Last Updated on August 30, 2023 by Ernest Godia
Outdoor furniture is exposed to harsh weather elements, including the sun’s UV rays, wind, rain, snow, and precipitation, which can quickly take a toll on wooden furniture. However, the best stain for outdoor furniture can seal the wood and protect its surface from the elements.
Outdoor wood stains are formulated with UV blockers that protect the furniture from fading and losing its brilliance. They also contain exterior-grade pigments that remain unaffected by the elements.
Such stains can also contain a sealer and stain in the same product, making application a quicker, one-step process.
This article reviews the best outdoor furniture stain and provides a guide on choosing one for your project.
Best Stain for Outdoor Furniture: At a Glance
- Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer – The best overall
- #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain– Fast-drying stain for outdoor furniture
- Seal-Once Premium Wood Stain and Sealer – Best protection against the elements
- Furniture Clinic Outdoor Furniture Stain – Best for small projects
- Olympic Stain Maximum Wood Stain – Best variety of colors
- DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent – Best eco-friendly option
- KILZ Waterproofing Wood Stain, Exterior – Excellent coverage
- THOMPSONS WATERSEAL Stain – Best fade-resistant stain for outdoor furniture
Types of Stains for Outdoor Furniture
We can categorize outdoor furniture stains based on their color and transparency. Transparency, often called opaqueness, describes how intense the wood stain colors are. Below are the various types on the market.
1. Opaque Exterior Stain
Opaque exterior stains have high pigment content, are highly durable, and offer lasting protection to the wood’s surface. If you apply them correctly, the solid finishes can last up to 5 years.
Applying multiple coats of this formula creates a coating on the surface of the wood, just like flat paints do. If not applied correctly, such a film might break and peel when exposed to heavy traffic.
Opaque exterior stains generally mask the wood grain, especially if it is heavily pigmented. So you don’t want to use it on woods with beautiful grains that you wish to maintain.
Instead, use solid stains on old weathered outdoor furniture where it hides surface imperfections. Avoid using this stain if you want to maintain the natural beauty of your wood, as it will mask the grain and obscure the original color.
2. Semi-Opaque Exterior Stain
Exterior semi-opaque or semi-solid stains are less pigmented than their solid alternatives. As a result, they only partially conceal the actual wood grain.
However, applying many coats of these stains will lead to the same results that opaque exterior wood stains would produce. Thus, using only one coat of semi-opaque stains is advisable to achieve the desired results.
The finish will last three to four years before it requires a recoating.
3. Semi-Transparent Exterior Stain
The semi-transparent exterior stains have just enough pigments to alter the color of the wooden surfaces but do not conceal the wood grain.
Compared to their transparent counterparts, these stains conceal imperfections more effectively.
They are also the most suitable alternative for protecting the wood surface. While exposing the natural beauty of the wood, they protect against damage from water, UV radiation, and mold damage.
These stains do not form coats on the wood surface like opaque ones do and, thus, are not prone to peeling.
Although they are pretty durable, you must reapply them every two to three years to maintain their protection.
4. Clear Toner Exterior Stain
Clear toner stains, also referred to as transparent stains, have little to no color. While these stains highly repel water, they do not alter the natural color of the wooden surface.
Instead, they leave the wood grain visible even after applying multiple coats. They are, therefore, the ideal choice for showcasing the natural appeal of wood, particularly on brand-new furniture.
Besides new furniture, you can use the clear toner finish on structures such as desks and countertops with a unique grain pattern.
The major drawback to using these stains is that they offer little protection to your wood against the elements. Also, since they are not as durable as the other exterior stains, you must reapply them yearly.
Best Stain for Outdoor Furniture Reviews
Here is a detailed rundown of the best outdoor wood furniture stains on the market today.
Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer – The Best Overall
Search no more if you’re looking for the best stain for outdoor furniture. Unlike other wood stains, this exterior-grade stain from Ready Seal doesn’t require you to prime the wood before applying it. This ensures an easy and quicker staining process.
