Can You Stain Wood Black? (Step-by-Step Guide)

When choosing wood stain colors, most people opt for a shade of brown. But what if you want a darker color like black?

You can use pigmented wood stain to stain wood black. These come in oil and water-based varieties, as well as gel and dye. Wood furniture, flooring, and decks can all be stained black with wood stain.

If you want to learn more about staining wood black, this guide has you covered. I will explain the different types of black wood stain, how to use them for different projects, and what some of the alternatives are.

Are There Different Types of Black Wood Stains?

Yes, there are several types of black wood stains – oil-based, water-based, gel stains, and dyes.

Oil-Based Wood Stains

Oil-based stain consists of an oil carrier (usually linseed oil) with black pigments to add color and binders to ensure that the pigments bond to the wood. Oil-based stains give you a nice rich color because the oil soaks deep into the wood rather than sitting on the surface like paint or gel stain. There are a few downsides to oil-based stains though. Firstly, they contain more harsh chemicals than other alternatives and secondly, they take longer to dry.

Water-Based Wood Stains

Water-based stains are often a better option because they still soak into the wood and give you a good color, but they dry faster and don’t contain as many harsh solvents. Instead of an oil carrier, they use water. The coverage is not always as good as oil-based stain, although water-based products have improved a lot in recent years.

Gel Stains

Gel stains work more like paint than a traditional stain. The thick stain doesn’t soak into the wood, it creates a layer on the surface. If you are staining wood black, this can be a good option because it gives you a solid color. With other types of stain, you may need more coats to get the same deep black color.

Black Dye

Finally, you have black dye. These usually come in powder form and can be mixed with water to create a simple stain. You won’t get the same protection you get from stain if you do this, so it’s not ideal for outdoor applications. That said, you can mix dyes into existing stain products to get the color you want.

All of the different types of stain have their benefits and drawbacks but I would recommend using a good quality water-based stain for most applications. If you are working outdoors, put a protective clear coat over the top once the stain has absorbed and dried.

Can You Stain Furniture Black?

Yes, black stain is a great option for refinishing old furniture or finishing new furniture. A good oil or water-based stain is the perfect option. If the furniture has been finished in the past, you can give it a quick sand and apply black straight over the top as it will easily cover the old color. If you are on the search for a black stain you must see our 10 Best Black Wood Stains article!

How to Stain Furniture Black

1. Clean the furniture

cleaning the old vintage wooden furniture with rag

Start by cleaning the furniture thoroughly to remove any grease or grime. You can use a sugar soap solution to get rid of stubborn stains on old furniture. Otherwise, a simple dish soap and warm water mixture works perfectly.

2. Sand it down

sanding wooden furniture clean barewood

Once the furniture is dry, you need to sand it. If it still has some old stain on it, try to remove any loose flakes and strip it back well. That said, you don’t need to completely remove it because the pigments in the black stain easily cover any lighter colors, especially after a few coats. If the furniture is new, you should still sand it lightly to open up the pores. Start with an 80-120 grit sandpaper to remove any rough areas and open up the wood. Then go over with a 220 grit to smooth it out.

After sanding, wipe the furniture down with a damp cloth to remove any dust. You should also get into the hard to reach areas with a vacuum to make sure that it’s completely dust-free.

3. Apply stain

staining furniture black

Before you apply the stain, give it a good mix to ensure that the pigment is evenly distributed. Black stain contains a lot of pigment that can sink to the bottom of the can and collect. When it is properly mixed, take a rag or a sponge and use it to wipe the stain onto the wood. It will absorb to begin with, so you can wipe a few layers on until you have a strong color.

Give it a few minutes to soak in and then you will notice some excess that sits on top of the wood.

4. Wipe off excess

wiping off excess wood stain

Go back over and wipe off the excess as you progress. This is a vital step because if you leave it, the stain dries on the surface and makes the finish blotchy.

You don’t need to do this if you are using gel stain because it doesn’t soak in. Instead, brush it on like you would paint.

