Staining Wood DIY – Step-by-Step

Staining wood furniture is easy when you follow step-by-step instructions! Check out this simple tutorial!

Looking for other DIY projects? Try these:

Here’s my rendition of “How to Stain Furniture”

I’m working on my most recent project that was inspired by Miss Mustard Seed’s French Dresser.  On this project, she stained the wood on top of the dresser and I loved the look!  

I tried staining before and was totally disheartened. I didn’t really know what I was doing and just went for it. Guess what happened?? TOTAL FAIL!! I didn’t sand enough and it all bubbled and looked awful! 🙁 Oh well, live and learn!

I’ve been researching and watching videos and experimenting with the stain and I’ve got a good method going on! I am loving how this dresser is turning out so far. I am also toying with the idea of using Dark Wax on the detail and Clear waxing the whole thing. Here is my method for staining wood! I have used advice from many different sources, mostly Minwax sites and some videos.    

What You Will Need

  • 80 grit sand paper
  • 120 grit sand paper
  • electric sander (optional but HIGHLY recommended)
  • Disposable or rubber gloves
  • Clean rag/hand towel that you don’t mind ruining bc it WILL be RUINED when you’re done with it 🙂
  • A good stain (I used Minwax Wood Finish in Dark Walnut – from Walmart)
  • A staining brush
  • Either polyacrylic, polyurethane or clear wax

How to Stain Wood Step-by-Step

  1. Sand the furniture.

    This is probably the most important step when it comes to staining wood! I recommend investing in an electric sander and make sure you sand down every part you want to stain.

  2. Wipe it down.

    After sanding, wipe down the surface to make sure no extra dust is left. You want it to be a completely smooth surface before staining wood.

  3. Paint the stain on.

    Next, you can start painting the stain onto the wood while wiping it down along the way. Make sure you are wiping with the grain of the wood and never going against it. If you want a darker look, you can do this twice!

  4. Seal the stain.

    Use polyacrylic to seal the stain! Make sure to put on a solid coat so that the furniture stays in tack and has a clean finish.


Instructions for Staining Wood

  1. First I took my sander (got it for $29 at WalMart-who knew they were so inexpensive! Worth all 2,988 pennies). You can get one here. I used 80 grit sanding discs to sand the entire top down to the bare wood.  To give you an idea, the top of my dresser it took about an hour to sand the whole thing down to the bare wood.  This was the most time consuming part but it is VERY IMPORTANT to get everything off of the bare wood before staining. I followed the 80 grit with 120 grit to smooth any sanding lines and get a really smooth, fine finish.
  2. Next, I wiped it down really well to get all of the dust and dirt from sanding off of it. You want to make sure you have an absolutely clean wood surface before staining to ensure the most even, clean looking stain.
  3. Next, I used a Minwax stain brush and your stain to start the staining process. I brushed on my stain and let it sit for a minute or so and used the dry cloth to wipe it off going with the grain of the wood.  You’ll want to cover the entire surface and if you want a darker, richer color, you can do a second coat.  I did two coats!
  4. Finally, use a polyacrylic or polyurethane or a clear wax to seal it all up! You can use pretty much anything to seal and protect it and to give it some shine! The stain alone leaves a pretty dull-looking sheen so be sure to do a good clear coat.

I hope that helps you tackle a piece that needs a new life! Help revive it by staining it or painting it!

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  • Reply
    May 4, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Yum, yum, yummy! That looks gorgeous! I am on the search for an old dresser/buffet to use as an entertainment center and I will definitely be doing that look. 🙂

  • Reply
    July 17, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    So you didn’t have to use a paint stripper? And you only had to sand with the 80 grit, you didn’t have to follow up with a finer grit to smooth it out at all? Also after talking to a guy at Jones Paint and Glass he said be careful using polyurethan because it tends to yellow, so it is typically reommended for exterior projects since the sun yellows everything outside anyway. Just a tid-bit I thought I’d share.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 3:44 am

    Btw it’s beautiful

  • Reply
    Mrs. Ferrón
    December 15, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    So happy I found this on Pinterest. I’ve been meaning to stain a few pieces but I was nervous about screwing it up… Thank you!

  • Reply
    December 22, 2012 at 11:23 am

    How long did you wait to poly it after staining. Our kitchen table never dried. It was sticky and tacky for days so we are starting all over.

  • Reply
    Staining Wood 101 – How to Get it Right the First Time
    September 29, 2013 at 9:06 am

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  • Reply
    Charna Harris1
    May 1, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Love your site, enjoyed. I have an old trailer am trying to do something with particleboard cabinets any ideas?

  • Reply
    March 16, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    HI! What brush would you recommend to use for staining dresser? I read a couple of articles, tried to choose from this one https://woodimprove.com/best-brushes-for-staining-wood/ but still can’t decide. Looking forward to your answer, thanks!

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