Last Updated on October 14, 2023 by Ernest Godia
Whether you’re staining wooden furniture, doors, or fiberglass surfaces, the choice of stain can make a significant difference.
Gel stains, in particular, are popular for their ease of use and versatility. They provide a rich, even color and do an excellent job hiding minor surface imperfections.
But with so many options on the market, choosing the best one for your needs can be challenging.
Let’s dive into gel stains and discover the best gel stain for wood and fiberglass. We’ll explore the top options on the market and help you identify the best gel stain for wood and fiberglass.
The article provides top product recommendations and application tips to make your gel stain project successful.
Best Gel Stain for Wood and Fiberglass: At a Glance
- Best gel stain for wood and fiberglass: General Finishes Oil-Based Gel Stain
- Best gel stain for kitchen cabinets: Gel Stain by Retique It
- Best gel stain for furniture: Minwax Interior Gel Stain
- Best gel stain for vertical surfaces: Varathane Premium Gel Stain
- Best gel stain for small projects: Unicorn Spit Gel Stain
What is a Gel Stain?
A gel stain is a wood stain designed to be thicker and more dense than traditional liquid stains.
The best gel stain is typically used to add color to wood surfaces while providing some level of protection and enhancement to the wood’s natural grain.
The thicker consistency of gel stains also means they provide greater control and better coverage during application.
Types of Gel Stains For Wood And Fiberglass
Various types of gel stains are available on the market, each with unique characteristics and applications. Understanding the different types of gel stains can help you choose the right one for your project.
- Oil-Based Gel Stains:
These stains are known for their durability and rich color. They provide deep penetration into the wood, enhancing the grain and natural beauty.
Due to their long-lasting finish, oil-based gel stains are ideal for larger projects and outdoor applications. They require a longer drying time compared to water-based stains.
- Water-Based Gel Stains:
Water-based gel stains are eco-friendly and emit fewer fumes, making them suitable for indoor use. They have a quicker drying time than oil-based stains.
While they may not penetrate wood as deeply as oil-based stains, they still provide a lovely finish. Water-based gel stains are easier to clean up with water and soap.
- Gel Stains with Polyurethane Finish:
These gel stains combine the staining process with a protective polyurethane finish. They save you time and effort by eliminating the need for a separate topcoat.
Gel stains with polyurethane finish offer excellent durability and resistance to wear and tear.
- Gel Stains with Gel Topcoats:
Some gel stains come with a matching gel topcoat. These stains and topcoats are designed to work together for a harmonious finish. They provide enhanced protection and a consistent look.
- Gel Stains with Color Blending Options:
These innovative gel stains offer the flexibility to blend different colors, allowing you to create custom shades. They are perfect for creating a unique and personalized look on wood or fiberglass surfaces.
- Opaque Gel Stains:
Opaque gel stains are designed to completely cover the surface, hiding the underlying wood or fiberglass grain. They are often used when you want to change the color of a piece entirely.
- Transparent Gel Stains:
Transparent gel stains allow the natural beauty and grain of the wood or fiberglass to show through. They provide a more subtle and nuanced finish, enhancing the existing characteristics of the material.
- Specialty Gel Stains:
Specialty gel stains may include metallic finishes, glitter-infused stains, or distressed finishes. These stains cater to specific design preferences and creative projects.
- Low VOC Gel Stains:
Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) gel stains are environmentally friendly and emit fewer harmful chemicals. They are a responsible choice for those who prioritize indoor air quality and sustainability.
- Exterior Gel Stains:
These are gel stains designed for outdoor use. They are formulated to withstand the elements, including UV rays, moisture, and temperature fluctuations.
They provide long-lasting protection and color retention for outdoor wood and fiberglass surfaces.
Gel Stains Vs Regular Stains: What’s The Difference?
Both gel stains and regular stains can achieve beautiful finishes when used appropriately, but the choice between them depends on the specific project, the type of wood, and the desired application method.
Gel stains are often preferred for their ease of use and reduced risk of blotching, especially on blotch-prone woods like pine. On the other hand, regular stains are favored for their quicker drying time and versatility in certain applications.
