Can you use gel stain on laminate furniture? If this question has registered in your mind at some point, it means you’re aware of the possibility of staining laminate surfaces.

Laminate furniture like tables, countertops, or cabinets is the most challenging to stain because the surface isn’t absorbent in any way. But, regardless of how challenging it appears, it’s possible to stain laminate surfaces.

Read along to find out the expert tips on how to gel stain your laminate furniture like a pro.

Can You Use Gel Stain On Laminate Furniture?

Yes, you can use gel stain on laminate furniture because gel stain doesn’t need to soak into the surface. Simply spread a coat or multiple light coats of the gel stain and wait until it’s dry to touch, and then seal it with a clear coat finish.

How to Gel Stain Laminate Wood Furniture

Regardless of whether the surface is porous or not, the preparation needs to be thorough if you want a pleasant outcome. The following steps will guide you from the cleaning stage to finishing your project.

Remember, gel stains and laminate surfaces are delicate stuff, and you will need a lot of patience in between.

Let’s get to it.

What You Need

  • Foam or bristle brush
  • Sandpaper grit (180-220)
  •  Sanding block
  •  Clean cloth
  • Clean rag
  • Gloves
  • Gel stain
  • Clearcoat finish
  • Stirring stick

The Steps

Step 1: Clean the laminate surface

The first thing with every project is to thoroughly clean the surface to eliminate dust, dirt, and any other greasy contaminants.

Since the laminate surface is fairly easy to clean, use warm water and dish soap as your homemade degreaser. Work the dirt off the surface using a clean cloth or a soft sponge. Make sure to clean every inch of the furniture.

If the surface is a lot stickier and warm soapy water isn’t getting the job done, try using commercial degreasers such as simple green all-purpose cleaner, known as the best kitchen degreaser. Then, repeat the cleaning as many times as necessary until you are sure your surface is clean and there’s no sticky residue left.

Let your furniture dry completely for a few hours to 24 hours, depending on the weather conditions around you.

Step 2: Lightly Sand the laminate furniture

Sanding this type of surface allows the gel stain to adhere better when applied. However, the recommended sandpaper grit for lightly sanding laminate wood starts at about 200 and higher.

Using lower grit sandpaper will leave visible scratches that are bound to show through the gel stain. Again, the idea is to scuff sand the surface and not completely remove the laminate grain pattern.

So ensure you make the sanding passes in the direction of the grain. Next, remove the sanding dust with a soft-bristled brush and vacuum, followed by a tack cloth.

Step 3: Apply the Gel Stain

Gently stir the gel stain using a stirring stick to loosen up any lumps. Then dip your brush in the can, scoop the gel stain and apply it on your laminate surface.

Brush the stain using long even strokes in the direction of the fake wood grain. If your furniture lacks a faux-wood grain, brush the stain in whichever direction and maintain the pattern throughout.

This application process doesn’t have to be perfect but make sure your gel stain covers the whole surface that needs to get stained. You don’t have to apply a thick layer of the stain.

In any case, we’re going to wipe off the excess stains in the next stage to get our desired results.

Editor’s recommendation: Regular stain vs gel stain

Step 4: Wipe Excess Gel Stain on the surface

Once you’ve stained the entire piece, use a lint-free cloth to wipe off the excess stain from the surface. Wipe in the direction of the wood grain and apply even pressure on every part, so you don’t over wipe a section.

Wiping excess gel stain ensures that what’s left on the laminate surface is a uniform thin layer. Therefore, the layer of stain will dry faster.

However, if you fail to wipe the excess stain, you will likely have a splotchy and tacky appearance that will take forever to dry.

Step 5: Let the layer of stain Dry.

Since gel stains on laminate dry slowly, let the first coat sit undisturbed for up to 24 hours before applying subsequent coats. You can speed up the drying time of the stain by ventilating the room using fans and exhaust vents or blowing hot air from your air conditioners.

When the stained surface feels dry to the touch and is no longer tacky, it’s your green light to apply the second coat.

If you want a light-colored surface, a coat or two coats of stain is all you will need. But, if you want a darker or brown paint color, you will need to apply gel stain in multiple layers and allow sufficient drying time between each coat.

Repeat the process in the steps above until you’re satisfied with the results, and then move to the next step.

Pro Tip:

The more layers of gel stain you apply, the longer it takes for it to dry.

Step 6: Apply Clear Coat Finish

The stained surface needs a protective clear coat sealant to protect its integrity and prolong its lifespan. Although gel stain may feel solid to touch when fully cured, it can’t withstand constant wear and tear without failing.

You can apply either lacquer or polyurethane over gel stain using a natural bristle brush or foam brush. Apply multiple coats for a longer-lasting finish. (Read more: What is the difference between lacquer and polyurethane?)

If you plan to finish the gel stain with wax, you need to apply lacquer or polyurethane first, and only after it cures can you apply paste wax.

