Homemade Natural & Effective Wood Stains

2 Materials
20 Minutes

Make wood stain? Is it just spilling coffee on a table? Actually ... no! There's way more good stuff to it - Made from all natural household materials, these quick and easy wood stains are super effective, long lasting, and low cost - less than 10% of those in the store. And they are non-toxic as well!
Here's a bit of science behind these effective wood stains: the iron dissolves in the vinegar (acetic acid) and forms a soluble substance (iron acetate). When this solution is applied to wood, the iron acetate reacts with the natural tannins in the wood, producing various shades of brown, grey and black.
Step 1: raid the kitchen! Steel wool, vinegars - white, balsamic, apple cider, they will all look different when finished!
To make the stains, put a pad of super fine steel wool (or rusty nails as in the 4th recipe ) in the jar and pour in enough vinegar to cover it, loosely screw the lid on the jar. If the pad is not totally submersed, rust will quickly form on the portion exposed to air which is ok.
After about twenty-four hours pour the solution into another jar, or take the pads out of the jars to stop the reaction. All the steel wool pads shrunk to about 1/2 the size! Leaving them in the jar longer will produce a darker stain. The variations are endless!
Now watch the magic! When I first brushed some of this wood stain onto a piece of wood, I thought nothing was happening! But a few minutes later, it looks all different, wow!
On the same light pine wood, white vinegar solution produces a warm brownish stain, balsamic vinegar makes a golden gray stain, and apple cider vinegar makes an weathered grey color stain. It has nothing to do with the color of the vinegar!
Different wood also takes on different colors...
Not only are they easy and quick, these stains can store for a long time. Visit the link below to see the FULL TUTORIAL with variations and tests, and start making your own effective wood stains!

Suggested materials:

  • Vinegar
  • Steel wool

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 7 questions
  • Judy Pennington
    on Mar 4, 2017

    Would it be possible to add little beet juice to the golden stain to make a red maple? Add a little to the darker stain for a cherry color? I am going to experiment. Maybe add in dark coffee grounds in a thin cotton cloth or let tea be part of the vinegar and steel wool. I am excited! I know you can boil walnut shells and husks for stain. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jackie Thinel
      on Feb 8, 2020

      I don't know about in a stain but using beets to dye wool results in a tan color, not even close to red.

  • Caryn
    on Feb 7, 2019

    would I b able to stain my bedroom floors like this, how long b4 it dries, and how do you seal it? I also have a end table with high gloss, which I don't like the gloss. Would I b able to use this method on top of the gloss?

  • Caryn
    on Feb 7, 2019

    Can this method b used on floors or high gloss end tables, and what about sealing it

Join the conversation

2 of 30 comments
  • Kris
    on Nov 11, 2018

    Boiled pecan shells for sure. Tried to open a fresh one from our yard. Stained my fingers for a week a dark brown color and would not come off with any soap or chemical known to man. Had to pumice the heck out of them to remove the color.

  • Cheeyl
    on Feb 3, 2020

    For sure I’ll try it

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