Best White Wood Stain And How It Looks On Different Woods

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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One of the major parts of woodworking is selecting the best finish for your wood. It has become pretty popular to either paint or stain furniture. If you're wondering how to stain wood white, using the best white wood stain might be the perfect option.

The best white wood stain we reviewed is the General Finishes Oil-Based Gel Stain. It is more heavy-bodied than regular oil and works well on light wood. Our second best choice is Minwax Wood Finish 227654444, which only came second because it is a pure white stain with a relatively first drying time. The third best white wood stain we selected is the Varathane Antique White Wood Stain which provides great coverage in two coats.

What Is A White Wood Stain?

A white wood stain is used to whitewash wood, where whitewashing is the process that allows you to improve the brightness of the wood without having to cover the grain pattern. The techniques used in wood staining differ depending on the wood type you're working on.

Ideally, whitewashing is best suited for pine, and there are methods of applying the white stains without losing the wood grain. A wide range of white stains is available in water- and oil-based forms.

Water-based stains will dry up quickly and disperse fewer odors and fumes. Cleaning up is also easy when using water-based stains because you only need water and soap. On the other hand, oil-based stains need a longer drying time, and they often have hazardous fumes, so you should only use them in open areas.

After researching the white stains available in the market today, we have found that there are types of stains ready to go in a can and available in a wide range of stores with no additional tinting. Here are some of the best white wood stain options available;

1. General Finishes Oil Based Gel Stain, 1 Pint, White

General Finishes Oil Base Gel Stain, 1 Pint, White
  • This is the stain that has the most "finishing feel" of all...
  • Woodworkers love the lustrous finish that shows up
  • Heavy-bodied, and so does not penetrate as deeply into the wood...
  • Can help you get a more even appearance on difficult woods such...
  • Easy-to-use stains simply wipe on with a cloth or applied with a...

This is one of the General Finishes products that are more heavy-bodied than a normal oil stain; hence it does not readily penetrate the wood and is referred to as an oil-based gel stain. It worked well on light wood since it had a gel stain character.

Also, it helped us reduce blotching on woods such as pine. This whitewash stain was easy to use with a cloth or foam without splashes or spills. It gave a sealing finish to wood surfaces as it stained, and because of its thick consistency, we got reasonable color control during staining.

Image Credits: amazon.com

Furthermore, with this white color stain, we did not have to sand in between coats; because it was thick, we used fewer coats.

Pros:

  • Seals as it stains.
  • Durable
  • Easily applied

Cons:

  • Interior use only

2. Minwax Wood Finish 227654444, Simply White Stain, Pure White

Minwax Wood Finish 227654444, 8 Fl Oz (Pack of 1),...
  • RICH EVEN COLOR – Minwax Wood Finish is a deep penetrating,...
  • QUICK DRYING – Staining interior wood has never been quicker....
  • EASY TO APPLY – Use a clean cloth or wood stain brush to apply...
  • SIMPLY WHITE WOOD STAIN – This beautiful natural wood stain...
  • A BRAND YOU CAN TRUST – Minwax is America’s leading brand of...

If you need a simple white color stain, that is, a pure white stain, this Minwax wood finish is your best bet. It is an oil-based wood stain made in a semi-transparent form with a relatively fast drying time, and it dried in 2 hours.

Image Credits: amazon.com

It had a high penetrating power that deeply penetrated wood pores within a few minutes, and its pigment was enriched to provide a beautiful color with just one coat or two coats. We easily applied it with a cloth or a brush; the longer we left excess stains on the wood furniture, the deeper the color got.

In addition, this simple white solid wood stain enhanced the wood grain as we applied it to the natural grain pattern to give a beautiful white stained wood.

Pros:

  • Fast drying time
  • Penetrating stain
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Interior use only
  • Combustible.

