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Gel Stains – Why Many Prefer Them Over Water Based Ones

1It used to be when looking for a stain, you just went to the hardware store, and grabbed the color that was the closest to what you are looking for and just accept it, it is what it is. Today though, the choices are many, so you can pretty much get exactly what you are looking for.

But with all of the choices, it can actually have an opposite effect. You may have no idea what to use. For example, when it comes to stains, there are gel stains and liquid stains. So how do you know when to use gel or the liquid? What is the difference between the two?

First, just as the name sounds, the gel stain is a considerable amount thicker than the liquid. So it isn’t near as messy, it won’t run all over the work piece or even drip to the floor. Certain gel stains are thicker than others, depending on the brand. Some may be thick as a malt, and others only as thick as a milkshake.

You don’t have to continuously stir the gel stains like you would with liquid stains. This means that your color will be more consistent throughout because they will be thicker and so the color pigment will stay suspended, not settling to the bottom.

Sometimes when using the liquid stains, there are light and dark blotches of it on the wood. Gel stains end up producing a color that is more uniform. Because of there being less solvent in a gel stain, it won’t penetrate into the wood as deeply, making it less splotchy.

Applying a gel stain isn’t complicated. Some like to use a foam brush. Others a rag. Some will just squeeze it out onto the wood. Whatever applicator used, the gel will end up flowing across the wood.

Even though the stain doesn’t penetrate as deep into the wood, don’t let it fool you. You aren’t going to have a ton of time to work the stain in. You will end up with lap marks if you wait too long on one place, just like with liquid stain.

Once you cover the surface, a clean rag can be used to wipe away the excess stain. If you wipe in the same direction the grain is going until the wood is almost dry, this will prevent streaking. If you want to make sure there aren’t any lap marks when you have a large area to cover, you can divide it into sections that are small, keeping an edge that is wet between every section.

This doesn’t always work, and if it doesn’t you can get a damp rag dipped in mineral spirits, and apply more stain working the sections together. If the stain is water based, then you don’t have to use mineral spirits, just water.


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Updated: December 11, 2014 — 10:47 pm
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