Sticky Wood Stain After Applying? (Here’s How To Fix it)

The last thing you want after staining wood is for the wood stain to become sticky or tacky. So how do you fix tacky wood stain?

To fix sticky wood stain, you need to remove the excess wood stain that is not drying. To do this, you can apply mineral spirits to the stain. The mineral spirits will dissolve the wood stain making it easier to wipe off the excess stain that is tacky.

The mineral spirits will also restart the drying process of the wood stain. This time, since there will be no excess wood stain on the wood, it would dry properly within a few hours.

But, that’s not the only thing you should know. Check down below all the methods and information you need about the sticky wood stain.

Why Does Wood Stain Get Sticky?

Here are the common reasons that wood stain gets sticky:

1. The Excess Stain Wasn’t Wiped Off

The main reason that wood stains remain sticky is because the excess wood stain wasn’t wiped off after applying the stain. Wood stain by design doesn’t sit on wood, instead, it penetrates the wood grain. This is why the stain is known to dye or change the color of the wood entirely.

If you apply too much wood stain on wood, the excess wood stain will not penetrate the wood grain, instead, it will stay on the top layer of the wood. Since the stain isn’t designed to sit on the wood, it won’t dry properly regardless of how long you wait.

So, if you apply wood stain, always ensure to wipe off the excess so there isn’t any stain on the wood. If there isn’t excess stain on the wood, the wood stain will not become sticky.

2. High Humidity

The next reason that causes wood stain to remain sticky is a high level of humidity. Normally, wood stain should be applied in a room or environment where the humidity is not more than 50%.

If you apply wood stain in a room where the moisture content in the atmosphere is more than 50%, the stain will not dry.

This is because the atmosphere will be too cold and wet for the stain to dry properly. The high moisture content in the atmosphere will settle on the stain coating as it starts to dry making the stain wet. A wet stain won’t dry, instead, it will turn sticky.

3. High Temperature

If you apply wood stain in a room with a temperature higher than 80 degrees F, the wood stain will dry too quickly. If the weather temperature is hot enough, the wood stain will dry almost immediately after you applied it.

This will make it difficult to wipe off the excess wood stain since the stain would dry almost instantly. In such cases, you wouldn’t be able to wipe off the excess wood stain before it turns sticky.

Will Sticky Wood Stain Dry Itself?

Will Tacky Stain Eventually Dry?

Sticky or tacky wood stain will not dry itself. Regardless of how long you wait or what method you apply to dry the sticky stain, it will not dry. At best, the wood stain will turn gooey.

This means it will have a soft and gel-like texture. The reason for this is that the wood stain is not designed with a binder additive. The formula for wood stain is solvent (oil or water), paint pigments, and or colorants.

Since the wood stain doesn’t contain a binder additive, it becomes difficult for the wood stain to stick to wood. This is why wood stain soaks into the wood rather than staying on the wood.

After the wood stain soaks into the wood, the solvent in the stain coating will be evaporated and the paint pigments will be left behind to alter the color of the wood.

So when the stain doesn’t penetrate the wood, it becomes sticky because the solvent when evaporated will leave behind paint pigments (colorants).

The paint pigments left behind will have nothing to penetrate or tint. So what you’ll have is paint pigments on the wood and the stain pigments will never dry completely regardless of how long you wait.

However, sticky or tacky wood stains can become dry if exposed to enough heat. For instance, hairdryers can be used to increase the heat around the stain coating so it can dry.

But even then, the sticky wood stain wouldn’t dry properly. It might become unclear, cloudy, or muddled up after it dries. 

How To Fix Sticky Wood Stain (Made Easy)?

You can fix sticky wood stains by:

1. Remove Sticky Wood Stain (Using Paint Thinner)

Add Paint Thinner To The Sticky Wood Stain Coating

The main reason that wood stain gets sticky is that the excess wood stain wasn’t wiped off. The solvent in the excess stain coating will evaporate and leave behind paint pigments that will not dry. So to make the sticky stain dry, you need to add solvent or paint thinner to the sticky wood stain.

The paint thinner will dissolve the excess stain coating making the stain turn liquid. In its liquid state, the excess stain can then be easily wiped off the wood leaving behind only enough wood stain to penetrate the wood and dry properly. To do this, you’ll need:

  • A paint thinner (preferably mineral spirits)
  • A pair of gloves
  • Clean rags
  • An angled paintbrush.

