Homemade Natural wood stains – Best in 2020

In this article we will show you how you could dye your wood with ingredients you may already have.

turmeric wood stain

Why should I make my own wood dye or stain?

  • The cost saving
  • Unusual effects
  • Could be better for the environment
  • Knowing what ingredients are in the Stain

Are natural wood stains better for the environment?

Natural wood stains are becoming very popular with the increased environmental awareness. 

Choosing an ecological alternative to wood dye is a conscious environmental decision

If you are a follower of permaculture or want to reduce your environmental impact then finding an alternative wood dye could be preferential.  It doesn’t always have to be an ethical choice but also a financial saving. 

Every little ECO change matters!

People around the world are looking for solutions to the problem of global warming and every effort we make will accumulate into big changes on a whole.

Understanding what is in the ingredients

So-called natural products are not always very sincere and if we are to limit our contribution to global pollution we should have a better understanding of the ingredients within. The best way to do this is to make the wood stains ourselves.

I can Buy wood Stain or Dyes from DIY stores

We can buy wood stains from a DIY store but generally, these are based on chemical based dyes. 

Are chemical Dyes safe?

Luckily modern legislation protects us from dangerous chemicals. Sadly legislation is not always effective worldwide. Aniline or Aniline derivatives are still used in the production of wood dye. 

But what is Aniline

Aniline is benzene ring with a NH2 group added 

Is Aniline a Carcinogen?

Yes, Aniline is a Carcinogen. It has a strong connection with bladder tumors amongst others.

That is why we should make our own Natural wood dyes! 

What can we make Natural Wood Dyes or Stains from?

There are many alternative Natural Wood Stains that you can make with ingredients many of us have in our cupboards at home.

I found a few that work very effectively.

  • Rust
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Wine
  • Beetroot
  • Turmeric
  • Lime Alkaline Solution

I have Experimented with many of the known DIY wood stain recipes

We could argue that this is what is available to us but with a little knowledge, we can mix our own natural wood dye. 

Rust wood dye?

suspension of rust within a fluid is a good would dye.  technically this is not but an ok reaction which well. The effect is a Brown colour butt but this depends on the wood stained and the concentration of the Suspension.

lime natural wood stain 640 x 360 Template

lime wash, natural wood stain

How to make rust wood dye?

An easy way to make this rust suspension is with two basic ingredients mixed with a little time.  Making your own rusty wood dye is not necessarily a scientific experiment but a bit like potluck. More of an art form than an experiment mixed with a little trial-and-error.

Ingredients for rust wood dye?

  • Vinegar
  • Steel wool, not the type with soap
  • A glass jar with a plastic lid,  don’t use metal as it will rust!
  • And a little time for the wire wool to corrode
  • Apply solution to wood
  • Leave until desired effect is reached

Why does rust work as an Effective wood stain?

The science behind this is based on the natural component of wood, Tannin!. Tannin is in abundance in Oak and Chestnut as well as other deciduous trees. The high alkaline PH reacts with the tannin and creates a reddish brown colour. The random behaviour of the non-regulated PH  is why you should test before trying any DIY rusty steel wool wood dye.

My conclusion on Rust Wood Stain

I always have a jar of rusty vinegar solution in the paint cabinet as a convenient go to wood stain. The effect is fast and permanent. I do take care when using Oak as it can cause it to go black. Sometimes black is good as it ebonizes it.

Coffee Wood Stain

Another household ingredient but we all have in our cupboards can be an effective wood stain.  This works similar to Tea wood stain but instead of brewing Tea but merely saturating Coffee grains in hot water.

Coffee grains, natural wood dye

Coffee grains, natural wood dye

Not the strongest wood stain

Coffee grain wood stain isn’t the most powerful wood stain you can make but it does produce pleasant results.  I did find that coffee wood stain required several applications before any real noticeable staining effect was apparent.  

Darker when wet!

Be aware that that ‘Coffee Grain Stain’ appears much darker when wet than when dry.  Unlike the steel wool in vinegar which reacts with tannins in the timber coffee wood stain and tea, wood stain is merely staining colour the timber.

brush in coffee cup wood stain

brush in coffee cup wood stain

My conclusion on Coffee Wood Stain

After some experimentation I have to admit I quite liked the mellow result. I did find that several applications were best. After many applications a residue on the wood was apparent which was a good indication that it had reached its maximum penetration. A good clean and fine sanding before finishing was necessary.