You can use the stain outdoors in any climatic condition because it works well in any temperature range. It also has simple maintenance that doesn’t require stripping or sanding the surface before reapplying it.
Use a roller, sprayer, or paintbrush to apply this finish to outdoor wood surfaces. Since the formula doesn’t require back brushing, you won’t have to worry about streaks, laps, or runs.
Depending on the weather outside, the stain takes 48 to 72 hours to dry.
Once applied, the product penetrates the wood deeply, making the wood resistant to sun and water damage. In addition, the stained wood also becomes resistant to mold and mildew.
- It works well in any temperature range
- It doesn’t leave streaks, laps, or runs
- No need for a pre-stain conditioner
- It provides excellent surface coverage
- It penetrates deeply into the wood fibers
- It protects the wood well against water, mold, and UV damage
- It takes time to dry
- It is challenging to clean
#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain– Fast-Drying Outdoor Stain
When it comes to fast-drying stains for outdoor furniture, nothing beats the #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain. This low-VOC product is simple to apply, clean, and maintain in addition to being fast-drying.
It is advised to use the stain on projects using softwoods such as pressure-treated cedar, pine, redwood, and fir. But this does not mean you cannot use it on hardwood projects. However, if you do, consider applying multiple coats for the best results.
Thanks to the product’s exceptional coverage, a single gallon may cover up to 100 square feet with two coats.
Use it to stop outdoor wood furniture from graying due to prolonged sun exposure. Furthermore, its special formulation offers protection from snow and rain.
Five colors are available for this deck stain finish: light walnut, cedar, dark walnut, natural, and driftwood. Additionally, it dries to the touch quickly and leaves a flat, natural finish that brings out the beauty of exterior wood furniture.
- It is fast-drying
- It is eco-friendly
- Combines two products: stain and sealer
- It offers excellent coverage
- It creates a beautiful color on the wood
- Easy to clean up
- Protects outdoor furniture from weather elements
- The product requires a thoroughly prepared wood surface
- Only suitable for exterior use
Seal-Once Marine Premium Wood Stain and Sealer – Best Protection from the Elements
Look no further than this product if you want a stain that provides your outdoor wood furniture with the best protection against weather elements. The Seal-Once Premium Wood Stain and Sealer creates a UV-stable layer to protect the wood from weather, salty spray, and water damage.
Outdoor furniture, wood that has been thermally modified, and boat docks all benefit significantly from Marine Premium. The product poses no threat to aquatic life and is secure for usage over open water.
It is water-based and has an extremely low VOC content and odor. This means that when applying this stain, you don’t have to worry about harm to your respiratory system. Thus, you can use this stain without wearing any respiratory protection.
This quick-drying stain coats the wood fibers at the cellular level by penetrating below the surface to form a durable, flexible, breathable shield.
It offers a straightforward, simple cleanup with soap and water.
- Protects against elements
- Low VOC and low odor
- Easy to use
- Easy to clean
- The product is very thin, so you must apply multiple coats
Furniture Clinic Outdoor Furniture Stain – Best for Small Projects
The best stain for small outdoor furniture projects is Furniture Clinic Wood Stain, which typically costs less than $15 for a 17-ounce bottle.
This stain is water-based; hence, it is simple to clean up with soap and water. Also, being a water-based stain means that it is non-toxic and low-odor. You can, therefore, apply it to wood without wearing respiratory protection.
This product offers excellent coverage, even color penetration, and dries quickly within hours. It is available in 12 colors which include dark oak, walnut, teak, mahogany, antique pine, warm graphite, white ash, rosewood, natural oak, ebony black, slate, and gray.
One thing you must remember when using this stain, however, is that it has a thinner consistency. Thus, you need to watch out for runs when staining vertical surfaces.
The stain is suitable for both indoor and outdoor furniture.
