As a DIY or professional woodworker, I know that choosing the best finish for wood is a major part of any project.
When it comes to white finishes, my first thought is usually paint. But there’s another option that few people think of: white wood stain.
White wood stain can give me some unique advantages compared to white paint.
Paint usually tends to obscure the wood’s natural grain. But with white wood stain I can get the desired white finish without having to cover up any of the wood’s beautiful features.
It’s a great way to make sure that my projects are both aesthetically pleasing and durable.
Our Top Picks
Best White Wood Stain
Is there white stain for wood?
Yes. Different stain brands offer white wood stains you can use to whitewash your wood to avoid concealing its grain. Whitewashing is the application of a semi-opaque finish to bare wood or an existing finish with the goal of allowing the wood grain or base coat to show through.
Like any penetrating wood stain, white stain binds to the wood and absorbs into its pores. The pigments in a white wood stain can dramatically change the wood’s color.
White Wood Stain vs. White Paint
Although both white wood stain and white paint can dramatically transform wood, they work differently. Knowing how these two products compare can help you decide better for your projects.
|Quality||White wood stain||White wood paint|
|The appearance of the finished wood||It gives the wood a rustic look as it allows the natural wood grain to show.||It gives the wood a more formal look as it covers the wood grain, creating a uniform look.|
|Penetration of the wood pores||It penetrates deep into the wood pores to distribute the pigment.||It sits on the wood surface instead of penetrating the grain. It does not penetrate deep into the wood pores.|
|Wood grain behavior||It allows the wood grain to remain visible through the finish. Stain helps enhance the wood grain.||It conceals the wood grain by forming a protective layer on the wood surface.|
|Nature of protection||It protects the wood internally.||It protects the wood externally by forming a protective coat on the surface.|
|How to remove from the wood||It adheres to the wood pores and fibers, making it difficult to remove. You must sand deeper into the wood to remove the stain.||Since it does not penetrate deep into the wood, you can remove it easily by stripping the layer from the surface.|
See also: Minwax vs Varathane polyurethane.
Best White Wood Stains Review
Not all white wood stain is created equal. Different brands have different shades of white, and knowing the specific characteristics of the leading products can help you choose the most suitable shade for your staining needs.
1. Best overall— Minwax Simply White Wood Finish
- RICH EVEN COLOR – Minwax Wood Finish is a deep penetrating, oil-based wood stain that provides beautiful color and enhances the natural wood grain in one coat. It’s perfect for interior staining projects such as wood furniture, cabinets, doors and more.
- QUICK DRYING – Staining interior wood has never been quicker. The special formula allows it to deeply penetrate wood pores within 5 minutes of application, resists lapping, and dries in two hours, making all your wood projects quick, beautiful and easy.
- EASY TO APPLY – Use a clean cloth or wood stain brush to apply this wood stain in the direction of the grain. Wait 5-15 minutes and wipe away excess stain. The longer you wait, the darker/richer the color. Reapply coats for deeper color.
If you want to show off the natural grain of your wood, I recommend Minwax’s Simply White stain.
It’s a very light-colored white wood stain that won’t mask the surface of your wood.
Its oil-based formula ensures a rich even color and penetrates into the wood grain for long-lasting results.
Plus, it has a matte finish with no gloss or sheen so your furniture doesn’t look too shiny.
I love using Simply White because it’s light enough. This means that you can apply multiple coats without worrying about losing the wood’s quality.
It adds a simple white color to the wood that brings out its natural beauty without covering up its unique features.
It’s the perfect stain for highlighting your wood’s unique characteristics.
- The stain is quick-drying
- It is easy to use, making it ideal for DIYers
- The stain has a deep penetrating formula that makes it durable
- It is light-colored
- It is reasonably priced
- You may have to apply several coats if you want a deeper color due to the stain’s light formula.
2. Best white furniture stain—Varathane Fast Dry Wood Stain
- Ideal for use on all interior wood projects: furniture, cabinets, doors, trim and paneling
- One-coat coverage, fast-drying oil based formula
- Dries to the touch in just 1 hour and covers up to 275 square feet
Verathane Fast Dry stain is formulated for one-coat coverage. The product is packed with pigments that guarantee a rich, even color ideal for furniture.
Despite being so rich in color, Antique White is very light, allowing the wood grain to show. This quality makes it a perfect finish for naturally beautiful woods.
The oil-based formula is designed to leave a hint of sheen on your wood without masking the wood’s surface character. This characteristic makes the stain a perfect finish for furniture—it does an excellent job giving the furniture a more luxurious appearance.
As the name suggests, the wood stain is fast-drying, allowing you to complete your project in less time. Once applied, the stain takes only one hour to dry to the touch.
