How to Solve Problem of Wood Stain Not Drying
By: Danny Lipford
I stripped my cabinets and applied three coats of stain, but the cabinet doors still feel sticky after two days of drying. Should I go ahead and apply the polyurethane finish and hope for the best? -Lauren
If you used a penetrating oil stain, you may have allowed the stain to build up too thick a coat on the surface of the wood. Penetrating wood stains are not intended to be a surface finish. If applied too thickly, they won’t dry properly and will remain tacky to the touch. This can also happen if the wood wasn’t stripped and sanded completely down to bare wood, since the stain will sit on the surface rather than soaking into the wood.
To remove excess oil stain from wood, simply apply another coat of stain, allow it to soak in for a few minutes, then wipe it off. Any excess stain will redissolve and come off, leaving only the stain that penetrated into the wood.
If almost all the stain comes off when you wipe it, the surface probably wasn’t sanded enough. Remove the remaining stain by wiping the wood down with mineral spirits or naphtha (be sure you have plenty of ventilation and don’t work around open flames), followed by wiping with a clean cloth. Allow the wood to dry completely, sand the piece down to bare wood, and apply a coat or two of stain, wiping off any excess.
If you applied the stain correctly, and it still remained tacky, it could be due to rainy weather or high humidity. Give it a few more days to see if it improves. Another possibility is that the stain was old or came from a bad batch.
In either case if the tackiness doesn’t go away, wipe the wood down with mineral spirits or naphtha to remove most of the stain, let it dry thoroughly, then try again using a fresh can of stain.
Good luck with your project,
- How to Refinish Furniture (video)
- The Proper Approach to Refinishing Old Furniture
- How to Apply Polyurethane Finish