How to Use a Gel Stain

Gel stains have become a popular choice for do-it-yourself homeowners and amateur woodworkers. Gel stains are much easier to apply than traditional stains and are not as apt to produce an uneven or blotchy finish as an improperly applied traditional stain. Gel stains are particularly useful on cherry and pine, two woods that are often difficult to attain an even finish on. Because gel stains do not require specialty equipment for application, the additional cost of the gel stain is usually made up for in equipment costs. Using a gel stain is a simple process that most amateur woodworkers or homeowners can manage.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood putty
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Soft cloth
  • Gel stain


    • 1

      Fill holes and cracks in the wood's surface with wood putty. Allow the putty to dry completely.

    • 2

      Sand the wood with a fine-grit sandpaper until the finish is smooth. Wipe the wood with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust.

    • 3

      Apply a small amount of gel stain to the end of a soft cloth.

    • 4

      Rub the gel onto the wood using circular motion. Do not allow globs of the gel to sit in any spot on the wood. Apply the gel evenly.

    • 5

      Wipe the wood with a clean cloth to remove the gel before it becomes tacky. Refer to the gel manufacturer's instructions for the estimated wait time.

    • 6

      Apply a second layer of gel stain if you wish to deepen the color. It is always better to apply multiple layers of the gel stain rather than one thick layer. One thick layer will often produce an uneven appearance to the stain.

Tips & Warnings

  • To maintain the finish of the stain, apply a durable top coat specifically suited for gel stain.
  • Wear gloves when working with gel stain.
  • Because it tends to show signs of wear faster than traditional stain, gel stain is not well-suited for high-use items such as tabletops.
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