Can You Use Gel Stain on Laminate Furniture?

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You can use gel stain to update the look of older or inexpensive furniture, giving it a more custom and high-end appearance. But, there is a proper way of doing so, depending on the surface.

But can you use gel stain on laminate furniture? Keep reading, as our wood experts have summarized everything you need to know about this process. 

Can You Gel Stain a Laminated Furniture?

You can use gel stains on laminate surfaces since it does not absorb the material. If you want to use gel stain, apply a thin layer or several thin layers all over the object, let it dry, and finish it with an oil-based top coat.

applying gel stain

Gel Staining Laminated Wood Furniture: 6 Steps

Necessary Tools

wood staining tools

Step #1: Clean the Laminated Surface

To stain laminate furniture, you must remove dust, grime, and other grubby impurities from the surface. Remember that surface prep is essential.

With dish soap and warm water, you may make a homemade degreaser that will work well on the laminate surface and won’t damage it. [1]

Applying pressure with a gentle sponge or clean cloth, remove the grime from the area. You must thoroughly clean each piece of laminate furniture.

cleaning laminated surface

Commercial degreasers can be helpful if the surface is extremely sticky. The next step is to scrub the surface as often as needed until you’re satisfied that there is no trace of the sticky substance left behind.

Before you apply the first coat of gel stain on laminate furniture takes anywhere from a few hours to a full day to dry in the sun.

Step #2: Sand the Laminated Furniture Lightly

Before you can use gel stain on laminate furniture, we recommend sanding the surface before applying the gel stain to ensure a good bond and a smooth surface. But for gentle sanding, grits of sandpaper 200 and more are what you should use on laminate wood.

Using sandpaper with a lower grit will generate noticeable scratches that will be apparent on the gel stain. The goal is to sand the surface, revealing the laminate’s grain pattern.

various types of sandpaper

When sanding, always go with the grain. Then, use a vacuum and a soft-bristled brush to remove the sanding dust, and finish up with a tack cloth.

Step #3: Start Applying the Gel Stain

To use gel stain on laminate surfaces, smooth out the gel stain by gently swirling it with a stirring stick.

The next step is to use a brush to gel stain laminate surfaces by scooping it from the can.

Stain the fake wood furniture by brushing it on in long, consistent strokes in the grain direction. If your furniture doesn’t have faux wood grain, you can stain it in any direction you like, and it will still look the same.

sponge brush with gel stain

Even if you don’t get it ideal, you should still obtain your gel stain on every part of the surface you want to be stained. You can get away with a thinner coat of paint.

If you unintentionally applied gel stain too thick, we’ll remove any excess gel paint in this next step.

Step #4: Wipe Off the Excess Stains

Remove any excess stain with a lint-free cloth when you’re finished staining the whole thing. Always wipe towards the wood grain’s direction and use consistent pressure throughout the entire surface.

Wipe excess gel stain from the laminate surface with a clean cloth. This means the stain coat will dry more quickly.

coating wood with gel stain

If you don’t remove the excess on the gel-stained laminate, it will be splotchy and tacky, and it will take ages to cure.

Step #5: Allow the Stain Layer to Dry

Given the prolonged drying time required for gel stain on laminate surfaces, you should wait up to 24 hours between multiple light coats.

Using fans, exhaust vents, or the heated air of air conditioners to circulate the space will help the stain dry more quickly.

Let the gel stain dry and ensure it does not give a sticky residue before you can move on to the second coat.

Applying only one or two coats is usually sufficient to achieve a light finish. On the other hand, if you’re going for a deeper brown hue, you’ll need to use a few coats of gel stain and give them plenty of time to dry between applications.

drying stain

Repeat the preceding procedures and apply multiple coats until you achieve the desired outcome.

The gel stain on laminate surface takes longer to dry if more than one coat is applied.

Step #6: Coat it with a Clear Finish

A clear coat sealer is necessary to preserve the integrity of the stained surface and extend its longevity. The gel stain can still feel somewhat brittle to the touch after curing, but it will eventually wear away through repeated use.

Over gel stain, you can use a foam brush or natural bristle brush to apply a clear coat of lacquer or polyurethane. You can achieve a longer-lasting result by applying two coats or more.

You cannot apply paste wax directly to gel stain. So instead, apply lacquer or polyurethane first, then paste wax as a final coat to achieve a glossy finish.

Minwax 25555 Clear Protective Finish

If you follow the directions, you won’t have to worry about correcting the blotchy finishing wax. After the clear coat has dried, you should still wait before using the furniture heavily.

What Clear Coat Should You Apply?