- Inexpensive for small projects
- Excellent coverage
- Quick drying stain
- Available in 12 different colors
- It covers wood grain rather than enhancing it
- Sometimes, colors differ from what is advertised
Olympic Stain Maximum Wood Stain –Best Variety of Colors
If you want a product that offers a decent variety of colors, try the Olympic Stain Maximum Wood Stain. This finish is available in six different colors and various transparency levels to suit various tasks.
This product also delivers the highest possible value for customers looking to get the most out of a single gallon of stain. With just one gallon, you can cover 300 to 350 square feet of wood with multiple coats.
The product does an excellent job preserving the original beauty on both vertical and horizontal wood surfaces by preventing their fading and damage by UV light and water.
Another advantage of this stain is that it doesn’t drip from the rag or brush, making it easy to apply. When spills occur, you can use mineral spirits or other solvents to clean them up.
- Best range of colors
- Excellent coverage
- Ease of application
- Protects against fading, water, and UV damage
- Spills require the use of solvents to clean
DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent – Best Eco-Friendly Option
DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent stain is the best option for those keen on getting eco-friendly products. This product is 250 VOC compliant making it the most eco-friendly choice.
The low-VOC product produces a semi-transparent natural matte finish that shows the wood grain. Its formulation features high-quality resins to prevent wood furniture from fading and darkening.
It is also easy to apply since it does not require thorough surface preparation beforehand, such as stripping and sanding. Also, in contrast to other outdoor wood protection solutions, only one coat of this product is needed to achieve the desired coverage, even if the wood is worn out.
Even though this product is transparent, it has seven different hues to choose from. These include Butternut, Redwood, Driftwood Gray, Natural Pine, Light Walnut, Cedar Tone, and Crystal Clear, allowing you to be more creative.
The major downside to using this product is that you cannot apply it on painted or stained surfaces.
- UV light and water-resistant
- No thorough surface preparation needed
- Easy to maintain
- Mold, mildew, and fade resistant
- Can not be applied over existing paint and stain
- Requires a wood brightener
KILZ Waterproofing Wood Stain, Exterior – Excellent Coverage
This dependable exterior wood stain is an excellent choice for those seeking a finish with excellent coverage. You can apply the first coat on a 250-square-foot surface with a single gallon. And when reapplying, you can cover around 500 square feet, which makes it a practical choice for a challenging task.
Its waterproof formula protects your outdoor wood against mold, rain, and mildew.
Additionally, as the product is made entirely of acrylics, it shields exterior furniture from harsh weather elements. Use it to maintain the integrity and beauty of your outdoor wood furniture despite changing weather conditions.
The product is suitable for surfaces like fences, decks, and outdoor furniture with moderate weathering or not sealed. Before applying, shake it or stir the contents for satisfying results.
To apply this stain, start by lightly sanding the intended surface, then wash it to remove imperfections and odd fibers. As soon as the wood appears dry, apply the finish using a paint pad, brush, or pump sprayer.
Despite being thick, the stain penetrates the wood and protects it from within. While this stain is available in many colors, cedar and redwood are the most widely used color options. These hues give out a faint color tint that reveals the wood grain.
- Excellent coverage
- Protects against the elements
- Fast drying
- Beautiful range of colors
- Easy to clean
- It requires the wood surface to be prepared before application
Thompson’s WaterSeal Stain – Best Fade-Resistant Outdoor Stain
The Thompson Waterseal stain is your best bet if you want the best fade-resistant stain for outdoor furniture.
The product has a unique dual-purpose formula that works as a stain and a sealant. This saves you money and time because you don’t need a separate sealer.
Despite a slight color tint, the stain gives your wood a natural appearance, with the wood grain visible through the stain coat. After drying, it also protects against water, UV light, and mold deterioration.
To apply this product, use a roller or a brush. However, before starting the staining process, prepare the wood surface by sanding it with medium-grit sandpaper, then wash it with soap and water. This ensures an even finish and stops the coat from peeling.
