Can You Stain Over Oiled Wood? (7 Examples)

Wood stain is known to give a nice and colorful finish when used on wood but can you apply stain over oiled wood?

You can stain over oiled wood but you’ll need to prep the wood to absorb the stain. You’ll need to either remove or sand the oil on the wood before you apply the stain. If the oil is hard and impermeable, you’ll need to remove it so the stain can penetrate the wood grain.

You should know that it’s generally advised to use oil-based stains on oiled wood rather than water-based stains.

This is because water-based stains are not compatible with oiled wood. Staining over oiled wood doesn’t always guarantee good results unless you follow the 5 steps that would be discussed later in this article.

Does Stain Stick To Oiled Wood?

Stain doesn’t stick properly to oiled wood. This is because stains can’t penetrate the oily finish on the wood. Stains are designed to soak into and be absorbed by the wood grain to stick properly.

Oiled wood on the other hand usually have a very strong and hard finish that can’t be penetrated by the stain. Since the stain can’t penetrate the oil, it can’t be absorbed by the wood grain meaning that the stain will not stick well.

You should know that oil-based stains stick better to oiled wood than water-based stains. This is because oil-based stains have a better chance of penetrating and sticking to the oiled wood since the stain is also dissolved in oils. Water-based stains on the other hand are thinned in water meaning that the stain will not adhere to the oil on the wood.

The best type of wood stain to use over oiled wood is topical stains. Unlike regular stains that need to penetrate to stick, topical stains like gel stains don’t need to penetrate to stick. Topical stains are usually designed to stay on any surface to form a protective barrier. Since the stain doesn’t need to penetrate, it will stick to the oiled wood.

However, you should know that stains will penetrate oiled wood better if you sand or remove the wood oil first. This way, the stain can penetrate and stick better. Either you sand or remove the wood oil depends on the type of oil on the wood.

Penetrating wood oils for instance tend to soak into the wood deeply and when dry give a very hard finish that the stain can’t penetrate. To apply stain over such oiled wood, you’ll most need to remove the wood oil.

Do You Have To Sand Oiled Wood Before Staining?

Do You Have To Sand Oiled Wood Before Staining?

You have to sand before staining over oiled wood. Sanding oiled wood before staining isn’t optional. Sanding helps to create scars and ridges in the oiled wood that the stain can seep into when applied. When you sand, you increase the chances of the stain sticking to the oil.

Asides from the increased adhesion, sanding also helps to make the stained finish smoother. While sanding, the dust and dirt on the oiled wood are also removed so they don’t cause bumps in the finish.

If you don’t sand oiled wood before staining, the stain will not penetrate or stick well to the wood. This is because the stain will not penetrate the oiled wood. If the stain doesn’t penetrate, it means you’ll have excess stain on the wood that can easily turn sticky and dark.

Even if you want to apply a topical stain like gel over the oiled wood, you still need to sand. Though topical stains don’t need to penetrate, the topical stain will stick better if you sand first.

You should only sand oiled wood with fine-grit sandpaper. Any grit lower than 220-grit will damage the oiled wood and should only be used if you want to remove the wood oil completely.

Do You Have To Remove Wood Oil Before Staining?

Do You Have To Remove Wood Oil Before Staining?

You don’t have to remove wood oil before staining if the wood oil is perfect or if you want to use a gel stain. You should only remove the wood oil if the oiled wood will stop the stain from sticking well or if the wood oil was sealed.

The reason it’s usually advised to remove the wood oil before staining over it is to remove the hard oily layer on the wood so the stain can penetrate better. But you don’t always have to remove the wood oil before staining.

If the wood oil is clean and smooth, you don’t have to remove it. In this case, sanding the oil finish is good enough to allow the new stain coat to penetrate and dry properly. Since the oil finish is smooth, the stain will also come out smooth and stick well with light sanding.

Also, if you plan on using a topical stain over the oiled wood, you don’t need to remove the wood oil. This is because topical stains don’t need to penetrate so removing the wood oil in this case 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.

So when do you have to remove the wood oil before staining? Let’s find out.

When Should You Remove Wood Oil Before Staining?

You should remove or strip the wood oil in the following scenarios:

If The Wood Oil Is Dries hard

If the wood oil dries hard, then you’ll need to remove it before the stain is applied. Hard oil finishes are usually very difficult to sand. To sand such finishes, you’ll need to use medium-grit sandpaper, and sandpaper of that grit can easily damage the finish and the wood. So in this case, removing the wood oil is ideal.

If The Wood Oil is Filthy

If the wood oil is filth, you have to remove it before staining. If you don’t, the dust and filth on the oil will cause bumps and bleed-through in the finish.

