How to Darken Stained Wood? (3 Methods)

Sometimes after staining wood, you don’t get the color shade you wanted. So, how to darken stained wood?

To darken stained wood, apply two coats of wax. When dry, the wax will make the existing finish darker. You can also apply a darker shade of the existing wood stain (same type) to get a darker finish. 

You must sand the wood with ultrafine-grit sandpaper for both methods. Sanding removes imperfections and creates tiny ridges on the surface for the new coating to stick.

Should You Remove Wood Stain?

You can darken a stained wood without having to strip the existing stain. To do so, buff the surface with liquid or paste wax and leave it to dry. You can also apply a darker shade of the existing stain to make it darker. 

If you want to darken a wood, it’s recommended to use the same type of stain. For instance, to darken oil-based wood stain use a darker shade of oil-based wood stain and not water-based. 

However, you must remove the existing stain if you want a much deeper color shade. That’s because it takes a lot of wood stain coating to go from a light-stained wood to a deep dark finish.

So, if you apply too many coats, the finish will turn sticky and might peel off. Also, too many coats can hide (cover) the wood grain, making the finish look bad or unprofessional.

More Coats Equals To a Darker Finish

Wood stain is made of dye or pigments, solvent (water or oil), and binders. So, the more coats you add, the more paint pigments will be on the surface, creating a deeper appearance than the previous coating. 

When you apply the first coat, the finish will have a lighter shade. After that, the more coating you add, the darker the finish will be. However, applying more than 3 coats is not recommended as the finish can turn sticky and may not dry properly.

Also, the finish may turn yellow if you apply too many coats of oil-based wood stain. That’s because there will be too many oily deposits on the surface, causing a yellow tint.

How To Darken Stained Wood?

Darkening stained wood is easy; here are the top 6 methods:

  1. Apply another or a darker coat of the stain
  2. Use wax
  3. Apply dark gel stain
  4. Coffee
  5. Vinegar
  6. Tea

This guide will show you how to use these products, how they work, and what you’ll need in each case.

1. Apply More Coats

Apply Another Or A Darker Coat Of The Stain

If the existing coat isn’t dark enough, apply more coats (max. 3) to darken the finish. To get better results, use the same wood stain type but a darker shade.

Here are the tools and supplies that you’ll need:

  • Very fine sandpaper
  • A duster or brush
  • Paintbrushes

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Wipe the surface with a clean rag to remove dust nibs.
  2. Scruff the surface with ultrafine-grit sandpaper. If the surface is sealed, you must remove the sealant first. 
  3. Apply 2 more coats of wood stain on the finish. You can choose the same color shade or use a darker shade for faster results. 
  4. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one. 
  5. Wait 24 hours after the final coat before using the surface. 

2. Use Wax

Use Wax

Wax is a thick sealant that will give an existing finish a darker shade. The darker tone of wax also hides imperfections on the surface. However, wax has a slow dry time, so it will take a few hours to see the results.

Here are the tools and supplies that you’ll need:

  • Fine sandpaper
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Wax for wood
  • A vacuum or duster
  • A turning stick or paint mixer

Here are the steps for this method:

  1. Clean the surface to remove dust before applying wax. 
  2. Sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper to remove imperfections. 
  3. Prep the wax by stirring it. 
  4. Apply wax over the wood stain using a clean lint-free cloth. Apply it in a circular motion.
  5. Wait 30-60 minutes for the wax to dry, then wipe off the excess.
  6. Leave the surface to dry for 24 hours.

3. Use A Dark Gel Stain

Use A Dark Gel Stain

Gel stain is a tropical stain with a darker (deeper) finish. So, you can apply it over stained wood to get a darker shade.

For this method, you’ll need these:

  • Fine sandpaper
  • A vacuum
  • Gel-stain
  • Sponge paint brushes
  • A lint-free rag
  • Wipe-on polyurethane

Here are the steps for this method:

  1. Sand the wood with fine-grit sandpaper to remove imperfections. 
  2. Wipe the surface with a clean rag.
  3. Prep. the gel stain based on the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  4. Apply two coats of gel stain.
  5. Wait 10 minutes before removing the excess. 
  6. Allow the wood to dry for 24 hours before using it.

4. Coffee

You can darken stained wood using coffee. To do so:

  1. Brew a large pot of coffee and leave it cool — make the coffee thick, so it doesn’t pool on the wood.
  2. Sand the wood with fine-grit sandpaper. 
  3. Apply the coffee to the surface using a paintbrush. 
  4. Wait a few hours before removing the excess coffee. 

5. Vinegar

You can mix vinegar with iron (from steel wool) and apply it over stained wood to shade it darker.

6. Tea

Mix a few spoons of tea in hot water until it becomes thick. After sanding the wood, wait until the tea gets cold, apply (wipe it) over the wood, and wait 3 hours. After 3 hours, the wood will have a darker color shade.

Related: How To Lighten Stained Wood?

Darken Wood Naturally

Does Wood Stain Get Darker Over Time?

Wood stain gets darker over time because it’s exposed to dirt and oily stains. The dust and filth will settle over the stained surface, making the finish look darker. However, if you clean the stained surface properly, the finish will return to its original color shade.

The finish will also get darker if exposed to a heat source, such as a heater or sun. That’s because it has a simple formula that responds to temperature changes, causing the color shade to get darker. Long-term water exposure can also cause it to look darker over time.

However, this is for unsealed wood stains. Sealed wood stain won’t get darker over time because the sealant prevents water or dirt from staining or darkening the finish.

Don’t Use These Methods:


Polyurethane is a clear coat with no paint pigments, so it won’t give the wood a darker shade. In fact, polyurethane can make the wood look lighter because its transparent finish will allow light to reflect.

However, oil-based polyurethane tends to make wood slightly darker due to its yellowish tone. However, it takes several months before oil-based polyurethane turns yellow, so this is not a quick fix.

Clear Stain

Clear stain doesn’t have paint pigments and has a transparent finish. So, it won’t make the wood appear darker; instead, it will make it look lighter since it reflects light.


A clear coat of lacquer won’t make a surface look darker. However, a colored lacquer can make the surface look darker, but it can also hide the wood grain and give the surface a full dark color. 

Final Words

In summary, you can make stained wood darker by applying more coats of the same stain (or gel stain) or wax. Using coffee and tea is also an option, but not the best.

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about,

Eral Kadrija

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIYGeeks.

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