You can apply the stain immediately after prepping the wood because it works on moist and dry wood. Depending on the weather, the product needs to dry for 1-2 hours.
Five bright hues are available for this semi-transparent solution. This includes cedar, harvest gold, maple brown, acorn brown, and sequoia red.
Each color preserves your furniture without covering the grain while delivering a natural tone.
- Resistant to fading
- Protects against water and mold damage
- Quick drying
- It’s easy to apply
- Can work on wet wood
- Requires thorough wood surface preparation
- High VOC levels
How to Select the Best Stain for Outdoor Furniture
There are several things to consider when looking for the best outdoor furniture stain. This includes the following:
- Consider the Type of Wood
The first thing to consider when choosing your preferred stain for outdoor furniture is the type of wood the furniture is made of.
Furniture made of open-grain wood typically absorbs more stain than closed-grain wood. Thus, even with one layer of stain, you can achieve the desired coverage with open-grain wood types.
Closed grain or hardwood surfaces like maple require more coats of wood stain to achieve the desired results because they are less absorbent.
You can identify the kind of wood you are working with by looking closely at its grain. Open-grain woods should have large visible pores, while closed-grain woods will have too tiny pores to see clearly.
- Water or Oil-Based?
We can group wood stains according to the liquid used as the vehicle for the particles and pigments in their formula.
Water-based stains use water as the base liquid. Compared to oil-based alternatives, these stains have a wider range of colors and are fast drying.
They are also easier to use and clean up. Thanks to their water-based formula, these stains are low VOC and low odor, making them eco-friendly and less harmful to inhale.
Oil-based stains, on the other hand, typically have linseed oil in their formula as the base. They are traditionally more durable than water-based stains, but modern advancements in manufacturing have led to water-based stains that are equally durable.
Oil-based stains penetrate deeply into the wood, protecting it from the inside out. However, they take longer to dry and require solvents like mineral spirits to clean up.
Oil-based stains are also generally high in volatile organic compounds and odor, so you must wear a respirator or mask to protect your lungs when using them.
- Consider the Goal and Intended Application
Since you are staining outdoor furniture, the stain must be exterior-grade. Use exterior wood stains for outdoor furniture and interior wood stains indoors.
Outdoor and indoor stains are formulated differently, and using one in the wrong environment will not work. Unlike interior wood stains, outdoor furniture stains have UV blockers to protect outdoor wood from UV damage.
They are also formulated to withstand harsh outdoor weather, which interior stains cannot.
For heavy foot traffic areas, choose highly penetrating stains. This will prevent cracking and peeling of the finish.
The majority of outdoor furniture is made from wood with lovely grain patterns. If this is your case, consider using transparent stains that reveal the wood’s grains.
- Factor In the Project Size
Your project determines the wood stain you can use. For instance, a small project such as a single piece of patio furniture will require only a few ounces of wood stain, while staining several pieces of furniture may require gallons of exterior-grade stain.
Start by calculating the estimated surface to cover and then choose a product that offers adequate coverage.
With most stains, a single gallon can cover up to 100 square feet on the first layer. However, it is advisable always to put quality first. This is because, even though some brands offer the best coverage, they are of low quality compared to some that provide less coverage.
- Think about the Color
The color of targeted surfaces determines the color of the wood stain. While you may pick a shade that appeals to your taste, ensuring it goes with the original decor is vital.
Also, remember that darker shades are easy on the eyes and usually last longer, despite absorbing much heat. On the other hand, Bright hues are more reflective and may be uncomfortable to view in direct sunlight. However, they remain cooler since they do not absorb much heat.
Although aesthetics are crucial, choosing wood stains shouldn’t be based solely on them.
- Consider any Existing Finish
The current finish of the surface will also influence your selection of outdoor wood stain.
Any stain can be used on bare surfaces. However, you must use a comparable finish on previously coated surfaces. For example, if you have an existing opaque stain coat on a wood surface, it is advisable to stick to that or use a semi-opaque finish.
