Should you Sand Between Coats of Stain?

Maybe you are unsure – should you sand between coats of stain or not? You are not alone. There is no absolute yes or no answer to the question. Your answer to the question will depend on your expertise as a DIYer. This article will shed light on the best approach to sanding for the best outcome.

In the home improvement realm, you are allowed to innovate and be unique. Since timber is an outstanding furnishing material, making your piece of furniture stand out is an endless desire. Thus, to make your woods look the best does need coats of stain to enhance their aesthetics.

Should you Sand Between Coats of Stain

What is a coat of stain?

It is the process of staining a wooden material with a non-protective coating of dye or pigment to enhance its appearance. Therefore, coating means to apply a stain on wood without obscuring the grain.

Types of stains

There are different types of stains to use depending on the material and your goal; these include:

  • Oil-based stain. It’s a popular wood stain for most woodworkers. This product requires sanding of the wood before applying. You only need to pre-sand the wood before the first coat. It requires no sand between coats of stain.

For a deeper color, you can apply multiple layers of stain after the previous coat has dried.

  • Water-based stain. When using this stain, you need to sand between coats until the topmost coat. The sanding is to sand down the raised wood grain as the application of the stain impregnates the wood surface.

Thus, sanding in water-based stain helps achieve smoother and more beautiful woodwork.

  • Gel stain. Similar to the oil stain, gel stain requires no sanding between coats of stain. Once you sand while preparing the wood for stain, no further sanding is required.

You only need one coat of stain for the gel resin because its thickness laminates the furniture.

  • Lacquer stain. Here is another type of stain that requires no sanding between coats. However, lacquer stain behaves differently from the earlier ones. When applied, it melts into the previous layer of stain and fits so perfectly.

If the previous layer is uneven, just wipe the stain lightly with a clean cloth for smoothness and reapply another coat. There is no need for sanding between coats when using lacquer stain!

  • Polyurethane stain. Also called vanish stain and it comes in both water-based and oil-based varieties. Due to its fast drying behavior, you do not need to sand between coats when using it.

In case of any imperfection, while staining, you can wipe the affected area for smoothness and reapply immediately to blend without sanding.

  • Metal-complex dye stain. This stain requires no sanding. The product is a stronger and long-lasting stain for dense wood application and is best for outdoor wood finishes due to its metallic properties.

The product has copper and chromium additives that strengthen its hold and resistance to fading. These metals do not impregnate the grains after application. Thus, it requires no sanding between coats.

  • Water-soluble dye stain. The water-soluble dye stain comes in powder form, and you need to dissolve it in water before use. Follow the recommended mixing ratio (one ounce per one quart of water).

For deeper pigment consistency, you can add more powder accordingly. Being a water-based stain, you need to sand lightly between coats.

Should you Sand Between Coats of Stain?

Yes and no! Your answer will depend on the stain in use. You can see the various types above to determine if you need sanding or not.

When using water-based resin, sanding between coats of stain is mandatory. Such stains require you to sand down the raised wood grain.

For other stains, you need to sand the wood’s surface. After that, apply the first and only coat of stain.

In deciding on sanding between coats of stain, the thumb rule is to read the stain manufacturer’s instructions on the application.

How Many Coats of Stain Do You Require?

The number of coats you need depends on the color you want of the finished product. While stains aren’t for wood coloring, they can change the look of the material considerably.

Therefore, the deeper the look you want, the more coats needed. Depending on the type of stain and product in use, you may need only one coat, two or more coats.

However, two coats of stain are common for most applications since stain penetrates the wooden material, and you should only apply the coats the wood can absorb. Usually, most wooden materials can tolerate two coats of stain.

What Happens If You Don’t Sand Between Coats of Stain?

In cases where you need to sand between coats of stain and you didn’t, you risk having a bad finish because the new coat won’t blend with the last coat.

Wood finish is for aesthetics and an alluring feel, but you won’t achieve it without sanding!

Usually, the surface of the last stain would have debris, dust, and splinters that could disfigure the look after it dried. Sanding helps to make it smooth and appealing before applying the new coat, this will blend with the look of the last layer.

Even if you are DIYer, staining makes your furniture more appealing. Not sanding when you should, defeat your effort. In essence, it’s best to adhere to the product’s sanding recommendations.

However, if you need to sand between coats of stain, you must wait for the last coat to dry and cure before sanding.

For How Long Should Stain Dry Before Sanding?

The duration will depend on the stain and product you are using. Usually, dry time could be anywhere from one hour to 24 hours. Most stains take about six hours, on average, to dry and cure fully after application.

Remember, you can’t sand between coats of stain that have not fully dried and cured. Sanding in such a state could ruin your entire job and mess up your efforts!

How to Sand Between Stain Coats

It’s best to sand between coats of stain if you want the best result. However, it would help if you did it correctly too. Follow these steps for proper sanding and a good finish.

  1. Use a high grit sandpaper rating (the best number is 220-240) for smoothness.
  2. Use a sanding tool. This practice ensures you have an even surface. Please don’t improvise to prevent your work from going bad!
  3. Follow wood grain flow. You should lightly sand along the wood grain’s direction, making light pass end-to-end from the wood’s surface.
  4. Vacuum the dust. There will be dust coming off the wood surface as it smoothes when sanding. After sanding, carefully vacuum the dust and wipe the surface with a clean, dry cloth.


Do you have to Sand before Staining?

Yes! Sanding prepares the wood surface for smoothness and beautiful finish noting that the wood surface originally had scratches, dents, and blemishes. Staining in such a state would highlight the flaws and produce a bad finish that you don’t want to happen.

Can you Sand after Staining?

Of course! Sanding after helps to even the surface and remove any bubbles and impregnated grain. But, follow the sanding best practice as outlined above for best results.

Final thought

I hope after reading this article, you now know if you should sand between coats of stain or not.

Let’s hear in the comment how you handled your last stain job and what new information you want to share with fellow DIYers. We are all waiting to learn from you! Until the next interesting discussion on home improvement, do enjoy your beautiful home!

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