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Should You Sand Wood After Staining? The Solution!

Sanding is crucial in woodworking since it determines the quality of the final product. Recently, I’ve been hearing the opposite of what I do—that sanding should be done after staining—so I looked into it. My research into whether or not you need to sand wood after staining is included below.

Sanding wood after staining it removes some of the stain while smoothing out the wood grain, thus it’s best to sand the wood BEFORE staining it. To smooth out the grain or colour of stained wood, sanding is an option, but the wood will need to be refinished afterward.

Before, during, and after the staining process, you will learn everything you need to know to get a smooth finish on wood. The benefits and drawbacks of sanding wood after staining, as well as the sandpaper grit recommended for such a project, will also be covered. Okay, so let’s begin!

Staining wood and then sanding it
Staining followed with sanding

How Do You Smooth Wood After Staining?

If the roughness of the wood is contained inside the stain layer, it can be removed by wiping away the excess stain. A rag will suffice to accomplish this. The wood should be sanded and refinished if the grain is elevated, as this will result in a smoother surface and a more uniform application of stain.

If you stain wood, can you still use wood glue? If it is possible, I will explain it here.

To determine which approach is best, one must be aware of the extent of the wood’s irregularities. You can feel the bumps wherever on the floor or ceiling if the unevenness is due to the wood’s texture, which is the case in more than 90% of situations.

jae
@jaemmmmme
I picked up this broken desk off the side of the road and repaired it by replacing 7 pieces of wood with new wood; now all that’s left to do is sand it down and apply a coat of stain.
(First two pictures are from before, and the last two are from after) https://t.co/RXUGqPIVH8
10:30 PM · Nov 29, 2021
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If the wood is uniform everywhere except for a few locations, though, it’s possible that the stain was put unevenly there and a good scrubbing will smooth things out. Stain should be applied carefully so that it can be evenly distributed while it is still wet.

In order to avoid sanding the stain too soon, please refer to my comprehensive advice on how long does it take stain to dry.

The wood’s smoothness is another indicator that it has been sanded before. After staining, if the wood still seems too rough after sanding, you can apply a polyurethane finish to make it smooth. Even more so, it is obvious that the wood needs to be sanded if you did not sand the surface before staining it. Depending on how long you wait before sanding, this can be an effective method for removing the stain.

You can get an even better result after applying stain by following the advice in this video.

How Long Should I Wait to Sand After Staining?

Within 10 minutes of applying stain, you can lightly sand the wood. When staining in multiple stages, this is essential for ensuring that each tiny layer of stain gets to equally coat a perfectly smooth surface. Wait 5 minutes, preferably until the wood is dry to the touch.

The staining process is finished after the wood has taken on the desired hue. Coating the wood in Polyurethane will make it shiny and smooth if you are still unhappy with its uneven or lumpy texture. As an alternative, you might read this article about lightening wood stain.

Some people prefer a matte finish than a high gloss, and products like Minwax Wipe-On Poly are ideal for this purpose.

Minwax Wipe-On Poly is the best general-purpose finish, in my opinion.

There is hardly much opportunity for error in its application, and it dries quickly. When applying this finish, you get exactly what you see, so feel free to keep layering it on until you achieve the desired effect. Wood can be made water-resistant, if not waterproof, by applying poly. It prevents the surface from being damaged by leaky stains and chemical spills.

There are many uses for Minwax beyond finishing previously sanded wood, therefore I always have some on hand in my workshop. When I want wood furniture or other items to look like they were given a hand-rubber finish, I use satin poly and rub it across the surface firmly.

Zornig, Brendan
@BrendanZornig
A fine sanding ensures a smooth finish. This calls for staining, so let’s get started: https://t.co/zzNHhPbu6M
6:37 AM · May 4, 2022
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In this case, I would use the lightest touch possible, gliding a smooth towel over the wood in order to spread the finish out evenly. Any oil-based poly finish will do, but Minwax happens to be one of the best options. There are over 3,800 ratings and reviews for it, with an average rating of 4.7 stars. Its affordability and user-friendliness both get top marks.

Can You Sand Freshly Stained Wood?

