The Difference Between Wood Dye and Stain

Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images

When deciding whether to add colour to wood, you have two options: wood dye or stain. Although each product changes the colour of a wood, differences exist. For instance, stains can either diminish or intensify wood's grain. However, wood dye provides an intense colour and contrast in grain. Another difference between the two products occurs in the terminology. The term stains encompasses different types of uses, but wood dye just denotes one use.


Wood dye is a type of stain. The dye consists of oil like white spirit and either alcohol or water, which acts as a carrier. The ingredients in wood dye allow the product to appear translucent instead of painted onto the surface. Stains consist of two types of colouring agents: pigment and dye. Pigment is a coloured dirt grounded into small particles, explains When applied, wood dye doesn't leave a film or coating. Instead, the dye allows the wood to look natural.


Stains include a binder within the pigment. The binder provides a thin film over the wood to seal it into place. Thus, when an individual applies a second coat the stain doesn't take as well. Wood dye doesn't include a binder. Wood dye has small molecules that burrow deep into the wood's surface to bond to the grains of the wood. Thus, the dye doesn't need a binder to bond the molecules into place.


Wood dye serves one purpose, to change the colour of wood. Thus, deciding whether to use wood dye or stain depends on how a person wants the wood to look. Wood dye changes the colour of wood without obscuring the look of it because the dye becomes transparent when applied. Using stains on wood is similar to using a water- or oil-based paint, says Wood News Online. However, stains can do more than just change the wood's colour. Stains also can change the colour of different items such as concrete, clothes, floors and paper.


Although wood dye doesn't require constant stirring, stains do. Since stains have a binder, the pigment typically settles at the bottom of the can, separating from the rest of the stain. If the stain isn't stirred before applying, then the pigment isn't evenly dispersed onto the wood. The term stains also denotes an unintentional discolouration, spot or blemish on items such as clothing. Examples of stains are an inkblot or blood on a shirt.

Most recent