Why DIY Wood Stain?
In the upper Midwest of the United States it is pretty easy to find quality, local lumber or salvaged wood. If you can't find any inexpensive, quality lumber then wood shipping pallets can be a good option if you know where to look and how to disassemble them (more on that later). Worst case scenario you can usually find inexpensive pine lumber at your local hardware store. However, one thing that is hard to find is a good natural non-toxic wood stain. Many wood stains have high Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) -that nasty smell that remains after you stain - or are derived from petroleum products. Some extensive searching has brought up a few eco-friendly options, unfortunately not many of those options were not budget friendly. So what is a guy to do? You guessed it, I went ahead and made my own!
One of my DIY standards is that the project should be simple. So I did some research and found a couple of natural DIY wood stains that you can make in less than 5 minutes. I was also able to make each of these stains for less than $3.00, although you will probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen already. The recipes I will share with you today are all lighter stains applied to light pine. (Check out this post to make dark brown and black stain or this post to make dark cherry or mahogany colored stain). If you want a slightly darker color you can apply extra coats of stain. These stains will also require the wood to be sealed afterwards. If you are looking to purchase a natural option look for linseed oil (made from flax seeds) NOT boiled linseed oil (which includes synthetic additives). A good DIY wood sealer is a mixture of olive oil and melted beeswax - check out this post for my DIY Wood Sealant Recipe.
I made 4 different recipes: Hot Chocolate, Coffee, Tomato Sauce, and Red Wine. For each recipe I did 3 coats. I also used green tea to try and affect the intensity of the colors.
Process #1 = 3 coats of the recipe.
Process #2 = 1 coat of green tea + 2 coats of the recipe.
Process #3 = 1 coat of green tea + 1 coat of recipe + 1 coat of green tea.
Here is a picture that can show you what the wood started out looking like compared to one coat of tea:
|Top row has no stain - bottom two rows have the first coat of tea.|
Here is what each piece looked like after the 1st coat:
|First Coat from L to R - Hot Chocolate, Coffee, Tomato Sauce, Wine.|
Here is what each piece looked like after the 2nd coat:
Here is what each piece looked like after the 3rd coat:
1 Cup Vinegar
1/2 Cup Hot Cocoa
This ended up not having much more color than just the tea; I am not sure I would make this again.
2 Cups Coffee
1/2 Cup Coffee Grounds
This stain looked nice, it was slightly darker than the tea and seemed to get a nice color in just one or two coats. Also extremely cheap and easy to make. (Look for this being integrated into the darker stains next week).
1/4 Cup Tomato Sauce
1 Cup Green Tea (2 Bags)
1/4 Cup Vinegar
This had a slight red color, but ended up looking mostly like the coffee stain. (I decided to experiment with this one last minute, and I am not sure I would do it again).
1 Cup Red Wine
I really liked this stain. It was such a nice unique color. It also seemed to bring out the grain of the wood in a really nice way. I would definitely do this again. Bonus is that I got this bottle for less than $3.00 at Whole Foods. I would be curious to see if different wines would look different. Best part of the wine stain is that you get to drink the leftovers! (Look for this being integrated into some of the darker stains next week).
1 pint hot water
4 teabags of green tea (I used Tazo Om)
*Different teas will give you different colors. Check out this blog for more info on using tea as wood stain.
Very effective if you just want to protect your wood and give it that slightly aged yet glossy look. The tannin in the tea actually reacts with the wood to bring out the color change. (Check out this post to make dark brown and black stain or this post to make dark cherry or mahogany colored stain).
These stains were all very effective. They were all super easy to make and can be made by materials that you most likely already have in your kitchen. There are no harsh chemicals involved in the process and cleanup is a snap. If you are looking for a nice light stain that can be made on a budget without any complicated processes I would definitely recommend one of these stains. They are also super easy to apply and dry within an hour (probably closer to 30 minutes). I applied the stain with an extra foam brush I had, but it can just as easily be applied with just an old rag or sock. There is no need for fancy paint brushes (unless you would really like to use one).
As you probably noticed this batch of stain won't leave too much color. Although that can vary depending on the type of wood and the intensity of the tea or other stain recipe you use. (It is always a good idea to test it out on a spare piece of wood or the underside of a project first). Also the colors get a little more noticeable over time as the stain interacts with the natural tannins in the wood. This stain serves best for those who want to bring out the natural grain in the wood and take away the bright starkness of the raw wood. For those looking for darker colors, check out this post to make dark brown and black stain or this post to make dark cherry or mahogany colored stain. To seal the wood use a varnish, shellac or my DIY Beeswax Wood Sealant.