It is possible to sand freshly dyed wood in order to remove the stain or prepare it for a subsequent staining, but the sandpaper will clog up rapidly. Give the surface at least 5-10 minutes to settle before you start smoothing it out with sandpaper.

It’s best to sand wood while it’s still wet from the stain, since this will allow you to gradually level the surface as you work through layered staining.

The fact that it requires so much sandpaper and stain to get the job done is easily its biggest negative. Utilize as many layers and sanding passes as you like if you have a container full of stain and have no plans to use it. You should sand wood until you’re happy with the texture, and only then stain it, unless you want to run out of stain in the middle of your project. Read on for advice on how to get rid of a stain that has been there too long.

When the wood has been sanded to the proper smoothness, the surface’s texture is no longer perceptible to the touch unless the sense of touch is specifically trained to do so. Staining is an expensive process, therefore it makes sense to sand the wood first.

Before applying stain, it is essential to thoroughly sand the surface. Better results are possible with less effort.

Furthermore, it is the standard since it enhances the appearance of wood stain. Stain penetrates deeper into the wood than polish or paint, leaving a more uniform and aesthetically pleasing finish. You can increase the likelihood of the stain penetrating by sanding before applying the stain.

Sanding before staining appears to have no drawbacks, unless you consider poor sanding. Using sandpaper with the incorrect grit can cause the wood’s surface to get grated or scratched. The sanding process is useless if the grit has too little impact on the surface; the end result will be the same as if no sanding had been done at all. Because sanding is an integral part of most finishing and staining procedures, employing the incorrect grit sandpaper can result in additional sanding steps after the wood has been coated.

Sniper, Chase Snyder
@ChaseSnyder12
An earlier time and a later one. Sanding and staining took around 2 hours. Not bad at all. Twitter: https://t.co/h1mbseI9wx #staurdayproject
3:09 AM · Mar 31, 2019
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Should Stained Wood Be Sanded Before Sealing?

If you plan on sealing the stained wood with Polyurethane or a comparable product, you can skip the sanding step. It is recommended to sand, re-stain, and re-seal the wood if the end user finds the surface to be excessively rough.

According to a global survey of customer tastes in wood and wood goods, a clear trend has emerged in favour of polished finishes.

This study successfully combines data from multiple cultures. Consequently, sanding, staining, and finishing wood in that order will provide you a tiny advantage if your endeavour isn’t a hobby ; and you truly mean to sell the outcome.

If or not sanding and restaining the wood before finishing is worthwhile to increase the chances of sale depends on the wood’s current state (whether it is stained and grainy). There’s nothing intrinsically awful about texture. It’s the better option sometimes. A poly coat’s versatility lies in its ability to adhere to both smooth and uneven surfaces. Sanding isn’t necessary before applying a poly coat if the purpose is to increase the surface’s resistance to water and improve its protection.

sleitnick
@sleitnick
Oh well, at least I got all the wood to the appropriate dimensions. (after two unsuccessful tries to trim them down to size) Installing veneer is as simple as sanding, staining, and finishing the wood before nailing or glueing it into place. https://t.co/YjKI9H1FUH
10:34 PM · Dec 4, 2021
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Sanding Between Coats of Oil-Based Stain: Is It Necessary?

Oil-based stains don’t need to be sanded in between applications because you can just wipe away any imperfections with an ordinary rag. When using an oil coat, a rag is all that is needed to get the surface perfectly smooth, as the oil won’t dry for at least five minutes. The use of sandpaper on an oil finish is a common mistake.

If the coat is truly dry, this is less of an issue. The sandpaper, however, is usually rendered useless as a result. To prevent this from happening, do not use sandpaper while applying an oil-based stain. Extra oil-based stains on wood are no match for Nabob Wipers Knit Rags. They are surface-friendly and made of cotton. However, if you already have some cotton material lying around the house, there’s no reason to go out and buy more rags.

https://twitter.com/RadiationGhoul/status/1453024997962706944?

s=20&t=gkjzt2UqyRM1OMiLPiKEkA
Even if you use a fine face towel, the oil-based stain will permanently discolour the towel, rendering it unusable. Because of this, a regular woodworker will benefit greatly from a collection of rags. After all, you wouldn’t throw out your favourite cotton linens and clothing that you wear every day because of an oil stain.