Tea Wood Stain so “Get that Kettle On!”

Yes, that right get that boiler boiling and add some tea and you have a natural stain. Yes, it is a little trial and error like many of the natural stain recipes but it is an effective stain.

tea natural wood stain 640 x 360

Tea, natural wood stain

Wine Stains Wood

I saw this online somewhere can’t remember where but the author of the article used wine as a wood stain.

Wine is not my best wood stain

Personally, I’m not too comfortable with this technique because wine contains sugar and sugars a food source for bugs and bacteria.  

wine brush on wood stain

wine glass brush in wood stain

My conclusion on Wine Wood Stain

After experimenting a little with wine as a wood stain I have to admit it does work. like the ‘coffee grain’ wood stain, you have to apply several applications to get good effect.

Wood stain made wine does dry to a warm almost Reddish colour but I suppose that is to be expected.

Beetroot Wood Stain

Well, I like a bit of beetroot in vinegar straight out of the Jar!  Beetroot or beet wood stain is by Nature a very red stain but after Application and drying time it will mellow. Beet like wine also has high sugar content. 

Any stains that contain a food source can go mouldy so be sure to make sure to prep the surface before finishing.

Beetroot, a great reddish natural wood stain

Beetroot, a great reddish natural wood stain

How to Prepare Beetroot Wood Stain

To make beetroot wood stain you will need to:

  • harvest your beetroot from the garden 
  • boil for about an hour. At this point, the beetroot should be very soft and the Skins will peel away
  • liquidize the beetroot.
  • Using a sieve or some kind of fine mesh strain the liquid from the beetroot mash. You can use old nylon stockings for this job if you like.
  • Store in glass jar

Alternatively, you can just use the paste or beetroot mash and apply it to your timber. I like to leave it on for a while then wipe off later. This method gives a lovely red to brown colour.

My conclusion of Beetroot Wood Stain

Beetroot wood stain is very effective and the results are fast. I found that after applying a clear coat the colour was reminiscent of ‘Purple Heart’. This was one of my favourite Natural Wood Dyes

Turmeric

Well, we all like to have a good curry!  but turmeric is really coming to his own for multiple purposes.  Turmeric is not just a culinary spice but also it is now well documented to have significant health benefits.

turmeric spice wood stain brush on wood

Turmeric spice wood stain brush it on wood

Cook curry and you know it stains

If you like to cook the odds curry just like I do well then you’ll know that if you spill a little turmeric on to anything including your worktops the likelihood they’ll be stained forever

But I digress and today we are talking about wood stains. 

Stains don’t have to be shades of brown!

Turmeric spice, is a great eastern yellow ochre wood dye

Turmeric spice, is a great eastern yellow ochre colour wood dye

We don’t always just want to darken our timber into another shade of brown. but sometimes it can be cool to add a bit of colour and turmeric certainly does that.

Yellow Stain

Turmeric spice has a yellow ochre colour that provides a lovely yellow stain to Timber. 

Natural wood stains behave differently on different timbers.  

Softwood timbers absorb more stain on hardwood timbers so you could expect the colour to be much deeper.

Turmeric wood stain is very practical if you like the Deep yellow colour and as it can be stored dry.  

How to Prepare your Turmeric

Turmeric wood stain preparation is easy and require no special treatment

  • Add a little water to turmeric powder to make a liquid paste.
  • Apply the paste and then wipe off.
  • The effects are instant and permanent

Powdered Lime alkaline solution

Powdered lime mixed with water is another way of creating an ageing effect. 

lime natural wood stain 640 x 360 Template

lime wash, a traditional natural wood stain

Lime is not a Stain but a Chemical Reaction

Technically not a stain but a way to create a chemical reaction with the tannin in the timber this works extremely well with oak and especially chestnut.

The reaction can be deceptive

The immediate effect can look a little red at first but it turns down to a shade of brown after a few minutes.

Lime staining is reversible 

If the effect is a little dark you can bring the shade down a touch by applying a little white vinegar.  The low pH acid of the white vinegar neutralizes the high pH of the lime mixture.

