Oil-Based vs Water-Based Wood Stain for Interior Projects

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Making the decision between oil based stain and water based wood stain for an interior project should be made after taking several things into consideration. Here are some important factors to consider before you choose the right one for you and your project.

Health Hazards

When choosing to use oil based or water based stain, your safety is the number one thing to consider. Both of these types of products are an eye irritant, and both may cause skin irritation as well. However, oil based stains have some added health hazards involved. Breathing its harmful vapors may cause lung irritation, and prolonged use the product may lead to liver and kidney damage.

Environmental Hazards

Environmental hazards should also play a key role in choosing which product you should use. Water based stain has virtually no environmental hazards associated with it, whereas oil based stain contains resins, solvents, and petroleum distillates, which are known pollutants to our groundwater. When using oil based stain, you should know how to dispose of it properly. If you do not know the proper disposal procedures, call your local EPA for this important information.

Differences in Color and Look

There is not too much difference in the effect or depth each product has on wood. Naturally, wood loves oil, and oil based stain will create a richer look of wood grain. The downside is oil based stain products offer very few color choices, whereas water based stain offer nearly eighty different color choices. Technological advancements have been made to improve how water based stain interacts with wood to create a more vibrant color so that it can compete with its counterpart.

Comparing Application

Water based and oil based stain are applied in the same manner. It is not necessary, but you can apply a sanding sealer over oil based stain. On the other can, sanding sealer is a must to apply over water based stain for the purpose of adding a conditioner to the wood for lack of oil in the product. Sanding sealer is applied following stain applications to condition wood as well as raise the grain. It is then sanded to better close off the grain for longevity of your wood. This process creates a smoother finish, which makes it look and feel better. When comparing clean up of water based stain to oil based stain, water based stain is much friendlier to the user. It cleans up using warm soapy water, but cleaning up oil based stain requires a solvent, which makes it less favorable for the nature of the clean up required.

When deciding which stain to use, water based or oil based may be an easy decision for some. For others, it can be difficult choosing between the two. One with richer color saturation is the traditional approach, making it a tried and true method. The other, a technological approach that addresses environmental safety and preservation as well as eliminating health hazards entirely.