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How To Stain Wood With Tea

How To Make Homemade Wood Stain From Walnut Hulls

How to stain wood with coffee and tea

Black walnut hulls, soaked for several days, create a beautiful dark wood stain. To get the best results, its helpful if you grind the walnut shells into a powder with a study food processor or other chopper. Boil the water and then add the walnut shells and let the mixture steep. Strain the mixture before you apply it to the unfinished wood.

Tea Stains Vs Coffee Stains

You guessed it tea is another all natural, eco-friendly resource for wood staining. Black tea blends are the most commonly recommended for their richness in color. Unlike coffee, different types of tea will result in different colored stains. For example, a standard black tea powder or other black teas like earl grey or a royal english will leave dark gray and black impressions on wood. While, chai and thai teas will leave more red and orange accents.

Consider The Age And Type Of Wood

Remember that all wood absorbs stain differently and those differences mean that they will look different when treated with even the same wood stain colors.

Soft wood like pine absorbs more compared to hard woods. So, it will get darker from stains, usually.

Older wood is dryer than new wood and so it absorbs more stain, so it can get darker, too.

Just keep these things in mind when sampling your stains no 2 boards take stain the exact same way!

For best results, always wipe up excess stain after it has sat for 30 minutes or so. Pooling will lead to unevenness in the finish!

Its super important to test all stains but especially homemade stains on a piece of scrap wood or inconspicuous part of your build first to be sure you love the color.

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How To Use Natural Wood Stains

Natural wood stains can be brushed directly onto your wood, in the direction of the grain.

I like to use a foam paint brush on most of our wood projects and wood furniture.

Most natural wood stain colors develop slowly compared to store-bought wood stains, so you will need to let them sit or do multiple coats.

However, dont let the stain pool on the wood. This can lead to splotchiness. If there are pools or puddles on the wood after 15 minutes of sitting, wipe them away with a lint-free cloth.

Be sure to give them some dry time at least 24 hours. Some natural stains like these vinegars REALLY change color as they dry!

You can then finish your wood with the sealant or topcoat of your choice. Remember that most sealants slightly darken wood finish colors!

If your piece is going into direct sunlight, know that the color will fade over time without a protective top coat!

Does Wood Stain Get Darker Over Time


Wood stain does get darker over time and this is primarily caused by an accumulation of dirt and oily stains on the wood stain finish. Some wood stain colors also get darker over time due to the exposure to heat and water exposure. Wood stains that were applied on busy surfaces like countertops and floors tend to get darker quicker since these surfaces are frequently used.

Regardless of the type of wood stain that you apply, one thing that is sure to happen over time is that the wood stain will change color most times, the wood stain turns darker. The main reason for this darker appearance is filth. Over time, your wood stain will be exposed to dust, oily stains, dirty finger and palm prints, food and drink spills, and the like. All of these will leave filthy residue on the wood stain that will make it appear darker than it is.

Heat also makes wood stains darker. When you install a wood stain on a wooden surface close to a heat source, the wood stain will turn darker due to the heat. Wood stains have a simple formula that responds to temperature changes very quickly causing the heat to change the color of the wood stain. Long-term water exposure can also cause the wood stain to turn darker over time.

To prevent your wood stain from getting darker quickly, ensure to seal the wood stain finish with a clear top coat like polyurethane.

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Add More Pigment To The Stain

While the common practice is to add a compatible thinner to dilute a wood stain, you can add the pigment to increase the concentration of colorant in the solvent .

If you want to make your wood stain darker, you will need more colorant particles per unit amount of the stain.

In other words, you will be increasing the pigment-to-vehicle ratio. The higher this ratio, the darker the tinting on the wood.

If you are using an oil-based stain, add some oil-based pigment of your choice. If you are using a-based stain, add a universal color pigment to it.

Make sure to test the stain on scrap wood

You will need to eyeball the measurements. So we recommend applying the product on a small scrap wood resembling the piece you wish to stain.

Let it dry completely and check if you are happy with the color or prefer to increase the pigment and darken it. Once you achieve your desired color intensity, you can then proceed to your main wood project.

Testing the product on scrap wood is an essential part of any experiment do not skip it. Unless you are working on a dense hardwood that allows only one coat of wood stain, you can apply a second coat after the first has dried.

As already mentioned, recoating produces a darker coloring despite wiping off the excess stain in each application.

Raise The Wood Grain With Water Before Staining

You are aware, you should avoid pouring water on unsealed wood as it tends to raise the wood grain. In this case, that is the outcome you want. So, apply some water to your piece of wood to get it wet before staining.