I used this method regularly and it is very effective for ageing timber.

How to prepare lime wash

You can use any form of lime, from the garden or the builders merchant will work just fine.

  • Mix powdered lime with water
  • Apply to wood
  • Monitor results
  • Wash of with water once desired intensity is reached
  • Reverse effect with acid such as vinegar

My conclusion on Lime powder wood dye

Dying with lime is a chemical reaction. Because the lime is alkaline the effect is reasonably predictable but there is a caveat. Some timbers will react differently for instance softwoods do not react like high tannin hardwoods. 

More on Natural Wood Stain…

Why not make your own concoction?

You can use any of the above and add other ingredients to enhance your wood stain. You can, for instance, use your steel wool and vinegar mixture and add either tea or coffee to it.  I found that to be very effective and improves the end result.

Test your Homemade Wood Stains.

Because homemade natural wood stains are made using uncontrolled conditions they are not reliable. so when using natural wood stains test a small area first or use a scrap of the same timber. I have made numerous mixtures and no two are the same.

Convert your Natural Wood Stain into Powder.

When you have made any satisfactory wood stain you can dry it and then grind it into a powder.

How to convert natural wood stain into powder

This works well for Organic wood stains, for instance, tea or coffee.

Benefits of drying into powders

Why we dry and grind natural wood stains is that we can produce larger quantities that will not go off. It is the water in the natural wood stains that tend to go green and the organic substances help feed the deterioration of the wood stain.

The drying process preserves the wood stain.  To utilise the wood stain simply

add it to water.

To dry your natural wood stain and turn it into a powder you’ll need a way of drying the wet solution. The pastes such as the beetroot wood dye are easier to dry as it has more solids and lower water content. When I dry my wood stain before making it into a powder I use a food dryer.

  • I spread the paste onto a Teflon baking sheet and place it in the dryer
  • Set dryer to 50°
  • Dry until the paste has turned brittle
  • Grind dried paste into powder
  • Store the powder in a sealed jar with a couple of silica gel sachets

Drying wood stain conclusion

Making your own powders is a great way to store your new wood dying concoctions. Personally I only do this if I am batching a large quantity of beetroot paste when the beetroot is growing in season and in abundance

Natural wood dye conclusion

There is no denying that you have  to make extra effort when making your own non chemical wood dyes. It is up to debate whether this process is the best solution but it does make us think outside of the box.  

If we do not try these new ideas we won’t learn!

When applying natural woodstains you will need natural bristle brushes. Some synthetic bristle are affected but the natural dyes. Hare are some natural bristle brushes which are ideal for applying stains or other finishes.

By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989

head wood malcolm kett memorial

Malcolm the Boat ‘RIP’

Woodworking for me is in my blood as a son of a traditional boatbuilder. My Father Malcolm Kett was highly skilled and inventive individual often referred to as ‘Malcolm The Boat’.

selfie with mortar board

Marcus Kett and my Mortar!

Although I have spent a considerable portion of my life seeking further education and gaining qualifications in woodworking, electrical installations, bricklaying and to top it a degree in photography.

Yes, it is a medley of possible career choices but the one that I felt truly at home with was Woodworking. Woodworking has been my staple career choice that has given my family stability.

Why do I write these guides?

selfie workshop bio

Well that’s Me

We started to write these guides to help our customers. The idea was to provide the information needed to install our made to measure wooden products that we sell on this website and directly to our local customers.

We soon received feedback from people abroad and interested readers not local to us. I like to help people and I am excited that fellow woodworkers or keen DIYers found guidance in my articles. I intend to carry on writing and producing youtube videos for the purpose of providing useful content. Please share our blog with your friends and anyone that could find interest in the magic of working with wood.

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About Wallybois

wallybois mascot christmas

Wally is the middle one

We have lived and worked here in the Limousin Nouvelle Aquitaine since 2010, building window shutters and external doors. Our Volet manufacturing business is based at our home property as a ‘Cottage Industry’. We are a small business operating partly (60%) off the grid and try our best to practice our woodworking ethically.

How did we come up with the trading name ‘Wallybois’? Well, it is simple really, my best buddy ‘Wally’ and the fact that ‘Bois’ is French for wood and we live in France.

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By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989

Based in the Nouvelle Aquitaine of France