Make sure to stick with the instructions when applying the wax so you can avoid fixing a blotchy wax situation.

Once the clear coat is fully cured, let the finished surface sit for a bit longer before you can put your laminate wood to heavy use.

Apply Clear Coat Finish

Want to learn more about other types of stains? Check our guide on alder stain for insights.

Further Read: Can You Stain Laminated Particle Board?

What Clear Coat Should I Apply Over Gel Stained Laminate?

Apply Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane over gel stained laminate. This product is a clear, oil-based, durable finish perfect for applying on finished or unfinished wood surfaces.

This fast-drying polyurethane finish also guarantees long-term protection to interior wooden surfaces and fake wood furniture, dresser, drawer, cabinets, or doors.

This finish is available in gloss, semi-gloss, and satin, so you can choose the level of beauty depending on what suits your surface.

The fast-drying clear coat dries within 4-6 hours of application before you can recoat. Let the final coat sit for 24 hours before you can use your finished surface.

Related: Can you mix stain colors?

Why is Staining Laminate Not As Easy As Wood?

The main reason why it’s challenging to stain laminate surfaces is it’s not real wood. This implies it doesn’t absorb regular wood stains or respond well to paint.

As a result, you can only get satisfying results while using a particular type of paint or stain. 

Check out the best gel stain brands for various wood types.


Can you stain laminate furniture?

Yes, you can stain laminate furniture. You can either use gel stain or tinted polyurethane stain. Whichever product you opt for, carry out thorough surface prep or simply prime the furniture before staining. Without proper prep of the laminate furniture, your stain will peel off soon after.

Can you stain laminate cabinets?

You can stain laminate cabinets using tinted polyurethane stain or gel stain. Since laminate isn’t real wood, using ordinary liquid wood stains will leave you with a streaky and splotchy surface: that’s because they won’t get absorbed.

Can you use gel stain on laminate cabinets?

Yes, you can use gel stain to stain laminate cabinets. The thickness of this stain makes it suitable for use on laminate and other fake wood surfaces that don’t require stain penetration. In addition, this stain can spruce up your kitchen cabinets and home decor in a few coats when done correctly.

Recommended Reading: Kitchen cabinet refinishing kits

How to stain laminate cabinets

  1. Clean the laminate cabinets with a degreaser solution and let them dry.
  2. Lightly sand using high grit sandpaper and clean again.
  3. Dip the foam brush in the stain can and scoop a bit of stain
  4. Apply the stain using long strokes and stick with the visible wood grain.

Can you stain fake wood?

Yes, you can easily stain fake wood using the right type of stain –gel stain. Staining helps to create or restore the vibrancy of the fake wood by adding a bit of color to the surface.

Can you use Minwax Polyshades to stain laminate?

Yes, using Minwax Polyshades allows you to stain laminate surfaces and give you a beautiful wood-stained appearance.  Note, however, that a combination of polyurethane and stain results in a thicker solution. Prep the surface adequately and apply the polyshades carefully.

How long does it take gel stain to dry on laminate?

Since gel stain sits on the surface, it can take around 48 to 72 hours to dry fully. The dry time varies depending on the thickness of stain coats applied and the humidity levels in the room or the surroundings.

How to stain laminate furniture without sanding

  1. Thoroughly clean the laminate furniture and allow it to dry.
  2.  Apply a coat of primer and let it dry for about 48 hours.
  3.  Apply gel stain to the furniture using a paint or foam brush following the grain pattern.
  4.  Let it cure for 48 to 72 hours before use.

Can you use gel stain on veneer?

Yes, you can gel stain on wood veneer. Gel stain doesn’t get absorbed into the wood because of its thick consistency. But, if you want penetrative protection for your veneer, then you should consider using regular wood stain.

Can you stain a laminate tabletop?

Yes, you can stain a laminate tabletop. Unfortunately, the only compatible stain for laminate surfaces is gel stain. Before staining, scuff sand and then clean the tabletop. Still, you can skip the sanding process and apply a primer. Finally, stain and seal your finished laminate tabletop.

Can you stain laminate countertops?

Yes, you can stain laminate countertops using gel stain. However, the surface requires a bit of light sanding with high grit sandpaper, cleaning before the actual staining. After that, you should apply multiple coats of clear coat finish to prolong its lifespan.

Can you stain Formica?

Yes, you can stain Formica to change the existing style or create a sleek surface. Staining can also help to conceal any minor flaws and restore the glossy finish on a dull countertop. Ensure you prep the surface adequately.

Read also: How to dull a glossy finish

Can you Stain Laminate Wood?

So, can you use gel stain on laminate furniture? Absolutely yes! Gel stain sits on the laminate surface well and gives your furniture a beautiful, freshly painted look.

The most important thing to remember is, laminate surfaces mimic regular wood but aren’t natural wood. Instead, it’s a plastic material printed with a wood grain pattern and, ideally, self-sufficient.

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Good luck with your DIY laminate projects

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