What is the Best Rag for Staining Wood? — Top Lint-Free Cloths (2023)

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The success of your wood finish depends on the quality of your materials. If you stain a lot of projects, it can be challenging to find a rag that sheds and imparts an uneven and abrasive finish.

So, our expert woodworkers tested different types of lint-free cloths to find the best rag for staining wood surfaces. If you want to know our verdict, keep reading! 

Premium Option
Eshazu Tack Cloth 18"L x 36" W Box of 6 Tack Rags
Editor’s Choice
Regency Wraps RW450N 100% Cotton Cheesecloth
Budget Option
Nabob Wipers New Premium White T-Shirt Knit Rags
Eshazu Tack Cloth 18
Regency Wraps RW450N 100% Cotton Cheesecloth
Nabob Wipers New Premium White T-Shirt Knit Rags
• Made of 100% cotton
• Soft material that does not scratch the wood surface
• Distributes stain evenly
• Suitable for wood prep
• Made of high-quality cotton
• Highly absorbent
• Lint-free
• Reusable and eco-friendly
• Multi-purpose rags
• 100% cotton
• Suitable for all surface types
• Contains many pieces of rag in one bag
Premium Option
Eshazu Tack Cloth 18"L x 36" W Box of 6 Tack Rags
Eshazu Tack Cloth 18
• Made of 100% cotton
• Soft material that does not scratch the wood surface
• Distributes stain evenly
• Suitable for wood prep
Editor’s Choice
Regency Wraps RW450N 100% Cotton Cheesecloth
Regency Wraps RW450N 100% Cotton Cheesecloth
• Made of high-quality cotton
• Highly absorbent
• Lint-free
• Reusable and eco-friendly
Budget Option
Nabob Wipers New Premium White T-Shirt Knit Rags
Nabob Wipers New Premium White T-Shirt Knit Rags
• Multi-purpose rags
• 100% cotton
• Suitable for all surface types
• Contains many pieces of rag in one bag

Reviews of the Top Rags for Wood Staining

1. Regency Wraps RW450N 100% Cotton Cheesecloth

This lint-free cheesecloth makes your staining process easier and quicker. It’s super absorbent and can hold a great amount of stain. It doesn’t leave any fiber behind and can evenly distribute stains in just one stroke. 

You can also use the Regency Wraps RW4502N to clean the wood surface in preparation for staining or to remove sanding debris and dust. 

It’s effortless to clean since it’s made of pure cotton. Just wash it with water and soap to remove the stain off the cloth and it will be ready to reuse on your next project. So, you can save a lot of money with this rag in the long run. 

What We Like

What We Don't Like

2. Eshazu Tack Cloth 18"L x 36" W Box of 6 Tack Rags

If you’re looking for premium tack cloth that can help you complete your woodworking project faster, these Eshazu 18″L x 36″ W Box of 6 Tack Rags are exactly what you need. They are made of superior quality lint-free material suitable for wood preparation for finishing.

They have soft cotton material that contours to reach the nooks and crannies of the wood. They can easily remove debris and dirt buildup off the wood surface without causing any damage or scratch.  

They are highly absorbent and suitable for applying paint, stain, varnishes, and other wood finishes. They hold a large amount of liquid and distribute them evenly on the wood surface, resulting in a smoother and even finish. 

What We Like

What We Don't Like

3. Nabob Wipers New Premium White T-Shirt Knit Rags

Purchasing this product can ensure that you’ll never run out of staining and cleaning rags for your many projects. It comes in bulk quantity for a total of 1 pound of 8 x 8 x 1 inch of white rags ready for use. 

It’s made of high-quality cotton, which is lint-free and 100% ring spun so it has no loose threads. It’s very durable and does not easily tear even if you scrub it hard on a rough surface. 

The Nabob Wipers New Premium White T-Shirt Knit Rags absorb stains well and distributes them evenly on the wood surface. It’s soft so it does not scratch on the wood surface. 

What We Like

What We Don't Like

4. Bond Crystal Premium Tack Cloths 18" x 36"

If you need a rag that can easily give a smoother and flawless finish, this premium tack cloth is an excellent choice. The Bond Crystal Premium Tack Cloths set consists of high-quality fabric made of 100% lint-free cotton that’s worth your money. 

