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How Long Does Stain Take to Dry?

How Long Does Stain Take to Dry?

A woodworking project is never complete without the staining process. Stain helps the wood last longer and provides a more refined look. So, if you plan to stain a piece of furniture, you might be wondering how long does stain take to dry?

Stain can take between 24 hours to 48 hours to fully dry, depending on the type of product you are using and other conditions like weather and wood material.

This article will discuss different types of wood stains and their average drying time. We will also highlight the factors that might take a toll on the overall process.

What Is the Exact Dry Time of Stain? 

Generally, there is no one set time that a stain takes to dry. Stains can dry fast or take a few days, depending on the quality of the material it is being applied on.

The weather condition, type of stain, and other factors must be considered to determine the drying time.  

Typically, stains take a day or two to completely dry, but this is not the case for all stains. Check the manufacturer’s label to know about the dry time.

Keep in mind that the time mentioned might not be exact, rather an average.

Factors That Affect Stain Dry Time

Even if the manufacturer mentions the time, you cannot blindly rely on this. Why? Because other aspects will affect the overall dry time. Let’s take a look at some major points.

1. Variant Of Stain

You will be surprised to know that there are many different types of stains in the market. There are gel-based stains, lacquer stains, water-based stains, varnish stains, oil-based stains, and many others.

These categories affect dry time in many ways. Let us explain further. 

2. Water-Based Stain

If you need a stain that will dry out in quick succession, then water-based products should be your pick. It takes 1-2 hours on average.

The only weakness of this stain is its strength. It is also less penetrative compared to oil-based ones. 

3. Oil-Based Stain 

This stain variation uses linseed oil to penetrate the woods without much fuss. It adds colorways to the wood and helps protect it by adding an extra layer on top.

The first coat can take up to 1-2 hours to dry, and the second coat can be applied in 2 hours. You must wait for at least 8 hours before you apply the topcoat.

4. Lacquer Stain

Made with many solvents, lacquer stains have a strong odor. Due to the solvents, this stain dries out faster than some other stains.

It can be just 15 minutes before it fully dries. Many professionals love this stain because of its fast dry time. 


5. Varnish Stain

Polyurethane is one of the most common binders for varnish wood stains. Varnish stains are known to protect the wood from temperature changes.

This stain doesn’t require any added finish coat. The good thing about it is that it dries fast – just make you wipe off the excess stain with a cloth.

6. Gel Based Stain

This is the newest addition in terms of stain. It has a pudding-like consistency and must be stirred before applying to the surface. These stains are best suited for applying finish on the table footings.

It can be used to cover imperfections on a wooden surface. Keep in mind that it dries slowly and might take 24 hours or more to dry out completely.

7. Type Of Wood

It would be best if you did not forget that the wood’s materials also affect the drying time of the stain. If it is a softer wood, it will take longer to dry.

Oak wood, on the other hand, has large pores. It embraces the stain adequately and thus dries quicker than softwoods. 

If you want to cover the imperfection on wood stains, you may want to use wood conditioners. 

8. Temperature

The temperature will take a toll on the drying time. The colder it is, the longer it’ll take to dry.

The ideal temperature for wood staining is known to be 70 degrees Fahrenheit. That being said, it can work well between 50°-90°F.

9. Humidity

Whenever the pigment gets soaked into the wood and the moisture within the paint evaporates, the stain will start to dry out.

This is why you must always keep a tab on the humidity. The drying works best in the daytime with 50% humidity.

A higher percentage of moisture will keep the wood wet, thus making the dry time longer.

10. Ventilation

Open-air circulation is crucial for any stain drying process. If you’re staining a plank of wood in the open, with a lot of air circulation, it should dry faster.

Furthermore, if there is no room or airflow, stains will not release the moisture and will take a longer time to dry. If you want the stain to dry fast, simply give it enough air circulation no matter the variant. It should work like magic.


Making a Stain Dry Faster

To make a stain dry faster, you can tweak three conditions: humidity, temperature, and air circulation. 

You can use a humidifier and set it to 50% to dry the stain faster than usual. 

Make sure you are working in an area with adequate airflow and ventilation. If there is no fan nearby, simply try to open the doors and windows.

You can also take help from a fan to ease up the drying process. 

Last but not least, the temperature will affect the drying process. To make it fast, you can opt to stain your surface in an environment where it is 70°F.

Drying Time for Interior and Exterior Stain

For interior and exterior stains, the drying time can vary quite a bit. The environment will play its part in the drying time. If you are working on the interior stain, the air around you will be more controlled with lower humidity; thus, the dry time can be faster. 

That outdoor climate can go haywire, meaning the exterior stain can take a lot of time to dry. For interior stain, it can be 6-24 hours before you can work on the top coatings. For exterior stains, it can stretch up to 72 hours.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How Do You Know That the Wood Stain is Dry?

Simply put your finger on the surface – you should not feel any tacky substances. If you observe some stain attached to your fingertip, you better give it more time to dry. 

2. How Long Should I Let the Stain Dry Before Applying Polyurethane?

If you are using oil-based or water-based, then it will typically take 24-48 hours before you can apply coatings.

For a faster drying stain brand, it will still take a few hours before you can use polyurethane. 

3. Is It Possible to Slow Down Stain Drying Time?

If you plan to make the stain dry faster than its normal rate, there is a chance that blotches will appear on the wood surface.

If you need to slow the drying process, add paint thinner to the stain.

Conclusion to How Long Stain Takes to Dry

Stain can take anywhere from 1 hour to 48 hours, depending on the type of wood, stain, environmental factors, and size of the material you are staining. We elaborated on different aspects that correlate to the stain drying time to make things easy for you. 

Keep in mind that every stain manufacturer has its own rules. If you have an intact product in your hand, try looking at the description module on the container body to know more about the drying process. 

Lindsay Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! I created this website to be a resource for everyone who wants to make the best home possible.