Oil vs. Water-Based Wood Stains, Dyes, and Sealers


Staining, sealing, and dying are necessary when you want to change the natural look of your lumber or wish to get a uniform color, especially if different specialty woods will be used. Before you begin your wood finishing project, you will need to determine whether an oil-based or water-based product is right for you.

To determine which type of product is appropriate for your woodworking project, explore the difference between oil and water-based wood finishing products:

  • Oil-Based Finishes

While water-based finishes are typically glossier, oil-based stains, dyes, and sealers are said to give treated wood more depth and color. Because oil-based products are absorbed deep into the wood, the wood grain will be much more accentuated than if it had been treated with a water-based solution. An oil-based finish will also help the specialty wood absorb moisture, which will keep the wood from drying out and cracking over time. Though oil-based stains take longer to dry than water-based alternatives, the slower drying time may allow you to achieve a more uniform finish on the wood’s surface.

  •  Water-Based Finishes

One of the biggest differences between water-based finishes and oil-based finishes is the discrepancy in drying time. Water-based stains, dyes, and sealers dry much more quickly on hardwood surfaces. In fact, some water-based products will be dry to the touch in just one hour. Water-based products are also generally considered to be more durable than oil-based alternatives. Wood treated with a water-based stain, dye, or sealant typically tends to have a greater reflection and shine than wood treated with oil-based products.

For more information, contact Southern Lumber. In addition to our extensive inventory of specialty woods, fencing products, and interior and exterior doors, we offer a terrific selection of stains and finishes from today’s leading manufacturers. If you have any questions, contact us online or call (408) 297-9663.

Stay in touch

Value Statements: