DIY Homemade Wood Stain

Written by scarlett gauthier
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DIY Homemade Wood Stain
Stain old wood to give a sleeker, updated and finished look. (aged wood wall image by Slyadnyev Oleksandr from

Stains enhance the appearance of wood. They work by soaking into the wood surfaces to give the wood its improved colour. You can stain woods like walnut, oak and cherry to bring out their natural beauty and grain. You can purchase various commercial stains, but a more cost-effective way to change the colour of wood is by making a natural wood stain using household ingredients.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Narrow plant holder
  • Clean rags
  • Steel wool pad
  • Ungalvanized rusted nails
  • Spray bottle
  • Measuring cup
  • Salt
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Paint strainer
  • Jar
  • Foam paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Clean the plant holder of any dirt with a clean rag, soap and water. Dry the plant holder with a rag.

  2. 2

    Unroll the steel wool pad. Place it flat inside the narrow plant holder and drop several rusted nails on top.

  3. 3

    Fill a spray bottle with water till the bottle is halfway full. Add 1 tbsp of salt to the water. Shake the bottle and allow the salt to dissolve.

  4. 4

    Spray the wool pad and rusted nails with the mixture until the bottle is empty.

  5. 5

    Allow the wool pad and nails to sit for three to six days. The mixture will be ready when the wool pad has lost at least 75 per cent of its consistency. Spray the wool and nails with plain water every two days to gain as much rust build-up as possible.

  6. 6

    Allow the water to evaporate once you are satisfied with the amount of rust in the plant holder.

  7. 7

    Add half a cup of apple cider vinegar into the mixture carefully. Allow the mixture to sit for approximately 10 minutes.

  8. 8

    Strain the mixture through a paint strainer and into a jar.

  9. 9

    Clean the wood surface with a wet rag. Apply the wood stain with a foam paintbrush.

  10. 10

    Allow the stain to set until it is dry to the touch. Sand the surface down with 220-grint sandpaper and apply a second coat. Repeat the procedure with any additional coats.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep the mixture in an airtight sealed glass jar. The mixture will last approximately a year. When it begins to turn green, discard the mixture.
  • Walnut surfaces will generally require two coats of wood stain, while oak can require three or more coats.
  • Wear rubber gloves and safety glasses when preparing the mixture as well as when applying the wood stain to the surface.

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