3. Varathane Premium Fast Dry Oil-Based Wood Stain, Quart, Antique White

Varathane 297424 Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain, Quart,...
  • Ideal for use on all interior wood projects: furniture, cabinets,...
  • One-coat coverage, fast-drying oil based formula
  • Dries to the touch in just 1 hour and covers up to 275 square...
  • High performance stain system enhanced with nano pigment...
  • Highlights natural wood grain to reveal wood's beauty

The Varathane Antique White Wood Stain will settle in the wood grain nicely, making the white oak more pinkish in tone. This was one of the strongest whitewash looks for pine since it provided great coverage in only two coats.

Image Credits: amazon.com

As one of the best white wood stain options, it was also a very light and thin white stain, which implied that it only gave a hint of white and allowed the wood's natural grain to shine. Unlike the Simple White wood finish, this one had a glossier finish.

Pros:

  • Great performance on stain system.
  • Fast-drying oil-based formula.
  • Great for all interior wood projects.
  • Enriches the natural wood grain.
  • Easy to use.
  • Penetrates deep into the pores of the wood.
  • Doesn't require a wood conditioner.

Cons:

  • Applies extremely lightly to some types of wood.

4. General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain, 1 Quart, Whitewash

Sale
General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain, 1 Quart,...
  • High-quality pigments produce rich, dark colors; Can be...
  • Indoor use only; Formulated to provide workability similar to oil...
  • Low odor, low VOC, water cleanup and noncombustible
  • Create custom colors by intermixing GF Water Based Wood Stains or...

General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain, 1 Quart, Whitewash boasts a thicker consistency that enables more control over penetration, helping to reduce blotching on softer woods. This innovative water-based wood stain could be used on any bare wood or stripped surfaces to give beautiful clear wood tones.

Image Credits: amazon.com

We could easily clean it up using soap and water. Moreover, the natural color of the wood stain could also be used as a Pre-stain conditioner. It came with 15 other wood-tone colors, making it a perfect wood stain for furniture, flooring, and other applications.

Pros:

  • It can either be sprayed or hand-applied.
  • The workability is similar to oil-based stains.
  • Low odor.
  • Easy to clean up.
  • Non-combustible.
  • High-Quality pigments.
  • Great coverage.

Cons:

  • The stain might give a much cooler color to some types of wood.

5. Minwax Wood Finish Half Pint, Simply White

Minwax 618604444 Color Wash Transparent Layering Color,...
  • Adds a touch or age & character to bare or already stained wood
  • Apply over oil or water-based stain with a synthetic or foam...
  • Dries in 1 hour. Endless coats in just one coat.
  • Water based formula cleans up with soap and water
  • Available in 3 beautiful colors.

The Minwax Wood Finish Simply White features a darkened tone of white oak wood and a slightly added white streak. On pine wood, this stain gave the lightest whitewash. This option was great since we sought a subtle white stain or wash.

Image Credits: capitolcitylumbar.com

It softened the wood tone and color while ensuring that any grain was not masked as semi-opaque stains do. As a result, we could see the color undertones of the wood, but they could have been more pronounced. For example, the green, usually pronounced in Poplar, turned warmer gray.

For oak species, this stain gave an amazing Cerused look. The Simply White Wood Finish was great for lighter white wood stain options, and it slightly lightened the wood's natural tone and ensured all the natural grain patterns showed through.

Pros:

  • Easy to apply.
  • Deeply penetrate the wood pores.
  • Professional results are guaranteed.
  • Oil-based white stain
  • It goes a long way.
  • Gives a rich and beautiful color.
  • Great value for money.

Cons:

  • A long drying time.

6. Rust-Oleum 297424 Antique White Varathane Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain

Rust-Oleum 297424 Antique White Varathane Premium Fast...
  • Dries in one hour
  • No wood conditioner required
  • Great for furniture, trim, floors and more
  • Exceptional coverage – 275 square feet per quart
  • Sold as a case containing two quarts

This is another varathane whitewash. The rustic appearance differs from this whitewash and the one mentioned earlier. This varathane whitewash did not give a rustic appearance; it only gave the wood an antique white appearance. It was an oil-based stain formulated for interior use.

Image Credits; walmart.com

This varathane antique white stain contained nano-pigment particles. Hence it was a high-performing stain that enhanced the wood grain and gave a high-intensity white color shade in just one or two coats. Also, it provided exceptional coverage of 275 sq ft per quart and dried in one hour.

