Varnish stains resemble oils stains except they only use varnish as the binder. The common type of varnish stains seen is the polyurethane stains. These stains dry hard while oil stains don’t. Therefore, a varnish stain can be brushed on wood and left to dry without wiping. Think of a varnish stain as alkyd paint with less colorant added.
Fortunately, most manufacturers label their varnish stains to distinguish them from oil stains because varnish stains use the same thinner as oil stains: mineral spirits. If you aren’t sure whether a stain is varnish or oil, put a puddle of stain on top of the can or on another non-porous surface and see if it dries hard after several days in a warm room. Thick oil stains never harden.
Varnish stains are more difficult to use than oil stains because there’s less time to wipe off excess. Brushing and leaving the excess usually leaves prominent brush marks that stand out because they’re colored.
Choose a varnish stain to overcoat an already stained and finished surface that is dull or scuffed, or if you’re wiping off excess on a small project.
To apply varnish stains follow the instructions below:
- Make sure wood is free from oil, grease, dust, and debris
- Wipe it down with a lint free cloth to insure clean surface
- Apply a thick coat of varnish stain to the wood with a natural bristle brush(if using the oil based product). Make sure to brush in the direction of the grain.
- Allow the stain to sit for 5 minutes. Then wipe off with a lint free cloth. This just insures no brush marks show.
- Allow the coat of varnish stain to dry for 24 hours, and apply another coat of stain to get the most of the color and varnish protection. Allow to dry for 48 hours if you are going to apply a clear coat of polyurethane after.