How Long Does it Take For Stain to Dry on Hardwood Floors

An image of hardwood flooring used in a living room

Flooring is a ubiquitous aspect of any structure, and its appearance greatly impacts both the aesthetics and general feel of a room. It’s among the major aspects that require most of your attention whenever you intend to revamp your space. Whether you just got yourself an unfinished hardwood floor or would like to conceal your old floor’s imperfections, staining is an ideal way to give the floor a new lease on life.

Staining can be a whole adventure that ranges from choosing a quality stain to settling on a perfect color that specifically suits your home or office space. Although the process can be exciting, especially for DIY enthusiasts, it requires patience and planning because even the tiniest detail can alter the outcome.  Planning entails establishing how to prepare your hardwood floor beforehand, how to stain it, the number of coats you will need, and more importantly determining how long it would take for stain to dry on your hardwood floors.

With this knowledge in place, you are more likely to stain like a pro and achieve your desired outcome.

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How Long Does it Take For Stain to Dry on Hardwood Floors

Stain on hardwood floors dries within 24 to 48 hours, depending on the stain product and the prevailing weather conditions. The stain product usually comes with instructions on how long you should wait for the stain to dry and cure completely. Be sure to go for a stain whose drying and curing period is in line with your time constraints. For instance, oil-based stains such as wipe-on liquid stains are thinner and can therefore penetrate the floor easily and dry within a short time.

On the other hand, thicker stains such as gel oil-based stains barely penetrate the floor thanks to their high viscosity and take longer to dry and cure. While time is a factor, quality is as important, and thicker stains that take longer to dry often yield a more classic finish.

Most manufacturers recommend allowing the stain to dry for one to two days before introducing another stain or finish coat. This period, however, varies depending on various factors. For instance, if you live in an area with cold temperatures or work in a room that exhibits humid conditions, you will need to give the stain an extra day to dry completely.

If you live in high humid conditions,  consider taking measures that speed up the process, such as dehumidifying the space. Your chosen stain product also plays a major role in determining how long it will take to dry.  Thicker stains take long to dry and vice versa.

Types of Hardwood Stain 

Here are some of the ideal hardwood stains you can choose from depending on your needs:


Minwax stain guarantees quality and is readily available as you can find it in your nearest paint store. Even better, the stain type provides you with a wide range of colors to choose from depending on your style. Minwax stains vary as they can be oil or water-based.

A single coat of oil-based Minwax stain requires at least two hours to dry and cure, while the latter penetrates more easily and can take up to an hour to dry depending on the prevailing conditions. Be sure to check out the manufacturer’s instructions on the can for accuracy.


Varathane stain products stand out due to their Aluminum Oxide Nano Technology that helps safeguard the floor against stains and scratches. The manufacturer offers a variety of stain products and if time is a factor in your case, consider the Varathane

Fast Drying Wood Stain. With this product, you will need a single coat of stain that dries in about an hour.

Other Varathane stains will most likely require three to four stain coats for best results. However, worry not because each coat takes a maximum of one hour to dry and cure completely.

Bona Drifast Stain

This is more of an oil-based stain, popular for its fast-drying technique as it takes up to two hours to dry completely and is also readily available.

Ultimately, water-based stains are an ideal choice when dealing with an urgent project. However, consider opting for oil-based stains due to their outstanding durability if time is on your side. Although they may take their time to dry, oil-based paints guarantee a fine finish since you require ample time to apply, minimizing the chances of making mistakes. Even better is their deep penetration into the floor and thick seal, which guarantees durability.

How to Prepare Hardwood Floors For Staining

Different hardwood floors comprise different woods, and their needs vary depending on the type of wood. Pinewood, for instance, requires some extra work for the stain to properly adhere to it since it features an unevenly dense grain, making it difficult for the stain to penetrate. For such woods, adequate prepping is necessary before staining for perfect results.

Follow the steps below to adequately prep your hardwood floor for staining:

Clear the floor

Consider setting aside all the furniture overlying the floor to give you ample space for adequate preparation.

Sand the floor

Sanding helps to eliminate scratches and roughen up the floor in readiness for the stain. This is a crucial step, especially in the case of lighter stains that highlight the floor’s blemishes. However, too much or too little sanding will do more harm than good. Consider using a 100 to 120-grit sander for convenience.

Clean the floor

The goal is to eliminate the dust that remains after sanding. For this step, vacuuming the floor is the best way to go. Subsequently, wipe the floor with a damp cloth to remove any remnant dust particles.

Pop the grain

Popping the grain, otherwise called water popping, entails adding water to the hardwood floor before staining. Wood is naturally porous, but the sanding process compromises its porosity by enclosing its natural grain.

The addition of water after sanding frees up the pores that were otherwise blocked by the sanding dust and restores the wood’s porosity. In this way, the stain can easily and evenly penetrate even to the toughest of woods, such as pine and maple.

How to Stain Hardwood Floor

Staining the floor comes after adding water to every spot on the floor, and all the water used to raise the grain dries up completely. Following adequate prepping, staining the floor should be a breeze. To effectively stain the floor:

Ventilate the room

Some stains usually emit strong odors and harmful vapors, which can compromise your health. Therefore, it is important to start by ensuring proper air circulation in the room by opening the doors and windows.

