Can You Stain Over Oiled Wood? (Different Wood Oils)

The wood stain gives bare wood a colorful finish. But, can you apply stain over oiled wood?

You can stain over oiled wood, but you must prep the wood to absorb the stain. You must either remove or sand the oil on the wood before applying wood stain. If the oil is hard and impenetrable, remove it so the stain can penetrate the wood grain.

It’s recommended to use oil-based stains on oiled wood rather than water-based stains. That’s because water-based stains aren’t compatible with oiled wood.  

However, staining over oiled wood doesn’t always guarantee good results unless you follow the 5 steps discussed later in this article.

Does Stain Stick To Oiled Wood?

Stain doesn’t stick well to oiled wood. That’s because the oil in the wood prevents the stain from penetrating the finish.

Wood oils produce a strong and hard layer over wood that repels moisture. So, if you apply stain over oiled wood, the wood oils will prevent the stain from penetrating the wood. Since stain can’t penetrate the wood (and oil), the stain won’t stick well. 

However, oil-based stains have a better chance of penetrating and sticking to oiled wood since both finishes are oil-based. On the other hand, water-based stains use water as their solvent and won’t adhere well to wood oils. 

The best type of stain to use over oiled wood is topical stain. Unlike regular stains that need to penetrate to stick, topical stains don’t need to penetrate to stick. Topical stains are designed to stay over any surface and form a protective layer. Since topical stains don’t need to penetrate to stick, they will adhere to oiled wood. 

However, the wood stain will stick if you remove the wood oil first. This is because sanding removes some of the wood oil and creates tiny holes where the wood stain can soak into.

Sand Before Staining Oiled Wood

Do You Have To Sand Oiled Wood Before Staining?

Sanding before staining oiled wood is necessary. That’s because sanding creates scars and ridges in the oiled wood finish that the stain can soak into. So when you sand, you increase the chances of the stain sticking to oiled wood. 

Also, sanding helps to make the stained finish smoother. While sanding, you remove the dust, dirt, and imperfections over the oiled wood. This leaves a smooth layer behind that the wood stain can stick to. 

If you don’t sand oiled wood before staining, the stain won’t penetrate or stick well to the wood. That’s because there won’t be tiny scars where the stain can soak (or penetrate) into. Since the stain can’t penetrate the oiled wood, it won’t stick. Instead, the stain will stay over the wood oil layer and turn sticky. You must use a rag to remove the excess stain if that happens.

You must sand even if you use topical stains such as gel stains. Though topical stains don’t need to penetrate to stick, the topical stain will stick better if you sand first. 

To sand oiled wood, only use fine-grit sandpaper. If you use sandpaper with a grit lower than 220-grit, you will damage the oiled wood. You must use coarse sandpaper only if you want to remove the wood oil from the wood. 

Remove Wood Oil Only If:

Do You Have To Remove Wood Oil Before Staining?

You don’t have to remove wood oil before staining if the wood oil coating is even. You must only remove it if the wood oil prevents the stain from penetrating, if it is sealed, or if the wood oil coating isn’t smooth.

If the wood oil is clean and smooth, you don’t need to remove it, but you must sand it. Sanding a wood oil finish will allow the new stain coat to penetrate, stick, and dry better. Since the oil finish is smooth, the stain will also come out smooth and stick well with light sanding.

Also, if you use a topical stain over oiled wood, you don’t need to remove the wood oil. That’s because topical stains don’t need to penetrate the surface to stick, so removing the wood oil will be unnecessary. In fact, the topical stain will benefit if you leave the wood oil since the wood oil will serve as a base coat for the topical stain to adhere to.

You must remove the wood oil only if: 

  1. The wood oil has dried hard – If the wood oil dries hard, you must remove it before applying a stain. Hard oil finishes are hard to difficult. To sand hard oil finishes, you must use medium-grit sandpaper, and this sandpaper can damage the wood. So, in this case, removing the wood oil is better. 
  2. Wood oil is filthy – If the wood oil is filthy, you must remove it before staining. If you don’t, the dust and filth on the oil will cause bumps and bleed-through in the finish.
  3. The wood oil finish is damaged – If the wood oil is damaged or defective due to moisture, scratches, or the elements, you have to remove it. If you don’t, the wood oil defects will affect the stain’s finish.
  4. Wood oil was sealed – Though not a common practice; the wood oil might have been sealed with a top coat. In such cases, you’ll have to remove the sealant and the wood oil for the stain to have any chance of penetrating or sticking to the oiled wood.

How To Stain Over Oiled Wood?

