Instructions on How to Gel Stain Over Painted Cabinets

Written by stevie donald
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Unlike traditional penetrating thin-bodied stain, gel stain is thick enough to be applied to vertical surfaces without dripping. This makes it easy to use, and perfect for staining over painted surfaces. Gel stain can be used on any non-porous surface, such as fibreglass and metal as well as previously painted or sealed wood. Use gel stain over painted cabinets to create an antiqued effect, or get a faux wood-grain look with rubber graining tools and brushes. Paint Pro magazine states it can also be used for other faux effects, such as stencilling or sponging; it can be mixed in a wide range of colours.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Detergent
  • Sandpaper or sanding sponge
  • Lint-free rags
  • Gel stain
  • Stir stick
  • Stain applicator
  • Sealer
  • White spirit

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  1. 1

    Remove the doors and handles or knobs. Set up the doors on a work bench. If you don’t mind getting some stain on the hinges, simplify the job by leaving the doors on, and just wipe the stain from the hinges when you are wiping the rest of the excess stain off.

  2. 2

    Clean the painted cabinets with detergent and warm water to remove grease and grime. If the surface feels rough, sand it with 120-grit sandpaper or a medium-fine sanding sponge. Brush or wipe away the resulting sanding dust.

  3. 3

    Stir the gel stain thoroughly with a stir stick to break it up. Replace the lid and shake the can for at least 30 seconds. This distributes the pigment evenly throughout the material.

  4. 4

    Apply the gel stain with a 2- or 3-inch paintbrush, lint-free rag or lambswool pad. Put a generous. even coat on the cabinets, working with the grain of the wood. The stain remains wet for about 30 minutes, so only apply what you can wipe off within that time frame otherwise it will start setting up and getting sticky.

  5. 5

    Wipe the excess stain away with a clean lint-free rag, wiping in the direction of the wood grain. Remove heavy stain pooled in corners and mouldings with a dry paint brush.

  6. 6

    Allow the gel stain to dry for at least 8 hours. Drying time is affected by temperature and humidity. If it's cool or very humid, extend the drying time. If a white rag or paper towel rubbed over the surface comes away clean, the stain is dry.

  7. 7

    Seal the cabinets with two coats of varnish or polyurethane.

Tips and warnings

  • Practice your technique on a piece of painted scrap wood before starting on the cabinets.
  • Thin the stain with oil-based clear glaze for a more translucent effect.
  • For a wood-grain effect, use the graining tool of your choice and drag it through the wet gel stain instead of wiping it off.
  • Open windows and use fans for ventilation. Gel stains are oil based and have strong fumes.

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