It absorbs stains very well and does not leave any marks on the surface. It’s suitable for all types of stains and surfaces. It also does a great job cleaning the wood surface. This is because it has adhesive properties that can easily remove dust and debris from the surface.  

Although it’s ideal for single use, one pack contains 12 pieces of tack cloths, which is more than enough for your big project. 

What We Like

What We Don't Like

5. Axtion ProductsWhite Cloth Rags

If you’re on a budget and looking for affordable yet effective staining cloth, the Axtion Products White Cloth Rags are your best alternatives. These are clean and brand-new cloth ready for use. 

They are multi-purpose and you can use them for cleaning. But they are also highly absorbent, so they are suitable for applying stains on the wood surface. 

They are made of high-quality cotton so they don’t have loose threads and don’t leave marks on the surface. One bag contains five pounds of white cloth for a cheaper price. They are also reusable, so you will have enough supply for your succeeding projects. 

What We Like

What We Don't Like

6. Trimaco 10102 SuperTuff Sponge, 2 Pack Staining Pad

This staining sponge is covered with terry cloth, which is highly absorbent. It can hold a large amount of stain without leaving a spill or excess stain on the wood surface. It easily distributes the stain evenly, so you can cover a wide area faster. 

What we like the most about this pad is it’s suitable for all types of stains and works well on different surfaces. It costs lesser for two pieces of pads, which you can conveniently use for staining and sealing your wood. 

The Trimaco 10102 SuperTuff Sponge made of high-quality lint-free material, so it’s easier to achieve a smooth and clean finish. 

What We Like

What We Don't Like

7. Valengo Fabrics New Lint Free Rags 17"L x 17" W

If you’re working on a bigger project, you will need larger rags for staining and cleaning the wood surface. And this lint-free rag from Valengo is just right for you. 

Its cut size is big enough to absorb a large amount of finish, which makes it ideal for wide wood surfaces. It’s made of 100% soft cotton that will not scratch the wood surface. 

The Valengo Fabrics New Lint Free Rags are also easier to wash since you just need to put it on the washing machine and the stain will come off completely. Unlike other rags, this one does not shrink after washing. It’s also fast drying so you can conveniently reuse it. 

What We Like

What We Don't Like

Rags for Wood Staining: Buyer’s Guide

There are many factors you must consider in choosing the best rags for staining wood. Below are the essential aspects you must check before buying a rag for your woodworking project. 

Rag Size

It’s vital to use the appropriate size of rag in applying stain on the wood efficiently. Your rag size also determines your finish quality as it allows precise application and even strokes, resulting in a smooth and flawless finish.  

You should also consider the type of stain you’re using. For a thin layer of water-based stain, you will only need a small rag. But if you’re using an oil-based or gel-like stain for a thicker coating, then you will need a bigger rag.

removing dust with Eshazu Tack Cloth

Using the right size of rag can give you better control of the amount of stain to apply on the wood. If your rag is too big, it may easily saturate the wood with more stain than necessary, which can lead to potential damage and uneven wood finish. 

Meanwhile, if your rag is very small, it may not hold enough amount of stain for one stroke. This may expose your wood unprotected with a messy finish. 

Material

Choose a rag that can easily absorb stains and is lint-free like cotton. We suggest you pick pure cotton or cheesecloth as they are highly absorbent, resulting in an even and clean finish. 

But you may also consider the microfiber cloth you usually use for cleaning since they are readily available and more affordable, yet effective in applying stain on the wood surface. 

Related: Do Outdoor Rugs Damage Wood Decks

Durability

It is important to choose a durable rag for staining wood to ensure that it won’t tear and fall apart during the application process as it can affect the quality of the finish. Pick a rag made of strong material. 

Although it may have a higher price compared to less durable material, it can last longer and save you more money in the long run. 

Quality

Choose a high-quality rag made of the finest material for your project as it can affect the quality of the finish. Ensure that your rag doesn’t have loose threads. 

Avoid using a rag with weak seams and can easily wear out since it won’t hold enough stain. This may cause spills and excess stains on the surface, resulting in an uneven finish.

Washability

Consider a washable and reusable rag for your project. Ensure that the material is easy to clean and the stain can come off completely, so it won’t damage your next project’s finish. This will help you save more money and help reduce waste. 

