Why Is Wood Stain Sticky & How to Fix?

Applying that durable reddish-brown stain beautifully to your wooden furniture can be so pleasing until you observe that the stain is sticky and is not drying. Unfortunately, you don’t know how you are going to fix it. Quickly look through this article to fix that problemalso learn how to avoid it you are nextu are staining.

Here’s what I learned:

How to Fix Sticky Wood Stain?

Too much stain, high temperature and humidity make the wood stain take longer to dry and become sticky. You can use mineral spirits to degrade excess sticky wood stain, making them easier to remove. Remembermustve to wait for it to dry completely before starting the next step.

You will learn why your wood stain gets tacky, how long you need to wait before the tacky stain dries, and how to use the wood stain correctly to avoid it getting sticky.

Let’s dive in deeper.

Causes of Sticky Wood stain

Stains don’t just get tacky all of a sudden. There is always a reason behind it. The major reasons are

Too Much Stain

Sometimes, while staining, you think putting a lot of wood stain on your wood surface will enable many stains to penetrate. That might not be true. When there is too much stain on the wooden surface, the wood pores will only absorb that which they can absorb within a given time.

Then the joint layers of the unabsorbed stains get sticky after the stain solvent evaporates. The more the excess wood stain, the more the sticky layers of unabsorbed stains.

High or low temperature

Another major factor that causes tacky stain is temperature.

When a stained surface is under a high temperature like direct sunlight, the drying time of the stain is greatly reduced. Hence, the applied stain is quickly absorbed, leaving no time to wipe off excess stain. Due to this, the solvent in the excess stain gets evaporated quickly and becomes sticky.

Likewise, in cold weather, there is not enough heat in the atmosphere to evaporate the water solvent in water-based stains and cure the oil in oil-based stains, which take longer to dry. As a result, the applied wood stain becomes sticky, sometimes dripping and unevenly absorbed.

Related Post >> Can You Stain Wood In Cold Weather?- Best Temperature For Staining Wood

High Humidity

Similarly, when the water vapor in the air is too much in the staining area, the stain solvent evaporates slowly. Hence, the stain takes a longer time to dry and as it eventually dries, it might become sticky.

This is because the high moisture content in the air makes it hard for the solvent to be readily reduced thereby causing stickiness.

Read More >> How Does Humidity Affect Wood Staining?

Types of Stain Effect on Wood Stain Sticky

There are different types of wood stain. However, the three major forms are

  • Water-based wood stain,
  • Oil-based wood stain
  • Gel stain

Each of these stains is made up of different solvents hence, they exhibit different effects when they get sticky.

Water-based Stain

These are stains whose solvent or vehicle is water. These types of stains penetrate wood fibers deeply, but they will not color the wood quickly. Hence, most times when using these stains you usually need more coats.

 If these coats are not properly applied, the water solvent evaporates, leaving behind pigment residues that become sticky or messy.

Oil-based Stain

For oil stain, the driving solvent is usually oil, sometimes linseed oil. Therefore, it is usually thicker than the water-based stain. As a result, it takes time to deeply penetrate the wood fibers, but it adds a deep hue of color to the wood.

Due to its somewhat thick texture and extended drying time, a few excess stain can cause the oil-based stain to become sticky.

Gel Stain

These types of stains are thicker and sit on the top wood surface. Hence, they have more tendency to go sticky quickly under unfavorable conditions.

Will Tacky Stain Eventually Dry?

Yes, it will, but it’s going to take a lot of hours, even days to completely dry. However, if you use home stain drying equipment like a hairdryer at a high temperature, the stains might dry quickly. However, the outcome of dried excess stain on your wooden furniture is a gross site.

This is because the excess stain get muddled up on the wood surface and as they dry, they look caked and rough. The best thing to do is fix the sticky stains before they completely dry.

Your sticky deck will eventually dry depending on the atmospheric temperature, but it will take a very long time. Therefore, instead of waiting for days for the sticky stains to dry, why not fix the problem once and for all to allow your stained deck dry properly?

Take 24 Hours to Stop Touch Tacky

It depends on the amount of dry heat it is exposed to. If exposed to a very high temperature, the tacky stain could dry in about 3 hours or less. But the staining result will not be pleasant to the eye.

On the other hand, if the tacky stain are not exposed to any form of applied heat, they could take up to 24 hours or more for the tacky stain to dry and not sticky to the touch.

However, when you get to know the cause of the tacky stain, and you fix it, your stained surface gets dried at the manufacturer’s recommended time, and you also achieve a beautiful staining result.

Take 72 Hours to Completely Dry

Generally, wood stain can be completely dry within 72 hours.

When it comes to wood stain drying time, a lot of factors are involved. Factors like the type of stain, stain formulation, number of coats, and atmospheric conditions, among others.

Based on their type of stains, gel stains take a long period to dry completely compared to oil- and water-based stains.

Also, while a particular oil-based stain product will get completely dried in 12 hour, another might take 24 hours or more. Similarly, the number of coats you apply to your wooden furniture also determines the drying time. If one coat of a stain gets dry in 12 hours, an additional coat means additional drying time.

Read More >> How Long Does Stain Take To Dry Completely On Wood?

How to Fix Sticky Wood Stain?

Fixing sticky wood stain that is not properly dried might seem hard, but contrariwise, it is very easy. There are two ways you can go about it. However, the two ways use the same techniques. The methods involve using a stain dissolver, a paint thinner, and your wood stain.

Using Stain Pigment Dissolver

The common one to use is mineral spirits. Apply the needed amount of this substance to the tacky stain. Wait for about 8 -10 minutes. The applied mineral spirit works as a solvent to dissolve the sticky stains. Once you see the tacky stain dissolved in the mineral spirits, use a rag to wipe them all off. And you have successfully removed the tacky stain.

