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 surface to help it absorb the stain. You must either remove or sand the oiled finish before applying the stain. If the finish is hard and impenetrable, you must remove it to allow penetration.

It’s recommended to use oil-based stains over it because they are compatible since both use oil as their solvent. However, this doesn’t always guarantee good results.


Stain doesn’t stick well to oiled wood because the hard and impenetrable finish prevents it from penetrating the surface. 

Wood oils produce a strong and hard layer over a surface that repels moisture. So, if you apply a stain over it, the existing finish will prevent it from penetrating the surface. Since it can’t penetrate the surface, the new finish won’t stick well. 

Oil-based stains have a better chance of penetrating and sticking over wood oil since both use oil as their solvent. On the other hand, water-based stains use water as their solvent and won’t adhere well.

It’s recommended to use topical stain over wood oil. That’s because the topical stain doesn’t need to penetrate a surface to stick, instead it can stay over the top layer and stick and dry there. It will also protect the surface underneath it from moisture, water, or other damage

Is Sanding Necessary?

Do You Have To Sand Oiled Wood Before Staining?

Sanding before staining oiled wood is necessary because creates scars and ridges on the surface that the stain can soak into. So when you sand, you increase the chances of adhesion between both finishes.

Sanding also makes the existing finish smoother. While sanding, you remove dust, dirt, and imperfections that can prevent a good adhesion between both finishes.

If you don’t sand, the stain won’t be able to penetrate or stick well over it. That’s because there won’t be tiny scars (or pores) where that stain can penetrate and stick to. Since it can’t penetrate the surface, it will stay over the top layer and turn sticky. If that happens, you must use a rag to remove the excess.

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

To sand oiled wood, use fine-grit sandpaper only. If you use sandpaper with a grit lower than 220-grit, you will remove or damage the finish.

Remove Wood Oil Only If:

Do You Have To Remove Wood Oil Before Staining?

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

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

Also, if you use a topical stain, 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 existing finish is unnecessary. In fact, the topical stain will benefit if you leave the existing finish since it will serve as a base coat.

You must remove the wood oil only if: 

  1. It Has Dried Hard – If the wood oil dries hard, you must remove it before applying a stain. Hard finishes are hard to penetrate or sand, so you must remove them.
  2. It’s Filthy – If the wood oil is filthy, you must remove it. If you don’t, the dust and filth on the oil will cause bumps and bleed-through in the finish.
  3. It’s Damaged– If the wood oil is damaged or defective due to moisture or scratches you have to remove it. If you don’t, its defects will affect the new finish.
  4. It’s 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 so the new finish can stick over it.

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.
  • Sanding is necessary.
  • If the wood oil was sealed, you must remove it. 
  • The wood oil must be dry fully dry.
  • Don’t use a primer. 
  • After the finish dries, you must seal it.
  • For the best results, remove the existing finish.

Here are the tools you need:

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

1. Sand The Finish

Sand The Wood Oil

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

Sanding will help the stain soak (penetrate) the sanded surface 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.

2. Apply The Wood Stain

Apply The Wood Stain

If you are spraying the stain you must thin it to lighten its flow. To thin oil-based stain, use mineral spirits. You don’t have to thin the water-based type.

To apply stain, use a paintbrush or a spray gun. A spray gun will apply it better and help the wood absorb it better. For gel stain, you must use a paintbrush as its flow is too thick for a sprayer.

Allow each coat dry before applying the next one. On average, this takes one hour.

3. Seal The Finish

Seal The Wood Stain

After the last coat dries, seal the finish. The sealant will product a glossy protective layer over the finish and help it last longer. Varnish and polyurethane are great choices. 

Types of Wood Oils:

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

Linseed Oil

You shouldn’t use regular stain over linseed oil as they won’t stick well over it. That’s because linseed oil is a deep-penetrating finish that soaks into the wood pores and leaves no space for another finish to penetrate. Also, it takes longer to dry, meaning its top layer will be hard.

So you must only use a gel stain or a sealant over it. You also must sand the finish.

Danish Oil

You can’t stain over danish oil it soaks deeply into the wood pores and forms a hard and strong finish that prevents liquids from penetrating. So, you must remove it completely and then apply an oil-based stain.

Tung Oil

You can’t stain over Tung oil unless you remove the finish. This is because it has a moisture-resistant finish that doesn’t allow penetration.

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

Mineral Oil

You can stain over mineral oil because it is a light finish that doesn’t fill surface pores as much. However, you must sand it before applying the stain.

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 it unstainable.

Also, it has a rich glossy finish meaning that a new coating will slide off its finish.

Osmo Oil

You shouldn’t stain over Osmo oil it has a hard wax finish that doesn’t accept topcoats.

Decking Oil

You shouldn’t stain over decking oil it has weather-resistant qualities that prevent coatings from sticking over it.

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 types. For example, Teak and Danish oil, accept regular stains, while Linseed or Mineral oil only accept gel stains.

It’s important to sand the finish existing to get the best results. 

Related Read: Can You Stain Wet Wood?

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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