Here is the difference between gel stains and regular stains in depth.
Gel stains are thicker, gel-like, and similar to pudding or mayonnaise. This thickness makes them easier to control during application and reduces the risk of dripping or running.
Regular, liquid stains are more fluid and have a thinner consistency, similar to water or paint. They can be more challenging to control and may drip or run if not applied carefully.
Gel stains are typically applied using a brush, rag, or sponge. Their thickness allows for precise application, making them suitable for vertical surfaces and intricate woodwork.
Regular, liquid stains are often applied with a brush, cloth, or foam applicator. They require more careful handling to prevent uneven coverage.
Gel Stains: Gel stains are less prone to blotching or streaking on wood surfaces, especially when dealing with porous or uneven-grain woods like pine or cherry.
Regular Stains: Liquid stains can sometimes result in blotches or streaks, particularly on certain types of wood unless a pre-stain wood conditioner is used.
- Drying Time
Gel stains tend to have a longer drying time compared to liquid stains. This can be an advantage for projects where extended working time is needed.
Regular wood stains typically dry more quickly, which can be advantageous for faster turnaround projects.
Gel stains can be mixed with other gel stains or thinned with a compatible thinner to create custom colors or adjust the thickness for specific applications.
Regular wood stains can also be mixed to create custom colors but are typically used at their original consistency.
- Grain Raising
Gel Stains: Gel stains are less likely to cause significant grain raising in wood surfaces due to their thicker consistency.
Liquid stains can sometimes cause wood fibers to swell, leading to more noticeable grain raising. This characteristic applies to water-based wood stains.
Advantages of Gel Stains over Liquid Stains
Gel stains are typically preferred for certain woodworking projects, such as finishing blotch-prone woods and fiberglass, because they offer several advantages, including the following.
- Gel stains are easier to control and apply compared to liquid stains. Their thicker consistency makes it less likely for the stain to drip or run, allowing for more precise application.
- Gel stains provide better coverage. When applied to wood, they tend to create a more even and uniform color, reducing the chances of blotching or streaking.
- Gel stains are more versatile. They can be used on both porous and non-porous wood surfaces, making them suitable for various woodworking projects, including furniture, cabinets, and decorative items.
- Gel stains offer reduced grain raising. When wood absorbs liquid stains, it can sometimes cause the wood fibers to swell or rise, leading to a rough texture. Gel stains are less likely to cause significant grain raising.
- Gel stains reduce blotching. Gel stains are less prone to causing blotches or streaks on wood surfaces, even on porous or uneven-grain woods like pine or cherry. This makes them an excellent choice for achieving consistent and uniform coloration.
- Gel stains are excellent for vertical surfaces. Gel stains are well-suited for staining vertical surfaces, such as cabinet doors or paneling, where maintaining control and preventing drips is crucial.
Best Gel Stain for Wood and Fiberglass: Detailed Reviews
Now that we know what gel stains are and how they can benefit your woodworking or staining project, here are some top choices for wood and fiberglass.
Best gel stain for wood and fiberglass: General Finishes Oil-Based Gel Stain
If you want a deep, rich color on your wood and fiberglass surfaces, look no further than the General Finishes Oil-Based Gel Stain. It is a heavy-bodied gel stain that sits on the wood surface, enhancing its color.
The thick body does an excellent job smoothing the wood surface. This quality makes it excellent for wood and fiberglass surfaces with noticeable blemishes. It will do a great job of hiding them.
The oil-based formula means the stain will penetrate the wood better than other gel stain formulations, creating durable results.
The General Finishes gel stain is the best option for both wood and fiberglass. It boasts superior quality and a long list of advantages for both surfaces.
The gel stain is extremely durable, thanks to its resistance to moisture, mildew, and corrosive chemicals. It is ideal for refinishing jobs since you don’t need to peel off the previous finish before applying it.
Since the product offers up to 15 different colors to choose from, you could never go wrong with this superior-quality gel stain from General Finishes.
