Wood floor stains

Before you start, is your floor stain ready?

Ready to apply your wood floor stains? Before you start are your floors stain ready? You are probably wondering, what do I mean? Is my stain ready?

If, this is your first time staining a floor. It is more than likely and probable. That it is also, your first sanding job. And if, you were told to just remove the shiny finish on your floors. Then it is more probable and likely that. You're floors are not stain ready. All wood floor sanding should be done to NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association) standards cleaned, vacuumed and tacked thoroughly. Before continuing, check the details in your sanding. Make sure you have removed all existing finish, before applying your wood stain. Simple test is to wipe down the surface with a damp rag.  The color of the flooring should be even. If, there is any uneveness, then you will need to bring the sanding equipment back in. And resand the floor until all the existing floor finish have been removed. Check for swirls and flatness, correct them before continuing.

How to apply wood floor stains

Wood floor Stains - The basic application method of this wood floor finish product is to apply and then clean off. Wood stains can be applied in many, many different ways. There are also, many ways to clean them off.

Before you apply your wood stain color, water-pop your wood grain first. This will prevent blotching, any unevenness and provide a richer color. Eliminating the need for a second coat application. Simply apply water and let dry before applying wood stain. Methods for water-popping: using a damp rag, roller or hvlp style sprayer (mist) . Damp the surface evenly and avoid missed spots. Any missed spots will result in uneven stain penetration.

For pros, an hvlp sprayer is handy for water-popping. Biggest benefit is speed and dry time. You can mist water onto a 200 sq. ft. room under 5 minutes.  You're also, able to apply less water, which mean less grain raise and faster drying time.  If, production time is important to you, invest in a turbine style hvlp sprayer for water popping. The money you spend on an hvlp unit, will pay itself back in no time.

Learn more about wood stains at Minwax.com. Then come back, and learn our techniques on how to apply wood stain color.

You can apply wood stains, by using the following methods.

How To Stain Wood - Brush And Lambs Wool Applicator

 Start from furthest from your exit and work towards it. Using a brush and lamb's wool applicator to apply your wood stain color. Use an angle brush to cut along the edges. Then use a lamb's wool applicator to stain the main body of the wood flooring.

Try and squeeze out the wood stain, that's in the lamb's wool and avoid leaving any standing puddles. Some wood species are very porous, puddles can leave darker spots.

Apply a thin, even coat throughout your wood floor. Don't worry about foot prints, wet footprints can be wiped up.

Note: The lambs wool applicator, really soaks up the stain, avoid fully submerge the applicator in the stain color.

Wood Stain Removal - Cleaning

Cleaning - Using a lightly damped stained rag, wipe off any excess wood floor stain. Avoid leaving smudges, marks, drips, puddles or lap marks. After, the stain dries, it can be difficult to remove and tricky to blend in. 

You can also, use a floor buffer with a carpet disc, 3M driver pad or Norton's white polishing pad to clean the excess stain, also. This is covered later on, in the article. This cleaning method is useful when your dealing with a large amount of sq. footage.

How To Stain Wood - Rag-On, Rag-Off

 Rag on, rag off method is good for small jobs or small areas. After careful planning, starting from the furthest wall from your exit. Applying the wood stain the same direction as the grain, lengthwise of your flooring boards.

Pre-stain a 18-24 inch wide,  a distance that is within your reach and the entire length of the room with wood floor stain color. Wait about 3-5 minutes for the stain to penetrate, porous wood requires less time, sometimes no waiting. Then wipe-off any excess stain with a lightly damp stained rag.

Repeat this process until, you've complete the project. Avoid leaving any lap marks, drips, splashes etc..

How To Stain Wood - Hand Spray Bottle And Flooring Buffer

Note: Wear a mask, when using this method, to prevent from breathing in the over spray.

 Using a clean spray or spritz bottle. Fill the bottle with your wood floor stain color. Use a rag containing stain, apply wood floor stain around the edges. Then, with the spray bottle, apply stain by spraying it or spritzing, directly to the floor.

Note: Avoid getting wood stain color on other finished surfaces, mask off, if necessary.

Spray the entire room or a small area. It's also, helpful to have a helper spray the wood stain color. While you operate the wood floor buffer with a Norton's white polishing pad, begin to equalize the wood floor stain thoroughly. Then buff the room a second time to clean-off excess stain, slings and swirls, starting at furthest point from your exit.

Remove all buffing marks and splashes that the buffer may produce.

When you reach the exit, remove the buffer, then clean off, any left over wood floor stain with a lightly stained rag.

How To Stain Wood - Buff-On and Buff-Off

 Cut in the edge with wood stain color, using either a rag or a brush. Then clean the wood stain.

