How to stain over Polyurethane?

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We all want to have shiny furniture or shiny floors to give our home a beautiful look. But if the color of the wood projects looks dull, then there is no point in making them look glossy.

So you must use both stain and polyurethane to make them look new and eye-catchy. Stains not only provide a more appealing color but also preserves the grain of the wood. The lighter the color will be, the woodgrains will be more visible.

But the question is how to stain over polyurethane and if you are allowed to do it or not. In this article, we’ll discuss if you can stain over polyurethane and what you need to to complete the process.

Can you stain over polyurethane
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Can you stain over polyurethane?

Yes, you can stain over polyurethane, but the result you will get probably will not be the one you actually want. It will only look like a careless coating of sticky or greasy substance. You will also need to put a new layer of polyurethane over the satin. Otherwise, satin will rub off from the surface.

However, it’s not much suitable to apply stain over polyurethane, but still, you can do it if it’s a gel stain. You can use the gel stain over the polyurethane as a non-transparent paint. Gel stain will work best if you are okay with changing the color of the surface without stripping. 

What will you need to stain over polyurethane?

So if you really need to apply stain over polyurethane, you must use gel stain to get better results than other stains. But you should be aware of the fact that the color of your wood surface will change after applying stain. However, to perfectly apply the gel stain on the surface, you must have the following elements:

  • denatured alcohol in the water
  • cotton pad or cotton cloth
  • 400-grit sandpaper
  • dampened rag 
  • soft cloth
  • gel stain
  • polyurethane

How to stain over Polyurethane? (Step by step guide)

Applying stain over polyurethane won’t be a hard task if you have the right tools and compatible products. The process is almost similar to applying polyurethane on wood surfaces. If you can successfully apply polyurethane on your DIY project, then we are sure you can successfully apply gel stain as well. 

Here is the step-by-step guide of staining over polyurethane easily:

Step 1: Clean the area first

If you want a beautiful surface with nice finishing of stain, then you must properly clean the area first. Cleaning is like a supreme step of applying stain, even for applying polyurethane. Make a solution for cleaning the area by mixing denatured alcohol in the water. Then dip a cotton pad or cotton cloth in the mixture and scrub the area where you want to apply stain.

 It will remove all the dirt, dust, debris, grime, or other containment from the wood. Once you are done cleaning, you will need to give the surface 2 hours to dry properly before you move on to the next step. 

Step 2: Gently sand the area

Now you need to gently sand the area to make the surface even so that you can easily apply stain on the area. Besides, it will also allow the satin to stick to the wood project effortlessly. Use 400-grit sandpaper to lightly sand down the surface. After you are done sanding, wipe out all the residue using a rag, then let the surface dry completely.

Step 3: Apply Stain

Now it’s time to apply the stain on the wood surface, and it would be better if you use a soft cloth to apply it. Do not leave the cloth open while wiping it with gel; fold the cloth, and it will help you to get even coats. While applying the gel, do not rush the process; make sure you make enough to complete the process smoothly. 

Step 4: Drying time

The next step is to let the gel stain dry on the surface for 24 hours. Well, you may think that the process is becoming lengthy but if you want it to be more durable, leave the gel to dry for 48 hours. In fact, it would be the best. However, you need to apply a new coat of the stain if the previous coating is not thick enough. Next, apply a new layer of polyurethane to finish the process of applying stain over polyurethane.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)

Do you have to remove polyurethane before staining?

There are quite a few polyurethane and stains that blend nicely. So you can apply those stains over the old finishes of polyurethane; also, they will not soak in. That’s why you can apply stains without sanding off polyurethane from the surface

How long after staining can I polyurethane?

To get the best result, you must let the stain dry at least for 24 hours before you apply the new coat of polyurethane. If you are cautious and want more durability of the stain, then we would suggest you leave the stain on the surface for around 48-72 hours. 

Why is my stain coming off when applying polyurethane?

Basically, stains are coming with a little amount of varnish with the liquid. And this varnish helps the wood to hold the pigmentation of the color. And when you harshly apply the coatings of polyurethane, it can force out the pigment. That’s what comes off when applying polyurethane. If you use gel stain and allow the surface to dry for a longer time, then you won’t face this particular problem while applying polyurethane. 


So the procedure of staining over polyurethane is given in the above discussion. Generally, the process of applying stain over polyurethane is quite similar to the application process of polyurethane. 

So a person who knows the skills of applying polyurethane can easily apply the stain over it. However, you must be careful while choosing the items for the application. We have listed the items that you should have to get a satisfactory result of the process.

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