Can You Use Gel Stain on Laminate Furniture?

When you start painting and refinishing furniture it is only a matter of time until numerous questions pop up in your head. You might find a piece that you can’t wait to get started on and realize it’s a laminate surface. But your design plan in your head was to add stain and you are wondering if there is any way possible? Can you use gel stain on laminate furniture?

Yes, you can use gel stain on laminate furniture because gel stain does not need to penetrate the surface like a regular wood stain. Simply apply the gel stain in one or multiple light coats and wait until it is dry to touch, then apply a clear coat finish.

The problematic thing about gel stain on laminate is how long it takes to dry, of course, temperatures and humidity play a major role here. Once you apply gel stain on the laminate you need to make sure you wipe the access stain away or your dry time increases drastically. It can take up to 48 hours or longer in certain situations, that is why it’s important to be aware if you are on a strict timeline.

I want to get into more details about gel stain on laminate and exactly how to do it, so if you want to tag along below I have a step by step guide on how to properly stain laminate furniture. I also have a full guide about the differences between Gel Stain VS Regular Stain that you can read by clicking the highlighted text. Furthermore, towards the end of this article, I have some alternative options for you to be able to stain your laminated surface.

How to Stain Laminate Furniture?

Step 1: Cleaning

The first thing that must be done before we can do anything to a laminate surface is to degrease it. Proper cleaning is necessary, using a degreaser such as simple green all-purpose cleaner can easily do the trick. If you don’t clean the surface properly before trying to add paint or stain it is at risk of unproperly sticking to the surface. This can cause the surface to peel or chip off quickly.

I had a laminate surface that had a sticky residue stuck on to the top surface, I used some Goo Gone to help rub it off, but make sure you clean off the Goo Gone once finished. It can feel pretty greasy itself. So use Goo Gone then a degreaser product.

Step 2: Lightly Sand

Sanding is something I usually always do no matter what, but in this case, I make it optional when using gel stain on laminate. A light scuff using a super high grit over 200 will likely help your gel stain adhere better to your laminate surface. If you use a low grit paper such as 80 grit you are likely going to cause deeper scratched that you could potentially see through your gel stain. If you plan to sand, make sure it is super light and a high grit.

Step 3: Apply Gel Stain

Now it’s time to apply our gel stain. When applying gel stain on laminate I like to use a little foam brush, they are super cheap, and once used they can be disposed of easily. No need to get cleaning!

You can scoop up some of the gel stain and drop it on your laminate surface, no need to apply too much though or it will just be a waste. Simply brush, using the foam brush, towards the fake wood grain, but that’s if there is any faux-wooden look. If not, no need to worry just pick a direction and stick with it.

This doesn’t have to be perfect, just make sure your gel stain covers the entire surface you want stained. We are going to wipe it in the next step and that is where we will get our desired look.

Best Gel Stains for Laminate:

Step 4: Wipe Excess Gel Stain

At this point, we have applied our gel stain on the laminate and we need to wipe it to remove the excess stain. The reason we should wipe is to make it even thinner so it dries faster. I had applied gel stain rather thick on an end table and it remained tacky for over 48 hours, so I wish I had thinned it a lot more by wiping. Wipe until you like the look and make sure there are no clumps of gel that won’t properly dry.

When wiping the stain, continue to move in the wood grain direction for a better final product. The gel stain shouldn’t fully hide the underlying surface or your gel layer is too thick. If you want to hide the undersurface I recommend applying multiple coats of gel stain. Remember this can take days of work so it’s up to you and how much time you are willing to spend here, it may be easier to paint it the same color then apply gel stain over that, but you can experiment with that if you’d like.

Step 5: Let It Dry

After wiping up the gel stain layer to become thinner to help it dry quicker, we wait until the gel layer has fully dried. The problem here is it can take days when applied over laminate and that was an issue I had on a few laminate projects, especially in cooler and damp work environments like the garage.

Check the instructions on your gel stain product for dry times, typically they are based on wooden surfaces so I like to wait longer than those times suggested. If your gel stain is dry to touch and you can’t feel any tackiness then you are good for another coat or moving on to a final clear coat.