5. Let it dry

Now you just need to wait for it to dry. The drying time varies a lot depending on what kind of stain you are using. Oil-based stains take the longest to dry, while some water-based products can dry in as little as half an hour. Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines about drying and make sure that the stain is completely dry before you continue.

6. Apply more coats (if necessary)

You may find that one coat of heavily pigmented black stain gives you the color that you want. But if you want it darker, apply another coat following the same directions as above.

7. Apply top coat

sealing furniture spraying poly with wagner flexio 590

Finally, you should apply a top coat once the stain has fully dried. Using a spar varnish or polyurethane top coat protects the furniture from scratches and dents, and makes it water-resistant too. This is especially important if you are staining outdoor furniture.

Can You Stain a Deck Black?

black stained deck wood

Yes, if you want to, you can stain a deck black. But it’s a very bold look that doesn’t work for everybody. It’s not a great choice for hot climates either because the black soaks up a lot of heat and can make the deck uncomfortable. In a more temperate climate, it can work well.

How to Stain a Deck Black

1. Clear the deck

Start by clearing any furniture from the deck. Brush the deck with a stiff bristled broom to remove any leaves and loose dirt.

2. Clean the deck

The deck needs to be thoroughly cleaned before you get started. You can do this with warm water and soap but it’s best to use a dedicated deck cleaning product. Apply it with a roller or a sprayer and let it sit for a while. Once it has done its work, clean it off with a hose, making sure that all of the deck cleaner is rinsed away.

3. Sand the deck

After the deck has had plenty of time to dry, you need to sand it to prepare it for the stain. This will remove any dirt and old finish that you can’t get rid of by cleaning. It also opens up the pores of the wood so they absorb the stain better.

An orbital sander is the easiest way to sand the deck quickly. Start with 20-50 grit sandpaper and then go over it again with 60-80 grit. Wash the deck down again to get rid of any dust and then let it dry properly.

4. Wet the surface

Before you apply any stain, you should lightly wet the surface of the deck. Making it damp helps it absorb the stain better so you can get a nice even coverage. Use a hose with a sprayer on it to sprinkle a light layer of water over it.

5. Apply stain

A roller is the best way to apply stain to a deck. It allows you to cover a larger area in a short space of time and you get an even layer. However, you still need to wipe off any excess stain after 15 minutes or so. You can use a sponge or a cloth to do this.

Apply 2 coats of stain in this way, giving it plenty of time to dry properly in between. If you want a deeper color, you may need a third coat.

6. Seal the deck

Although stains offer some protection, you should seal your deck to make it last longer. Spar urethane sealers are one of the best choices for your deck but there are plenty of other options out there. Just make sure that you use something that offers good UV protection. You can apply sealer with a roller or a brush, or spray it on. A few coats of good quality deck sealer will protect it from the elements and make it last much longer.

Can You Stain Wooden Floors Black?

black stained hardwood floors

Yes, if you want black flooring, staining is the way to go. However, you should consider whether it’s the right choice for the space because dark colors like black can make it feel small and cramped. You need to offset the dark color with brighter shades on the walls to make black flooring work.

How to Stain a Wooden Floor Black

1. Test the stain

Before you start on the floor, test the stain on a piece of scrap. This gives you a sense of how dark the color will be. The longer you leave the stain before wiping the excess, the more it will soak in and the darker it will get. You can see how the stain reacts and decide how long you want to leave it if you test the stain on some scrap first.

2. Sand the floor

Now, you need to prepare the floor and remove any old stain by sanding it with an orbital sander. Start with 20 grit sandpaper to strip away the top layer of stain. Go over a second time using 36 grit sandpaper. Finally, go over a third time with 80 grit sandpaper. If the floor is brand new, you can skip the first step with the 20 grit sandpaper and just go over it twice.

3. Clean the floor

After sanding, vacuum the floor to remove all of the dust. Then, mop the floor with some clean water. This helps remove any last bits of dust and dampens the wood to prepare it for the stain.