Using Your Wood Stain

You can also dissolve the tacky stain with the remaining stain in the container if the mineral spirits is not within your reach. Stir the stain very well and then use a brush to apply the required amount needed to dissolve the soft sticky excess stain.

Let the tacky stain dissolve for about 4 – 6 minutes. Then wipe them off with a rag and that’s all. If it is a large wooden surface, work on small areas per time.

Do not wipe off excess sticky wood stains with a wet rag

When you use a damp rag to wipe off excess sticky stain, the stains will look gruff since they are not dissolved.

If you do, you won’t like the outcome so it is better you don’t.

Also, instead of completely removing the sticky stains, they will spread over the surface as you wipe it with a damp rag.

However, you might achieve a little result for a water-based stain with water as its solvent. But, the best thing to do is to follow either of the two methods explained above.

How to Remove Sticky Stain from Wood Furniture, Floors?

Since the floor is a wooden surface, you can use the methods highlighted above. However, seeing that wood floors have a large surface, applying wood stain to the sticky wood stain on them might not be the best idea. It’s just like wasting wood stain.

Therefore, mineral spirits are the best way to get rid of tacky stain on a wood floor. You can decide to pour the spirits into a can and use a thick cloth to apply it to the floor surface, working on small segments per time.

 Also, you can make use of a mop to easily apply the mineral spirits, leave for a few minutes, then wipe off the excess stains with a lint-free cloth.

How to Use Wood Stain Correctly to Avoid Sticky?

Select The Right Type of Stain

The first thing to do to prevent sticky stains is to choose the right type of stain for your woodworking project. For instance, If you will be working on an exterior large surface area, you should select an oil-based stain.

The reason is that oil-based stain colors up the wood quickly and it slowly dries hence, you can wipe off excess stains before they get sticky.

Apply A Thin Layer if You Can

Furthermore, ensure you apply a thin layer of coats, especially the first coat, and let it dry before you apply another thin coat. Using a thin layer of coats enables the applied stain to get dry quickly.

 Hence, it leaves no room for excess stains that could become tacky. The thick application of stains quickly brings about excess stains that can become sticky.

Waiting for Enough Time

Too short waiting time is another factor that can make your stain becomes sticky. A thin coat of stain requires enough time to dry before applying another coat and a thick coat.

When you are in a haste, and you do not wait enough time for a coat of stain to dry before applying another, you will end up with sticky stains.

Complete Ventilation

Dry air is required for drying applied wood stain. This is why the moisture in the air is high, and stains will not get dried properly. Also, when the temperature is too high, the applied stain might become sticky.

Therefore, the environment where the stained surface is should be properly ventilated so that enough dry air can have access to the applied stain and dry it.

Proper Temperature & Humidity

Too high or low temperature and high humidity are part of the major factors that cause the stain to get sticky when applied. Hence, you should ensure that your work area is not directly under the sunlight.

Also, the atmospheric vapor should not be high. If the water vapor in the air is high in your staining area, you can use a dehumidifier to regulate it to avoid sticky stains.

Tips For Avoiding Wood Stain Sticky

There is a common saying that prevention is better than cure. It is less disturbing and less stressful to avoid tacky stain than fix the problem of tacky stain.

To avoid it, you should first ensure cross ventilation in your workstationEnough dry air pushes out the moist air in the atmosphere and quickens drying.

If there is not enough ventilation, you should use exhaust fans. Apart from the good ventilation properly dries up your stained surface, it also prevents the circulation of toxic fumes emanating from some wood stain.

After this, before starting to stain, wipe off the wood surface with mineral spirits. This helps to completely remove all forms of dirt that could hinder the stain from being soaked into the wood surface.

Lastly, do not leave excess stains for more than 15 minutes, always wipe them off.


Can you put polyurethane over the tacky stain?

Applying polyurethane over tacky stain is a waste of staining time, effort, and money. This is because the sticky stain pigment on the wood surface will not let the polyurethane adhere to the wood surface. Hence, the polyurethane will not dry and will mess up the stained surface altogether.

How long does it take for the stain to dry between layers?

The time duration for the stain to dry between coats depend on the stain product. Some manufacturers’ recommended time for their stains to dry is 1hour while some are 2-3 hours or even 4 – 6hours. Hence, follow the stipulated recommended time to get a maximum staining result.

What type of stain dries fastest?

Traditionally, water-based stains are known to be fast drying because water is easily evaporated compared to other solvents. However, due to advanced scientific knowledge, some oil-based stains are now quick-drying compared. Therefore, always check the stain product label to know whether it is fast drying.

Which stain dries more slowly?

In the world of staining, gel stains are the slowest drying stains. However, this might not be totally true. This is because some brands’ gel stains are faster drying than the water-based stains of other brands due to differences in chemical formulations.

Why is my Minwax stain sticky?

The most probable reason your Minwax stain is sticky is that you did not wipe off the excess stains. Indeed, Minwax always recommends you leave the excess stains to get a deeper or rich color. However, do not let it exceed 15 minutes. Wipe it off to prevent sticky stains.

Final Words

I hope this information has given you more insight into staining techniques, especially when it comes to fixing sticky stains. Hence, instead of abandoning that DIY staining project, fix it with ease and continue the wood finishing process.

However, remember to stain in an area with the right temperature. The most suitable temperature is between 67°F and 70°F. Also, the humidity levels should be between the percentage of 30 to 60When you consider all this, and everything explained so far, the problem of sticky stains is avoided.

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