- There are up to 15 different colors to choose from
- Durable finish
- Lots of positive customer reviews, making it a dependable choice
- The oil-based formula penetrates the wood grain, protecting it from within
- Superior resistance to chipping, fading, and peeling
- The product is available in various sizes for convenient matching with different project sizes.
- The oil-based formula may take longer to dry than its water-based cousins
Best gel stain for kitchen cabinets: Gel Stain by Retique It
This gel stain by Retique It is exactly what you need if you are searching for an interior wood gel stain that is not only flexible but also easy to apply. This hybrid wood stain provides deep penetration and rich color while preserving the natural grain of the wood.
Thanks to the thin consistency of this product, you can easily feed it into a paint sprayer and enjoy easy application. The ability to apply it with a sprayer makes it a great product for larger projects.
The new Nano-technology used to manufacture this gel stain makes it the most versatile gel stain and glaze on the market. This versatile hybrid technology also makes this product by Retique It the best gel stain for fiberglass doors.
The product is so versatile that you can use it like a traditional paint glaze by applying it over a painted finish.
- The stain is thin enough to ride over existing finishes, just like a typical gel stain.
- It is versatile and equally thin enough to absorb into unfinished wood like a traditional, liquid wood stain.
- It is water-based, hence non-toxic.
- The product is hypoallergenic, making it suitable for people with sensitivities.
- It is low-VOC with no strong odor. It even smells like water
- The product is not suitable for outdoor use
- It has fewer color options, hence no variety
Best gel stain for furniture: Minwax Interior Gel Stain
If you are new to woodworking, this interior wood stain from Minwax is your best bet. It boasts a unique non-drip formula that makes application a walk in the park, even on vertical surfaces.
The thick-bodied gel stain allows for greater control over the color and application technique. This way, it is easier to achieve beautiful results when using this product.
This Minwax gel stain is extremely versatile. You can use it to coat finished and unfinished wood surfaces, fiberglass, furniture, molding, accessories, trim, and cabinets.
The product is formulated to deliver the color evenly on all surfaces. The manufacturer recommends pre-treating the bare wood with a Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to ensure you get the most uniform color.
- The product is easy to apply, thanks to a non-drip formula
- It is versatile and can be used on various surfaces
- It offers rich color and coverage on any surface
- The results of this gel stain are long-lasting
- It is less messy than most gel stains and glazes
- Minwax is a reputable brand
- The product is rather expensive for its size.
- It has a long drying time.
Best gel stain for vertical surfaces: Varathane Premium Gel Stain
If you’re in the market for the best gel stain for cabinets and wooden doors, you are in the right place. This Verathane gel stain is designed for vertical surfaces, so it will not drip or cause a mess during application.
This unique non-drip formula makes the product ideal for vertical surfaces such as doors, furniture, and trim. The manufacturer recommends this as the best gel stain for wood fiberglass and composite doors, where it creates the most natural look.
The thicker consistency also makes this formula ideal for beginners who can enjoy work without messy drips and runs.
The high-coverage formula provides up to twice the coverage of traditional oil-based stains. As such, the product gives you good value for money.
- It has a fast-drying formula, drying to the touch in just an hour
- It is high coverage. One quart of the gel stain covers up to 250 square feet of wood and fiberglass surfaces.
- The non-drip formula is beginner-friendly
- The product applies evenly without causing grain raise or lap marks
- It creates a durable, rich, deep color that enhances the natural beauty of the wood grain
- This gel stain is not recommended for floors, siding, or decks.
Best gel stain for small projects: Unicorn Spit Gel Stain
Unicorn Spit can make anything look like a unique work of art. The gel stain can be used on a variety of surfaces, including ceramics, metal, wicker, laminate, glass, and concrete. This versatility makes it the best gel stain for wood and fiberglass projects of any kind.
The product is available in a wide range of colors, including red, pink, orange, yellow, teal, blue, white, purple, and black. With this rich variety, you can never get it wrong with the Unicorn Spit Gel Stain.
The unique formula allows you to use the product as paint for hiding major imperfections on your wood and fiberglass surfaces. Alternatively, you can dilute your Unicorn Spit with water to create a whitewash or make a glaze.