4. Apply the stain

Now you are ready to apply the stain. You can use a sponge, a rag, or a roller to wipe it on, following the direction of the grain. Once the stain is on and it has started soaking in, pay attention to how long you have left it.

5. Wipe away excess

When the stain has been left for the right amount of time to achieve the color you want, go back and wipe off the excess. Even if you want a very dark color, you still need to wipe away the stain before it dries so you don’t get a blotchy finish.

6. Apply another coat

Depending on the color you want, you may need a second coat of stain. If you want it darker, let the first coat dry and then apply another coat in the same way. When you are happy, give the stain at least 24 hours to dry fully.

7. Seal the floor

Finally, you should seal the floor to protect it from getting scratched up by furniture and foot traffic. A few coats of clear protective finish like spar urethane applied with a roller will keep the floor in good condition.

Does Black Stain Work on all Wood Types?

Some wood types take black stains better than others. Light wood like beech, birch, and ash take on the color very well and go black easily. They don’t have a strong color to start with so the original tone is easily covered. However, dark hardwoods that are rich brown or red can be harder to stain black.

Even after applying a few coats, you may still see a brown shade coming through. You end up darkening the existing color rather than making it black. If you are concerned about this, test it on a scrap piece of the same material first to see how it comes out. If you experiment with a few different products, you can find one that works for you. 

Should You Use Pre-Stain Before Applying Black Stain to Wood?

Pre-stain soaks into the wood and temporarily seals it so when you apply the stain afterwards, it absorbs evenly. It is very useful when you’re working with porous softwoods like birch, fir, alder, and pine. Without a pre-stain, the stain can end up looking very blotchy. So, if you’re using porous softwood, it’s a good idea to pre-stain before using a black stain.

But if you are staining hardwoods, it’s not necessary to use pre-stain because the wood doesn’t soak up as much product. As long as you wipe away the excess before it dries, you will be fine.

Can You Reduce the Black Stain Thickness?

Yes, sometimes you will find that the stain is going on too thick and the color is too dark. If you want to stain the wood black but you still want the grain to show through, thinning the stain first with mineral spirits can help a lot.

Start by thoroughly mixing the stain so all of the pigment is evenly distributed, then pour some into a separate container. Add a small amount of mineral spirits and stir it in. Try one tablespoon per cup of stain as a guide, but remember each stain is different.

Test it on a piece of scrap to see the consistency and then add more mineral spirits, if necessary. Repeat this until you get it right and note down the ratios so you can mix more later.

What Are Some Black Wood Stain Alternatives?

Painting it Black

Painting the floor is the most obvious alternative to staining it. If you want a really solid black color that covers the natural look of the wood, a few coats of paint works wonders. Oil-based floor paint and oil-based enamel are the best choices because they’re durable and stand up to lots of foot traffic.

Learn how to paint furniture black in our detailed article here

Black Washing

Blackwashing is a good alternative if you want to use paint but you don’t want a block color that masks the grain of the wood. You can also use it over existing stain to create a great antique effect where some of the old stain shows through the black.

Find a good quality black water-based paint and simply mix it with some water. Usually, a ratio of around 3:1 gives you the right consistency, but paints vary and it depends on how dark you want the color. Experiment with different mixes and then test them to see how it looks when dry. Once you have the right mix, you can paint it on like a stain.

Black Furniture Wax

Black furniture wax isn’t as dark as stain or paint, but it’s still a good option if you want a lighter shade. It can be used over light paint to give you an antique effect that highlights some of the details. You can also paint the wood a darker shade first and then put the black wax on.

Once you have painted the wood underneath, rub the wax on with a cloth, working it into the wood in circles. As well as adding some color, furniture wax also gives some moisture protection too.

Final Thoughts

Black stain is a great way to give a bold look to furniture, flooring, or decking. It’s also quite forgiving as long as you mix it thoroughly and wipe off the excess quickly. When working with porous softwoods, it’s a good idea to use pre-stain to help the black stain absorb more easily.

However, you will usually see some of the wood grain showing through unless you apply a lot of coats. If you want to avoid this and get a completely black block color, consider using paint instead.