comparison of oil-based, water-based and gel stain here where we also discuss other aspects. However, drying time a critical factor that you need to consider when you are finishing wood and planning your project. We hope that you have found this article useful.

Do not miss out on our other articles if you also consider other types of finishes, such as paint, lacquer, polyurethane or varnish.

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