Finish a laminate colored with gel with Minwax Rapid-Drying Polyurethane. This item is an oil-based, clear finish that you can apply to an either previously finished or untreated surfaces. For other options, check these top-quality clear coat finishes for wood

Interior hardwood surfaces and cabinets, dressers, furniture drawers, and doors are protected for the long haul by this quick-drying polyurethane finish.

This coating comes in three sheen levels—gloss, semi-gloss, and satin—so you may select the most aesthetically pleasing option for your project’s surface.

Rust-Oleum Water-Based Gloss Finish

To recoat, you must wait up to four to six hours after applying the fast-drying clear coat. Wait until you can touch the surface for a full day after the final layer has dried.

Applying Gel Stains on Wood Directly

using gel stain

Why Staining Wood is Easier than Laminated Wood

Can you use gel stain on laminate furniture? Yes, but it can be challenging to stain since it is made of something other than natural wood, which means it won’t take paint or regular wood stain.

staining pressure treated wood

Therefore, you can only achieve desirable results by employing a particular paint or stain that you can either use on laminated or real wood.

Alternative Methods To Stain Laminated Furniture

We all know applying gel stains on plastic and laminate. Laminate, after all, was never meant to be refinished in the first place.

We did some prep work and sealed it with a clear coat to make it work; nevertheless, there are different approaches to coloring laminate flooring.

Luckily, gel stain isn’t the only option for staining a laminate floor. You can use a colored polyurethane product instead of a gel stain. The popular PolyShades product from Minwax comes in various color options.

paint brush and Minwax Helmsman Indoor-Outdoor Spar Urethane

It’s a shade of polyurethane with a tint added to it. Your laminate project can be stained using the PolyShades formula in the same way that it can be stained with gel stain if you do not follow the procedures.

Can You Apply Gel Stains on Laminate Cabinets? How?

It’s possible to stain laminate cabinets, but only after a thorough cleaning and prior application of gel stain. 

Can You Stain Laminated Wood Without Sanding? How?

To stain laminate wood, light sanding before applying gel stain is unnecessary. In any case, smoothing with a grit of sandpaper higher than 200 and doing so in the direction of the wood grain can improve the gel stain’s adhesion.

laminated surface

The gel stain will adhere properly, but this depends on how well you clean the surface first.

How Long Will It Take for Gel Stains to Dry on Laminate Wood?

Topically applying gel stain on laminate wood can take 72 hours to completely dry. The amount of time a gel stain dries depends on the thickness of the coats and the relative humidity of the space or environment.

A thick layer or multiple coats of stain on laminate countertops or wooden surfaces may take longer to dry.


What material can you use gel stain on?

You can use gel stain on plywood, wood, veneer, metal, molded fiberboard, and fiberglass. It is a non-drip stain that enhances the beauty of many raw wood and non-wood materials by adding natural hues.

Can you use gel stain on IKEA furniture?

You can use a gel stain for staining Ikea laminate furniture. However, preparation is crucial before applying any colored polyurethane or gel stain, so ensure you do it well. The surface won’t get dirty, but it will have a film over it that makes it look messy.

Does gel stain scratch easily?

Gel stain won’t scratch easily, making it an excellent option for high-traffic areas because it is scratch- and wear-resistant. However, like any stained surface, gel-stained wood can still be susceptible to scratches if subjected to heavy or abrasive forces. You still need a film finish as a topcoat to ensure durability. 

Does the gel stain need to be sealed?

You should seal a gel-stained surface to prevent damage since it just sits on the surface like paint. Polyurethane is a popular material that you can purchase in both glossy and matte finishes. Effective clear sealants include epoxy, shellac, and varnish.

Can you apply stain on laminated cabinets?

Staining laminate cabinets is possible, but only after a thorough cleaning and prior application of gel stain. If we treat cabinets the same as laminate countertops, we can lessen the likelihood that gel-stained sections may peel or chip, even if cabinets won’t get as much use as countertops. 

Is it okay to stain fake wood?

Gel stain covers synthetic wood, making it a great way to give the fake wood grain a more realistic look and feel by coloring the surface with brown paint or stain.

Is it okay to use gel stains on a veneer?

You can apply gel stain on the veneer easily since its thick consistency does not penetrate the wood. However, you should use ordinary wood stains if you want your veneer to be protected from the inside out.  

More questions answered here


Can you use gel stain on laminate furniture? Yes, without a doubt! Gel stain can adhere well to laminate surfaces, giving your furniture or home decor the appearance of being newly painted. 

However, it is essential to remember that laminate surfaces mimic actual wood and are not wood itself. Instead, it’s ideally self-sufficient plastic designed to seem like wood.

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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