How Long Does It Take for Stain to Dry? (& Speed Up)

If you are planning to stain wood, you’ll need to know how long it takes for the stain to dry. Here is the answer to that.

Generally, stains take about 30 minutes to dry enough to touch. You can re-coat wood stain in about one hour after the stain coating was applied. But for the stain to dry fully, you’ll need to wait between 24 and 48 hours.

Usually, water-based stains dry fully in about 24 hours while oil-based stains take up to 48 hours to fully dry.  You should know that you’ll need to wait longer, at least 3 days after the stain was applied before you can seal it with a top coat or sealant. This is because the stain coating has to cure before the sealant can be applied.

The dry time of stain depends on the brand of the stain, the number of coats applied, the method of application, weather temperature, and humidity.

How Long Should Stain Dry Between Coats?

How Long Should Stain Dry Between Coats?

You should let stain dry for at least 1 hour between coats. Generally, an existing stain coating requires between 1 and 8 hours to dry before another coat is applied. The main factor that determines how long to wait between coats is the base of the stain.

Water-based stains for instance tend to dry quickly due to the water-based nature of the solvent. You can re-coat water-based stain in as little as one hour. Oil-based stains on the other hand require more time to dry enough for a re-coat. Some oil-based stains like gel stains require up to 6 hours of dry-time between coats.

You can find out how long to wait between coats of stain by checking the manufacturer’s instructions on the stain’s container or the user’s guide.

Before stain can be re-coated, the existing coat has to be dry and hard. This is because the existing coat needs to be strong enough to support the weight of successive coats. If the paint is dry but not hard, then the successive stain coatings that are applied will not sit properly because the base coat will be soft.

Also, if the existing stain coating isn’t dry enough, then moisture will be trapped in it. So, when you lay the second coat, the trapped moisture will bleed through the second coat. This will make the entire paint coating wet and sticky for several hours. So to be on the safer side, always allow enough dry-time between coats of stain.

But the dry time between coats is different from the cure time of the stain. How long does it take for the stain to cure? Let’s find out.

Related Read: Should You Sand Between Coats of Stain?

How Long Does It Take Stain To Cure?

How Long Does It Take Stain To Cure?

It takes at least 48 hours for stain to fully cure. Most stains cure fully within 72 hours. But some stains take longer. For instance, gel stains, lacquer, and varnish all take over 72 hours to fully cure. The cure time of the stain refers to the time to wait before the stain can be subjected to regular use and cleaning.

For a stain to cure, two things must happen. First, the solvent in the stain has to be completely dry. This process occurs through evaporation and the process is completed when the stain coating is no longer wet or shiny.

Secondly, the paint particles and colorants in the stain have to be tightly packed or bonded. This process occurs through oxidization and the process is completed when the stain coating is hard.

The evaporation and oxidization of the stain can take a few hours and can also take over 5 days depending on the base of the stain. Water-based stains for instance cure faster than oil-based stains.

This is because water-based stains contain fewer chemicals and particles so there are fewer particles to bind together through oxidization. Also, water-based stains contain water and water evaporates quickly. So the rate of evaporation and oxidization is accelerated.

Oil-based stains however can take up to 3 days to cure. Oil-based sealants like lacquer stains can take over 5 days to cure. This is because oil-based stains contain more chemicals so there are more particles to bind.

Also, oil-based stains contain synthetic oils that take longer to evaporate. So the rate of evaporation and oxidization is slower in oil stains. Therefore, the stain will take longer to cure.

How To Speed Up Stain Dry Time (Made Easy)?

How To Speed Up Stain Dry Time?

You can make stains dry faster by using a hairdryer. Hairdryers can generate heat as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This will accelerate the rate of evaporation and make oxidization begin quicker. But there are a few steps to using a hairdryer to dry your stain.

  • Plug in and turn on the hairdryer
  • Set the heat to medium (about 150 degrees Fahrenheit). Too much heat and the stain can melt off.
  • Move the hairdryer around the stain coating for about 10 minutes
  • Turn off the hairdryer and let the stain dry fully.

Tip: You shouldn’t use the hairdryer to dry the stain completely as this will make the stain dry too fast.

Here are a few hacks to make your stain coating dry quicker:

  • Increase ventilation 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 before applying the stain
  • Use a stain-blocking primer.

Interior vs Exterior Stain: Dry Time

Interior vs Exterior Stain Dry Time

Based on the design, interior stains dry faster than exterior stains. 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 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.

Interior stain doesn’t have these chemicals or additives because the stain isn’t used outdoors. As a result, interior stain has a much simpler stain formula which makes it dry faster than exterior stain. However, there are variations based on the weather temperature.

Interior stains take longer to dry than exterior stains when the weather is warm. When the weather is warm or hot, the exterior stain is exposed to a higher level of heat which increases the rate of evaporation.

Also, the exterior stain will be exposed to dry air which will accelerate the rate of oxidization as well. So on a warm day, exterior stain will dry faster than interior stain. On average, exterior stain will dry in less than an hour while interior stain can take over 2 hours to fully dry. This is because interior stain is shielded from the elements and as such the stain coating isn’t as exposed to heat or air as exterior stain.

