Best Interior Wood Stains – Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

Wood is a beautiful material. But did you know that you could make it look even better? The first thought that comes to mind is to paint your interior wooden piece. Yes, there are different colors of paint you could choose from but wood is attractive by itself because of its grain. Wood stains help reveal the grain and make the wood look brighter keeping the natural beauty of the wood.

Here is the list of the best interior wood stains for your interior furniture, floors, doors, cabinets, and more.

Applying Interior Stain.

Applying Interior Stain. Photo:

Best Interior Wood Stains in May, 2024

Wood stainCoverage (quart)Recoat dry time (hours)Colors
1General Finishes Oil Base
Editor's Choice
150-200 sq ft12-2413 Check Price
2Minwax Penetrating Wood Finish 150 sq ft4-628 Check Price
3Rust-Oleum Ultimate275 sq ft113 Check Price
4Minwax Gel Stain200 sq ft212 Check Price
5General Finishes Water Base100-150 sq ft0,5-216 Check Price
6Varathane Premium Fast Dry75 sq ft110 Check Price
7SamaN Interior Stainup to 200 sq ft140 Check Price
8Varathane Premium Wood Stain150 sq ft1-225 Check Price
9Old Masters Wiping Stain125 sq ft1219 Check Price

General Finishes Oil Based Gel Stain – Top Interior Wood Stain

General Finishes Oil Base Gel Stain
Photo: Amazon

This option by General Finishes is the most popular wood stain. It’s a heavy-bodied formula that only penetrates just below the surface of your projects. It is a gel stain that’s designed to reduce spillage and uneven coating. By the way, you can apply it with any standard foam brush for staining or sponges.

This product works very well for more difficult to stain woods like pine. Gel stains like this one are great for woods that typically absorb a lot of stain. You’ll waste less product from over-absorption and spilling.

The shading and coloring leave a professional finish with minimal touch-ups. A single coating will give a nice finish, and 3 coats will yield the maximum richness that this tone of stain can produce. Drying time is around eight hours before you can add another coat. Above all, this product is perfect for interior wood.

Great to show woodgrain

This is one of my favorite products I use to restore wood furniture. I use it quite a bit on the tops of my furniture that I restore and there are a couple of things why I love this product so much. Number one – it’s affordable and number two – it’s just awesome.

General Finishes have got a whole line of different colors and Java is my favorite. I just love this color – it’s so dark and rich. Java color has really worked well with many of the paint combinations. It really makes woodgrain noticeable.

I know that some people apply this stain with rags but I find if I use a foam brush that I’m using less of the product. Some people may say ‘oh it’s not as fast’ but I’m okay with that, to me it’s all about application and getting it on evenly.

Someone who doesn’t have much experience in finishing woods will be able to easily work with it without making a big mess because it applies very well with a cloth rag or foam brush.

You should be careful when applying this product by making sure you don’t put too much on in a single coat. It may require more sanding than liquid stains because of its thickness.

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  • Heavy-Bodied
  • Easy To Apply
  • Great For Interior Wood
  • Cloth/Foam Brush Application
  • Easy To Over-Apply
  • Requires Extra Sanding
  • Not Suitable For Thinning

Minwax Penetrating Wood Finish – Decent Interior Stain For Furniture and Hardwood Floors

Minwax Penetrating Wood Finish
Photo: Amazon

Minwax is the brand of choice for a majority of professional woodworkers. It penetrates deeply into most woods in order to bring out the grains to the surface. It’s designed to evenly highlight the greatest features and subtle styling of the woods you use. It’s meant to be used along with a sealer for a high-gloss finished product. The color scheme amplifies the existing qualities of your project.

This option works perfectly for new projects. It penetrates deeply into the wood and requires minimal sanding. You can use a foam brush, standard brush, or cloth rag to apply it. You can use this on cabinets, furniture, trim, and just about any unfinished wood. You’ll experience a very uniform coloring with one to two coats. It’s easy to thin with mineral spirits to get a lighter tone if you need to.

Liquid stains won’t apply easily with a roller. It’s easy to spill so you’ll need to be a little extra careful when using a brush. Older woods that are very dehydrated might take a liberal amount for good results. It doesn’t show up well when applying to an existing finish.

Minwax makes reliable products that will work great for new projects. This is a good option for those who already have experience in woodworking.