- The stain boasts superior coverage. One quart covers up to 275 square feet.
- It makes the wood grain shine through, giving the furniture an upscale look.
- The product is reasonably priced.
- The formula contains nano pigment particles for greater performance and a richer, popping color.
- The stain dries fast, so you must work fast, especially when staining a large surface.
3. Best value for money—General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain
- High-quality pigments produce rich, dark colors; Can be hand-applied or sprayed.
- Indoor use only; Formulated to provide workability similar to oil based stains
- Low odor, low VOC, water cleanup and noncombustible
This wood stain from General finishes is highly versatile in terms of application. You can use a rag to wipe it onto the wood surface or spray it instead. This allows you to work with the method you are most comfortable with.
This wood stain should be a perfect choice if you have high-quality wood to whitewash. It is packed with high-quality pigments formulated to produce rich, deep colors.
The stain features a water-based formula that deeply penetrates the wood grain to make the grain pop. The deep pigments mean the wood’s grain will be more pronounced with this stain on it. That is to say; the stain is ideal for woods like ash that have prominent grain.
Like any water-based product, the stain is low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and odor. This quality means it is safe to use indoors and will not irritate your lungs if you inhale around it.
- The stain is easy to clean with mere water and soap.
- The stain is non-combustible, eliminating the risk of spontaneous fire.
- It has a thicker consistency allowing for more control while using it—ideal for beginner DIYers.
- It can double up as a pre-stain conditioner.
- The stain is low in odor and safe for indoor use.
- It boasts high-quality pigments and superior coverage.
- The stain is water-based and formulated for indoor use only.
4. Best premium optionSamaN —Interior Water Based Wood Stain.
- 20 YEARS OF NORTH-AMERICAN EXCELLENCE: The preferred choice of professional woodworkers and DIYers in North America. SamaN also promotes greener products.
- SAFE TO USE PRODUCT: Odorless and low VOC, risk free for health of the users, pets and the environment.
- HIGH-QUALITY PRODUCT: Protects and elevates wood’s beauty on all your renovation or decoration projects. No overlapping marks, no need for a conditioner and fast easy application in just one coat.
If you are a fan of saving money by transforming a cheaper wood into a more premium-looking option, SamaN interior wood stain can be perfect for you. The stain is uniquely formulated to leave no streaks on the wood surface, giving you a perfectly even finish.
Thanks to its rich color, just a single coat will make a cheap piece of wood look high-end. This way, you can save money by buying cheaper lumber and applying this finish to transform the wood into a high-quality piece.
This high-end stain creates a durable finish that provides your wood with lasting protection for wooden surfaces.
For those who don’t like wearing face masks or respirators, you’ll be happy to know that you can skip them with this stain. It is odorless and low-VOC, meaning it will not irritate your lungs if you choose to wear no respirator while applying it.
- This SamaN wood stain is odorless.
- It is natural and safe for people, pets, and the environment
- It is of high quality that can transform cheap wood to look more expensive
- The product is water-based, hence easy to clean
- The wood stain is easy to use, making it ideal for a beginner.
- The product is expensive
5. Best pickling stain—Minwax Color Wash Transparent Layering Color
- Adds a touch or age & character to bare or already stained wood
- Apply over oil or water-based stain with a synthetic or foam brush, stain pad or rag.
- Dries in 1 hour. Endless coats in just one coat.
Sometimes time is a luxury you cannot afford. If this is the situation for you, the Minwax Color Wash transparent layering stain is your best choice. It dries pretty fast, allowing you to complete your project sooner.
While the manufacturer recommends wiping the excess stain after 3 minutes, some users get away with not wiping at all, claiming the coat dries in less than one minute. So prepare to work fast.
This product by Minwax is our best pickling stain so far. It does a perfect job adding a touch of age and rustic character to any wood, irrespective of the type.
The amazing part is that the wood does not have to be bare to use this white stain. You can apply it to bare wood as a choice or layer it over an already stained wood to give it that beautiful rustic touch.
Additionally, you can use this layering stain over a water-based or oil-based stain.
- The stain is transparent and allows the grain to show through
- It is quick-drying, the quickest on this list.
- The stain features a water-based formula that is easy to clean with soap and water.
- It is low-odor
- The stain is low VOC and non-toxic
- Some users find it challenging to achieve an even color with this layering stain
Best White Wood Stain Comparison Table
How to Apply White Stain on Wood?
After selecting your wood stain from the shortlist above, you will want to know how to use it correctly to make the most of your purchase. That said, here is some help.
