Interior Stains

Stains enhance the beauty of wood by adding color and emphasizing the grain pattern


Choosing the best type of indoor stain for your project mainly depends on the type of wood or object you are using. Staining requires a little time, patience and technique. Staining old hardwood floors or furniture can breathe new life into them and add beauty to your home.

This buying guide highlights the different types of interior stains available and the applications where they work best.

Oil-Based and Water-Based Stains

Both types of stain provide beautiful coloring and add surface durability.

  • Oil-based stains create traditional coloring and penetrate more deeply as they dry slowly.
  • Water-based stains can be used for more contemporary coloring and may raise the grain a little. You may have to sand the surface after staining.
  • Oil-based stains can be cleaned with mineral spirits, while water-based only require a little soap and water.

Stain Types and Applications

There are five main types of stains: gel, wiping, combination, spray and water-based liquid stains.

  • Gels are easier to apply as they provide equal coverage for both porous and non-porous areas.
  • Wiping stains are very versatile and can be used with nearly any wood surface that hasn’t been finished before.
  • Combination marries wood stain with polyurethane.
  • Sprays are the easiest to apply.
  • Water-based stains offer a wide variety of colors.

Type Features Uses Application Tools

Combination Stain/Finish

  • Saves time by applying both
  • Multiple coats provide deeper
    penetration and more durable
  • Furniture
  • Foam brush
  • Bristle brush
  • Cheesecloth

Gel Stain

  • Doesn’t penetrate
  • Leaves grain appearance intact
  • May be used on previously painted surfaces
  • Thicker viscosity is ideal for vertical applications
  • Oil-based
  • Nonporous woods
  • Fiberglass
  • Metal
  • Masonite
  • Hardboard
  • Cloth
  • Brush
  • Foam applicator
  • Rag

Spray Stain

  • Provides consistent coverage
  • Easy to apply
  • Intricate or hard-to-reach surfaces
  • None needed

Water-Based Liquid Stain

  • Dries quickly
  • Easy cleanup with soap and water
  • Available in a range of colors
  • Furniture
  • Cabinets
  • Doors
  • Moulding
  • Nylon/ polyester
  • Foam brush
  • Staining pad

Wiping Stain

  • May be oil or water based
  • Penetrates wood pores to seal and protect
  • Versatile
  • Available in a range of colors
  • Use on unfinished surfaces
  • Floors
  • Woodwork
  • Cabinets
  • Furniture
  • Doors
  • Cloth
  • Brush
  • Foam applicator
  • Rag
  • Lamb’s wool pad
  • Sponge