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  • Deep Penetration
  • Great For New Projects
  • Suitable For Cabinets, Trim, Furniture, And More
  • Best Used With Sealer
  • Enhances Visibility Of Grain
  • Easy To Spill
  • May Suffer From Over-Absorption
  • Not Suitable For Covering Existing Finishes

Rust-Oleum Ultimate Stain – Great For Wood Floors and Indoor Furniture

Rust-Oleum Ultimate Stain
Photo: Amazon

Rust-Oleum is highly-regarded for their exceptional quality stains and paints that are one of the best paints for wood on the market. This one focuses on a fast drying time and is intended for single-coat applications. It features a rubberized utility coating with a medium-bodied thickness that will seal against water and help fill existing cracks.

Rust-Oleum stain seals against leaks and moisture damages. You can apply it with any standard brush fairly easily. It’s thick enough to fill gaps and cracks in hard to reach areas when used liberally. A standard application will usually dry within one hour after applying. You can expect to get great coloring from a single coat. This product works best with wood floors, indoor furniture, cabinets and more.

It’s not suitable for exterior wood projects. You should only use this for interior projects. It may be easy to apply too much and experience runs on your finished product.

You’ll get great results on interior projects. Dry time is fast and convenient with no sealing necessary.

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  • Seals/Protects
  • Fills Cracks
  • Fast-Drying Single-Coat Application
  • Can Be Applied Over Existing Stains
  • Not Suitable For Exterior Wood
  • Not Suitable For Thinning
  • Easy To Over-Apply

Minwax Gel Stain – Good Choice For Interior Doors And Vertical Surfaces

Minwax Gel Stain
Photo: Amazon

Minwax gel stains are suitable for a variety of materials. You can apply this product to wood, fiberglass, metals, and more. It features an easy-to-use no-drip formula. It is heavy-bodied and can be applied with a standard brush, roller, or cloth.

You can use this option with any indoor project that isn’t exposed to the elements. It doesn’t necessarily require multiple coatings for even coverage. You can apply it with a regular brush or roller without much spillage.

The average woodworker will find this formula very easy to use on most projects. It’s perfect for doors, banisters, trim, and other vertical surfaces.

You may have to do a lot of sanding if you intend on adding a sealer. For fine woodworking projects, you may need to wipe down the area after you finish each coating to remove excess stain. You shouldn’t add mineral spirits to this product. You may experience streaks and runs on your project if you don’t wipe away the excess of your product.

You’ll get the most out of this gel stain by using on projects that suffer from a lot of wear in normal use. It’s a good option for interior banisters, doors, and trim.

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  • Suitable For Interior Doors, Banisters, And Trim
  • Easy To Use
  • Single-Coating Works Well
  • Used For Various Materials
  • Suitable For Covering Existing Stains
  • Use With Brushes Or Rollers
  • Not Suitable For Thinning
  • Requires Sanding
  • May Experience Streaking/Runs

General Finishes Water Base – Great Option For Hard-To-Stain Woods Like Maple

General Finishes Water Base
Photo: Amazon

Water-based stains from General Finishes don’t have any harsh chemicals or toxic vapors. They’re intended for indoor use only and is made to be easy to clean up if you have any spills. This package comes in a one-quart container. It is a medium-bodied water-based stain.

Some water-based stains are very watery, but this Whitewash from General Finishes is much thicker than other brands. It’s easy to apply with sponges and cloth rags. You can use it with a roller if you apply it slowly. You can blend and thin this one with mineral spirits as much as you’d like to. The thick formula makes it simple to get an even coating with little sanding between coats. You’ll get a really good finish on softwoods and hardwoods alike.

You can use it indoors with little ventilation because it doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals that create toxic vapors. You can clean up spills with mild-soaps and water. You’ll get the most out of this product on natural wood walls, trim, and interior doors.

You might want to apply a sealer for your final finish on certain projects because this product isn’t hard to smudge and wear off. You might have to apply multiple coats to darker woods. This option won’t cover non-wood surfaces very well. It’s only suitable for indoor use.

Do-It-Yourself woodworkers will really enjoy using this stain to add a rustic feel to their home. It has a very traditional look if you don’t add a sealer.

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  • Thick And Easy To Apply
  • No Harsh Chemicals
  • Rustic/Traditional Looks
  • Suitable For Thinning
  • Minimal Sanding
  • Requires Multiple Coats For Darker Woods
  • Easy To Smudge
  • Add Sealer For Good Results

Varathane Premium Fast Dry Stain – Inexpensive Option For Interior Wood

Varathane Premium Fast Dry Stain

This Varathane Premium is one of their fastest drying oil-based formulas. It’s enhanced with microscopic pigmentation particles that give it a deep tone on any woods.

This option is suitable for cabinets, doors, trim, and paneling. You should only use it for indoor projects. It dries to the touch in one hour. You can use thinning solutions with this stain. Any form of application brush or roller can be used. Cleanup is very easy.