Furthermore, we did not need a wood conditioner before using this stain. However, we used a wood sealer after applying it for maximum protection.

Pros:

  • Fast drying time
  • Easy to use
  • Exceptional coverage
  • High-performance stain features.

Cons:

  • Top coat needed
  • Interior use only.

Precautions You Should Take Before Applying White Wood Stain

When applying white wood stain, it's essential to carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions and prepare the wood surface properly by sanding, cleaning, and priming if necessary. It's also a good idea to test the stain on a small, inconspicuous area or a sample piece of wood to ensure you achieve the desired color and finish before applying it to the entire surface.

Image Credits: hgtv.com

Faux-wood stained items are another option if you don't want to work with real wood, such as using white wood stain on laminate or particle board furniture for a similar look. When applying wood stain, always work in a well-ventilated area and wear appropriate protective equipment, such as gloves and goggles. Lastly, consider consulting a professional or experienced DIYer if you are unsure about the application process or if you are working on a valuable or irreplaceable piece of wood.

Where To Apply White Wood Stain

White wood stain can be applied to wood surfaces for a lighter or bleached appearance. Here are some common applications for white wood stain:

  1. Interior furniture: White wood stain can be used to update or refresh the look of furniture such as tables, chairs, dressers, and cabinets. It can create a clean, modern, or shabby chic look depending on the type of wood and the application technique used.
  2. Interior trim and moldings: White wood stain can be applied to baseboards, crown moldings, door casings, and other interior trim to add a touch of brightness and contrast against darker walls or flooring.
  3. Interior paneling: White wood stain can lighten the appearance of interior paneling, such as wainscoting, beadboard, or tongue-and-groove paneling. It can give a fresh and airy feel to the room.
  4. Exterior wood surfaces: While less common, white wood stain can also be used on exterior wood surfaces, such as decks, fences, and outdoor furniture. It can protect against UV damage while giving outdoor spaces a unique and eye-catching look.
  5. Decorative crafts: White wood stain can be used in various DIY crafts and home decor projects, such as painting wooden signs, picture frames, or other decorative items to create a distressed or weathered look.

White Stain Options On Different Types Of Wood

1. White Oak

The white oak wood may have a slight yellow tone with dark brown knots, which means the Antique white stain will barely appear. However, of all the wood stain options, the General Finishes Stain applies perfectly to the white oak.

It perfectly settles on the white oak wood grain giving the most natural look and interior stain color. The Simply White stain may darken the tone of the white oak with an added white streak, but it is not very natural looking.

2. Pinewood

Pinewood is a light yellow wood with golden grain lines, and the whitewash can easily cover it, leaving only a little grain showing. We recommend the Simply White and General Finishes wood stain if you want a subtle white stain or wash.

However, the Varathane Antique White Stain will provide the perfect results in just two coats if you want more coverage and the strongest whitewash look.

3. Cypress Wood

Cypress wood is naturally red-toned; a white stain will tone it down. In addition, a whitewash will cover up the wood, allowing only a bit of grain to pop up. The Simply White and Antique White wood stains will slightly tone down the red tones but still allow it to look like a cypress.

4. Birch Plywood

Birch Plywood has a light tan color and a golden grain wood finish. A whitewash may make the wood appear white with a subtle grain. The Birch Plywood will only add a little bit of white filter. None of the stains look terrible; it is a matter of preference.

5. Standard 2×4 Wood

A standard 2×4 wood is a light wood with dark knots. A whitewash will give it a white look, making the knots darker. Simple White and Antique white will give subtle whites that tone down the yellowness. However, if you're looking for full coverage, consider using paint.

White Stain Vs. White Paint

If you want to whitewash on paint, then the whitewash paint method is preferred because using a stain over paint or any other surface with a sealant might not work well because it won't be able to enter the wood.

On the other hand, to whitewash stained wood without a sealant, you can use a white stain or white paint. However, with any method you choose, the results will be different depending on the base stain color, which means you should always test it out before.