Using a white cleaning pad, pour your stain directly onto the pad. Pour a generous amount onto the pad. So the pad is damp, not soaked. Add more as needed.

Buff-on your stain using your buffer. The direction which you move is not important for the buff-on process, work from the center of the area out to the edges. Apply the stain color to the entire room.

Buff-off your wood floor stains by continuously working the buffer until the pad stops releasing wood stains and the color is even. You can also, use a separate clean white polishing pad, remove all swirls and splashes as you work your way towards the exit.

As you exit the area, remove the buffer onto a protected surface, away from the work area. Clean-off your shoes and wipe off the remaining wood floor stains with a rag at the exit and allow wood stain color to dry.

For Uneven staining or lap marks, use mineral spirit to clean or lighten stain, then re-apply stain if needed. For, a stronger cleaning solution, use Acetone.


Allow wood floor stain color to dry naturally at room temperature, should be around 70 degrees.

If, stain is tacky after 8-12 hours, Wipe down with a clean dry rag, turn up the heat to a higher temperature. Then allow to dry. Keep warm air inside the home to help dry-off the stain. Use a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air. Wet air will prevent stain from drying.

If, wood stain color remains tacky after using all these drying methods. Wipe down wood stain with mineral spirit, then allow to dry. Check the home for moisture issues. Once the moisture issue is resolved, re-apply a coat of stain.

White Wood Stain

White wood stain - Not one of the easiest stain colors to achieve. Wood specie, stain, and top coat will make it a challenge to achieve the right results. And for white, most clients are looking for a super white, end result. 

Samples, samples, samples...

Wood specie. If, you do not have clear maple, white birch, white ash or white oak. It will be nearly impossible for you to achieve a white floor finish. The challenge is to hide the natural tone of the wood specie itself. Example: red oak, you know red and white makes pink. Save yourself the aggravation. Look into doing a medium to dark stained finish instead.

Stain: Choose a stain with high pigments to get the intensity you want. Not all stain mfg, have the same quality. You will need to shop around to see what is available to you. The higher the pigment, the less work.

Top coat (finish):    Your top coat selection is critical. Research, and sample your finish first before starting. Stay away from oil base finishes. Use only waterborne polyurethane finishes. Use a waterborne polyurethane finish that will not yellow after it cures. You can call mfg's tech support line to get recommendations on their products. I've gotten into trouble with this part. Receiving a call back, a week after project completion. No one wants call backs or reworks.

Other techniques, you can use for white floors, pre-treating your wood floor or apply a hard wax oil system.

Pre-treating your floor by water-popping or pre-toning will help enhance the look of your white floors. Water=popping will allow the stain to penetrate more for a whiter result. Pre-toning is the same as water-popping. Instead of using clear water, you are using waterborne coloring finish to help intensify the finish color. Using 1-2 coats of Pre-tone white, will add to the intensity you want to achieve.

Hard wax oil or penetrating oil system   will be the easiest way to achieve a white floor. You start with 2 coats of pre-tone white and top coat with 2 coats of white penetrating oil. There is a variety of whites available from manufacturers like, Pallman, Loba, Rubio Monocoats, etc.

Stain Repairs

Repairing wood floor stains can be a tedious job. You can actually turn a small job into a big one with this wood floor finish. If, it's a small little spot, that may get covered with furniture or rugs. You should leave it alone. Save yourself the aggravation. Otherwise, try these tricks and techniques to help you fix your wood  stain job.

  • Wet Spots or Bleed Backs - These are excessive wood stain applied to your hardwood floors. Simply wipe away with a dry rag and allow stain to dry.
  • Lap marks, dark spots and Lines - Wipe down with a rag lightly damped with mineral spirit, until the color matches. If, too light, re-apply a thin coat of wood floor stain, then allow to dry. If, necessary apply additional coats of stain.
  • Clean off overlapping wood floor stains - with mineral spirit. For a stronger solvent use Acetone
  • Note: Lines can be created from a poor sanding job, if so, re-sand spot then re-apply stain.
  • Spot Sand - only spot sand if you discover foot prints or unwanted marks in your stain, that cannot be cleaned off with mineral spirit. Repeat the same exact sanding procedure, using the same sanding grits. And then hand sand with the grain using the final grit, feathering out the edges. Apply the stain and use mineral spirit to clean-off overlapping stain, to avoid a blotchy look.
  • Note: The same piece of wood will not stain the same. In some cases, it may be necessary, that you re-sand the area, wall to wall, and as many rows of flooring needed, then re-applying your wood floor stain, to achieve the best match.

These four methods are the most effective on how to stain wood floor finishes.

Some wood species will be more challenging than others.

Always test a small area, before applying stain.

Now, that you're a Pro on wood floor staining. Let's apply the protective top coats.

Click here to learn how to apply oil base polyurethane finishes

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