7 Staining Dark Furniture Tips and Techniques

dark TV stand with built in fireplace
  • 3-8 hours
  • Beginner
  • 20-200

Whether working on a single piece or ensuring all your furniture is stained the same color so it matches, we’ve got some tips and techniques to get you started.

There are four basic shades of stain: light oak, walnut, maple, and mahogany. Walnut and mahogany are the darkest shades.

If you need a different shade to get a perfect match, then take a swatch to your local DIY store and they will mix the closest match out of the four base stains.

1. Place Furniture Horizontally

By placing the furniture horizontally you can prevent the stain from running and leaving drip marks once it has dried.

However, in some cases this might not be possible. In these cases, make sure you start at the bottom of the dark furniture and work upwards. To prevent drips, apply thin coats, leave to dry and then reapply.

2. Apply Oil-based Stains

brushing on wood stain

If you are applying an oil stain to the dark furniture, make sure you use a clean brush and test the color of the stain on a hidden area.

If the color is correct, apply the stain in single stroke movements without overlapping.

3. Apply Water-based Stains

If you are applying a water-based stain to your dark furniture, you will need to paint the grain lines using a fine paint brush before you give the entire surface a coat. This is essential to getting a natural wood finish.

4. Condition the Wood

In order to prevent the stain from leaving blotchy marks on the wood, apply a fine layer of wood conditioner to the wood before staining.

Unlike when applying the stain, it does not need to be applied using a new brush. Wood conditioners dry within 15 minutes, significantly quicker than the stains that take 24 hours to dry fully.

5. Enhance the Wood

dark wood surface

Although you might be tempted to leave a thick layer of stain on your dark furniture to get it darker, resist this urge.

In order to enhance the natural qualities of the wood, you will need to wipe the excess off with a cloth in the direction of the grain.

If, after you have done this, the stain is too light, leave it to dry and apply another coat.

6. Safety

If you are staining a piece of furniture that is easy to move, make sure you move it into a well-ventilated area before you start the staining process.

There are chemicals in staining products that can be dangerous if inhaled. If the furniture is too big to move, use a water-based stain as these contain less toxins.

7. Overdone It

If you find you have overdone it when staining your dark furnishings, you can lighten the shade you have quite easily.

If you dip a cloth in turpentine or mineral spirits and rub it in the same direction as the grain, this will evenly lighten the color.

To summarize, you need to place the piece of furniture horizontally, condition the wood, and then apply either oil- or water-based stain before finally removing the excess stain with a cloth.

If you find you have applied too much stain to your dark furniture resulting in a finish that is too dark, you can lighten it using turpentine.