When it comes to wood stains, there are several application methods you can opt for. However, using the best rags for staining wood can speed up the process and enhance the quality of your stain job.

Foam brushes, paintbrushes, and rollers are standard tools for staining wood, but they can be pretty slow, especially for large surfaces.

Wondering what kind of rag to use for staining? We have researched and found some highly recommended staining rags. Take a look.

Our Top Picks

Best Rags for Staining Wood

  1. Premium Tack Cloths, Bond Crystal BrandBest multipurpose wood stain rag
  2. Nabob Wipers Premium Knit RagMost ecofriendly option
  3. Trimaco SuperTuff Sponge Staining PadBest absorbent rag
  4. Axtion Products Cotton Cloth RagsBudget friendly staining cloth
  5. Regency Wraps Natural Ultra-Fine CheeseclothBest overall option

What Kind of Rag to Use for Staining?  

Always use a lint-free cloth for staining. You want a cloth that will spread the wood stain evenly on the surface without leaving behind lint or particles that could spoil the finish.

The lint-free rag can be attached to a sponge to act as a pad or be loose like a towel. 

Amber knit rags

These are relatively large, highly absorbent cloths that come pre-washed and ready for use for stain application. They are typically sold consistent lint-free pieces that you can tear into two smaller pieces and use separately. 

Once used, you can still wash it and reuse the rag for applying stain. 

Reclaimed white polo

These are rags made out of reclaimed white polo shirts. They are typically the most cost-effective stain applicators and the ideal option if you want to save money off your purchase. 

The white color of the reclaimed polo rags means they will not bleed any color and risk altering the appearance of your stain.

Alternatively, you could go for a reclaimed grey t-shirt rag. This rag comes at a much lower price due to the grey color, yet it will not bleed just like the white polo. 

Disposable and paper wipes

Disposable and paper wipes are perhaps the most cost-effective stain applicators in this group. While they are not reusable, they do not leave any significant lint on your stained wood surface.

They also come in identical pieces that are low-cost enough to let you save money off your purchase.  

New cotton white t-shirts

The white cotton t-shirts are an ideal option for tackling large staining projects. They are also traditionally the most common stain rag variety. Most people prefer the white color because it makes it easy to see the actual stain color. 

Factors to Consider When Buying a Rag for Staining Wood 

Size of the rag

Unless you are happy to join multiple cotton rags together, you may want to go for a large rag for staining a large wooden surface and reserve smaller rags for smaller projects.

Using a small rag for a large stain job could be a recipe for prolonging the application time. While the size of a rag may not be a crucial thing to consider, it can make a difference between a quickly finished task and a protracted one.


Cotton is typically the preferred material for staining projects. It is often lint-free and highly absorbent, even for a thin piece of cloth.

A pure cotton cheesecloth material is a premium choice since it applies wood stains and leaves the wood surface clean and even colored.

Microfiber cloths and cotton blends are the other examples of suitable materials for staining.


The material typically determines the quality of the rag. For example, solid cotton generally makes the finest quality staining rags for applying wood stain. Next in the hierarchy is a mixture of cotton and other synthetic materials. 

While the inclusion of the synthetic material may make the product less absorbent, it still does a great job staining wood.


Whatever rag you choose, you want a high-quality piece that will last for a long time and do a good job each time. Such high-quality applicators save you money in the long run because you do not have to buy another one every other time.


A rag must be washable to allow for reuse. You cannot carry the stain residue from one project to another. So, you want a rag that allows the stain to come off when washed so that you can use it with a different stain on your next project.

Otherwise, you would have to buy another one altogether. 

How to Apply Wood Stain with a Rag  

Using a rag significantly simplifies staining. It allows you to complete the work in a single step which is quicker and more straightforward. Here is the step-by-step process for staining wood with a rag. 

Step 1: Sand the wood

Sanding is essential as it opens the pores on less porous woods and smoothens the surface for a more even finish. 