Supplies for staining wood white
- White wood stain
- Tack cloth
- Applicator (Foam brush, paintbrush, lint-free rag)
- Protective face mask
- Protective hand gloves
- Drop cloth
Procedure for staining wood white
Once you have everything ready, prepare your workspace by laying down a drop cloth or plastic sheeting to collect any spills and wood dust from sanding.
You also need to wear protective clothing before starting the project. Wood stains can be stubborn, so you want to wear clothes that you do not mind getting stains on.
Next, protect your hands with a pair of hand gloves and wear a respirator or face mask. If you are using a water-based product, the odor may be benign, and a respirator might be overkill.
However, you still need to protect your lungs from the wood dust coming from sanding. A safety face mask should get the job done.
Step 1: Remove the existing finish (for finished wood)
Like any stain, the whitewash needs the wood grain. An existing finish will form a coat between the wood and the stain, so you need it gone before you can apply the white wood stain.
So, start by checking if the wood has any existing coat of paint, varnish, polyurethane, or any other sealant on it.
If there is a coat on the wood, sand it down with a power sander for quicker results. You could opt for a sanding block if you have a month free or if the project is very small.
You can start with medium 180-grit sandpaper and then switch to finer 220-grit sandpaper. For the best results, don’t go finer than 220 grit.
After sanding, wipe the wood dust with a tack cloth and let the surface dry for a few moments.
Recommended read: Can I mix stain with polyurethane?
Step 2: Apply the white stain with a foam brush, rag, roller, or paintbrush
The product you choose will determine the applicator you must use to stain wood white. The manufacturer will specify if you can use a roller, foam brush, rag, or paintbrush. Ensure you read the instructions on the label and use the recommended applicator.
Once you have chosen your applicator, gently stir the stain to mix it into a uniform suspension. Then dip the applicator into the stain and use it to wipe the stain evenly across the wood surface, following the direction of the wood grain.
Most white stains dry pretty fast, so you need to pay attention to the drying time. Often, you can expect the drying time to be anywhere between 3 and 15 minutes.
That is the time you need to wait before wiping the excess stain. You can work in small sections at a time to be safe.
Step 3: Wipe the excess
Like any wood stain, you need to wipe the excess stain before it dries and becomes tacky. As long as you observe the product drying time, you should wipe it in time.
More importantly, ensure you wipe the excess stain with the grain. That way, any marks left while wiping align with the grain seamlessly.
Step 4: Let it dry and recoat if necessary
Most white wood stain options will require only a single coat to achieve the desired coverage. However, you can only tell if your stain has achieved that coverage once it is dry.
So allow the stained wood to dry for the recommended time and observe. Manufacturers typically recommend the drying time on the label. This can be an hour or a few hours.
If you like the color, your job is done. If you prefer more depth, add another coat of stain following the same procedure as the first.
Step 5: Seal it if you want a glossy sheen
Most people prefer a matte finish with a white stain. If such is your preference, leave the stained wood as it is after the stain has dried.
However, if you want some gloss, you can apply a clear topcoat following the manufacturer’s instructions on the product label.
How Gray Wood Stains Look on Wood
1. Antique white stain on pine
Pine is a popular wood type mainly due to its ubiquity and versatility. It is also light colored and looks beautiful when stained white.
2. White stain on oak
White oak wood is one of the most popular wood types for whitewashing because it takes the white wood stain or whitewash so well.
Read: Red stains for wood
Is there white stain for wood?
Yes, white stain for wood is available in different shades and formulations. All of these can be used to whitewash wood to avoid concealing its grain. Whitewashing is the application of a semi-opaque finish to wood with the goal of allowing the wood grain to show through.
What is the difference between whitewash and white stain?
Whitewash typically refers to diluted, watery white paint used to give wooden surfaces a rustic, aged look. On the other hand, the white stain is a wood finish consisting of white pigments dissolved or suspended in a solvent or ‘vehicle.’
Is there a solid white stain?
Yes, brands such as Minwax and Verathane have wood stains in solid white colors in addition to dark wood stains. However, like any wood stain, the solid wood stain penetrates the grain, so the wood’s original color always determines the final color.
Can you stain pine white?
Absolutely. A whitewash wood stain tends to work particularly well on pine wood and can significantly enhance its color. You can apply the stain with a rag, roller, or paint brush, depending on your preferred application method.
Can you stain oak white?
White stain for oak is among the best white wood stain finishes. The stain settles perfectly on the wood’s grain, giving it the most natural look ever. Oak generally takes stain well, and the same quality applies to a white wood stain.
See also: Top UV resistant wood finish in the market.
Best White Wood Stain Conclusion
Different types of wood look different when stained white. As you will notice, the final look depends on the wood’s original color. However, any wood will look beautiful with the best white wood stain on it.
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