How to Stain Wood Furniture

Make that old coffee table shine with our simple step-by-step guide to staining wood furniture.

Stain wood


  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • Wood conditioner (for soft woods)
  • Wood-grain filler (for hard woods)
  • Stain
  • An old rag
  • Polyurethane
  • A foam brush
  • 000-grade steel wool


  1. Before scuffing, remove any flaking or bubbling paint or varnish with a paint scraper. Use 150-grit sandpaper to remove any remaining traces.
  2. Even out a porous grain to ensure consistent stain color. For soft woods, which can be scratched with your fingernail, use a wood conditioner. For hard woods, use a wood-grain filler. In either case, apply the product with a rag, wiping away any excess immediately. Allow to dry.
  3. Select a stain in a color you like. Pour some onto a rag (enough to saturate), wipe it on the wood and immediately remove with a clean rag.
  4. Repeat the process until you reach the shade you want. Let dry completely.
  5. Apply polyurethane using a foam brush and long, even strokes.
  6. Let dry, then scuff with 000-grade steel wool.
  7. Apply a second polyurethane coat.
  8. For extra durability, apply a third coat, repeating the same steps. Do not scuff after the final coat.