How to Stain Wood Darker: Effective Ways to Darken Wood

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Having wooden pieces in your home adds elegance and a certain flair. To enhance the beauty of your pieces, you can restain the wood to make it darker and look new. 

However, staining can be a daunting and challenging task, but with the right techniques, I’ve found that it can become a much easier job. So, I’ve outlined effective ways how to stain wood darker.

Staining Wood Darker: 7 Easy Ways

Method #1: Coarse-Sanding the Wood

Use sandpaper with a coarser grit to sand out the wood’s surface. A 120-grit or 150-grit will do the job perfectly, allowing the wood to absorb more stains. Keep in mind that this approach will result in a rougher texture on the wood’s surface.

sanding wooden surface

It’s essential to be gentle during this process to avoid scratching the wood. I recommend always sanding along the direction of the wood grain for the best results.

Method #2: Adding More Pigment to the Wood Stain

Another technique to achieve a darker wood stain is by increasing the pigment in your stain. This means you’ll be adding more colorant per unit. Increasing the pigment-to-vehicle ratio ensures a darker stain on the wood’s surface.

For example, if you’re working with an oil-based stain, pair it with an oil-based pigment. I recommend considering Japanese color pigments for your oil-based stain. Likewise, if you’re using a water-based stain, go for a water-based pigment.

Before you apply this mixture to your main piece, it’s wise to perform a test. Apply a small amount to a piece of scrap wood that’s similar to your target wood. Let it dry completely to ensure you’re happy with the color.

Method #3: How to Test the Stain on a Wood Scrap

When you’re gearing up to darken your wood, it’s always a smart move to begin by testing the stain on a scrap piece of wood. Apply a small amount of the product on a scrap material similar to the wood you wish to darken. 

staining a piece of wood

To ensure accurate results, it’s crucial to let the wood dry completely. Once you are satisfied with the resulting color, you can proceed to work on the main wooden piece.

Method #4: Applying Glaze After the Wood Stain and Sealer

For those looking to take their wood staining skills up a notch, consider the technique of applying a glaze after using stain and sealer. Glazes and gel stains boast a higher pigment-to-vehicle ratio. A layer of gel stain is enough to darken the wood’s surface. 

You’ll want to select either an oil-based or water-based glaze, but it’s crucial to match the type of glaze with your existing stain and sealer. The thicker consistency of gel stain allows ease of control and can be left on the surface for longer.

Method #5: Spraying a Toner

To add a touch of finesse to your wood’s color, consider incorporating toner spraying into your staining routine. Toners create a translucent coat, resulting in a lightly colored wood surface. Apply the toner in between coats after staining the wood. 

Method #6: Utilizing Dye Rather Than Oil Stain

For those seeking a truly expert-level result in achieving a darker wood finish, opting for ready-to-use dyes instead of oil stains is a wise choice.

applying dye to wood

Dyes come in either powder or liquid forms, and a liquid stain is known as TransTint liquid dye or non-grain raising (NGR). Powdered dyes can be mixed with either alcohol or water, depending on your preference.

Dye stains are an effective way to darken pieces. So, applying multiple coats on the wood will ensure you achieve a darker color. 

Method #7: Wiping the Excess Wood Stain

Wiping the excess stain can result in an evenly stained surface, so wipe it off gently. This meticulous approach ensures an even stain distribution across the surface, resulting in a wood piece that not only looks darker but also exudes a polished, expert finish.

How to Choose the Right Wood Stain

It’s essential to remember that once applied, the stain seeps into the wood’s pores, and the final result depends on how much stain the wood can absorb.This can become challenging since some wood species might be more porous than others. 

brushing finish on the wood

Recommended Dark Stain For Wood

Now, if you’re looking for a top-notch wood stain to achieve that perfect dark finish, I recommend the Varathane Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain. This stain has proven its worth in a wide range of projects that involve staining wood.

The Varathane Premium fast dry stain effectively brings out the beauty of natural wood with one coat. It offers excellent coverage, and you’ll be pleased to know that it dries in approximately an hour, making your project more efficient.

Additionally, consider using a high-quality finish if you’re working with kitchen tables and other wooden items in your kitchen. 

Using Gel Stain for Less Rough Woods

If you’re working with less rough and less porous woods, here’s a valuable tip: consider using a dark-colored gel stain. What’s great about gel stains is their ability to achieve a deeper color even when the wood doesn’t readily absorb them into its pores.

Read Next

How to Use Gel Stain to Make Wood Darker

For staining wood finishing using a gel stain, refer to the following steps: 

Tip: More gel stain coats can be used on dense woods. 

Tools and Materials Needed

Step #1: Ready Your Work Area

Before proceeding with this process, make sure to prepare your workstation. Since you’ll be sanding and using chemicals, choose a well-ventilated area. For good measure, cover the area with a drop cloth to catch any drips and spills.

staining tools and material

Step #2: Ensure the Wood is Clean (For Old Woods)

If you’re working with older wood, take the time to ensure it’s clean and free of surface contaminants. Remove any oil or grease present on the wood. However, you can skip this step if you are working on new and bare wood.

