Why make your own wood stain?Many conventional wood stains on the market are made up of toxic and harmful chemicals. Additionally, many of these stains have high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) which degrade your indoor air quality and smell terrible. The best part of making your own wood stain is that it is super easy and it will save you money! I spent less than $10.00 to buy all the ingredients necessary to make multiple different colors and shades. You will probably spend even less as many of these ingredients are common kitchen items.
How to Make Light Stains DarkerOne easy way to make dark wood stains is to just make your all natural DIY stains darker. Check out this post for all natural stains you can make in less than 5 minutes. The steel wool and vinegar will react with the other stains to produce a dark vibrant color. This happens due to a chemical reaction where the steel wool will begin to dissolve as the vinegar oxidizes the steel. With this stain you are essentially creating rust in a jar. Here is a video from P. Allen Smith at P. Allen Smith Garden Home that first inspired me to try to make DIY wood stain.
If you liked his recipe I recommend giving it a try. Keep on reading if you would like to see more variations of DIY steel wool stain!
DIY Steel Wool & Vinegar Wood StainFirst we need to tear up one pad of steel wool - buy the finest texture you can find. I purchased a big pack of the fine steel wool labeled Grade #0000 at my local hardware store for about $3.00.
|Steel Wool Grade #0000|
Once you have torn up the whole pad, add all the pieces to a jar and fill the rest of the jar with vinegar. Let it soak overnight before use. You can leave the steel wool to soak longer for a darker hue. The steel wool will completely dissolve in about a week. This is what the jar looked like after about 5 days.
|Wood stain after 5 days made from steel wool and vinegar|
After you let the steel wool soak overnight you can go ahead and apply it using a foam brush. I applied one coat of the steel wool mixture to each light natural stain that I made last week. Just one application of the steel wool stain significantly darkened the other stains. You can see the difference in the picture below. The before picture is the left side, and the color to the right is after one coat of the steel wool stain. The stains I had previously applied were (from left to right): Hot Chocolate, Coffee, Tomato Sauce, and Red Wine. For these stain recipes check out this earlier post!
|Natural DIY Wood Stains with one coat of steel wool wood stain on top|
You can also just apply the steel wool mixture to wood for a faded gray color. Applying a coat of brewed tea over the steel wool mixture will react with the tannins in the wood and the tea and give you a nice dark gray/black color. The picture below is with one application of steel wool stain followed by one coat of regular black tea.
|Steel Wool and Tea Stain|
DIY Dark Wood Stains in Under 5 Minutes for Under $5.00After playing with the steel wool stains I decided I wanted to make a nice rich, dark brown stain. After a little research, I found the website The Woodworkers Gazette with an article by Jim McNamara with many recipes for DIY wood stains. Unfortunately many of the recipes called for toxic materials, intense chemicals, or very involved processes. Once of his recipes mentioned food coloring as an option, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try.
To start with, I created a basic stain to which I would be adding the food coloring. First I added about 6 tea bags to 2 cups of boiling water. I let it steep for about 15 minutes and squeezed all the remaining liquid out of the tea bags. I then added about 1/4 cup of vinegar to the hot tea to aid in the adhesion of the food coloring to the wood. This mixture essentially served as my base mixture to which I would add my color. I split the tea into 6 different jars and began adding colors, here are some of my favorite stains that I was able to produce.
|The results of a DIY wood stain project.|
To create the different colors I had to remember some basic coloring mixing formulas from middle school art class. I needed to learn how to mix prime colors to create the dark brown I was trying to achieve. I found this website that suggested I mix red, green, and yellow and mixed it all up. After I got the reddish brown I desired (the bottom row of the picture above) I started adding different colors to see what other fun colored stains I could mix up!
|DIY Food Coloring Wood Stains|
The steel wool and vinegar was extremely easy to use and seemed to work really well. It would be great for adding that aged and distressed look to furniture, especially if you are going for the farmhouse/barn style decor. The food coloring also worked really well, although it was pretty tricky to get the exact colors that I wanted, it would also be hard to recreate the exact same color. Also it required a good amount of food coloring and would probably make the most sense for small furniture. The food coloring method is quite fun and it allows you to create some very unique colors.
In my research for this project I found read about using different foods to create all natural dyes. I did not seem to find anywhere that used these dyes on wood, but in this post I gave it a try! What do you think? Does the steel wool and food coloring stain seem easy enough to try it yourself?