If The Wood Oil is Damaged

If the wood oil is damaged or defective either due to moisture, scratches, or the elements, you have to remove it. If you don’t, the defects on the wood oil will affect the finish of the stain.

If The 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.

Now let’s check out how to stain over oiled wood.

How To Stain Over Oiled Wood?

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

  • Oil-based stains perform better on oiled wood
  • Sanding is necessary regardless of the type of stain
  • Check if the oiled stain was sealed in which case, you have to remove the finish completely
  • To apply a water-based stain, ensure the oiled wood has cured.
  • Don’t prime before staining wood oil
  • Sealing the stain will make it last longer
  • Your best bet for perfect results is to strip 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 (preferably gel stain)
  • A paintbrush or spray gun
  • A sealant (optional)

Here is a 4-step guide on how to stain over oiled wood:

1. Sand The Wood Oil

Sand The Wood Oil

The first step is the most important. You should sand the oiled wood with a fine-grit sandpaper. Do not over-sand or use coarse sandpaper on the wood oil, you’ll scar the wood underneath.

This step is to help the stain to soak into the wood oil. If the wood oil was sealed, you’ll need to remove the finish at this point.

After sanding, you’ll need to remove and wipe off the dust on the oiled wood. If you don’t remove the dust, there will be bumps and pimples in the finish.

2. Apply The Wood Stain

Apply The Wood Stain

You can either apply the wood stain with a paintbrush or a spray gun. However, spraying the stain will help the wood absorb the stain better. But you should ensure to thin oil-based stains with mineral spirits before you spray.

This is to lighten the oil stain so it’s easier to spray. You don’t have to thin water-based stains. If you decide to use gel stain, you’ll have to apply the stain with a paintbrush. You can’t apply gel stain properly with a spray gun.

Ensure to allow each coat of the stain to soak and dry enough before you re-coat.  On average, it will take at least an hour for each coat of stain to properly penetrate, soak, set, and dry enough for a re-coat considering the stain is being applied on oiled wood.

3. Seal The Wood Stain

Seal The Wood Stain

This step isn’t compulsory but sealing the stain will make it last longer on the wood oil. You can go with traditional varnish or go for a modern polyurethane finish. You can also go for a glazed finish by adding wood oil over the stain.

Now that you know how to apply stain over wood oil, let’s check out some common wood oil finishes and see if you can stain over them.

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 a regular stain over linseed oil. Regular water-based and oil-based stains don’t go well on linseed oil. This is because linseed oil is a deep-penetrating finish.

Also, linseed oil can take very long to dry meaning that the top layer when dry will be very hard. You should only use topical stains like gel over linseed oil. Sealants like polyurethane also do well on linseed oil. All you usually need is light sanding.

Danish Oil

You can’t stain over Danish oil. In all honesty, sanding doesn’t help much either. This is one wood oil that really soaks into wood pores.

Not just that, the wood oil dries to a very hard and strong film on the wood which means the stain has no chance of penetrating. To stain over Danish oil, you’ll have to strip the wood oil. You should also know that oil-based stains perform better on 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.

Seeing as all stains are either water or oil-based, the stain will never stick well on Tung oil. Sanding isn’t of much use either since Tung oil is a natural oil meaning that it can’t be easily removed.

Mineral Oil

You can stain over mineral oil. This is because mineral oil is a light oil finish. Mineral oil isn’t as thick as other oil finishes like Danish oil. This means that the stain has better chances of sticking.

However, you’ll need to properly sand the mineral oil properly to allow the stain to stick. But you should know that staining over mineral oil will cause the stain color to appear lighter or darker depending on the type of stain.

Teak Oil

You shouldn’t stain over teak oil unless you remove the wood oil first. 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. Teak oil also has a rich glossy finish meaning that even gel stains might slide off the teak oil. The best bet to stain teak oil-finished wood is to remove the teak oil.

Osmo Oil

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

Decking Oil

Decking oils shouldn’t be stained as these oils often have weather-resistant qualities that will prevent the stain from sticking. Also, decking oils have deep penetrating You’ll have to remove the decking oil to stain over it.

Related Read: Can You Varnish Over Oiled Wood?

Final Words

Overall, either you can or can’t stain over wood oil depends on the type of wood oil. Some wood oils like Teak and Danish oils shouldn’t be stained over while other oils like mineral oils and linseed oil can accept topical stains.

Always remember to sand when dealing with any type of wood oil. Also, for best results, seal the wood stain so it is more durable.

Related Read: Can You Stain Wet Wood?

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