Does Ash Stain Well? — Color Results and Tips

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Ash wood is both versatile and cost-effective, making it one of the most popular hardwoods used in homes. In fact, staining ash furniture will result in a range of finishes to match any decor style!

But does ash stain well? If you’re thinking of using this budget-friendly material, let me share my insights and tips on the staining process.

Is Ash a Stainable Wood?

Yes, ash wood is stainable wood. Its prominent straight, and smooth wood grain and large pores provide an ideal surface to absorb any stain, allowing you to create diverse shades of beautiful colorings while avoiding blotchiness.

Although it may be hard to find another type of wood surface that stains as well as ash wood, its versatility makes it worth the effort!

Does Ash Stain Evenly?

Ash wood is a great choice for staining due to its open pores, which enable pigments to penetrate evenly across the entire surface. This means no blotchy spots, just evenly distributed stain that showcases the wood’s natural beauty.

Ash wood

Its combination of large pore structure and openness makes it both easy to stain while retaining its natural appeal when stained for the desired effect. 

Does Ash Take Dark Stain Well?

To achieve a deep, dark stain on ash wood, skip the fine ones and go for 220-grit sandpaper instead. Let the stain sit for 5-10 minutes before wiping away any excess. Consider applying two coats of your chosen hue to deepen and enrich its coloring even more!

What Does Ash Look Like Stained?

Staining ash wood gives any space a classic, refined look with its warm beige-to-light brown hue and traditional straight wood grain. You can take your pick of stain products to match the natural tone or opt for a more dramatic design by going darker. 

Ash desk

Will it Require Wood Conditioner Before Staining?

Ash does stain well, but it won’t need a pre-stain wood conditioner or filler. Ash is an ideal wood for staining due to its generously sized pores that evenly absorb and distribute pigment well. This species absorbs stain well on its own without a wood conditioner.

Steps to Stain Ash Properly

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

Step #1: Clean and Sand the Wood

tools for painting

To successfully stain ash wood furniture, cabinetry, or any other piece, start by thoroughly cleaning it to remove all dirt and grime. If the surface is not too dirty, you can move straight onto sanding using 220 grit sandpaper for an even finish. 

Using lightly consistent pressure with either manual tools such as a sponge-backed paper or more substantial machinery like a belt or orbital sander will provide excellent results across different types of projects depending on their size and nature.

Step #2: Choose the Appropriate Sandpaper Grit For Your Project

When it comes to sanding ash wood surfaces, medium grit is the golden rule. For a darker finish, you should move up to 220-grit sandpaper. For lighter shades, stick with 320-grit or higher. 

However, if you choose an abrasive that is excessively fine or rough, it can cause pore blockage and leave unattractive scratch marks, correspondingly.

Step #3: Clean the Surface and Let it Dry

After sanding, be sure to clean off the ash wood dust with a tack cloth or a lint-free rag. Wring out any excess water from the rag to make the wood dry. Wetness may cause raised wood grain and ruin your work’s smooth surface. Let the wood dry completely before applying the stain.

person holding cloth

Step #4: Apply the Stain

To achieve a beautiful finish, it’s important to apply stain the right way. When using a natural-bristled brush or clean lint-free rag for application, ensure there is an even coverage all over the wood surface. 

For darker tones in staining, leave it on for five minutes before wiping away any excess. If you’re aiming for lighter shades instead, wipe off immediately after applying your chosen color of stain! 

For superior results, take the time to choose a stain carefully — water-borne types make wood dry faster than oil-based options. Then, allow five to ten minutes for it to soak in. Note that weather conditions may affect drying times too. 

Finally, apply your chosen stain liberally and wipe off the excess with the direction of beautiful wood grain for an attractive finish!

Step #5: Apply a Second Coat (If Needed)

Check the ash wood surface after the stain has dried for a full 24 hours. If you want to darken it more, simply apply another coat and wipe away any excess along the beautiful wood grain. 

applying gel stain

This extra cure time is essential before sealing with your topcoat of choice, so be sure to let it sit 8 to 24 hrs before doing so!

Step #6: Apply a Sealer

When looking to apply a topcoat after staining your ash piece, opt for something durable and clear to better lock in the wood stain color. 

Regular nitrocellulose lacquer can be used on furniture or kitchen cabinets. However, if you require more protection from wear and tear consider using varnish or polyurethane finishes instead.

Additional Tips and Tricks for Staining Ash Cabinets

Tip #1: Use a Practice Board for the Stain Before Applying it to Your Project

Ash does stain well, but it’s better to try applying your choice of stain to a scrap piece of wood first. 

staining MDF board

Try staining ash wood scraps that are analogous in color and wood grain to get an idea of what would look best. It’s easy to stain ash wood, giving you every opportunity for perfection, so have fun experimenting with ash stain options until you find the ideal finish!

Tip #2: Apply a Clear Coat to Fully Seal the Stain

Keep your cabinets looking their best with a durable sealer. For long-term protection, opt for a stronger solution such as varnish or polyurethane rather than regular nitrocellulose lacquer. 