The same rule also applies when it comes to the base liquid.
However, whatever the case, it’s possible to remove the existing finish by sanding the wood surface or stripping down the finish.
- Consider Your Budget
It is essential to stick to your budget, but always consider quality over cost whenever possible. Using a high-quality product can help you save better in the long run by reducing how frequently you must redo the project.
Still, you don’t have to go for absurdly expensive products. Instead, consider the high-quality but reasonably-priced alternatives above.
How to Stain Outdoor Wood Furniture Step-by-Step
Below are the materials you require to stain outdoor furniture:
- Outdoor furniture wood stain
- Protective gear. This includes gloves, masks, and safety glasses.
- Soap and water
- Pre-stain conditioner
The procedure for staining outdoor wood furniture
Below are the steps involved in staining outdoor wood furniture:
Step 1: Safety First
You get exposed to several hazards when working with outdoor furniture stains, especially oil-based ones. Always wear safety glasses, hand gloves, and a respiratory mask when staining to protect yourself from these risks.
Step 2: Prepare the Wood Surface
After wearing your safety gear, you must prepare your outdoor furniture for staining.
Prepare the furniture by:
- Removing the parts that you don’t wish to stain
- Cleaning the dirt off the furniture with soap and water
Allow the wood to dry before moving to the next step.
Step 3: Remove the Existing Stain
It’s advisable to avoid applying stain on any existing stain. You can remove the existing finish by sanding it or using a chemical stripping solution.
If you use the stripping solution, give it around 20 minutes to absorb into the wood surface before scraping it off along with the existing layer of wood stain.
Step 4: Sand the Surface
Don’t forget to sand the wood to remove any remaining stains and smooth its surface.
Sand along the wood grain for an even appearance. After that, wipe away the sanding dust with a dry towel or vacuum it using a vacuum machine.
Step 5: Apply the First Layer of Stain
When the wood surface has entirely dried, apply the first layer of wood stain on your outdoor furniture.
Start with the top portion of the furniture heading downwards. After applying the first layer, leave the stain to settle on the furniture for five to fifteen minutes.
Step 6: Remove Extra Wood Stain by Wiping
Wipe the surface with a clean, absorbent cloth to eliminate spills or extra stains, guaranteeing an even and lovely finish.
Step 7: Leave the Stain to Dry
Allowing the stain time to dry entirely is crucial because it may affect the finish’s quality. The stain’s drying time varies depending on the brand.
Step 8: Add Another Stain Layer, if Necessary.
Check the stain’s color and overall appearance when it has completely dried. If you prefer a darker shade, apply another coat of stain using the same method you used to apply the first coat. Let the stain dry completely to keep the lovely finish before using the outdoor furniture.
Benefits of Using Exterior Stain for Outdoor Furniture
In addition to enhancing the appearance of outdoor wood furniture, wood stains provide many advantages. Here are the main benefits of using the exterior stain for outdoor furniture:
1. Exterior stains protect the wood from rotting
Outdoor wood furniture is exposed to weather elements such as precipitation, high humidity, rain, and snow. If the surface is not sealed, the wood can absorb moisture and rot. Rotting affects the wood’s structural integrity, increasing the likelihood of your furniture collapsing.
When you stain a piece of outdoor furniture, the stain coat creates a water-repellant or waterproof layer, preventing moisture absorption and rotting.
2. Protects against water and sun damage
Wood is naturally porous, so unless the surface has a coat of sealant, it can absorb water and swell. Such wood can crack, break, or rot. Your furniture could sustain significant damage as a result.
Also, like other materials, unsealed outdoor furniture is also vulnerable to fading and discoloration from prolonged sun exposure.
Staining the wood surfaces ensures the wood is sealed, maintaining its durability and visual appeal.
3. Staining allows the wood to withstand heavy usage
Due to heavy foot activity, wood decks are subject to wear. Although painting them can be helpful, paint isn’t long-lasting and will eventually peel or crack.
The same rule applies to outdoor furniture used constantly. Such heavy usage can quickly take a toll on the furniture, reducing its lifespan. However, staining can prolong its service life by making it more resistant to scratches and physical damage.
4. Staining helps preserve the wood’s natural aesthetics
Wood stains, except the solid types, allow the wood grain to show through the finish. This quality makes them excellent for outdoor furniture made of naturally beautiful wood such as maple and oak.
Do You Have to Seal Outdoor Furniture After Staining It?
It is not a requirement to seal outdoor furniture after staining it. Most outdoor stains are formulated to withstand the elements without necessarily adding a separate sealer over the coat of stain.
However, sealing the wood may be beneficial in the following ways:
Benefits Of Sealing Outdoor Wood Furniture After Staining
- Sealing Protects Against Deterioration.
Wood stains don’t do much to protect the wood unless they have a sealant blended in. Its primary function is to accentuate the wood’s natural grain and give it color.
Additionally, the stain will penetrate and seal the wood’s pores, providing some protection against moisture and water damage.
Sadly, because the stain does not leave a film on the surface of the wood, the pores on the stained wood continue to be partially open.
Liquids can, therefore, still penetrate and damage the wood, especially as the stain wears off.
A protective finish that is impervious to moisture, water, and other liquids, including chemicals, is provided by sealing. On the wood surface, the hard surface also creates a scratch-resistant buffer.
- A Sealer Protects Wood Against Discoloration
Exposure to frequent spills, foods, human contact, and pet activities can produce markings on the stained wood surface. A sealer could stop that.
A protective sealant creates a shield between the piece of wood and the outside environment. This protective layer prevents the outdoor elements from damaging the wood.
Additionally, cleaning the glossy sheen on the wood’s surface is simple. Because of its slickness, most dirt, grease, and filth won’t stick. As a result, regular wiping and dusting can be sufficient to keep the wood surface pristine.
- Sealing Offers Fading Resistance
A sealer aids in preserving the stained surface’s color. This means that as long as the wood is sealed, it will maintain its color even when exposed to fluctuating weather conditions.
- Sealing Can Improve the Wood Furniture’s Aesthetics
An additional benefit of a clear coat is that it gives the wood a more polished look. This spotless appearance can last long because the sealant makes the wood resistant to scratching and denting.
Read our article to learn how to seal painted wood for outdoor use.
Best Stain for Outdoor Furniture: FAQs
What kind of stain do you use for outdoor furniture?
You can use oil-based stains, water-based stains, or a blend of wood stains and polyurethane for your outdoor furniture. All of these are durable and easy to apply. The only downside to using oil-based stains is their high VOC levels and irritating odor.
Is it better to stain or paint outdoor furniture?
When it comes to outdoor furniture, it is better to stain them rather than paint them. This is because stain seeps into the wood and is more protective than a coat of paint, which only forms a layer on top of the wood surface.
What lasts longer, paint or stain?
Paint lasts longer than stain. Paints can last even for ten years or longer. On the other hand, stain finishes are less durable and need to be reapplied again every one to eight years.
How many coats of stain do I need for outdoor furniture?
It is advisable to use two coats of stain on any wood project. However, always apply only as much stain as the wood can absorb.
What happens if the stain gets wet before it dries?
If a stained wood is exposed to water before it dries, the water will soak into the wood and try to displace the stain. Instead of a uniform, smooth coat, this may result in a blotchy, flaking appearance.
Best Stain for Outdoor Furniture: Final Take
Outdoor pieces of furniture are an essential addition to our homes. Caring for them is crucial to ensure they retain their beauty and last long.
One way to take care of your outdoor furniture is by protecting it with the best stain for outdoor furniture.
This guide reviews the eight best stains for outdoor furniture. It also touches on the steps involved in staining outdoor furniture.
We hope this information will help make your next outdoor furniture staining project a success.