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Homemade Wood Stain

Homemade Wood Stain

It is a good idea to make your own wood stains when you embark on furniture refinishing projects. Commercial stains contain synthetic pesticides, including fungicides, that can cause environmental problems and health risks. A rule of thumb for buying stains is that the darker the stain, the fewer pesticides, since the pigment provides more protection from ultraviolet light. Clear sealants exposed to the sun won’t last long, so more chemicals are added.

Natural pigments are made from minerals (from earth and clay, called iron oxides) and vegetables (roots, bark, leaves, and fruit such as alkanet root, beets, walnuts, purple cabbage, coffee and tea, indigo, and madder root). Natural pigments make exquisite, mellow colors.

To make your own plant dye/stains:

  • Simmer a handful of plant
    matter in 4 cups of water for an hour, adding more water as it evaporates.
  • Cool, strain, and add 1/2 teaspoon of alum (available in the spice section of supermarkets) as a fixative.
  • Paint on, dry, and recoat two to four more times
    or as desired.

*You can make your own earth pigment in the old way, by finding interesting colored dirt and washing it well.


Read more: Crafts & Design, Crafts & Hobbies

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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+ add your own
7:37AM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

Very good article. If you ever get ahold of any huckleberries they make the most beautiful indigo dye

11:34AM PDT on Oct 17, 2010

I used milkpaint ( for the nursery, but now am looking to stain furniture fir the playroom.

Would iron oxides be better rubbed in as a powder or dissolved in some other liquid?

6:36AM PDT on Aug 15, 2010

great thanks!

12:44PM PDT on Aug 10, 2010

I just revamped my living room furniture using some of your tips and that really helped me, thanks for the post.

8:58AM PST on Mar 4, 2010

Thanks! I just looked up this topic and found this old thread. Perfect.

7:58AM PST on Jan 20, 2008

I am curious about faux finishing the interior walls of my living room using the coffee stain and a rag. Will this work or would the cured stain run in humid conditions without a sealer?

5:10AM PST on Dec 20, 2007

please give me some examples of plant material...i am new to this and not sure ..thank you very much

3:06PM PST on Nov 12, 2007

I have the question about waterproofing as well and wondering if this recipe you have listed is adequate to do floors. Not sure how far it would go, I would probably need a pretty big stock pot!

11:54AM PDT on Nov 2, 2007

I was wondering if there was something that could be used to make the wood stain waterproof. I'm doing a science fair project and wood sealants are a little pricey seeing as i have to buy 10 different brands or types. Id very much appriciate it if you could get back to me on this.

Thanks. =)

12:59PM PDT on Oct 12, 2007

wonderful idea. I want to stain something white, do you know what could I use for this purpose ?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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