The product is versatile and can be thinned with water, alcohol, mineral spirits, xylene, or acetone. It can also be combined with other paints, inks, watercolors, and acrylics for a custom finish.
- It is ideal for all craft projects
- It is easy to clean up with soap and water.
- The product offers durable results.
- A little amount of the product goes a long way, thanks to a high-overage formula
- It is versatile and can work on many surfaces, including bare wood, rocks, glass, cloth, plastic, and leather.
- The gel stain comes in small sizes, which is not ideal for large projects
Choosing the Best Gel Stain for Wood and Fiberglass
When selecting the best gel stain, consider the following factors:
Different gel stains come in various colors. Whether you prefer a classic walnut finish or a bold ebony, there’s a gel stain to match your vision.
Some gel stains offer more transparency than others. The level of transparency affects how much of the wood grain will show through the stain. Make sure to choose one that aligns with your desired look.
Not all gel stains are suitable for both wood and fiberglass. Ensure the product you choose is compatible with your project’s surface material.
The method of application can vary between gel stains. Some are best applied with a brush, while others work well with a rag. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.
Think about how long the product will last. To make sure the finish holds up over time, try to find a gel stain that is resistant to fading, flaking, and chipping.
Environmental and safety considerations
Think about how your actions will affect the environment and safety. Find products with low volatile organic compound (VOC) levels that won’t harm you or the planet. Safer and less harmful to the environment are water-based gel stains.
Prices for gel stains vary widely, so it’s important to set your budget based on the available options and go for a product that won’t break it.
Notice that a higher price tag may go with a better quality product. However, you must balance between quality and price. Consider looking through the user reviews to learn about the real-life experiences of people who have used the product before you.
How to Apply Gel Stain on Wood and Fiberglass Step by Step
Gel stain can be a game changer if you want to rejuvenate the appearance of your wooden or fiberglass surfaces. This step-by-step guide walks you through applying gel stain like a pro.
What You’ll Need
- Gel stain in your preferred color
- Sandpaper (various grits)
- Clean, lint-free cloths
- Brushes or foam applicators
- Painter’s tape
- Drop cloths or newspaper to protect your work area
Step 1: Surface Preparation
Proper surface preparation is crucial for achieving a flawless finish.
Begin by sanding the surface to be stained. Use a coarse-grit sandpaper (around 80-120 grit) to remove any existing finish or imperfections. Follow up with finer grits (150-220) to create a smooth, even surface.
After sanding, wipe down the surface with a clean, damp cloth to remove any dust or debris. Let it dry completely before proceeding.
Step 2: Testing the gel stain
Before applying the gel stain to your entire project, it’s a good idea to do a test on a small, inconspicuous area. This allows you to assess the color and how it interacts with your wood or fiberglass.
Step 3: Applying the Gel Stain
Now, it’s time to apply the gel stain and bring your project to life.
Start by thoroughly stirring the gel stain. This ensures an even distribution of pigments and consistency.
Using a brush or foam applicator, apply the gel stain in long, even strokes, following the grain of the wood or fiberglass. Work in small sections to ensure you have control over the application.
Step 4: Wiping Off Excess Stain
After applying the gel stain, it’s crucial to wipe off any excess.
Let the gel stain sit for a few minutes, typically 3-5 minutes, but follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific product.
Then, using a clean cloth, gently wipe off the excess stain in the direction of the grain. Be sure to maintain consistent pressure to achieve an even finish.
Step 5: Drying and Additional Coats
Allow the first coat to dry completely, typically within 6-8 hours. You can then decide if additional coats are needed to achieve your desired color intensity. Repeat the application and wiping process as necessary, allowing adequate drying time between coats.
Tips for Applying the Best Gel Stain on Wood and Fiberglass
Achieving a flawless finish with gel stain requires proper application techniques. Here are some tips to help you get the best results:
- Prepare the Surface. Before applying gel stain, ensure the surface is clean and free of any dust or debris. Sand the wood lightly along the grain to create a smooth surface for the stain to adhere to.
