How to Stain Wood Darker

Last Updated on December 14, 2022 by Ernest Godia

Dark staining is a quick and easy way to add color and depth to your wood. 

Staining wood darker not only deepens the color of the wood but also highlights the grain and enhances its overall appearance.

There are several methods you can use to stain your wood darker, depending on the type of wood.

In this article, we’ll show you how to stain wood darker using different techniques to give it a more elegant and accentuated look.

How to Stain Wood Darker: At a Glance

To stain wood darker, start by sanding it with medium-grit sandpaper, then add more coats of dark-colored stain on the wood. Alternatively, use a gel stain instead of an oil stain, then seal with a polyurethane finish. You can also use black coffee or tea and vinegar to stain your wood darker.

how to stain wood darker

What You’ll Need

  • Coarse grit sandpaper
  • Natural bristle brushes
  • Gel stain
  • Protective gear (rubber gloves, face mask, safety goggles)
  • Dark-colored wood stain
  • Wood finish (polyurethane)
  • Stain pigment
  • Toner 

How to Stain Wood Darker: 7 Simple Methods

This step-by-step guide will help you learn how to stain wood darker, whether you’re working with an oil-based stain, a water-based stain, or any other type of wood stain.

1. Wet the wood with water to raise the grain 

While it’s advisable not to pour water on unsealed wood, doing so is recommended for your dark-staining project. Wetting will raise the wood grain and make it dry with a coarse texture. This step works best with water-based stains. 

Once the wood is dry, apply one coat of a dark-colored water-based stain after another, leaving the wood to dry and cure between the coats.

2. Sand your wood with a coarse-grit sandpaper

Sanding helps make the wood surface rough to allow your wood colorant to lodge into the wood. Use hand sandpaper instead of a power sander as it will help you maintain the direction of the gran for more beautiful results. 

After sanding with coarse sandpaper, sand again with medium-grit sandpaper to smooth any scratches that may have formed on the wood surface. Apply medium pressure for the best results.

3. Do a dirty-wipe

While staining your wood, wiping excess stain helps achieve an evenly stained surface. 

However, with a dirty wipe, you lightly wipe the excess and leave the wood surface damp with the stain. The wood will still have excess stained but evenly distributed to help it dry with a darker shade. 

Note that the wood may take longer to dry due to the extra layer of stain. Just be careful not to leave the stain coat too thick as it may take too long to dry.

4. Make the stain darker by adding more pigment.

To stain your wood darker, you can also make the stain darker by adding more pigment before applying it to your wood. 

The pigment will increase the concentration of colorant on your wood stain, giving it a darker and more appealing appearance. The higher the pigment-to-solvent ratio, the darker your wood stain will be. Use oil-based pigment to darken oil-based paint and a universal pigment for water-based stains.

After adding pigment, test the stain on a scrap piece of wood and let it dry completely to gauge if it will give your wood the desired color intensity.

5. Spray toner between coats of wood finish.

You can also stain your wood darker by spraying a toner between coats of your wood finish. 

Even though the toner is translucent, it has pigments or dyes which help stain wood darker. Dye toner is better than pigment toner as it does not muddy wood surfaces and leaves a more even appearance.

After staining the wood and applying a polyurethane finish, refinish by spraying a layer of toner and let it dry. Apply another coat of finish and spray with toner again until your wood achieves the desired darker color.

6. Apply a glaze over the stained wood

One of the most effective ways to achieve a darker wood stain color is to use glaze instead of liquid stain. 

However, you can still decide to finish your wood by applying a glaze after applying your regular stain and sealer. Glazes are thicker stains with a higher concentration of pigment, which will help darken your wood color.

Ensure your glaze and the regular stain are compatible (use a water-based glaze over a water-based finish and an oil-based glaze with an oil-based stain.

Brush the glaze on the wood surface and use your brush to spread it evenly into a thin film. 

Don’t forget to wipe the excess off the wood surface before it dries.

7. Substitute standard stains with dye stains

Dye stains are an excellent substitute for standard stains, which can help stain your wood darker. 

This is because they have a higher pigment concentration than standard stains and do not depend on wood pores to color. Consequently, they can easily stain even dense hardwoods darker. 

You may purchase liquid dye or powdered wood dyes. With the powdered dye, you’ll need to mix them with water or alcohol according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

After mixing as recommended, apply multiple coats of the stain on your woods and leave it to dry to see if it achieves your desired darker color.

Using Gel Stains to Stain Wood Darker 

If you’re working on less porous dense hardwoods such as maple, gel stain is the best stain to use.
These types of stains sit on the wood and make it darker without blocking the wood grain.

Tools and Materials

  • Natural bristle brush
  • Soft cotton cloth
  • Gel stain
  • Course and fine grit sandpapers
  • Dark-colored wood stain
  • Wood finish (e.g., Polyurethane)
  • Protective gear (face mask, safety goggles, and rubber gloves)

Procedure for staining wood darker with gel stain

  1. Prepare your workstation

Since you’ll be dealing with chemicals, work outdoors or in a well-ventilated room. Cover the surfaces around your project with a drop cloth to protect them from dripping gel stains. Remember to put on your protective gear too.

  1. Clean your wood

For treated wood, prepare it for staining by cleaning with a grease-cutting wood cleaner to eliminate any oil, grease, or gunk.

  1. Sand your wood with coarse sandpaper

Coarse sand to make your wood surface rough to allow it to bond with the gel stain.

  1. Sand again with fine sandpaper

Fine sanding will make the word surface smoother and eliminate any scratches formed by coarse sanding.