The wetness will raise the grain, making it dry to a rougher texture- the kind of surface you need. The rough surface will mean more room to accommodate the colorant and provide a darker stain.

You can also use a water-based stain to make this procedure shorter. You will need to apply the first coat of water-based stain using a lint-free rag, wipe off the excess, and let it dry.

Once the wood stain has cured, come back and apply another coat of the same stain over the first coat. Recoating the wood surface with the same stain will help deepen the color, especially if the stain is dark-colored.

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Make New Wood Look Old And Grey

In order to get the best aging effect, the iron acetate has to interact with the tannins in wood to oxidize and create an aged effect. To intensify this effect, I added a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide to the vinegar/steel wool mixture. This created instant oxidation and helped get the color I was looking for.

I also brewed a really strong mixture of tea and coffee and even sacrificed a little red wine. This mixture is rich in tannins and was the pre-treatment before the iron acetate stain.

The result was the perfect ashy grey aged look I was looking for. The best part? I used natural ingredients I already had around the house and it cost virtually nothing to do!

Dirty Wipe The Excess Stain

DIY Tea Wood Stain Booster!

Wiping the excess stain is essential to creating an evenly stained wood. But you can avoid wiping too deeply and leave the wood surface a bit damp with the wood stain.

This way, the wood will cure to a darker color even though it may take longer. You may have to practice this on a piece of scrap wood in search of the right amount of wood stain to leave on the wood before starting on your main project.

Caveat: doing a dirty wipe may muddy the wood, keeping the stained wood surface from looking even-colored. You may also risk leaving the coat too thick, resulting in poor bonding and prolonged drying time.

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The Science Behind These Effective Wood Stains

The iron dissolves in the vinegar and forms a soluble substance . When this solution is applied to wood, the iron acetate reacts with the natural tannins in the wood, producing various shades of brown, grey and black.

As you can see, it is a chemical reaction, which is durable indoors and outdoors, vs when you hear coffee stain, tea stain or beet juice stain on wood, those are in fact natural dyes that would fade away quickly in sunlight.

Applying The Different Solutions To The Wood

I made seven different test swatches:

  • Untreated Birch Plywood: The swatch in the top row is the original untreated birch.
  • Black Tea: I applied two coats of black tea. The color change is very subtle. It made the wood slightly darker and gave it a bit of an orange/yellow tint.
  • Walnut: To the third swatch applied two coats of the walnut husks solution. The result is a medium brown color.
  • Iron Solution: The vinegar/iron solution directly applied to the untreated wood.
  • Black Tea and Iron Solution: I first applied two coats of black tea and then the iron solution. Before finishing with a coat of the tea I waited until most of the surface moisture was absorbed into the wood.
  • Walnut and Iron Solution: The same procedure as described above, only with the walnut solution instead of the tea.
  • Black Tea, Walnut and Iron Solution: The last swatch is a mixture of all three solutions. I started with a coat of black tea. After this dried, I added a coat of walnut followed by the iron solution. After the application of the iron solution, I finished with black tea.
  • 1. Untreated Birch, 2. Black Tea, 3. Walnut, 4. Iron Solution, 5. Black Tea and Iron Solution, 6. Walnut and Iron Solution, 7. Black Tea, Walnut and Iron Solution

    At this step, all the pieces look pretty dull but we are not done yet. I also noticed that the reaction of the tannins and the iron takes more than a few minutes and at the time I took the photo the swatches in the last row had not reached their final darkness.

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    Can You Age Wood With Tea

    Place a steel wool pad into a mason jar and add about 1/4 cup of used coffee grounds and about 1 to 2 cups of vinegar. Close the container, shake the mixture, and then let it stew overnight. Open the container and gently mix the stain. Using gloves, remove the steel wool and apply the stain to the project.

    All Natural Wood Stains


    Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. This means that if you purchase from one of these links I will receive a small commission, but rest assured you wont pay any more for the product.

    I want to start by saying that every type of wood will stain differently. If you are serious about using one of these methods, you always need to test the stain first to make sure you get the desired result.

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    Apply A Glaze After The Stain And Sealer

    One way to achieve a darker wood color is to substitute a gel stain or glaze for the liquid stain. Gel stains and glazes tend to contain a higher ratio of pigment to vehicle.

    A single application should pack the wood with enough pigment to darken the color. Still, you can use glaze to refinish your wood alongside your regular oil-based or water-based stain and sealer.

    The glaze will still work to darken the color. Glaze is a thickened oil-based or water-based stain. So you want to check and ensure you are using oil-based glaze with oil-based stain and water-based glaze alongside a water-based stain.

