How Long Does It Take For Stain To Dry?

A stain is a popular finish for woodwork in the exterior and interiors. There are different types of stain which you should be aware of before buying: oil and water-based stain, stain gel, and stain for exterior and interior. Depending on which product you settle for, they are different in characteristics and drying time. So, how long does it take for the stain to dry?

The quality of the stain you use will determine the time you give it to dry before applying polyurethane. Applying poly on wet stain creates a mix of poly that takes forever to dry or even worse the bonding ability ends up ruining your finish. When dealing with any finish, it is best if you follow the instructions provided on the packaging label by the manufacturer. 

How Long Does It Take for Stain to Dry?

Once you are done working on wooden tables or kitchen cabinets, they are ready for final finishing touches. You have to choose from a wide range of stains, bearing in mind that each type takes a different amount of time to dry. Also, you should not apply poly on wet stains.

Oil-Based Stains

  • It takes about 12 hours for Minwax oil-based stain to completely dry.
  • You should give 8 hours to Varathane stains before applying a topcoat.
  • For Behr stain, it takes 72 hours
  • Cabot stains take at least 24 hours to dry.
  • With Osmo stains, they may take 12 hours or more to completely dry.

Water-Based Stains

Any water-based products take a shorter time to dry compared to oil stains. Generally, let your wood stain rest for 24 – 48 hours before you apply poly for it to dry up completely. If you are not in a rush, you can extend the time to 72 hours to be sure it is completely dry.

  • Minwax water-based stains will only take 3 hours to dry up.
  • Generally, wood stain finishes need about 3 to 4 hours to dry.

Factors that affect the Stain’s drying time

The label on the skin will have the applying instructions you should follow. However, other factors can influence how the stain will dry up, as discussed below.

1. Brand

First, the brand of stain is the most obvious factor to influence its drying time. Some brands tell you 12 – 24 hours are sufficient for the stain to dry while others indicate 6 – 12 hours. So, take a keen interest in the particular product you want to use because they vary significantly. For best results, you can add a further 12 hours to the specified time to ensure the stain is completely dry. 

2. Temperature

The temperature of where you are working will also affect the stain drying time. Polyurethane brands can be applied in areas with a temperature range of 50-90 degrees, and if you are in the high or low of that scope, it might take a longer time to dry. The optimum temperature for the stain to dry well is 70 – 75 degrees. In a room with high or low temperatures, you need more time for the stain to dry.

3. Humidity

As the moisture in the stain evaporates, the stain dries up meaning the amount of moisture contained in the product determines its drying time. Areas of high humidity will have a fast evaporation rate while extremely humid areas will need more time to dry up. 

Humidity can frustrate you, and if possible, you can try to apply stain in a low-humidity environment. If it is difficult, perhaps you can shelf the project for a while and wait for a humid day. 

how long does it take for stain to dry

Besides the longer drying time required for the stain to dry, humidity can also cause your poly coat to be cloudy, which happens when the moisture in the poly is unable to escape into the air. You can add a coat of poly to help the moisture burn in underneath and clear the cloud, and you can also wait for humidity to decrease, and the cloud will disappear. 

4. Circulation

Please make sure you apply the stain in a room where there is sufficient air circulation for it to dry fast. It is the reason why professionals bring in more people to help apply stains too and speed up the process. Also, keep all windows open to further improve air circulation and reduce the number of toxic fumes circulating in your work environment.


External factors will affect how long it takes stain to dry, and they should be put into consideration besides the official time provided by the manufacturer. Never overlook the label instructions on a brand to avoid frustrations and poor results because it doesn’t cost you a thing to read. Also, your project will turn out as perfect as you figured.

Letting your stain dry before applying poly is a guarantee for best results as the stain will not stain the poly. You can end up with a poor finish resulting from a reduced bonding ability between the poly and stain.

As aforementioned, different stain brands take varying amounts of time to dry. Water-based stains will take the shortest time to dry, unlike oil-based stains. Also, exterior wood stains take longer to dry than interior stains which are up to four days.

READ MORE: How to Build Beautiful DIY Plywood Countertop

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