4 Kinds of Rags or Cloth to Use for Wood Staining

Reclaimed White Polo

Its name “white polo” literally refers to its cotton knit fabric like the usual white polo shirts. It has a smooth texture that doesn’t leave fiber or lint on the wood surface, so it’s an excellent fabric choice for staining. 

It’s highly absorbent and holds an adequate amount of stain, making the application process more efficient. It’s also very durable and reusable, so it’s very cost-effective. 

New Cotton White Shirts

This type of rag is ideal for your big staining project since it’s highly absorbent. Also, the white cotton allows you to easily see the actual color of the stain. In addition, this cloth is more affordable compared to other lint-free absorbent fabrics.

Amber Knit Rags

This is another type of stain applicator suitable for bigger projects. It’s a large piece of cloth that you can cut into several smaller pieces, which you can use on many projects.

It’s made of highly absorbent fabric that can easily distribute stains evenly on the surface. 

Disposable & Paper Wipes

Disposable paper wipes are excellent stain applicators as they don’t leave fiber and lint on the wood surface. It’s also cheaper and readily available. However, it’s not reusable and not eco-friendly. 

dusty Eshazu Tack Cloth

Applying Wood Stains Using a Rag in 5 Steps

Using the best rag for staining wood can help you finish your project more efficiently and successfully. Below are the steps you can follow to apply stain on the wood surface using the appropriate rag. 

Step #1: Sand Your Wood

Sanding the wood is a crucial step in preparing the surface for stain. It helps to open the wood pores, so that the stain can easily penetrate, especially on less porous surfaces.  Sand the wood along the wood’s grain direction. 

person holding sanding block

Once the surface has smoothened, remove the sanding residue from the surface using a vacuum or brush. Use a wet rag or tack cloth to completely remove the dust, then allow it to fully dry.

Step #2: Begin Applying the Stain

Once the wood surface is clean and dry, saturate your clean rag with the stain, then gently rub it on the surface. We suggest you work by a small section at a time to ensure you distribute the stain evenly. 

Step #3: Wipe the Excess Wood Stain Off

Using a rag as a stain applicator leaves minimal to no excess stain on the surface. But to ensure that you will achieve an even and beautiful finish, wipe the surface using a clean and highly absorbent rag to remove any spill or excess stain. 

Step #4: Leave the Stain to Dry

It is important to let the stain fully dry as it can affect the finish quality. The drying time may vary depending on the type of stain you used. 

However, avoid exposing the stained wood to direct sunlight to accelerate the drying time since it will affect stain adherence. 

Step #5: Add Another Stain Layer (If needed)

Once the stain has fully dry, check its color and overall look. If you want a darker tone, you may apply another layer of stain by following the same procedure as the first coat. Allow the stain to dry completely before using the wood to preserve the beautiful finish. 

FAQ

Is it better to stain wood with a brush or rag?

It is better to stain wood with a rag than a brush since it’s more effective and efficient in distributing the stain on the wood surface. Also, it’s easier to achieve a smoother and even finish using a rag. 

Can you use a microfiber cloth to stain wood?

Yes, you can use a microfiber cloth to stain wood since it is highly absorbent and lint-free [1]. It also works well in removing the excess stain from the wood surface.

Can I reuse staining pads?

Yes, you can reuse the staining pad if you clean it properly to remove the previous stain. It’s made of durable material that does not easily tear, so it can be reused several times.

What should I use to stain wood?

To stain wood, you can use a rag, paint pad, roller, spray gun, or brush. But, using a rag to apply stain on the wood is the best option as it’s more efficient and effective than others. 

To have the best materials for staining, check out these articles:

Our Top Pick For a Rag for Staining Wood:
Regency Wraps RW450N 100% Cotton Cheesecloth

After testing different types of rags to apply stains on various wood surfaces, the Regency Wraps RW450N 100% Cotton Cheesecloth has proven to be the best rag for staining wood. 

Our verdict is based on its ability to absorb a large amount of stain and evenly distribute without damaging or scratching the surface. It’s also multi-purpose, reusable, and eco-friendly.  So, aside from ensuring a great finish, you can save a lot of money and help to reduce waste.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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