It doesn’t have very strong pigmentation. Your end result will look very dull if you don’t apply several coats. Direct Sunlight will cause this stain to fade eventually.

You should not use this product on exterior projects even with sealant top-coatings because it will fade. It’s necessary that you excessively sand the wood surface with increasingly finer grit sandpaper before applying the first coat. The product has to be applied within temperatures of 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

This stain will be good for someone who is just trying to get a project done quickly and save a few bucks in the process.
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  • Inexpensive
  • Fast Drying
  • Very Easy Cleanup
  • Indoor Use Only
  • Temperature-Specific Application
  • Excessive Sanding Required
  • Fades Easily

SamaN Interior Water Based Stain – One Coat Formula

SamaN Interior Water Based Stain
Photo: Amazon

The SamaN Interior wood stain is a water-based formula that is designed for use on all types of interior wood; woodwork, moldings, doors, cabinets and furniture. It is designated as a translucent wood stain.

This Stain is offered in 42 colors to include natural wood grain hues such as various shades of walnut, maple and cherry. There are also several colors for individuals looking to find colors that are outside of the usual selections for customers seeking a look that is a bit outside of the box; lime, azure, mauve, turquoise and raspberry.

Time-saving and Safe

This SamaN Interior Water Based Stain has several features that set it apart from its competitors. One big advantage is that there is no need to deal with applying a conditioner, which saves you the additional cost of buying another product as well as the time savings in avoiding an additional step. Additionally, this product only requires that you apply one coat – again saving time and money. The product provides exceptional coverage and an impressive end result.

Because of the water-based nature of this wood stain, it also has the advantages of being odorless, safe for the Earth and safe for people and pets.

The only obvious downside in considering the NamaN Interior Water Based Stain is that while it can be used on all types of interior woodwork, best results are achieved when using on fine wood. This may not be ideal for lesser quality wood.

  • Made for all types of interior woodwork
  • No need to use a conditioner
  • No overlapping marks
  • Needs just one coat
  • Does not raise the wood grain
  • Stain is odorless
  • Safe for the Earth
  • Safe for people and pets
  • Product is recommended for fine wood for best results

Varathane Premium Wood Stain – Rich Color and Penetration

Varathane Premium Wood Stain
Photo: Amazon

Varathane Premium Wood Stain is a translucent stain designed for use on all interior wood products. This soy-based formula results in deeper penetration within the wood grain and results in truer colors.

This soy-based stain is offered in 25 colors. In this case, the color choices are all-natural wood grain stains. The color palette reflects various shades of natural wood types; cherry, maple, mahogany, pine, oak and pecan. None of the color selections reflect colors that deviate from the natural and typical wood grain hues.

Deep Penetration

As a soy-based stain, the Varathane Premium Wood Stain formula provides deeper penetration resulting in an enhanced display of the wood grain and truer colors. The soy-based formula and translucent pigments foster many enhancements to the overall appearance of the stain.

This results in a long-lasting translucent stain, truer colors, and enhanced wood grain detail. This formula also provides you with the advantage of an “anti-settling” technology. This alleviates worries about the constant need to stir and remix the product. This wood stain also dries to the touch in as little as 1-2 hours.

This product does not have any strong negatives; however, it is advised that a re-coat be applied to the project two hours after the first coat is applied. I can say that a second or even third coat may be needed to get the desired color. Even in the two-coat scenario, this clearly presents more effort and cost than the one-coat alternatives. The fact that the color choices are limited to traditional wood grain hues might also present a downside for those wanting unusual colors.

  • The anti-settling formula allows for less stirring
  • Applies evenly without blotching
  • Dry to the touch in as little as 1-2 hours
  • The soy-based formula provides truer colors
  • The translucent stain uses premium pigment for deeper colors
  • Penetrates up to twice as deep as competitors
  • Provides long-lasting translucent stain
  • Colors preferred 2 to 1 over competitors color choices
  • Re-coating is recommended after 2 hours for best results
  • Color choices are restricted to natural wood grain shades

Old Masters Wiping Stain – Oil Based Slow Drying

Old Masters Wiping Stain
Photo: Amazon

Old Master’s Wiping Stain is designed for interior applications but can be used as an exterior stain as well if topped with a clear protective finish. Unlike the previous products, Masters does not dry quickly and presents a much different angle on staining.

This is designed to be a slow-drying wood stain. In contrast to the fast-drying thin translucent stains mentioned previously, this product offers a heavy-bodied, controllable interior wood stain. This product can be used on old or new bare wood but can also be used on finished wood. Additionally, it can be used for applications beyond traditional wood finishing. It can be used on obtaining a wood grain appearance on steel doors as well as other projects.