Map out your path

You do not want to get stuck in the corner of the room, not knowing how to leave without damaging the newly stained floor. It’s advisable to start staining a corner of the room from side to side while moving towards the door.

Apply the stain

Consider using a lambswool applicator for this step except for the corners of the floor, where a small-sized paintbrush will come in handy. Slowly apply the stain to give it ample time to penetrate the floor for a spectacular finish. Also, be sure to apply one coat at a time while allowing it to dry before introducing another one as per the manufacturer’s instruction.

Wipe off the excess

More importantly, be on the lookout for the excess stain so that you can eliminate it before it dries up. In such cases, wipe off the stain immediately using a rag as it can alter the outcome if left to dry.

Stain products vary, and it is important to read the manufacturer’s instructions on the can before getting started. In case of any uncertainty, reaching out to a professional is the ultimate solution to avoid redoing the work.

The video below shows how to stain a wooden floor

How Many Coats of Stain on Hardwood Floors

Two coats of stain should do the trick even for dense hardwood floors. However, the answer to this depends on how light or dark you would like the floor to appear.

If you choose to go for a lighter stain or would like the space to feel warmer, a single coat of stain should be enough. Darker stains, on the other hand, require up to two coats to reinforce a dark finish. Also, once you apply the initial stain coat and it dries up, you can always assess the situation and decide whether you would like to darken the stain by adding another coat.

Too many coats, however, might end up giving the room a darker finish than you anticipated. It might also turn out messy, hence the importance of applying one coat at a time and adding an extra one only if the outcome isn’t satisfying yet.

How to Care For Newly Refinished Hardwood Floors

Adequate floor preparation and appropriate staining are all in vain without proper care for the floor after revamping. Practicing proper maintenance for newly refinished hardwood floors play a crucial role in determining its durability, and these include:

  • Keep the floor dry by getting rid of spillages as soon as possible before they seep into the floor and end up damaging the stain and finish coat.
  • Close the access points for a day or two following the floor’s refinishing to protect it from harsh rays of the sun.
  • Avoid walking on the floor or reinstating the furniture for at least 24 hours or more.
  • Consider incorporating felt pads underneath furniture even when you restore the furniture in the room to avoid scratching the floor.
  • Handle the floor with care for the first week by keeping sharp objects away from the floor and minimizing traffic.
  • Avoid vacuuming or mopping the floor for the first week, and even when you have to, it is advisable to use hardwood floor cleaners.
  • Clean the floor regularly after the first week by sweeping the floor to eliminate dust particles that can stick to the floor.

Frequently Asked Questions-FAQs 

How long after staining a floor can you walk on it

It is advisable to wait for up to 48 hours after staining before walking on the floor to give it ample time to dry. However, if the room exhibits high humidity, you may have to wait for a solid three days before walking on the floor to be sure. Also, thicker stain products may take longer to dry and may therefore require you to wait a little longer.

How long does it take for Minwax stain to dry on hardwood floors

This depends on the type of Minwax stain in question, as it can either be an oil or water-based Minwax stain. Water-based Minwax stains require a maximum of three hours to dry and cure fully. On the other hand, Oil-based Minwax is thicker and requires at least twelve hours to dry, depending on the prevailing conditions. Gel stains are much thicker, and you may have to wait for up to 24 hours before introducing another coat of stain for best results.

How do you know when stain is dry?

The easiest way is to feel the part of the floor you stained last and look out for any tackiness, especially when dealing with oil-based stains. If the stain is still tacky, consider giving it a little more time to cure completely.

Alternatively, you can stain a scrap in the same room at the same time you’re staining the floor and use the scrap as a control experiment by testing whether your finger leaves a mark upon touching it. If the stained scrap is dry, the newly stained floor should be dry as well.

Can you speed up stain drying time?

Yes. If you’re in a temperature-controlled room, adjust the thermostat accordingly and, if possible, dehumidify the room. Also, consider blowing heated air over the stain or using a fan to speed up the drying process.

How long should stain sit before wiping?

Allowing the stain to sit for a maximum of ten minutes gives it ample time to penetrate the floor and produce an even finish, especially for thicker stains. Consider leaving the stain to sit in for at least five minutes to penetrate efficiently for thinner ones.

How long should stain dry before second coat?

The stain requires twenty-four to forty-eight hours, depending on the thickness of the stain product in question and the room’s conditions. It may take up to seventy two hours for the stain to dry before introducing subsequent coats in high humid areas.


Ultimately, revitalizing your space requires careful consideration and patience, especially when dealing with the floors. Staining the floor requires attention to detail and, if done in a hurry, could result in a messy outcome. How long it takes for the stain to dry on hardwood floors largely depends on the thickness of the stain, and on average, should last for a day or two.

While thinner stains take a shorter time to dry, they may not give you a finish as perfect as thicker stains. Today, some oil-based paints feature innovative technology that minimizes the time they require to dry despite being thicker, and these are ideal. Although staining can consume a significant amount of your time, the outcome is worth the trouble.

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