How to Sand Between Stain Coats?

Applying medium-drying stain in thin layers and waiting for each coat to cure to the touch is necessary for sanding between applications using 120-220 grit sandpaper, depending on the desired result.

General Finishes, a market leader in the production of stains, recommends using sandpaper with a 220 grit while working between coats of stain. From my own job experience, I can say that various grit sheets have their uses. Sandpaper with varying degrees of coarseness, from 120 grit to 220 grit, can be used for a variety of purposes.

This is due to the fact that the same stain will dry to varying degrees on various substrates. Most notably, its hold varies according on the surface, making it more difficult to even out in rougher wood and more wiped away from smoother planks. The 120-3000 grit sandpapers included in LANHU’s assortment pack make it a worthwhile purchase. The average rating is 4.6 stars out of 5.

The table below details the various stains available, along with whether or not they require sanding between coats.

Which Sanding Types Are Compatible With Different Coats of Stain?

Comments
Never sand in between applications of oil-based stain. A rag is needed for cleaning the coats.
As long as the layers of water-based stain are thin, you can sand between coats.
It’s not possible to sand between gel coats because each one needs at least 8 hours to dry.
Incorrect! You can’t sand in between lacquer stain coats.
As long as it serves your wood-staining purposes, metal dye can be sanded between coats.
Sanding between layers of water-soluble colour is not possible.
A list of stains that can be removed by sanding
Watch this video to see how to sand in-between the layers:

Sanding in between coats is the key to a flawless finish.
An instructional video demonstrating the process of sanding in between stain applications

Do You Have to Sand Before Staining?

Sanding the surface before staining is usually necessary to provide a rougher surface for the stain to penetrate. The stain’s colour may turn out poorly if the board isn’t sanded first. A stain can be put to unsanded wood if all that is desired is for the colour to show up on the surface.

More than 90% of the available materials on staining, painting, and coating make some reference to priming or sanding. When a material’s top coat is completely waterproof, even a light sanding won’t compromise its efficacy.

Sand is a necessary finishing ingredient under these conditions. If, however, the staining process itself erodes the protective layer or destroys the stain coat’s colour contribution, then it can never be the final phase. Just keep in mind that if you sand after staining and the dye comes out, you shouldn’t sand again. If sanding after finishing will remove the protective coating, then you shouldn’t sand.

Zornig, Brendan
@BrendanZornig
I’d like your feedback on how it looks after the first round of staining and sanding. I was planning on painting a coat of blue over this, but now I’m thinking I like it better without the blue. I like how raw and authentic it seems, like it was pulled from a fire. Thoughts? https://t.co/NOgFvlYm8k
4:29 AM · May 16, 2022
13
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My understanding is that sanding is permitted prior to the application of a clear finish following an oil-based stain. However, an oil-based stain cannot be sanded between its layers. On the other hand, applying multiple applications of a water-based stain and sanding between coats helps the stain to penetrate deeply into the wood. On the other hand, you can’t sand the final coatings. Sanding is the best preparation for applying either stain, so you shouldn’t skip it.

There are benefits and cons to every woodworking action. Sanding, in my experience, can damage wood that is meant to be finished a certain way. It’s possible that you wouldn’t want to risk damaging the wood’s feel by using sandpaper of the wrong grit on a plank, board, or raw lumber that has value due to how it feels.

What Grit Sandpaper for Stained Wood?

For coloured wood, use sandpaper with a 220 grit. If the sanding doesn’t get rid of the bumps, try a finer grit paper or more pressure. In the case of light coats of water-based stain, 120 grit is adequate.

Do I Need to Sand-Stained Wood Before Applying Polyurethane?

Polyurethane adheres strongly with little in the way of prep work, so there’s no need to sand coloured wood before applying it. You can skip sanding before applying a poly finish to dyed wood if the resulting texture meets your expectations.

Final Thoughts

For optimal results, sand before applying stain and again in the middle of applying several thin coats of fast-drying stain. When done last, it risks removing the last coating, reducing its effectiveness.

 

 

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