It is essential to sand along the direction of the wood grain and wipe off the wood dust with a brush or vacuum. Once done, give the surface a final once-over with a tack cloth to remove all the fine dust.

Step 2: Apply the wood stain

Once the surface is clean, saturate your applicator (rag) with the wood stain and rub it on the wood surface. Ensure you cover every inch of the surface to ensure even coverage.

Step 3: wipe off the excess stain

After applying the wood stain, check to ensure there is no excess product anywhere on the surface. When you apply stain with a rag, it should leave little to no excess stain on the wood surface.

Still, it pays to err on the side of caution, so wipe stain off the surface to ensure the stain covers every area evenly with no puddles of excess stain anywhere on the wood surface. 

Step 4: let the stain dry

The drying process can determine how your final project looks. You want to avoid exposing the freshly stained surface to direct sunlight as that could accelerate drying and affect the stain’s ability to properly set into the wood.  

Step 5: Add another layer if necessary

Once the stained surface is dry, check to see if it is the level of color you wanted. Otherwise, apply another layer if you want to stain wood darker. Ensure you repeat the application process the same way as the first time and let it dry.

Best Rags for Applying Stain – Product Reviews

1. Best Multipurpose Wood Stain Rag – Premium Tack Cloths, Bond Crystal Brand

Premium Tack Cloths, Bond Crystal Brand 18' x 36' 12 Cloths Per Box
646 Reviews
Premium Tack Cloths, Bond Crystal Brand 18" x 36" 12 Cloths Per Box
  • The Crystal brand has a reputation for product reliability that is unsurpassed.
  • Crystal is the brand that more customers ask for by name.
  • Individually packaged tack cloth is the industrys leading brand name.
  • Comes in five different types to suit all single use applications.

Tack cloths are known to be the best tools for wiping sanding dust off surfaces, but that is not the only area they excel in. These cloths do an excellent job applying wood stain and removing the excess. 

Tack cloths work better with oil-based wood stains, so you may want to consider the next rag in this list if you have a water-based stain. Alternatively, you can use the tack cloth with a water-based stain after washing it.

Bond Crystal brand premium tack cloths are made of high quality, lint-free cotton materials, making them ideal for spreading out the stain on your wood surface.

Whether you are working with hardwood or softwood, the fabric does an excellent job distributing the stain into every pore on the wood surface.

What We Liked Most

  • These premium tack cloths are washable and reusable
  • The tack cloths are multipurpose. You can use the cloth to remove fine particles and dust from the surface before washing and using it to apply the stain
  • The cloths work for different types of wood surfaces
  • The clothes are easy to use
  • They are affordable

What Could Be Improved

  • The cloths may not work well with water-based stains before washing

2. Most ecofriendly option – Nabob Wipers Premium Knit Rag

Nabob Wipers New Premium White T-Shirt Knit Rags, Exact Cut Pieces - 100% Cotton, Cloth Rags, Excellent for General Cleaning, Spills, Home, Staining, Polishing, Bar Mop (White Knit, 1lb Bag)
3,188 Reviews
Nabob Wipers New Premium White T-Shirt Knit Rags, Exact Cut Pieces - 100% Cotton, Cloth Rags, Excellent for General Cleaning, Spills, Home, Staining, Polishing, Bar Mop (White Knit, 1lb Bag)
  • Made of 100% ring spun Cotton fabric which ensures long term use.
  • Our knit rags are carefully crafted in the way that they are lint-free.
  • Comes in multiple packages. Bulk quantity ensures that you have enough supplies for the month.
  • All of our rags are machine washable and reuseable which makes them super eco friendly.
  • White Knit Rags are multipurpose which means they can be used for home cleaning, dish cleaning, garage cleaning, dusting, car detailing, toilet cleaning, staining, paint jobs and more.

These rags are designed for multiuse, but staining is one area where they excel the most. The rags are environmentally friendly. They are made of lint-free cotton material that ensures your stained surface is spotless.

The cotton is designed to absorb liquid from objects quickly. This means you can wipe off the excess stain in one go without having to wring the cloth and repeat the process several times for the desired look.

