Staining Mahogany Wood in 9 Easy Steps

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Like oak and walnut, staining mahogany is easy. The open grain structure of the wood allows even distribution of pigment, but it’s still an overwhelming craft if you’re not an expert. 

You’ll need a thorough guide before starting the process, or you’ll get lost in the motion. Here, our pro woodworkers will tackle nine easy steps on how to hassle-free stain your mahogany. 

Is Mahogany Stainable?

Mahogany has open pores structure, making it one of the perfect types of wood to stain. It’s a tropical hardwood that resembles a walnut and an oak. 

Depending on how you want your wood to appear, you can stain mahogany in two ways: one with a filler, for a smooth surface, and one without the fillers, to keep its natural texture. You’ll find more texture when you choose to stain mahogany wood without the grain filling. 

Is it Hard to Stain?

Since mahogany has an open-pore structure, it is characterized to easily absorb wood stains. Also, it has evenly distributed pores making pigment easy to distribute when staining the wood. It’s one of the easiest woods to stain. 

Mahogany wood cut for table

How to Stain Mahogany Wood: Detailed Guide

Having the right materials will make applying stains easier. Prepare these materials for a seamless staining process:

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

Step #1: Prepare Your Work Surface

Lay down a plastic sheeting or tarpaulin on your working area, to make collecting the spilling stains easier. Prepare everything else that will be used such as protective gear, rubber gloves, and goggles. 

preparing work area

Stains that are oil-based have high levels of volatile organic compounds, so our experts recommend adding a respirator or protective mask when working with such to avoid inhalation of dangerous fumes. 

Step #2: Prepare Mahogany by Sanding

Use 120 grit sandpaper to sand and prep the mahogany. Remove all pencil marks from the witness lines by sanding the mahogany. 

Sanding raises the grain and highlights a rigger texture on your wood. Shifting to medium-grit sandpaper creates a smooth finish on your wood surface. Wipe the wood dust with a tack cloth, to prep the wood for staining. You can read this guide with the proper ways to clean wood before staining

Step #3: Mix the Wood Filler (Based on the Manufacturer’s Instructions)

Mix an extender to decrease solubility on your wood filler, and make it easier to apply the wood filler. A paint thinner is recommended to achieve a paste-like consistency. 

mixing wood filler

To prepare a wood filler, simply mix a binder with clay or silica [1]. A paint thinner helps adjust the consistency of a wood filler. 

Step #4: Apply Filler on the Wood Using a Nylon Rag

Your wood filler must be of desired consistency to make applying it less of a burden. In applying a wood filler, we prefer using a foam brush or a nylon rag, so it’s spread evenly on the mahogany surface. 

Work against the grain and by small sections only at a time. This will prevent the filler from drying up right away. Once you’ve finished applying wood filler all over the surface, let it sit and dry for 24 hours before going on to the next step. Ensure that you wipe the excess stain or filler. 

Step #5: After 24 Hours, Sand Your Wood

Check if your fillers are completely dry before sanding them. In sanding, use 120-grit sandpaper, for a more even surface and texture. 

sanding block

Sand your wood with 150-grit sandpaper to make it smoother. Wipe the sawdust and let the surface dry. A tack cloth or clean cotton cloth is best for wiping the 

Step #6: Start Applying the Wood Stain

After applying wood filler and sanding rough surfaces, your mahogany wood is now ready for staining. To apply wood stain, wet a natural foam brush or cotton rag on the stain and dampen it onto the wood. 

Apply evenly to ensure a mahogany clear finish. Let the sealer sit for around five to ten minutes or as instructed in the wood box. 

To achieve an even darker color, repeat the application of wood stain. Allow the finish to stay for as long as needed before wringing out the excess stain. 

Step #7: Let the Stain Completely Dry

Let the stain for mahogany dry completely. Place the furniture outside to allow it to cool easily but do not place it in direct sunlight. You can also just open the aircon to allow the piece to dry faster even in an indoor setting. 

drying stain

Cold weather will mean longer drying time, so you’ll have to wait longer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions in terms of drying time, to make sure you achieve your desired color and finish. 

Step #8: Sand the Wood Lightly

Sand the wood lightly with 150-grit sandpaper. This process will smoothen the entire wood surface and prompt a smooth finish. Do not sand it hard or you’ll lose the fine grains that create a character for the mahogany.

Step #9: Don’t Forget to Coat the Wood With a Protective Finish

Apply one coat of protective finish on the stained wood surface after it has completely dried up. You can choose either from polyurethane, varnish, or shellac as either of these can lock the stain color, and prevent premature wear which is common with unprotected woods. 

Sealing the stained surface is the last step but it’s equally crucial as the other steps, as it can dictate how strong the stain will last on the mahogany. 

Recommended Stain Colors for Mahogany Wood


To cop an elegant and classy color, go for an ebony stain color in your mahogany wooden stairs, and doors. Ebony is the middle color between black and brown and can be a striking color to apply on your patio and decks. 

Mahogany board

This color intensifies the color and appeal of a room crafting elegance in the ambiance. 


Teak makes an excellent color for interior mahogany furniture and for restaining old wood floors. It’s a color very close to darkened mahogany and looks even more natural when applied to mahogany wood. 

Dark Walnut

One of the most common stains is dark walnut, and it’s best for flooring, trims, and kitchen cabinets. It’s a dark color, almost in between red and brown, and is lighter than the color of espresso. 

