Homemade Wood Stain
For me, summer always meant long days in the sun, catching fireflies, weekends at the lake, and work. Since we were off school all summer, Mom and Dad mad us do chores before we could have fun. One of those chores was staining the deck. I remember long, hot days with a paint brush in my hand that got heavier by the minute. And the awful smell! I made up my mind to find something better.
Reasons to Stain Wood
Here are several reasons to stain wood. You might want to change the color of the original wood on a deck to match the interior or exterior of your home. You might just want a change. Or you might be looking to protect a piece of wood so it’s more that just raw, unfinished wood. While you could solve this with varnish, you could also stain and then add shine.
The Problem With Most Stains on the Market
Wood stain from hardware stores are chemically derived, and they smell like it. Sometimes for days or even weeks, high concentrations of alcohol, petroleum distillates, and other chemicals can linger in the air. These chemicals often call for application with a mask to prevent breathing the chemicals into our lungs. Staining wood doesn’t have to involve harsh chemicals.
Natural and Homemade Wood Stain
There are many options for naturally derived stains that are long lasting and look great. Some of them are metallic based and some are plant based. Here are some good examples:
Coffee or Tea
Brew some very strong coffee or tea. Allow to cool. Dip a clean rag in the mixture and wipe onto the wood. You might want to use a test piece first to see how dark your wood will turn. You might also need more than one coat to get the desired color.
Water Based Ink
There are many colors of water based inks that will work well for staining (like this black one). Again, test in an inconspicuous spot first.
Soak onion skins in warm water to get a nice yellow color. Depending on your wood, the resulting color may be anything from pale yellow to warm amber.
Black Walnut Husks
If you’re lucky enough to have a black walnut tree around, you can dry the hulls and soak them in water. They must be dried first to achieve a dark brown color. If they are not dry, the result can be an ugly, murky green. Dilute with water until the right shade is produced.
Steel Wool and Vinegar
Vinegar helps to break down metallic compounds. Place a pad of regular (non-soapy) steel wool in a jar and cover with vinegar. Leave for about 24 hours and then remove the pad.
Different vinegars produce different results. Typically, the higher acidity, the darker the stain. So apple cider or white vinegar will work the best. For a lighter shade try rice wine or sherry vinegar. Some vinegars have a reddish tint that really doesn’t come through in the stain, but it could slightly.
Vinegar also helps to develop the tannins that are present in all woods, producing a darker color after the stain is applied. So apply your first coat, then wait about 20 minutes. You’ll see a big change!
Indigo or Woad
For a bluish tint, try powdered indigo (find it here) or woad. These will turn wood dark and slightly blue, kind of like blue-black hair.
Consider the Age and Type of Wood
The size of the pores in wood varies with each type. Softer woods, like pines, are more porous and can soak up stain quickly. The opposite is true for hardwoods like oak and maple. They have smaller pores and are more dense, so the absorption rate is much slower.
Newer cut wood is more dense, therefore slowing absorption; older woods are drier and will suck up the stain very fast.
Always test stain a small piece of wood to see how both the stain and wood will react.
Have you ever tried a natural stain for wood? If so, what did you use? What were the results?