They are 100 percent cotton, making them very soft. The softness of these rags makes them distribute wood stain evenly across the entire surface.

As with genuine cotton, the material is highly durable, so you can use and reuse it for a long tie without worrying about purchasing a replacement. They will serve you for a long time, saving you money in the process.

What We Liked Most

  • The rags are lint-free for a clean finish
  • They are durable, hence well-suited to heavy-duty tasks
  • They are designed for multiple uses
  • They are premium-quality yet inexpensive

What Could Be Improved

  • Some users complain that the rags are thin and lightweight

3. Best absorbent sponge for staining wood – Trimaco SuperTuff Sponge Staining Pad

Trimaco 10102 SuperTuff Sponge, 2 Pack Staining Pad, White
2,210 Reviews
Trimaco 10102 SuperTuff Sponge, 2 Pack Staining Pad, White
  • 4"x 5" sponge is covered white terry cloth.
  • Ideal For Furniture, Cabinets & Hardwood Floors
  • Easily and smoothly applies stain
  • 2 pack

If you want a highly absorbent rag for your stain application, the Trimaco SuperTuff Sponge staining pad may be ideal for you. They comprise a spongy material enclosed in a thick terry cloth designed to soak up lots of liquid.

This expertly designed tool does an excellent job in staining woods. Because it is highly absorbent, you can forget about the problem of stain ever dripping and messing up your workspace or the project itself. 

The sponge holds lots of wood stain that can speed up the application process because you do not have to keep dipping the applicator back into the container.

You will be happy to know that the Trimaco SuperTuff sponge staining pad works with all types of wood stain and sealers.

And, just a single purchase gives you a pack of two pads, so you can reserve one for staining and the other for sealing the stained surface. 

What We Liked Most

  • The pack of the sponge is low cost
  • It is highly versatile. You can use the pad to apply wood stains, oils, gel stains, sealers, varnishes, polyurethanes, waxes, and more
  • The stain applicator works on any wood surface
  • It is highly absorbent. It soaks up and holds a lot of stain, then releases it as you want it to provide a clean, consistent finish
  • The best sponge for staining wood
  • It is time-saving since it absorbs a lot of stain for each dipping
  • The sponge is covered in a lint-free rag, ensuring a clean stain finish

What Could Be Improved

  • It can be time-consuming to wash and dry for reuse

4. Budget Friendly Staining Cloth – Axtion Products Cotton Cloth Rags

White Cloth Rags (5lb)
13 Reviews
White Cloth Rags (5lb)
  • HIGH QUALITY: Axtion products are all top shelf and excellent quality.
  • BRAND NEW: New (not recycled).
  • EASY STORAGE: Zipper bag is great for storing.
  • MULTI USE: Ideal for general cleaning, paint spills, cleanup, staining, varnishing, polishing and dusting.
  • BUY WITH CONFIDENCE: Buy our rags worry free!

The Axtion cotton cloth rags are among the best lint-free options for staining wood. It ensures a clean, spotless stained surface. Additionally, the cotton material is soft; ensure it applies the stain evenly in all the pores on your wood surface.

Axtion Products are highly durable. The rags are made of high-quality cotton that helps you save money in the long run by using each piece repeatedly. This way, you buy the box once and forget about repurchasing for years. 

The wood stain rag is budget-friendly. Each box contains several pieces offering good value for the money. 

Since your purchase contains several rags, the zipper bag will come in handy for storage. You take the few pieces you need and leave the rest in the zipper bag for future use.

The sealed bag keeps the wood stain clothes free from dust which could affect your stain job during application.

