How to Make Homemade Fence Stain

You can make eco-friendly stains in a variety of colors.
You can make eco-friendly stains in a variety of colors. (Image: a photo of a wooden fence image by Olga Rumiantseva from

While many commercially prepared fence stains are available, the issue becomes one of cost, because these stains can be quite prohibitive. Another concern is environmental safety. Many stains are made with harsh chemicals that can eventually leach into the ground water. By using age-old techniques, you can make a viable eco-friendly stain that has good durability, at a reasonable price.

Things You'll Need

  • Linseed oil
  • Oil soluble dyes
  • Paint brush
  • Five-gallon plastic bucket
  • Stirring stick
  • Small rags
  • Disposable gloves
  • Teaspoon

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Pour 4 1/2 gallons of linseed oil into a 5-gallon plastic bucket. Linseed oil is made from the flax plant, so it is biodegradable. The Lorain Soil & Water Conservation District recommends linseed oil for projects such as waterproofing rain barrels. Once the oil is absorbed into the wood, it prevents rotting.

Choose an oil-soluble dye color. These dyes are readily available from many suppliers. Many of these dyes are made from natural sources, negating environmental concerns. An "old timer" trick is to soak tobacco for about a week. This will impart a brown or amber color.

Put on the disposable gloves. Add a teaspoon of dye to the oil. Use the stir stick to stir the mixture thoroughly. Test the stain on a scrap piece of wood, using a rag to wipe the stain on. If too light, add in another teaspoon of dye, and stir. Keep adding in the dye until you reach the color depth you desire. Conversely, you can opt not to add any dye at all. Linseed oil alone will impart a light tan color to the wood.

Use the paint brush to apply the stain liberally to your fence. Allow the stain to dry thoroughly. You may have to apply two or three coats if the wood is very dry and absorbs a lot of stain. Allow two or three days' drying time between coats.

Tips & Warnings

  • Linseed oil is very slow-drying. Allow two or three days' drying time.
  • Dispose of the oil-soaked rags properly, according to your local fire ordinances. Rags soaked in linseed oil can spontaneously combust because they heat up during the drying process.


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