    Its thick consistency makes it easier to control. You can leave it on the surface a little longer to darken it before wiping off the excess. Ensure you wipe before it dries.

    To apply the glaze, spray or brush it on the wood and spread it out into a thin film. You may have to practice first on a piece of scrap wood to get the hang of it.

    Notice: Glazes are heavily pigmented expect it to muddy the wood a bit.

    Another Way To Tea Stain Fabric

    To tea stain fabric, you will need:

    • fabric
    • wooden spoon or other stirring implement
    • vinegar

    First, brew a pot of hot water and allow the tea bags to steep for several minutes. Then, remove the tea bags and add your fabric to the mixture. Allow the fabric to soak for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The longer you soak the fabric, the darker the color will be.

    After soaking, remove the fabric from the mixture and rinse it in cold water. You can also add a tablespoon of vinegar to the rinse water for extra brightness. Once the fabric is rinsed, allow it to air dry. And thats it! Your tea stained fabric is now ready to use.

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    How Do You Stain Wood Toys With Tea

    Tea is a great wood stain option for kids wooden toys. It is non-toxic which makes it great for mouth-y toddlers.

    I love that tea adds a slight warm tone, making it a great way to add some diversity to your wooden dolls.

    To do this, I followed this same process but used a ziplock bag.

    Once your tea is cool, pour it into a ziplock bag. Add your wooden toys to the bag and seal it.

    Allow to sit for five minutes, shaking the bag every minute or so to be sure you get even coverage.

    I pulled dolls out every 5 minutes to get slightly darker stain colors.

    Allow to dry. I prefer to seal with a spray sealant that is also non-toxic.

    Dilute The Basic Diy Wood Stains With Water

    tea staining

    Recipe 6: When we dilute the stains #1 through #4 with water, it produces a lighter color, much like naturally aged wood.

    Now lets check out all the DIY wood stains and variations in the above photo.

    1. Stain #1 #4 applied on pecan or walnut wood. This type of wood has high concentrations of tannins, so all the stains come out quite dark. No need for tea or coffee!

    2. white vinegar and steel wool stain on pine: a rich brown color

    3. balsamic vinegar and steel wool stain on pine: a warm gray with a gold tone

    4. white vinegar and rusty nails stain on pine: a brown color lighter than the one with steel wool, i think its because steel wool dissolves faster, so the iron is more concentrated

    5. apple cider vinegar and steel wool stain on pine: also a warm gray similar to the balsamic vinegar, more silvery gray

    6. & 7. coffee and the vinegar metal stains: all the different vinegar and metal solutions produced a dark, almost black color because of the coffee

    8. & 9. 50% white vinegar and steel wool stain with 50% water: both types of wood has the diluted stains on the right, and natural wood in the middle. The rich brown stain became a gray color stain after being diluted with equal amount of water.

    So far we have stains in all shades of browns and grays. What about colors?

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    How To Apply The Wood Finish

    Here, we recommend an easier process spraying the surface with a layer of polyurethane. The spray version is better since it will keep you from wiping away any wood stain with the brush while applying it.

    My favorite option is the MinWax fast-drying polyurethane wood finish. Its fast-drying formulation allows you to finish the job much quicker.

    Start by shaking the can before spraying it. Next, spray a thin coat and let it dry completely for about 2 hours before applying another coat.

    Two to three coats should be sufficient to seal the furniture.

    Diy Tips To Apply Natural Wood Stain

    As with any untried stain, start with a piece of scrap wood. Use the same type of wood youll be staining, as stains can look dramatically different on different wood species. Not only will testing a scrap piece of wood allow you to see if you like the stain, but youll have the opportunity to apply several coats to see how the shade changes and deepens.

    Before applying the test coat, be sure to sand the scrap wood. Sanding the wood will remove any oxidation from the surface grain that might cause a different absorption of the stain resulting in a color variation.

    There are a number of ways to apply the stain to the wood surface. There are several application techniques that impact the final stain color.

    Brushing the stain on the wood grain will deposit a large volume of stain and provide a deepest color. For more control, you can also apply the stain with a rag .

    Another factor that determines the appearance of the finished stain is the time it has to soak in. If you brush on the stain and walk away, the stain will dry on the wood pretty quickly and be at its darkest. If you brush it on and wipe the excess off quickly, the stain will be lighter. You should practice your stain application technique on scrap wood just as you used the scrap to test stain colors.

    Finally, keep track of how many applications it takes to get your desired result.

    For stains that may be prone to fading, consider using a clear sealant on top of your stain.

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