Oil Based Stain vs Water Based Stain

brushIf you want to choose a stain for your wood project that you wish to finish, there are certain factors that you should consider before you make up your mind.

Of course, the choice should be based on your needs and preferences, but it is vital to differentiate different types of stains.

We can divide two primary stain bases that could be either water-based stain or oil-based stains, and in certain situations, you should use some of them.

We cannot say which one is the best, because both of them will apply to different locations.

However, both of them will provide you with appropriate levels of coverage and protection depending on factors such as previous wood treatment, type of wood as well as weather exposure.

It is vital to understand that wood stains are products that will protect your wooden surface by adding a decorative finish and additional protection.

They will protect the cover from the general use and wearing off, and accentuate the natural texture and beauty of wood that you’re using.

At the same time, it can conceal defects and damage so that you can enjoy in its longevity. Since you will use on outdoor furniture, you will be able to protect it against weather conditions especially sun because wood tends to yellow after prolonged exposure.

We will present you a comparison between water-based and oil-based stains so that you can make a quality purchase without any additional hassle:

Oil-Based Stains Pros and Cons

oil based stains

When it comes to oil-based stains, you should have in mind that when you decide to use it, you will be able to penetrate the wood with ease which will add the protection when compared with water-based ones.

Since it dries slower than water-based, this particular process will provide you much better finish and aid you in additional maintenance that will look amazing. At the same time, you can rest assured because you do not have to maintain it the same way as a water-based alternative.

You will be able to freshen any furniture with this particular finish without sanding, scraping or stripping, but only adding a new coat, that will mask the damage and provide you exceptional look.

On the other hand, the main disadvantage is that it uses toxic chemicals that are added inside to prevent fungus and mildew, which will create a strong odor but will prevent the wood from rotting.

Since they are highly flammable, you have to use it in a secure location, but most environmentally-conscious people are choosing water-based stains because they have fewer effects on the environment.


It is great protection
It will provide you with a more beautiful finish
It requires less maintenance than water-based stains
You can freshen it up without additional operations


High odors due to toxic compounds inside
It poses an environmental hazard

Water Based Stains Pros and Cons

water based stains

When it comes to water-based stains, you should have in mind that they allow air to move freely in and out, which will prevent decay and trapping water inside. At the same time, by using this particular type of stain, you will be able to maintain the wood for longer than any other kind.

The best thing about it, when compared with an oil-based alternative, is that it is not flammable, and it doesn’t represent environmental hazard too. It dries quicker, and you will be able to enjoy in your furniture after a few hours, which is amazing considering that will provide you with peace of mind.

The low odor is another reason for its popularity, and it features eco-friendly ingredients and compounds that will protect your furniture, yourself and the environment altogether.

The main disadvantage is that pigment tends to mask the overall beauty of natural wood, which means the final result will look like the big paint job. At the same time, you won’t be able to mask damage, which means that you have to sand and maintain the wood before you add an extra touch with it.

Therefore, it requires more maintenance in overall than oil-based stains.


The color and quality will last longer than other types of stains
The air can move freely so it will stay protected against water damage
Low odor
Dries quickly
It is not flammable
Environment-friendly compounds


The pigment tends to mask the overall beauty of natural wood
You will have to sand it through for an additional coat of water-based stain

Difference Between Oil Based and Water Based Stain

We cannot say which particular stain is the best because it depends on your project, type of wood and other factors that are vital when deciding.

For instance, when it comes to logs since they move a lot and get additional beating, the best way to reduce the tearing is by using stains, because paints tend to be too rigid. That will provide you with additional flexibility.

It is essential to understand that oil-based stains tend to feature more significant odor due to a wide array of toxic chemicals, which means that water-based ones are better for the environment. At the same time, you will avoid flammable potential with water-based, which is not the case when we talk about oil-based ones.

Everything depends on what should the final touch provide you altogether, because water-based stains will resemble more to a paint job, while oil-based ones will offer you the natural appearance of wood which is great for some cases, but you have to do it in a controllable environment.

The usage of both stains depends on the type of wood that you wish to protect because if you are coating wood that features natural resistance to rotting, the water-based is the best choice for you.

Another factor is previous wood treatment because if wood features a previous coating, you will have to take specific steps so that you can protect it further.

Oil based ones will not require maintenance and will act as an extra layer, which means that you can avoid sanding and screwing through it to add the protection. It also depends on the type of weather your wood will be exposed too.

If it has direct exposure to rain, wind, and sun, the best choice should be oil-based because it is more durable and will provide you an additional protective layer that will help you keep it from weather elements.


As you can see from everything that we’ve mentioned above, it is challenging to determine which type of stain is the best for your specific needs.

Of course, different situations require a different approach, which means that you have to be sure that particular stain you’re using will give you what you wanted in the first place.

Only then you will be able to use it with full capacity and protection. Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below, and we will help you determine which one is the best for your particular requirements.

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