  1. Apply gel stain and wipe

Use your natural bristle brush to apply one coat of gel stain evenly on the wood surface. Wipe the excess with a cotton cloth and let it dry completely before applying a second layer. Work along the direction of the grain to achieve a clean finish.

  1. Apply polyurethane wood finish

Spray the wood surface with a clear polyurethane finish to keep the dark color intact. This will also protect the wood from moisture which may discolor it.

Using Tea and Vinegar to Stain Your Wood Darker

Another effective solution for staining wood darker is to stain the wood using tea and vinegar solution.

Vinegar solution and steel wool form iron acetate, which reacts with tannins in tea to make the wood appear darker.

Tools and Materials

  • Hot water
  • Black tea bags 
  • Fine steel wool 
  • Apple cider vinegar 
  • Chip brush
  • Soft cotton cloth
  • Wood finish (Wax or Polyurethane)

How to stain wood darker with tea and vinegar

1. Prepare your stain 

Prepare your wood stain by soaking a ball of fine steel wool in a jar of apple cider vinegar and let it soak for 48 hours. This will form an iron acetate solution which will help in your dark staining process. 

In a separate heat-resistant container, pour 2 cups of hot boiling water and add 3-4 black tea bags. Let it sit for 2 hours to soak well.

2. Sand the wood

Once you’ve made your stain, prepare your wood by sanding lightly using fine-grit sandpaper. Next, wipe off the wood dust using a clean piece of cotton rag.

3. Stain the wood and let it dry

Apply the tea solution onto the wood surface using a chip brush and let it sit for an hour. Sop up the excess liquid from the wood surface, then apply an even coat of the iron acetate to the wood. 

Remember to work along the direction of the grain to achieve the best results.

Let the wood sit in the open for an hour to dry and if the resultant stain is not dark enough, repeat the staining all over again.

4. Coat with wood finish

Once your wood dries and achieves the desired color, wipe off any debris and seal it with a wax finish or polyurethane.

Using Coffee to Stain Wood Darker

Well, it turns out that coffee is not only for drinking. It has several other functions, one of which is to stain wood darker.

Staining your wood with dark coffee will give it a naturally dark and attractive appearance.

What you will need 

  • Coarse and fine-grit sandpaper
  • A paintbrush
  • Dark coffee

Procedure for staining wood darker with coffee

  1. Prepare dark coffee

To stain wood darker using coffee, prepare your coffee by brewing it in a pot and making it as concentrated as possible.

  1. Sand the wood

As the coffee cools, sand your wood using coarse grit sandpaper, then switch to fine-grit sandpaper. This will prepare the wood grain to bond with the coffee stain. 

  1. Stain the wood

Wipe off the wood dust, then apply your coffee onto the wood surface using a paintbrush. Ensure the entire surface is covered and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Once you achieve the desired color, let the wood dry. 

Choosing the Best Dark Stains for Wood

Some of the factors to consider when choosing a dark stain for your wood include:

  • The type of wood (Porosity)

Porous woods like birch are highly absorbent and are, therefore, easy to stain dark. Oil-based or water-based stains will generally work well on them. 

On the other hand, less porous hardwoods like maple are less absorbent and achieve the best results with gel stains.

  • Desired color intensity

You can also choose dark stains depending on the color intensity you want to achieve. Consequently, you can choose ebony, dark brown, black, or some other custom dark color. Oil-based stains and gel stains produce darker shades than water-based stains.

The Best Dark Stains for Wood

One of the best dark wood stains available in the market is the Minwax Polyshades wood stain and polyurethane combo

The stain is a combination of oil-based stain and polyurethane finish in one, which will give your wood a beautifully rich, dark, and long-lasting finish.

The combination reduces finish time since you can use it without removing an existing wood finish. Minwax is a leading brand of wood finishing products in America, so you can trust them with your wood projects. 

FAQs on How to Stain Wood Darker

Can you stain wood darker without sanding?

Staining wood without sanding off the finish may not produce the best results. Some light sanding is necessary to raise the grain and make it bond easily with your wood stain.

Can you put a darker stain on already stained wood?

Yes. You can put a darker stain on already stained wood to give it a darker shade. However, let the initial stain coat dry before applying the darker stain. Adding a darker tone over an existing stain is easier than removing one.

Can you make the wood darker?

Yes, you can make wood as dark as you want by applying multiple dark stain coats or using a higher dye concentration. You can also use coffee or tea and vinegar solution to make wood darker.

How can I change the color of stained wood?

You can change the color of stained wood by stripping the existing stain using a paint stripper or a petroleum-based solvent. After stripping, wipe it with a wet cotton cloth and refinish the wood with your desired color.

How do you stain wood darker without stripping it?

You don’t need to strip your wood to stain it darker. Instead, you can give it a light sanding to remove the existing finish, then apply a layer of dark film-forming stains like gel stain or glaze to make it darker.

Final Thoughts On Staining Wood Darker

As you can see, there are several techniques you can use to stain your wood darker. 

You can give it a darker and more accentuated look with the right materials and the correct steps. 

The best part is that you don’t need to break the bank to stain wood darker. Instead, natural methods like dark coffee and tea can make the process more cost-efficient for you.

If you don’t get it right the first time, our detailed guide on how to fix a bad stain job should help.

Did you find this tutorial helpful? Let’s know what you think in the comment section. You can also share this article with your fellow woodwork enthusiasts to let them know how to stain wood darker correctly.

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