How to Stain Hardwood Floors Darker (Without Sanding)?

It’s recommended to sand hardwood floors before staining. But sanding them is a difficult and time-consuming task. So can you stain the hardwood floor darker without sanding?

You can stain hardwood floors darker without sanding. However, you’ll need to clean and degrease them first. This is to remove grease and dirt from the surface that can prevent the stain from sticking properly. You can do this by using a degreaser like TSP or a solvent.

You’ll also need to buff the floor with a buffer. Cleaning and buffing will ensure the surface is clean and smooth enough to be stained even without sanding.

Should You Sand Hardwood Floors?

Is It Bad To Sand Hardwood Floors?

It’s not bad to sand hardwood floors. Though sanding them can be difficult, you’ll get many benefits from doing so. When you sand the floor, the sandpaper helps to remove bumps and imperfections from the surface. 

It also helps to create pores (holes) in the wood to allow the stain to penetrate and stick better. Flooring experts even explain that hardwood floors can be sanded and refinished up to ten times. So sanding won’t damage it. 

However, if you use the wrong type of sandpaper you can damage your floor. That’s because rough sandpaper will remove the protective layer the floor has and expose the planks to water and other elements. So, you should only use medium-grit sandpaper and only sand across the wood grain. 

Can You Refinish Wood Floors Without Sanding?

You can refinish hardwood without sanding as long as its surface isn’t defective. The purpose of sanding is to allow the stain to stick better and to make the floor smoother.

So if the hardwood floor isn’t rough and there isn’t any top coat that can prevent the stain from sticking, you don’t need to sand. You just need to ensure that the boards are clean enough to be dark-stained. You can do this by cleaning them with a degreaser.

Also, if the floor is new or freshly installed, you don’t need to sand it because its surface will still be smooth enough. Also if the existing finish on the boards wasn’t sealed, you don’t have to sand.

So in summary, you can dark stain hardwood floors without sanding as long as their surface is smooth and clean. You only need to sand if the surface is riddled with imperfections or if the existing finish is sealed. 

You can also use a hardwood floor finishing kit — the kit contains everything you need to stain a hardwood floor without sanding it first. The kit has a paste-like product known as a chemical etcher. The etcher helps to abrade the boards so the stain can easily penetrate and stick properly.

How To Stain Wood Floors Darker Without Sanding?

Refinishing hardwood floors without sanding isn’t hard, but you must clean and prep the boards first.

Before you do that, here are the tools you need:

  1. Clean rags
  2. A degreaser or acetone
  3. A soft brush
  4. A paintbrush
  5. A can of a dark stain
  6. A vacuum
  7. A sealant (optional)

1. Clean and Degrease The Surface

Clean and Degrease The Hardwood Floor

First, clean and degrease the floor boards. If there’s dirt or oils on the boards, the stain won’t stick because it won’t be able to penetrate the surface. Even if it sticks, it will peel off since the oils and dirt will affect its bonding quality. 

To clean the boards, use a degreased (TSP). You can also use acetone, but acetone is a natural paint remover so you have to wipe it off fast. If you don’t, it can damage the boards. 

2. Use a Floor Buffer (Optional)

Buff The Floor With a Floor Buffer

Floor buffers work in the same way as sandpapers. But with buffers, you can smoothen and remove the existing finish from the hardwood without reaching the wood or timber underneath. So they are a safer alternative.

Use the buffer to remove any imperfection that can hinder the proper performance of the stain. If there is a top coat or a sealant on the hardwood, you can also remove it with a buffer. Just follow the user’s instructions.

After buffing, remove the dust nibs from the surface with a rag.

3. Apply Dark Wood Stain

Apply a Few Coats Of Dark Wood Stain On The Hardwood Floor

Once the floor is smooth and clean, apply the stain using a paintbrush or sprayer. If you use a sprayer, you must thin the stain to make it light enough to be sprayed.

It’s recommended to apply 2-3 coats of stain. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one. 

4. Apply a Protective Sealant

Apply a Protective Sealant

Wood stain isn’t a protective finish and won’t protect the floor from water, moisture, or other damage. So, you must seal the finish to increase its durability and protect the boards.

To seal wood stains, use polyurethane or gel stain. Apply 2-3 coats of sealant over the finish and don’t use the floor until the final coating fully dries (cures).

The sealant, when dry, forms a protective glossy layer that protects the surface underneath from moisture, water, and other damage. 

Things To Know

Type of Stain To Use

It’s recommended to use gel stain over an existing finish to darker its appearance. Gel stain given its thick flow doesn’t allow light to reflect the wood stain underneath. This makes the finish appear darker than it is. 


On average, stain lasts about 4 years on the hardwood floor before the finish starts to peel and blister off. Wood stain will last longer if you add a protective sealant over it.

Wood stains don’t last because the floor is subjected to constant use. Your stiletto heels, furniture, foot traffic, and pet claw marks, all cause the finish to wear out and peel off within a few months.

But a few coats of protective sealant will add extra durability to the finish. 


According to different floor renovation specialists, it’s cheaper to refinish hardwood floors than it’s to replace them. Plus, refinishing takes less time than replacing them.

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,

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