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8 Best Pine Wood Stains

Got a pine project that needs some stain? Learn all about pine wood stain, important considerations when shopping and our recommended products.

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Painted Terrace Railingsartursfoto/Getty Images

What To Know About Pine Wood Stain

As woodworking materials go, pine offers a lot of advantages. It’s cheap and plentiful, and its naturally bright color and interesting grain patterns really stand out after applying some stain. That’s why it’s important to understand how wood stains work.

Technically, there’s no such thing as pine wood stain. All wood stains work well on different woods, pine included. But staining pine isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Here are some factors to take into account before starting your pine wood stain journey.

  • Absorption: Unlike other wood species, pine absorbs stain differently from one spot to the next, which is a problem. Some areas of your pine project will end up darker and some lighter, producing a blotchy, uneven look that will make serious woodworkers cringe. Luckily, there’s a solution.
  • Pre-stain conditioner: Brush this liquid onto bare wood before staining. When properly applied, it will even out the wood’s stain absorption so it looks much more even and attractive. When working with pine, I never do any staining without first applying pre-stain conditioner.
  • Stain type: There are three basic types: water-based, oil-based and gel stains. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Water-based stains dry quicker and don’t stink. They also tend to give more colorful results. Oil-based stains are more durable and require less maintenance. Gel stains are thicker, making them easier to apply than oil or water-based. They also offer a nice blend of bright yet transparent color.
  • Stain color: Wood stains come various colors and transparencies. Don’t risk the outcome of your pine wood project on guesswork. Buy a few stains of different colors and types, then apply them in small patches on a piece of scrap wood. Decide what you like before investing the time and effort in a full staining job.
  • Wiping off excess: Depending on the color and type of stain you buy, you’ll need fresh shop towels after application to dry off any excess before it fully soaks into the wood. Some stains, particularly dark oil-based products, can easily make your pine project darker than you want if you let the excess soak in.

Keep reading for eight of our favorite wood stains that work great on pine.

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Varathane Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain Via

Best Overall Wood Stain

Many oil-based stains dry slowly, are difficult to apply and rarely come in light colors. This product from Varathane shatters those stereotypes. It dries noticeably faster than most other oil-based stains and comes in many colors, including light ones.

“Used this to stain a rubber wood bookshelf a light golden brown color,” writes one Amazon reviewer. “Very happy with the result. Stained around 48 square feet using half the can. Slightly expensive compared to Asian, Dulux, MRF etc., but no other company offers the lighter shades that Varathane has.”

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Minwax Wood Finishing ClothsVia

Best Staining Wipes

Fast, easy, nearly foolproof application and exceptionally rich colors make these water-based staining wipes from Minwax stand out. A personal favorite, these will give you fast, professional looking results right out of the package without bothering with brushes.

“Goes on quickly and easily,” writes an Amazon reviewer. “This is a water-based product so the wood grain swells (grain-raising) and requires a light sanding after the first coat of stain. The second coat went on nice and smooth.

“I was refinishing my front staircase (five steps) and needed two cloths per step (one per coat) so I had to purchase a second package. Not mad about that at all.”

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General Finishes Oil Base Gel StainVia

Best Oil-Based Gel Stain

This oil-based gel stain from General Finishes gives vibrant, professional looking color. It’s easy to apply, and unlike many oil stains has scant smell. Combining the durability of oil-based stains with the easy application of gels, this stuff will make your pine wood project shine.

“Perfect, rich color, easy to use and minimal smell!” writes an Amazon reviewer. “Used it on our floors, applied two coats with an old sock and on staircase (using brushes). Can’t say enough how amazing it looks and how well it holds up to everyday use.”

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Watco Danish Oil Wood FinishVia

Best Dark Oil-Based

The best stains let the natural beauty of the wood grain show through while adding rich color to the workpiece. This dark oil stain and sealer combo does both exceptionally well. You’ll need several coats of this product, but a little patience and TLC will make your woodwork look stunning.

“I followed instructions, did two quick coats, let it dry overnight in my garage,” writes an Amazon reviewer. “After 18 hours my wife and I were shocked how beautiful it looked. Thanks Watco for making this easy for rookies like myself. If you’re debating this, just buy it — you won’t regret it.”

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Saman Interior Water Based Wood Stain Via

Best for Furniture

When staining wood furniture, most folks tend to be picky about color and shade. That’s where this water-based stain from Saman can help.

Easy to apply and fast-drying, this product comes in more than 40 colors — far more variety than most other stains. This makes it more likely you’ll find the exact wood stain color you want for your pine furniture staining project.

“I’m rarely happy with off-the-shelf laser media and this is definitely my favorite stain so far,” writes one Amazon reviewer. “I’m not a woodworker and I’m typically impatient so this stuff is perfect for me. I used `Clay’ on unfinished walnut stock and it gave me the exact cool, dark tone I was looking for.”

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Storm System Storm ProtectorVia

Best Outdoor Stain and Sealer

This outdoor-rated oil-based stain and sealer offers some of the best protection and beauty for a pine deck, fence or outdoor furniture. It absorbs deeply into the wood fibers while forming a protective seal on the outside, so it lasts much longer than most other outdoor wood stain products.

“Storm stain is by far the best deck stain on the market,” writes one Amazon reviewer. “I used to work for a painting company and we tested over eight leading brands of stain. Storm stain’s longevity outlasted every brand by two years.”

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Furniture Repair Kit Wood Markers Ecomm Via

Best Wood Stain Pens

When I first heard of wood stain pens, I was skeptical. The high quality and great color matching of this set by Daixism changed my mind.

The kit comes with six stain markers of various colors and six wax sticks to seal over the touched-up stain. Most chips in brownish stained pine can be concealed effectively with this product.

“The markers were diverse and allowed me to match the color of my furniture,” writes an Amazon reviewer. “I only needed to use one marker and the marker did the job. In my opinion, the product can work well to cover up chipped paint from furniture and color that fades.”

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General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain Via

Best Water-Based

This product from General Finishes is another personal favorite. It goes on easily and offers richer color than most other water-based stains. I like how you can customize the finished effect by leaving more or less stain on the wood. Like all water-based stains, it dries fast and cleans up easily.

“It’s fabulous. Don’t hesitate,” writes one Amazon reviewer. “Completely transformed my ‘weathered’ gray hardwood floor. Easy to control, highly pigmented, customizable coverage, a beautiful white while still showing grain.

“A few ounces went a long way for my project. So happy I found this due to its well-earned, great reviews.”

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Robert Maxwell
Robert Maxwell is a writer, videographer, photographer and online strength coach based in Northern Ontario, Canada. He grew up on a rural self-sufficient homestead property where he learned the skills to build his own home from the ground up, do all his own vehicle repairs, and work with wood, stone and metal to find practical DIY solutions to many everyday problems.