- Test on a Sample Piece. If you’re unsure about how the gel stain will look on your project, it’s a good idea to test it on a small, inconspicuous area or a scrap piece of wood. This allows you to see the color and transparency before committing to the entire project.
- Apply Evenly. Use a brush or rag to apply the gel stain evenly, following the grain of the wood. Be consistent in your strokes to prevent streaks or uneven coloring.
- Wipe off the Excess. After applying the stain, wait a few minutes (follow the manufacturer’s instructions) and then wipe off any excess stain with a clean cloth. This step ensures an even finish and prevents blotching.
- Allow for Drying Time. Gel stains typically require longer drying times compared to liquid stains. Be patient and allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next one.
- Seal the Finish. To protect and enhance the appearance of your stained surface, consider applying a clear polyurethane or varnish after the gel stain has dried. This will add a layer of protection and a beautiful sheen to your project.
- Clean Up Carefully. Gel stains can be challenging to clean once they dry. Use mineral spirits or the recommended cleaning solution for the specific gel stain brand to clean your brushes and applicators.
FAQs about Best Gel Stain
Here are some of the frequently asked questions about the best gel stain for wood and fiberglass surfaces.
Can I use gel stain on kitchen cabinets?
Yes, you can use the best gel stain for kitchen cabinets to refresh their appearance. Make sure to remove any existing finish, sand the cabinets, and follow the staining process carefully for a professional-looking result.
Will gel stain cover up wood imperfections?
Gel stain can help minimize the appearance of minor wood imperfections, but it won’t completely conceal deep gouges or scratches. Proper surface preparation is key to achieving the best result.
Can I mix gel stain with paint to create a customized color?
Mixing gel stain with paint can create unique colors. Experiment on a small surface or scrap wood to achieve the desired shade before applying it to your project.
How long does gel stain take to dry?
The drying time of gel stain varies depending on factors like humidity and temperature. Typically, it takes around 24 hours for the gel stain to dry completely.
Can I use gel stain on outdoor wooden decks?
Gel stains are not recommended for outdoor wooden decks. They are designed for interior use and may not provide the necessary protection against UV rays and weathering.
Is gel stain safe to use indoors?
Gel stain is safe to use indoors, but it’s essential to ensure proper ventilation in the workspace, especially if you’re working with solvents for cleaning or applying polyurethane finishes.
Can I use gel stain on outdoor wooden furniture?
Yes, you can use gel stain on outdoor wooden furniture. However, it’s essential to choose a gel stain specifically designed for exterior use to ensure durability against the elements.
How many coats of gel stain should I apply?
The number of coats depends on the desired depth of color. Typically, one to two coats are sufficient, but you can apply more for a richer hue.
Can I mix different gel stain colors to create a custom shade?
Yes, you can experiment with mixing different gel stain colors to achieve a custom shade that suits your project.
Do I need to use a sealer after applying gel stain?
Whether or not you need a sealer depends on your project and personal preference. Some gel stains come with built-in sealers, while others may require a separate topcoat for added protection.
Do I need to sand the surface before applying gel stain?
Yes, it’s advisable to sand the surface lightly before applying gel stain to ensure a smooth and even finish.
How long should I wait between gel stain coats?
Allow each coat to dry completely, which usually takes around 24 hours, before applying additional coats.
Can I apply a gel stain over an existing finish?
Yes, you can apply gel stain over an existing finish, but it’s essential to prepare the surface properly and test compatibility beforehand.
Best Gel Stain For Wood and Fiberglass: Final Verdict
Selecting the best gel stain for wood and fiberglass is the first step toward achieving a professional and beautiful finish on both surface types. From our research, General Finishes Gel Stain is the best option for both wood and fiberglass. It boasts superior quality and a long list of advantages.
The product is extremely durable, thanks to its resistance to moisture, mildew, and corrosive chemicals. It is versatile and excellent for refinishing jobs since you don’t need to peel off the previous finish before applying it.
Follow the recommended application tips and techniques for flawless results. With the right gel stain and proper application, you’ll transform your wood and fiberglass into stunning works of art.
We hope this detailed review and user guide help make your next gel stain project tremendously successful.