You must apply multiple coats of stain over wood, but you must wait until one coat dries before you apply the next. So, how long does it take for stain to dry?
It takes wood stain 30 minutes to dry to touch, 1 hour to dry enough for a re-coat, and 24-72 hours to dry fully. Usually, a water-based stain dries fully within 24 hours, while the oil-based type takes 48-72 hours.
However, its dry time depends on the room temperature, number of coats, method of application, thickness of coat, and the type of stain.
Factors That Determine Drying Time
Here are the things that determine the drying time:
Humidity refers to the levels of water in the atmosphere and it is usually higher during and after rain — that’s why it’s not recommended to apply a coating immediately after rain. If the humidity is high, the coating won’t dry properly because the air current is low. The humidity levels should be between 50-60% for the stain to dry properly.
The Number of Coats
The more coats you apply, the longer they take to dry. You have to wait at least 1 hour between coats of stain — if you add 3 or 4 coats it means you have to wait over 4 hours(1 hour per each) until you are done with the project.
If you re-coat too soon, it will take even longer for both coats to dry. So, the number of coats will determine the drying time.
Type of Stain
Different types have different drying times. For instance, oil-based stain takes longer to dry than water-based stains.
Stain are known as “air-dry”, which means they will start to dry immediately after they are applied. The more air circulates around the coating, the faster paint particles will evaporate and the faster the coating dries.
Dry Time Between Coats
It takes wood stain 1 hour to dry enough for a re-coat. This gives the coating enough time to harden and become compact enough to support another coating over it.
The dry time between coats depends on the type of stain, room temperature, and humidity levels. For instance, water-based wood stain takes less than 1 hour to dry between coats. That’s because it uses water as its solvent, and water evaporates faster from the coating.
If you re-coat too soon, the finish will turn sticky or tacky. That’s because the solvent will be trapped between two layers and prevent both coatings from drying.
A coating is dry enough for a re-coat if:
- It Doesn’t Feel Sticky When Touched – Fresh stains will be sticky if you touch them because their coating is still wet. When dry, the coating won’t feel sticky. Instead, it will be hard.
- The Coating Will Be Hard – When the stain has dried, the particles will have bonded tightly. This will make the coating super hard when touched.
- The Color Will Not Come Off – When you touch a fresh or wet coating, the color will come off on your fingers but when the coating gets dry, the color will not come off.
Related Read: Should You Sand Between Coats of Stain?
Wood Stain Cure Time
It takes wood stain 24-72 hours to fully dry (cure). On average, water-based stain cures within 24 hours, while oil-based stain takes 48-72 hours to dry. The cure time refers to the time to wait before the finish can be subjected to regular use and cleaning.
For wood stain to cure, two things must happen. First, the solvent in the coating has to be completely evaporated. When the evaporation process is completed when the coating is no longer wet or shiny.
Secondly, the paint particles and colorants in the coating have to be tightly packed or bonded. This process occurs through oxidization and the process is completed when the coating becomes hard. The evaporation and oxidization of the coating can take between a few hours and over 5 days depending on the base of the stain.
For instance, water-based stains cure faster because they contain fewer chemicals and particles so there are fewer particles to bind together. Also, they use water as their solvent and water evaporate quickly, so the rate of evaporation and oxidization is accelerated.
On the other hand, oil-based stain takes 3 days to cure because they contain more chemicals, so there are more particles to bind. Also, they use oils as their solvent, which takes longer to evaporate.
How To Make Wood Stain Dry Faster?
Since wood stain dries through evaporation, you can increase the evaporation rate to make the coating dry faster. To increase the evaporation rate, increase the heat around the coating using a hairdryer.
Here’s how to do it:
- Plug in and turn on the hairdryer.
- Set the heat to medium (about 150 degrees F).
- Move the hairdryer around the coating for about 10 minutes.
- Turn off the hairdryer and let the coating dry naturally.
Tip: You shouldn’t use the hairdryer to dry the stain completely as this makes the particles dry too fast, meaning they don’t have enough time to bond naturally.
Here are a few other tips:
- Increase air circulation by opening all doors, windows, and turning on the fans.
- Use a dehumidifier in the room.
- Don’t apply stain in moist conditions.
- Ensure the surface to be stained is clean and properly sanded.
- Use a stain-blocking primer.
Interior vs Exterior Stain: Dry Time
Interior wood stains dry faster than exterior types. That’s because the exterior stains have a higher volume of additives and chemicals in their formula meant to protect the finish from the elements and harsh outdoor conditions. These additives take longer to evaporate, so the coating takes longer to dry.
Interior stain doesn’t have these chemicals or additives because it isn’t used outdoors. As a result, it has a much simpler formula which makes it dry faster. However, there are variations based on the weather temperature.
For instance, exterior stains take longer to dry when the weather is warm. When the weather is warm or hot, the exterior stain is exposed to a higher level of heat (outdoors) which increases the rate of evaporation. Also, the coating is exposed to dry air which accelerates the oxidization rate as well.
However, when the weather gets cold or moist as it does during the cold winter months, the interior stain will dry faster. This is because the weather outside will be cold and moist. This will make the exterior stain remain sticky or wet for several hours. Since the interior stain is shielded from moisture and cold weather, it will dry faster.
On average, interior stains dry fully in less than 24 hours while exterior stains can take up to 72 hours to dry. This is because
Different Types of Stains
Let’s check different types of stains and their drying time:
On average, deck stains dry in less than 3 hours after it was applied. Its coating can withstand water 24 hours after it was applied, and you can walk over it in less than 72 hours.
The main reason deck stains dry faster is because their coating is exposed to outdoor elements This will accelerate the evaporation of the solvent. Also, their coating is exposed to dry air which means the rate of evaporation is also accelerated.
Moisture and weather temperature play big roles in the dry time of deck stains. For instance, during the cold winter months, it will take longer to dry because the weather temperature will be very cold and moist.
On average, gel stain dries 12 hours after it was applied and 24 hours to fully dry. It has a slow dry time because its flow is thick and takes longer to solidify. Also, gel stain is oil-based, meaning its solvent (oil) takes longer to evaporate.
Miniwax stain dries between 4 and 12 hours after it was applied. According to the manufacturers, you should leave it to dry for at least 4-6 hours after it was applied. It has a slow dry time because it’s oil-based and its solvent (oil) takes longer to evaporate.
It takes floor stain between 10-24 hours to dry, but you shouldn’t wait over it at least 48 hours after it was applied. You must allow it to cure for 4 days before you put furniture on it.
Floor stains usually contain lots of additives and come in 2 parts that need to react for the coating to get dry. So, it takes longer to additives to bind properly, meaning their dry time is slow.
On average, most concrete stains will get dry enough to touch in 30 minutes, but they take up to 24 hours to fully dry. This is because its formula is riddled with additives, such as resins and hardeners, that take longer to evaporate. These additives make its finish resistant.
In summary, the dry time of stain is determined by the brand, type, its base, temperature, and humidity levels. For instance, oil-based wood stain takes longer to dry since their solvent (oil) takes longer to evaporate.
To speed up their dry time, increase the evaporation rate by increasing the heat or air circulation around the coating.
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,