After staining the wood, apply an extra layer of strong sealant to lock in the color and shield it from everyday wear and tear.

Tip #3: Avoid Sanding With a Fine Grit for a Darker Pigment

Sanding to stain ash wood can play a critical role in staining it dark. To maximize absorption, use fine-grit sandpaper to keep any open pores from closing up and reduce how much pigment will penetrate the wood surface. 

sanding block

Aim for a medium 220-grit paper—but if you notice any visible flaws or remnants of old finishes, I recommend starting with a 150 or 180 grit to smooth those out. Once that’s done, finish up with the finer 220 grit to really bring out the wood’s natural beauty. Trust me, your efforts will be worth it!

Maintenance and Care Tips for Ash Wood Furniture

Ashwood is renowned for its light, beautiful hue. To keep it looking great and preserve the coloration, make sure to place your furniture in a dry area and regularly clean it with dusters or soft cloths. This will prevent dirt from accumulating on the surface. 

Furthermore, applying an appropriate clear coat like varnish, lacquer, or polyurethane can waterproof and protect against scratching or discoloration long-term. 

Unfortunately, commercial cleaners should be avoided at all costs! These may end up damaging the finish integrity of worst yet leaving surfaces sticky which traps unsightly dirt particles behind.

My Most Recommended Stains for Ashwood

1. General Finishes Oil-based Gel Stain

The General Finishes Oil-Based Gel Stain boasts a unique, intricate formula crafted to permeate the wood grain consistently. It minimizes absorption and spillage, ensuring impeccable results with each application.

Preserving the natural appearance and texture of the wood, it’s particularly effective on ash woods less susceptible to uneven coloring. Not only does it yield a uniform finish rich in character, but it also minimizes waste. This wood stain has the most “finishing feel” of any General Finishes product.

What I Like

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2. Minwax 70012 Penetrating Wood Finish Oil-Based Stain

Woodworkers rely on Minwax penetrating wood finish to bring out the beauty of ash wood. It penetrates deeply into its surface and accentuates wood grains while also providing an even wood stain that won’t mask it. 

As more coats are added, you can choose from a range of light or deep colors depending on your preference and then add mineral spirits for maximum effect. The ideal way to use this product is for a dark walnut stain.

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3. Varathane 262025 Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain

You can easily transform your interior woodwork and furniture made of ash wood with this Varathane classic wood interior stain. This high-performance wood stain system incorporates nano pigment particles for effortless application.

It accentuates the natural grain while providing a deep and rich color to any project. Not only does its hue especially the dark walnut stain enhance your area’s style but also protects from environmental elements for lasting quality. 

Clean-up is effortless with this product, too. Just use mineral spirits for maintenance to keep the attractive shade looking great year after year.

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4. Rust-Oleum 260358 Ultimate Wood Stain

This Rust-Oleum Ultimate stain is the perfect choice for your ash wood flooring needs. It provides long-lasting exceptional quality, fast drying results, and a single coat seals moisture resistance while showcasing the natural grain of timber without masking it out. 

Because of the fast-drying composition, you may topcoat it with polyurethane in just one hour for long-lasting protection. I recommend the Rust-Oleum Ultimate Stain for the best protection of your floors from environmental elements whilst looking stunningly beautiful and amazing!

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5. Ready Seal 100 Clear Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer

This stain provides superior protection and a beautiful finish on your outdoor ash wood furniture. The Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer combines sealing with staining in one easy step, giving you access to many shades of color, including natural cedar wood. 

The fast-acting formula penetrates surfaces quickly while being resilient to changes in temperature, and no sanding or back brushing is required. Reapply anytime without having to strip away previous layers, you can use either brush, roller, or sprayer. The application could not be simpler!

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What are the drawbacks of ash?

Ash wood can be prone to rot when exposed to moisture or subterranean organisms. In addition, the emerald ash borer beetle has been known to cause significant damage in some areas of North America.

Will ash wood turn yellow over time?

White ash is beautiful but can become yellow over time. To restore the wood’s original hue and luster, staining ash wood may be a great choice!

Is ash water-resistant?

Ashwood is not naturally waterproof, and its susceptibility to moisture can result in structural instability. But with the application of pressurized treatments or sealants and paints, it’s possible to make the wood resistant to water for a time, albeit temporarily.

Is ash wood hard or softwood?

Ash trees are an example of hardwood based on their origin from dicots. Other examples are red oak and maple.

Is ash wood an antiseptic?

Recent research has uncovered an ancient technique for treating wounds with wood ash. It not only disinfects but may also aid the healing process.

Is ash good for tabletops?

Ash wood is an ideal choice for furniture projects. It’s durable, and easily accepts most wood stains and other finishes, so you can customize any piece to your style.

What are the white parts on ash wood?

The wood is two-toned, with carbon making up its darker section and calcium responsible for the lighter hue.

More articles to check out:


Fortunately, Ash wood does stain well. When coated with stain, its beige to light brown color and prominent straight-grain structure becomes more pronounced for an elegant and rich finish.

Despite the easy staining process, it’s still important that you properly prepare the surface for long-lasting and beautiful results!

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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