Image Credits: bhg.com

Here are some reasons or instances why you should apply white stains instead of white paint;

  • Ease of use- The prepared white stains do not require advanced tinting or mixing, making it an easier option.
  • Improve the wood's grain- When working with a more expensive wood like white oak, you can use the white stain to improve the wood's grain. Unfortunately, Whitewash paint doesn't benefit wood grain enhancement as much as a white stain.

The major benefit of white paint is that you can make it thicker and increase the opaqueness of the finish. This is because you can mix less water with the white paint to get a thicker whitewash and improve the opacity of the whitewash.

How To Use A Wood Stain To Whitewash Wood

If you're looking to revive an old piece of furniture or improve the brightness of a room, a white wood stain is a perfect option. It is really easy to apply when compared to paint.

Image Credits: chalkingupsucccess.com

Here are a few steps you need to follow;

  1. Sanding to remove the existing finish on the wood and expose the fresh wood underneath. As much as sanding by hand is possible, you should consider a power sander if you want quicker results.
  2. Apply a wood conditioner to help the stain absorb more evenly and perfectly. However, wood conditioners are slightly less important for white wood stains than dark wood stains.
  3. Apply the stain using a lint-free cloth or a smooth paintbrush toward the wood grain.
  4. Allow it to rest for about five minutes or more, especially for oil-based stains, then use a clean cloth to wipe off the excess.
  5. Leave it to dry before applying the next coat, and repeat the process for all other coats depending on your preference.
  6. Allow it to dry, and seal it once it has completely dried! The sealant will protect the wood and elements such as rain, sun, hot substances, or sticky hands.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) On Best White Wood Stains

1. Can I make whitewash with paint and water?

Yes. Many people make their whitewash by simply watering down the white paint. The major benefit is that you can control how opaque you want your whitewash to be. It is also a great and free option if you already have white paint and only require a bit.

However, mixing is challenging because it is quite tricky to mix correctly. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to color match if you need to touch something much later. Nevertheless, if you're looking for easy-to-use and high-quality white wood stain options, the pre-mixed white wood stains will be useful for your DIY wood furniture project.

2. Can I whitewash a stained wood?

It has become quite popular to whitewash a block of stained wood. For example, you can do a dark and more solid wood stain and, on top of it, add a lighter whitewashed look. This provides an amazing antique look to wood furniture and is worth a try.

3. Can you put wood stain over white paint?

While you can stain or whitewash wood over paint to create a unique look on wood furniture, the results won't be an authentic stained wood grain look. Furthermore, staining painted wood is much more difficult than staining a block of raw wood. This is why striping off all the paint before applying the stain or whitewash is recommended.

4. Can you use a white stain on pinewood?

A whitewash wood stain will apply perfectly on pine wood. Find the best whitewash wood stain and apply it using a brush. The whitewash brightens the wood finish or surface without concealing the grain pattern.

However, if you're looking for a more opaque look, applying white paint may help increase the room's brightness. The downside is that it may block and hide the natural grain pattern of the wood.

5. What can you do if you stain wood too dark?

If the wood stains that contain lacquer, varnish, or a water-based binder make the wood too dark, then they are several ways you can try to remove the excess color. For example, you can get the best thinner for the stain, a lacquer thinner, or acetone to remove some color. However, the only best option is to remove some color because these stains are much more difficult to lighten than dye stains.

6. What is the best white wood stain?

The "best" white wood stain can vary depending on personal preference, the type of wood you are staining, and the specific application you have in mind. Our review selects the General Finishes Oil-Based Whitewash Wood Stain: It is an oil-based stain that is easy to use and provides a consistent, smooth white finish. It is ideal for furniture and other indoor woodworking projects.

7. What is a good white stain?

A good white stain should be opaque, durable, adhesive, easy to apply, versatile, environmentally friendly, and aesthetically appealing. It should meet the specific requirements of the intended application and provide a high-quality, long-lasting finish. Overall, a good white stain should provide excellent performance and enhance the appearance of the surface on which it is applied. So, it is important to carefully select a white stain that meets these essential qualities for the best results.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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