Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My Favorite Wood Stain

Last week on FB I mentioned going to buy stain.
This rarely ever happens. Really. A quart of my favorite "dark walnut" lasts for years and years and years.
How? You ask...because I regularly make my own out of these simple ingredients:

 apple cider vinegar, steel wool, and a mason jar with a plastic lid
Now, stick with me. Here's where I get all technical. I'll go step-by-step.
Step 1: choose a mason jar that will never be used for anything other than this stain.
Step 2: shred the dickens out of two or three very fine steel wool pads, stuffing them in the mason jar.
Step 3: cover the steel wool with apple cider vinegar.
Step 4: place the lid on loosely and set aside for 24-48 hours.
Step 5: strain out the steel wool.
Step 6: find something to stain and have fun!
See, that wasn't so hard.
There are a few reasons why I prefer this homemade stain over store bought.
Price is number one.
I can make a gallon plus of the homemade version vs a quart of store bought.
The way it reacts with different wood is number two.
Store bought looks basically the same every time.
The homemade version does not and it gives a more true, aged look.
Smell is number three.
Homemade stain is stinky, no way around it.
However, it is not as stinky as store bought.
Clean up is number four.
I prefer anything that can be cleaned up with soap and water. Period.
On a side note: regular vinegar can be used also.
I personally prefer the apple cider as it tends to give a richer end product when applied to wood.
I also have one particular paint brush set aside to use only with this stain.
Plus, I do use two mason jars...alternating between the holding jar while the vinegar reacts with the steel wool and another one that I strain the vinegar into when the reaction is complete.
Now...I'm off to make some more stain and find something to use it on!

***Update: see what this stain was used on here ***

Happy Treasure Hunting, Y'all! ~Betsy


  1. Thank you for this recipe! I will definitely be using it! How long does the stink usually last?

  2. YW, Lucy!
    The stink only lasts until the stain is dry. Drying time is so much quicker than store bought stain.
    A tip for when you do this...put a large garbage bag under your drop cloth. It is runny. This way the stain won't bleed through the drop cloth and mess up whatever is underneath.

  3. I would like to add that I have done this and it really works! If you let it sit a little longer (mine was in the garage for a week or more) it yields a deeper "grayer" stain, more barn-wood like. I have also read that putting a penny in the jar will give a reddish hue but haven't tried that.

    1. If I leave the steel wool in longer than a day it has a reddish hue that tends to show more if the stain is left sitting, too. Last batch sat for a couple weeks and I actually ended up having to wipe what looked like rust dust off my wood before making sign.

      Doesn't it feel good to find something economical AND not loaded down with chemicals to work with?

  4. will it work for stairs ? or will it bleed off or come out of the wood with a mop ?

  5. Can u put the steel wool in panty hose so u don't have to sift it or Strain it or cheese cloth ?? Love this and will be trying it. Thank you all.


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