How to Prepare Wood for Stain

Staining brings out the natural beauty in wood.
Staining brings out the natural beauty in wood. (Image: wood image by Christopher Walker from

Staining wood creates a stunning finish that enhances the natural beauty of the wood. Staining wood is not the same as painting a wooden surface, and mistakes in the staining process will be glaringly obvious to even untrained eyes. Paint is often used to cover the marred finish of a failed staining project, but paint also covers the assets of the wood. Properly prepare wood for stain to ensure a smooth, even, finished product that will not need to be covered up by paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Wood conditioner

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Clean the wood with a cleansing agent specifically designed for wood. Choose a product that does not need to be rinsed away.

Gently rub coarse sandpaper back and forth on the wood following the direction of the wood grain to remove any impurities or imperfections in the wood.

Increase to higher-grit sandpaper and continue sanding the wood until the surface is smooth to the touch with no noticeable impurities.

Clean the surface of the wood with tack cloth to remove the sanding dust. If necessary, continue sanding the wood. All previous paint and wood finishes must be removed before stain can be applied. If more sanding is needed, remember to clean the dust when completed.

Apply wood conditioner to the surface of the wood to ensure that the stain will cover the wood evenly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always test a small area prior to applying cleaner to the entire wood surface.
  • Do not use sandpaper with a grit number higher than 220 because the finer grit count can change the surface of the wood so that it will not properly accept the stain.


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