Honey Gold

Cop a warm natural look with a honey-gold color on your interior. This color also signifies comfort and coziness. 

Golden Oak

When working on blending with wood fittings such as bookshelves, wardrobes, and cupboards, this color is the most ideal. 

Mahogany wood grain pattern

Proper Ways of Finishing and Staining Your Project Made from Mahogany

Mahogany is an easy wood to stain, yet there are still practices you can do to make sure you achieve your desired results:

Our Choices for the Best Mahogany Stains

1. General Finishes Oil-Based Gel Stain

Opt for a finishing feel with this oil-based gel stain that is heavily bodied and creates a lustrous appearance on your wood. Unlike most oil-based stains, the General Finishes doesn’t penetrate deeply but you can still expect a fuller appearance when applied on mahogany wood. 

It’s a quality product that goes a long way as it can be used for refurnishing and remodeling repairs too. 

What We Like

What We Don't Like

2. Furniture Clinic Wood Stain

The Furniture Clinic Wood stain is flexible for any type of use, may it be for coffee tables, or doors and windows. It’s one of the few brands in the market that offers quick-drying characteristics, while still providing excellent coverage. 

This brand is water-based and has a low odor, so you won’t worry about toxic fumes.

What We Like

What We Don't Like

Why You Need to Apply Grain Fillers When You Stain Mahogany

Grain fillers are important when staining mahogany to even out the surface and create a smoother look on your mahogany. If you leave the wood grain open, then you’ll expose the character of the wood, which is desirable for some as well. 

Oil-Based vs Water-Based Wood Grain Filler

Choosing between an oil and water-based wood grain filler mainly depends on how much effort you’re willing to put into applying fillers on your mahogany piece. The best filler is the one you can apply correctly. 

patching nail holes with wood filler

Water-based fillers dry faster and are easier to clean than that oil-based fillers. It’s also available in several colors, so you can choose whichever instead of staining it. 

Oil-based fillers on the other hand are trickier to apply, but here’s a top. Dip the master wood grain filler with a drop of oil-based stain, and give it enough time to dry once you’ve applied it. 

As much as possible, we recommend following what’s written in the instructions to avoid ruining your piece. To stain an oil-based wood filler, apply a wash coat and wipe the surface of the mahogany.  

Our Top Picks for the Best Mahogany Fillers

1. Minwax 448530000 Walnut Color-Matched Filler Wood Putty

One of the favorite features we like about this product is that it doesn’t require excessive sanding. It’s a paintable filler that can repair holes in your wooden furniture easily. It bonds well to your mahogany furniture and is easy to shape even with your wood grain open. 

What We Like

What We Don't Like

2. Elmer's Products E849D8 Wood Filler

If you’re looking for a fast-drying filler when staining mahogany, this Elmer’s variant is a good fit for you. It has a 12-24 hours drying time and dries hard. Another characteristic of this filler too is that it doesn’t shrink, and is easy to clean up since it is solvent free.

What We Like

What We Don't Like

Cost of Mahogany Wood

An unfinished mahogany may cost from $6 to $28 per footboard count. However, the cost may still vary depending on the quality and availability of the piece you want to purchase. 

Decks and floorboards are thicker and more expensive, with a start cost of $7. African mahoganies on the other hand are cheaper by 50% compared to the others. 


What stains look good on mahogany?

There are a lot of stain options that look good on mahogany, but the best stain option is a lacquer. 

These stains give mahogany a natural finish, unlike shellac and varnish which create a plastic-like stain. Apply at least two coats of your stain. The second coat puts a semi-gloss on the mahogany. 

Can you stain mahogany a lighter color?

It is possible to stain mahogany in a lighter color by using mineral spirits. Dampen a clean cotton cloth or foam brush, with minerals and wipe off the pigment on your dark mahogany wood. This process will make staining lighter and easier without damaging the wood. For a more detailed guide, here’s how to make dark stained wood lighter

What’s the best finish for mahogany?

The best finish for mahogany is lacquer. This product dries fast and is durable as a sealer for mahogany wood. At best, you will need only two coats to seal and protect your mahogany permanently, without damaging the wood grains. 

What are the disadvantages of mahogany wood?

The disadvantage of mahogany is that it’s a natural absorbent of sunlight, and it’s common to turn darker over time. This is why some opt for lighter-colored ones given this natural characteristic of turning darker over time. 

Another disadvantage is its cost. Since mahogany woods are durable and rare, there’s a reasonable price for such. 

How can you stain a door made from mahogany?

Use an alkyd-resin-based sealer on the exterior of the mahogany. Let it sit and dry before sanding it with fine-grit sandpaper. Apply another coat of wood stain and let it dry for a couple of hours.

How can I alter the color of my mahogany-made furniture?

There are multiple ways to alter the color of your mahogany, from staining to sanding and applying mineral spirits. If you’re opting for a darker look, mahoganies are characterized to grow darker over time so this won’t be a problem. But here’s a quick guide on staining wood darker in case you want to achieve this finish on other wood types. 

How can I stain and finish my mahogany wood?

Sand the piece and use fillers before staining it if you want a smooth texture on your wood piece. Allow the filler to dry. You can also directly apply stain on the open grains of mahogany if you’re gunning for a more textured wood. 


Staining mahogany isn’t as complicated as it may seem. However, it’s a meticulous process that you need to follow, especially considering how expensive and rare mahogany woods are. 

Our experts have crafted this guide to spare enough knowledge that will build your confidence in doing this craft. 

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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