This line of stains is offered in 19 wood grain color options; walnut, cedar, cherry, oak, maple pine, pecan. With the exception of the Pickling White color choice, they are all-natural wood grain colors. The stain is designed for easy application and claims superior color control.

Both for Interior and Exterior Use

One strong positive that sets this product apart from other stains is that it can be used on both interior and exterior projects. If used outdoors, it does require that you add an additional coat of a clear protective finish.

This stain also has the positive attribute of being an option for use on materials other than wood. The characteristic of deliberately being a slow drying controllable and heavy-bodied stain could also make it a preferable choice for those do-it-yourself customers with less experience where a product that is more forgiving and easier to work with is a positive factor.

This product like most of the others does not have any strong redeeming negatives. It does not offer any non-traditional choices among the color palette. For customers wanting a quick drying time – this would clearly not be a good choice. It could also be seen as a negative if the user doesn’t like to work with a thick-bodied stain.

  • Easy application & superior color control
  • Can be used for both interior and exterior use
  • When using this product for an exterior application, it requires an additional step
    of adding a protective coating – requiring an additional product which increases
    cost and time.

William Stewart

The proud owner and lead writer of Started writing in 2018 and sharing his love and passion for wood treatments and crafts.

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Mira Norton
Mira Norton
1 year ago

I am installing a pine shiplap ceiling in a a very large room. What is a safe easy to apply transparent stain?

3 years ago

Great job!!! What options do I have for food-safe wood stains for use on my wooden bowls?

Kelli Cornwell
Kelli Cornwell
3 years ago

Thank you for this information .
I would like to do a pickled or whitewashed finish on a pine ceiling. What would be a good product to use?

Steven Widdows
Steven Widdows
3 years ago

Hi William,having a log cabin delivered in a couple of weeks wanted to stain not paint the interior walls what would you recommend.

3 years ago

I am remodeling my stairs with unfinished treads. I would like to stain them in red oak for a shiny finish. What is the best stain to get for treads that basically has no color right now ?

4 years ago

Hi William
Great article. A quick question re: Rustoleum wood stain. In your pros, you said the furniture doesn’t need to be sanded. In the video, they are recommending sanding. Please can you clarify? I’d love to use the rustoleum stain on tired looking furniture, which is stained wood veneer. Sanding would ruin the piece. I do hope you can help.

Sarah Jo Woods
Sarah Jo Woods
4 years ago

We live in a log home and have recently sanded walls down to natural grain. What stain would be best to use on walls?

4 years ago


Thank you for your informative articles and advice.

We are in the process of re-finishing a sunroom porch that was built in the ’50s. The entire room is clad in real wood paneling made from knotty yellow pine. The room has windows on three sides, so it’s flooded with sunlight. With the windows open all summer, the room also gets fluctuations in heat and humidity, and sometimes a bit of rain through the windows in a sudden rainstorm. There is a window seat running around all three sides of the room under the windows.

We have sanded down all the paneling, and we’re looking for the right finish. We don’t plan to stain the wood. I’m hoping you can advise me on products and techniques.

1. There is a section of paneling that is paler than the rest of the walls because we removed a built-in cabinet. Would a carefully applied thin layer of stain to these paler areas be able to match the rest of the wood and minimize the color difference?

2. What finish do you recommend, with the particular considerations of sunlight, moisture, and hardness/durability (especially for the window seat)?

Thank you in advance,

Margie Brosseau
Margie Brosseau
4 years ago

Hi William

love your blog. It is so informative and easy to read and follow & well researched

Want to know what is the best product to keep my Cherry wood kitchen cabinets
looking clean and helps keep the stain colour & is safe to use on my butcher block.

Also what would be the best oil for an antique tiger oak dining set . I have used lemon oil but it takes forever to dry and has a huge shine , also what oil would you recommend for an antique book unit with glass lead doors. Many thanks

Lillian Wood
Lillian Wood
4 years ago

Hi William,

Thank you for your information-packed website and blog:) I’m not quite sure if the small (older) table that I’ve purchased actually has stain on it (I’m assuming that it does). I’d like to deepen the color with the General Finishes Gel Stain. Would you suggest that I sand it, apply the gel stain, and then the polyurethane for protection, or should I include another step if it’s already been stained?
Also, would there ever be a situation where the gel stain should be diluted?
Thank you so much!

Mark Scott
Mark Scott
5 years ago

Need your help. I and my wife want to stain unfinished bathroom door. Which stain is better?

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