Step #3: Sand the Wood Using Coarse Sandpaper

Safety first: don a pair of protective goggles, a mask to shield yourself from wood dust, and gloves to prevent direct contact with the stain. Now, grab some 120-grit sandpaper and begin sanding the wood.

sanding dresser top

Step #4: Sand the Wood Using a Fine-grit Sandpaper

Next, switch to a finer-grit sandpaper or a sanding block. This step will create a smoother surface, but remember to work in the direction of the wood grain to avoid any unwanted marks or scratches.

Step #5: Apply Gel Stain, then Wipe

Take a natural bristle chip brush and apply a generous, even coat of gel stain. Be mindful of brush marks while doing this. Let the gel sit for a bit before using a cloth to wipe off any excess stain.

Here are some tips to help you:

Step #6: Dry it for 24 Hours

Allow the gel stain to dry for 24 hours. You can add multiple thin coats of the gel stain once it has completely dried off. 

staining table top

Step #7: Re-stain if Needed

If the color isn’t quite what you were aiming for, don’t hesitate to re-stain to achieve your desired look.

Step #8: Protect the Wood Surface by Applying Polyurethane Wood Finish

Protect the wood surface by applying a thin coat of polyurethane [1] wood finish. This clear coat for wood keeps the dark color for a longer time. 

Applying a coat of polyurethane wood finish also reinforces the wood furniture against water and discoloration. 

Using Coffee to Intensify Wood Stain

Here’s a unique method that can add depth to your wood stain—coffee. Coffee serves as a natural stain and can be quite effective in darkening wood.

Materials Needed


Step #1: Get Dark Coffee

Brew yourself a strong cup of coffee. Pour the coffee into a bowl and allow it to cool down. 

Step #2: Sand the Wood

Sand and scuff-sand the entire wood’s surface using 120-grit sandpaper. Afterward, use a lint-free rag to wipe away any residual wood dust.

Step #3: Stain the Wood

Stain the wood with the coffee-darken stain using a rag or a paintbrush. Apply the first coat slightly to avoid spills, and cover the entire area with the stain. 

staining wood with coffee

Allow the wood to sit with the first coat for about 15 minutes, and if necessary, apply a second coat of the same stain for a deeper hue.

Using Tea and Vinegar to Intensify Wood Stain

Another fascinating way to intensify wood stains is by using a combination of tea and vinegar. Here’s how to go about it:

What You Need

Step #1: Get the Wood Stain

To start, you’ll need to create iron acetate. This can be done by soaking steel wool in a jar filled with a solution of vinegar and water for two to three days.

DIY tea and vinegar wood stain materials

Once it is ready, pour 2 cups of boiling water into a heat-resistant container. Add three or more tea bags and allow the mixture to soak for approximately two hours. 

Step #2: Scuff-sand the Wood

Now, prepare the wood by scuff-sanding the surface with 220-grit sandpaper. Then proceed to use a rag to clean off the wood dust. 

Step #3: Apply the Stain on Wood

Apply the stain onto the entire surface of the wood and allow it to set for an hour. Using a chip brush, apply the iron acetate evenly along the grain. The iron acetate will react with the wood’s tannins, resulting in darker, richer colors.

Step #4: Dry the Wood and Stain More if Needed

After the initial application, let the wood dry for approximately an hour. If you feel the need for a darker finish, you can make reapplications until you achieve your desired level of darkness.

drying wood stain on wooden drawer

Step #5: Apply a Protective Wood Finish

Wipe off debris once the stain is completely dried on the wood surface. You can apply a protective finish on the stained wood or use oil or wax to seal it.

Can all Stains Make Wood Darker?

All stains are formulated to darken any wood. But it may require several coats to achieve your desired color. 

Extra Tips to Go from Medium to Dark Wood Stain

When you’re aiming to take your wood stain from medium to dark, consider these additional steps:

Double Coat the Stain

To deepen the color, don’t hesitate to apply a double coat of the stain. Keep layering it until you’ve achieved the exact stain color you desire.

sealing the stained wood

Allow the Wood to Absorb the Stain for a Certain Amount of Time

Allow the stain to be absorbed by the wood grain. This will allow the stain and resulting color to last longer.

Staining Old Wooden Furniture Darker

When you’re working with older wooden furniture and aiming to make it darker, start by lightly sanding it to remove any oil and grease from the surface. This initial step is crucial to ensure the new stain adheres effectively and achieves the desired depth of color.

Also Check: Make Your Plywood Smooth and Shiny With These Tips 


Enhancing the beauty of your wood furniture or those gorgeous hardwood floors in your home doesn’t have to be a daunting task. I trust this article has provided you with some valuable insights on how to stain wood darker, just in time for your next home improvement or woodcraft project. Remember, it’s all about those subtle touches that bring out the best in your wooden pieces.

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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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