Here are the steps for this method:

  1. Apply Paint Thinner (Mineral Spirits) – You can apply the mineral spirits using a clean rag or a paintbrush. But, an angled paintbrush will enable you to reach all corners and nooks of the wood where you have a sticky wood stain. This will be difficult to achieve with a rag.
  2. Choose The Right Amount of Mineral Spirits To Add – You don’t need to douse the sticky wood stain with mineral spirits. Just apply enough to dissolve the sticky wood statin. Usually, 1/2 cup of mineral spirits is enough. Then wait for 10 minutes this gives the mineral spirits enough time to dissolve the sticky stain.
  3. Wipe Off The Excess Sticky Stain – With the sticky wood stain dissolved, it becomes easier to wipe off the excess stain with a rag. After you have wiped off the excess, the wood stain will now dry properly. This will eliminate the sticky stain.

2. Apply More Stain

Apply More Stain

This may seem risky but it’s another good way to get rid of wood stain. Since the excess wood stain has turned sticky, another coat of wood stain will dissolve the sticky wood stain making it also easy to wipe off the excess. To use this method, you’ll need:

  • A paintbrush
  • The same wood stain that was applied
  • Clean rags
  • Wood stain thinner (optional)

Here is how to use this method:

  1. Open The Wood Stain Container – Remember to use only the same wood stain that you applied earlier. If you don’t have the same stain anymore, use the mineral spirits method.
  2. Thin The Wood Stain (Optional) – The next step is to thin the wood stain. You should only do this if you thinned the first stain coating that you applied. If the wood stain has a thick flow, you can thin it so it’s easier to apply.
  3. Apply The Wood Stain – The next step is to apply the wood stain on the existing stain that didn’t dry. Then leave the surface for about 5 minutes so the new stain coating can dissolve the existing wood stain.
  4. Wipe Off The Excess – When you spot that the stain coating has been dissolved, wipe off the excess. Usually, this should take about 5 minutes. Ensure not to leave existing stain coating on the wood.
  5. Leave The Stain To Dry – After wiping off the excess, leave the stain coating to dry. This will take less than 2 hours. When the stain gets dry and hard, you have successfully fixed the sticky wood stain.

How To Avoid Sticky Wood Stain?

Here are a few tips that you can use to prevent wood stain turning sticky:

Don’t Apply a Second Coat Before The First One Dries

If you apply a second coat of wood stain too soon, the existing or first coat will not dry properly. Also, there will be moisture or solvent trapped inside the first stain coating. The moisture will later bleed through the second stain coating making the entire stain wet and sticky.

Not just that, the whole stain coating will appear blotted and there will be varying color patches on the wood. Overall, the wood stain finish will appear dirty, wet, and sticky. Oil-based stains will also continue to smell for days.

Wipe The Stain After Applying It

If you don’t wipe off wood stain after applying the stain, there will be excess wood stain on the wood surface. When the solvent in the excess wood stain is evaporated, only paint pigments will be left behind.

The paint pigments will not penetrate the wood grain or dry properly. This will make the excess wood stain turn sticky or tacky.

Also, the excess wood stain will continue to smell. Oil-based wood stains especially will produce a strong offensive odor if you don’t wipe off the excess after staining wood.

Mix Wood Stain

You need to properly mix the wood stain before you apply it. The pigments are usually at the bottom of the container, mixing wood stain before applying means that you will get an even application. 


How Long Does Wood Stain Remain Tacky?

If you don’t wipe the excess wood stain or fix the sticky wood stain, it can remain tacky for weeks. The needed wood stain will penetrate the wood and leave the un-necessary (extra) wood stain on top of the wood surface, if you don’t remove it it will stay there for weeks. 

Are There Types of Wood Stain That Won’t Turn Sticky?

All penetrating wood stains will turn sticky if you don’t wipe it out. However, if you use applying thin coats of Miniwax wood stain will give you a darker color and won’t turn sticky. The trick here is to add very thin layers of wood stain — if you add thick layers the stain will turn tacky. 

You can also use non-penetrating wood stain such as gel stain. Gel stain doesn’t penetrate the wood surface — instead it stay on top of the layers until it dried, therefore it won’t turn sticky. 

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