How to Darken Stained Wood? (6 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 more wood stain coats, use wax, a dark gel stain, or coffee. All of these will give the finish a darker color shade.

You can also not clean the finish for a few months to make it appear darker naturally.

Can You Darken a Stained Wood Without Removing It?

You can darken a stained wood without removing it by buffing the surface with liquid or paste wax, or applying a darker wood stain color shade.

If you apply a darker wood stain color shade use the same stain type (oil or water-based). If you mix the wood stain types, you can ruin the finish.

If you want a much deeper color shade, remove the entire wood stain finish and apply a darker finish.

The finish will turn sticky, peel off, and hide the wood grain if you apply too many wood stain coatings. The finish will also look bad and unprofessional.

Do More Wood Stain Coats Darken Wood?

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

The first coat will create a lighter shade finish, the more coats you add after that, the darker the finish will be. But, it’s not recommended to apply more than 3 coats of wood stain as the finish will turn sticky and may not dry properly.

The finish can turn yellow, too, 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?

To darken stained wood, do the following.

  1. Apply more Wood Stain Coats.
  2. Use Wax.
  3. Use a Dark Gel Stain.
  4. Use Coffee.
  5. Use Vinegar.
  6. Use Tea.

1. Apply more Coats

Apply Another Or A Darker Coat Of The Stain

Apply more wood stain coats (max. 3) to darken the finish color shade. Use the same wood stain type (oil or water-based) with a darker color shade.

The tools you need for this project are listed below.

  • Very fine sandpaper
  • A duster or brush
  • Paintbrushes

A guide for this method is listed below.

  1. Clean the surface with a clean rag to remove dust nibs.
  2. Sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper (220-grit). If the stained wood is sealed, use coarse-grit sandpaper (40-grit) to remove the sealer.
  3. Apply two darker wood stain coats over the finish.
  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 natural thick sealer that gives the underlying surface a darker color shade and protects it from water or moisture.

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

A guide for this method is listed below.

  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 wood stain type with a thick gelly-like viscosity and a dark color shade that enhances the wood’s appearance and protects it. It’s a topical finish that doesn’t need to penetrate the surface pores to adhere.

The tools you need for this project are listed below.

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

A guide for this method is listed below.

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

4. Use Coffee

You can darken stained wood by applying coffee over it.

A guide for this method is listed below.

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

5. Use Vinegar

Mix vinegar with iron (from steel wool) and apply it over stained wood to make the wood color shade darker.

6. Use 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?

How To Darken a Stained Finish Naturally?

Does Wood Stain Get Darker Over Time?

To darken a stained finish naturally, wait a few months or expose it to a heater or sun. 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, the finish will return to its original color shade if you clean it properly.

The finish will also get darker if exposed to 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 prevents water or dirt from staining or darkening the finish.

Which Product Won’t Darken Stained Wood?

1. Polyurethane

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.

2. 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.

3. Lacquer

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.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

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 Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

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 DIY Geeks.

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