Step 6: Apply Clearcoat Finish

Gel stain may feel hard to touch if cured and fully dry, but this doesn’t mean it will last a long time on your laminate surface. It is more likely to peel if no topcoat finish is applied over it.

The best clear coat finishes for gel stain are:

I would not recommend applying finishing wax directly over gel stain because it could cause it to rub or peel off. If you want to use wax, first apply lacquer or polyurethane, and once it’s dry you can apply paste finishing wax. Buffing the paste finishing wax can create a very smooth surface to touch.

After the clear coat has fully dried, you may want to let the gel stain and finish cure for some time. These products mixed may take a couple up to a few weeks to harden and cure. At this stage, light use is recommended.

Video Testing Gel Stain on Laminate

Here is a video of my first attempt at using gel stain on laminate, I applied too much but now I know that a thin layer will do the trick. The laminate part is the top rectangle area! Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel too.

Gel Stain on Laminate FAQs

There are many questions people have about gel stain on laminate and in this FAQ segment I want to do my best to provide the answer you are seeking. If you have a question, feel free to email me at

Can You Stain Laminate Furniture Without Sanding?

As previously mentioned, it is not required to sand laminate before applying gel stain. However, using sandpaper over 200 grit and lightly sanding with the faux wood grain will help the gel stain adhere better. Proper cleaning is most important for gel stain adherence.

What Clearcoat Should I Apply Over Gel Stained Laminate?

Most clearcoats will work when applied over gel stain, but the most important thing is to let the gel stain dry to touch or you significantly increase your cure time by weeks. Trust me I did this on one of my projects, but it did end up working out.

I recommend using a spray-on clear coat product, whether you use polyurethane or lacquer you shouldn’t have any problems. Each gel stain product has a recommended clear coat and using them will likely increase your chances of success.

Can You Stain Ikea Laminate Furniture?

Yes, you can stain Ikea laminate furniture using gel stain or tinted polyurethane. It is recommended to follow the proper preparation steps before applying your gel stain or tinted polyurethane. The Ikea laminate surface will not physically become stained, but it will have a layer over the surface that will make it look as if it were stained.

Can I Gel Stain Laminate Countertops?

Yes, you can use gel stain on laminate countertops, however, for success, the countertops must be properly prepped for the gel stain and there must multiple coats of a clear coat product. Countertops must be cleaned and scuffed up with 200 grit sandpaper for the gel stain to adhere properly.

I am not saying gel stain is the best option for laminate countertops but you can make it work. I would apply an extra durable clear coat product such as Minwax Fast Drying Polyurethane because countertops receive high traffic and constant touching.

Can I Gel Stain Laminate Cabinets?

Yes, you can stain laminate cabinets but you must properly clean them before applying the gel stain. Although cabinets will not receive the same traffic as a countertop if we treat them the same you reduce the risk of having the gel-stained areas peel or chip. Apply a durable clear coat product after the gel stain dries and your cabinets will last a long time.

Alternative Way To Stain Laminate Surfaces

As we know gel stain is tricky when applied over laminate and plastic surfaces. Just think about it, laminate was never designed to be refinished, right? However, we made it work by doing some prepping and adding some clear coat for protection. But are there any alternative ways to stain a laminate surface?Yes, there are other ways to stain a laminate surface besides gel stain. Instead of using gel stain, you can use a tinted polyurethane product. Minwax has a popular product called PolyShades and is available in many different shade colors. It is a tinted color mixed with polyurethane. If you follow the same steps as you would using gel stain you can stain laminate the same way with the PolyShades formula.

Final Thoughts

I hope the answers for the gel stain and laminate questions have been answered. Not many people are trying this out because they are unsure of the outcome. I must say, it isn’t like staining wood at all, it doesn’t feel as durable as it normally does, but it works and feels even stronger with time.

If you plan to give it a try I recommend following my tips and tricks, and if you want to send me your work feel free to message me on my Instagram or reach out by email.

Good luck with your laminate project!