What We Liked Most

  • The clothes are made of high-quality cotton
  • They are lint-free for a clean application
  • They are ideal for multiple purposes

What Could Be Improved

  • The rags require thorough cleaning to reuse. The cleaning process may be time-consuming

5. Best overall option – Regency Wraps Natural Ultra-Fine Cheesecloth

Regency Wraps 100% Cotton Cheesecloth For Basting Turkey, Canning, Straining, Cheesemaking, Natural Ultra Fine, 9 sq ft (Pack of 1)
24,332 Reviews
Regency Wraps 100% Cotton Cheesecloth For Basting Turkey, Canning, Straining, Cheesemaking, Natural Ultra Fine, 9 sq ft (Pack of 1)
  • NATURAL ULTRA-FINE, CHEF-GRADE REGENCY CHEESECLOTH: Made of 100% natural, unbleached heavy-weight Cotton; Lab Tested Food safe, No Metals, No Bleach, No Dyes; 9-sq ft, Pack of 1
  • GRADE 90, TIGHT WEAVE, FOOD GRADE CHEESE CLOTH: Ideal for straining soups and sauces, basting turkey and poultry, steaming vegetables; Also great for making cheese and yogurt, pressing tofu, making nut milk and kombucha
  • CANNING, POACHING, STEAMING: Excellent choice for canning fruits and veggies, jellies, jams; Steaming food, straining sauces, wrapping citrus and even keeping fish intact when poaching
  • CLEANING, CRAFTING & DECORATING: Lint-free Cheesecloth makes cleaning mirrors, windows, dusting and polishing easy; Crafting ghosts and cobwebs for Halloween; Decorative table runner, gift wrap and curtains
  • OVEN SAFE BUT KEEP AWAY FROM FLAME: You can bake in the oven with our cheesecloth, but avoid open flame; Can be gently hand washed with soap and water but we recommend single use to avoid cross contamination

If you want an absorbent applicator without a sponge, use Cheesecloth for staining wood. It sucks up and holds a lot of wood stain and releases it on a large area during application, so you do not have to keep dipping it into the stain container. 

Sucking up and holding a lot of stain can go a long way in saving you time and effort and helping you complete your project faster.  

The Regency Wraps cheesecloths are also popular due to their durability. You can use one piece severally without it wearing out. 

Their soft texture plays a major role in ensuring better stain coverage regardless of the wood type. You can depend on them for a smooth and even stained finish. 

What We Liked Most

  • The cloths are lint-free for a clean application
  • Their fort texture makes them ideal for staining wood and refinishing furniture
  • They come in large numbers and are inexpensive
  • They are highly absorbent
  • They are made of 100% Natural unbleached heavyweight cotton

What Could Be Improved

  • You may need to hem the edges before use to keep the unfinished edge threads from coming off

Best Cloth for Staining Wood Comparison Table

FAQs on Staining Rags

What cloth to use for staining wood?

Use a cheesecloth for staining as it leaves the wood surface clean and even colored. Since a 100-percent cotton cheesecloth is a thinner material, it makes filling the pores on the wood surface easier for better stain coverage. 

Is it better to stain with a brush or rag?

It is better to stain with a staining rag as it is quicker and more efficient. Brushing is a slower method of applying stains on wood that could lead to significant time wastage. But in case you want to go the brushing way, here are the best brush to apply stain.

What to use when staining wood

You can use a staining rag, paint roller, brush, paint pad, or spray gun for staining wood. However, using a staining rag is the best way to stain the wood of all these options.

Can you reuse staining pads?

Yes, you can clean and reuse staining pads soaked in the wet stain. Just ensure that you clean them thoroughly to avoid bleeding one stain color into another.

Can you use a microfiber cloth to stain wood?

Yes. Microfiber cloths are some of the best staining rags for use to apply stain on a wooden surface. They are typically lint-free and highly absorbent. These characteristics make them ideal for wiping stain onto wood and removing the excess.

What Type of Rag to Use for Staining

Staining can transform your wood, giving it a more dramatic look. While at it, using the right tool can save you money and time while ensuring the best quality, smooth finish.

This is why it is essential to choose the best rags for staining wood for your stain job.

Our favorite wood stain rag from the pack is Regency Wraps Natural Ultra-Fine Cheesecloth.

We hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial and that our review helps make your next stain project a success.  

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