However, when the weather gets cold or moist as it does during the cold winter months, 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 quicker.

How Long Does It Take Different Types of Stains To Dry?

How Long Does It Take Different Types of Stains To Dry?

Now, let’s check out some common stains and how long they take to dry.

Wood Stain

Generally, wood stains dry very fast. It takes about 30 minutes for wood stain to dry to touch and the stain can be re-coated in less than 2 hours. Wood stain can also be sealed with a moisture-resistant sealant in less than 48 hours. But, it’s usually advised to wait at least 72 hours (3 days) before sealing the wood stain. This is to give the wood stain enough dry and cure time.

The reason wood stain dries pretty quickly is that most stains that are advertised as “wood stain” are water-based and water-based stains tend to dry and cure faster than other types of stain. Also, wood stains are air-dry. This means that the stain coating begins to dry as it comes in contact with cool unheated air. So immediately you finish applying the paint, it begins to dry.

However, you should know that some wood stains take longer to dry. This is because these wood stains contain chemicals like fungicides to repel and kill pests. Also, wood stains like varnish and gel stains contain additives like plastics to prevent moisture from damaging the wood. These wood stains will take longer to dry and cure due to the high volume of chemicals and additives in the stain formula.

Deck Stain

Deck stains dry quicker than most stains. On average, deck stains dry in less than 3 hours after the stain was applied. Most deck stains can take water 24 hours after the stain was applied and the deck can be walked on in less than 72 hours.

The main reason for this fast dry time is that deck stains are usually exposed to the elements. Since decks aren’t usually covered or installed under a shade, the stain when applied will dry quickly because it will be directly under the sun. This will accelerate the evaporation of the solvent in the stain coating.

Also, deck stains are exposed to dry air which means the rate of evaporation is also accelerated. You should also know that water-based deck stains dry faster than oil-based deck stains.

Moisture and weather temperature play big roles in the dry-time of deck stains. For instance, during the cold winter months, deck stains will take very long to dry because the weather temperature will be very cold and moist.

Gel Stain

Gel stains take longer to dry than most stains. On average, gel stains dry 12 hours after the stain was applied but gel stain can also take over 24 hours to fully dry.

The reason for this long dry time is because gel stains are usually thick and as such, the stain takes longer to solidify.

Also, gel stains are oil-based and oils take longer to evaporate. The oil-based nature of the stain and its thick nature is why gel stains take long to dry. To improve the dry time of gel stain, you can try to thin the stain before applying.

Miniwax Stain

Miniwax stain dries between 4 and 12 hours after the stain was applied. According to the manufacturers, miniwax stain should be left to dry for at least 4-6 hours after the paint was applied.

The reason for this long dry time is because miniwax stain is oil-based and as such, the oils will take longer to evaporate meaning the stain will stay wet for a while.

Floor Stain

Floor stains take a while to get fully dry. Floor stains take between 10 and 24 hours to get dry but the stain shouldn’t be walked on for at least 48 hours after the stain was applied.

You should let the stain dry for at least 3 days before you put furniture on it. This is because floor stains usually contain chemicals and most floor stains come in 2 parts that need to react for the stain to get dry.

So it will take a while for these chemicals to bind properly. Also, floor stains are usually oil-based and oils take longer to leave the stain coating.

Concrete Stain

Concrete stains dry to touch very quickly. On average, most concrete stains will get dry enough to touch in 30 minutes. However, it takes longer for the stain to fully dry.

Concrete stains can take well over 24 hours to fully dry. This is because the make-up of the stain is riddled with additives like resins and hardeners.

These additives are included in the stain’s formula to make it strong and resistant enough to protect the hard concrete material. Concrete stains don’t have much solvent in them.

As such, the rate of evaporation is very fast. This is why the stain can get dry to touch in just a few minutes. However, oxidization takes longer because concrete stains have a high volume of additives that also needf to get dry.

How To Tell If Stain Is Dry?

Here are a few tips to help you know when the stain coating is dry:

Oil-based Stains Will No Longer Smell

Oil-based stains produce strong odor and fumes when applied. But this is because the stain is still fresh. When the stain gets dry enough, you wouldn’t notice any fumes or odor.

The Stain Will Not Feel Sticky When Touched

Fresh stains will be sticky if you touch them because the stain is still wet. When dry, the stain will not feel sticky. Rather, it will be hard.

The Stain Will Be Hard

When the stain has dried, the particles will have bonded tightly. This will make the stain coating super hard when touched.

The Color Will Not Come Off

When you touch a fresh or wet stain, the color will come off on your fingers but when the stain gets dry, the color will not come off.

Final Words

Overall, stains take a while to get dry but the dry time is highly determined by the brand, type, and base of the stain. Weather temperature and environmental conditions also impact how long it takes stain to dry.

To know the exact time it will take for your stain to dry, check the instructions on the container and if it seems too long, you know how to speed up the dry time.

Leave a Comment