Before we go on with this task, here are a few tips to remember:

  • It’s better to use oil-based stains over oiled wood. 
  • Sanding is necessary regardless of the type of stain you use. 
  • If the wood oil was sealed, you must remove it. 
  • The wood oil must be dry before applying a water-based stain.
  • Don’t use a primer. 
  • Sealing the stain will make it last longer. 
  • For the best results, remove the wood oil. 

To stain over oiled wood, you’ll need a few tools and supplies:

  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Clean rags
  • A gallon of stain (such as Gel Stain)
  • A paintbrush or spray gun
  • A sealant (optional)

1. Sand The Wood Oil

Sand The Wood Oil

First, sand the oiled wood with fine-grit sandpaper. Don’t over-sand or use coarse sandpaper on the oiled wood as you can damage the wood underneath. 

Sanding will help the stain soak the wood oil coating and stick better. After sanding, remove the dust over the wood. If you don’t remove the dust, there will be bumps in the finish.

If the wood oil was sealed, you must remove the sealer and the wood oil. 

2. Apply The Wood Stain

Apply The Wood Stain

Before applying the wood stain, you must thin it. This is to lighten the oil-based stain, so it’s easier to spray. To thin oil-based stain, use mineral spirits. You don’t need to thin water-based stains. 

To apply wood stain, use a paintbrush or a spray gun. A spray gun will help the wood absorb the stain better. However, for gel stain, you need to use a paintbrush. You can’t apply gel stain properly with a spray gun. 

Allow each coat of stain to dry before applying the next one. On average, one coat of stain penetrates and dries over an oiled wood within 1 hour. 

3. Seal The Wood Stain

Seal The Wood Stain

After you apply stain over oiled wood, you can seal it. Sealing can help the stain last longer on wood oil and protect it from scratches and moisture.

To seal the stain, use varnish, polyurethane, or a glazed finish. 

Types of Wood Oils You Can or Can’t Stain Over

Types of Wood Oils You Can or Can't Stain Over

Here are some wood oils that you can or can’t stain over:

Linseed Oil

You shouldn’t use regular stain over linseed oil. Regular water or oil-based stains don’t stick well over linseed oil. That’s because linseed oil is a deep-penetrating finish and will soak into the wood pores, leaving no space for the stain to soak into.

Also, linseed oil takes longer to dry, meaning the top layer of the finish will be hard. Therefore, you should only use topical stains, such as gel stains, over the linseed oil. Sealants such as polyurethane or varnish will also stick over linseed oil. However, you must light sand the finish before applying the stain.

Danish Oil

You can’t stain over danish oil. That’s because danish oil soaks deeply into the wood pores. Also, when dry, danish oil has a hard and strong finish that prevents moisture from penetrating. 

To stain over danish oil, you must remove the wood oil completely. You also must only use oil-based paint over danish oil. 

Tung Oil

You can’t stain over Tung oil unless you remove the finish. This is because Tung oil is a moisture-resistant stain, meaning that the wood oil doesn’t allow moisture (oil or water) to pass through.

Since all stains are water- or oil-based, the stain will never stick well on Tung oil. Sanding isn’t much use either since Tung oil is a natural oil that is hard to remove. 

Mineral Oil

You can stain over mineral oil. That’s because mineral oil is a light finish that isn’t as thick as other wood oils. Since the wood oil is thin, the stain has a better chance of sticking over it. However, you must sand the mineral oil before applying the stain.

If you apply stain over mineral oil, the stain color will appear lighter or darker than it should. 

Teak Oil

You must remove teak oil first before staining. Teak wood oil is gotten from a blend of natural oils like linseed and Tung oil. The combination of these oils makes Teak oil unstainable.

Also, Teak oil has a rich glossy finish meaning that the stain (including gel stain) will slide off the finish. So, remove the Teak oil first and then apply the stain.

Osmo Oil

You shouldn’t stain over Osmo oil. That’s because Osmo oil, when dry, gives a hard wax finish that will not accept stain.

Decking Oil

You shouldn’t stain over decking oil. That’s because decking oil has weather-resistant qualities that prevent the stain from sticking. Also, decking oil penetrates the wood deeply. Therefore, you must remove the decking oil before you stain.

Related Read: Can You Varnish Over Oiled Wood?

Final Words

Overall, you can stain over some types of wood oil, while you can’t over some other wood oil. For example, some wood oil, such as teak and danish oil, can be stained. While other wood oil, such as mineral oils and linseed oil, can be stained only with topical stains.

However, you must sand wood oil before staining to get the best results. You also must remove some wood oil before staining. 

Related Read: Can You Stain Wet Wood?

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