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.


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David S.
David S.3 years ago

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

Caralien S.
Caralien S.5 years ago

I used milkpaint (milkpaint.com) 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?

Irina Ilieva
Irina Petrova5 years ago

great thanks!

Santa C.
Santa C.5 years ago

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

Carlotta F.
Past Member 5 years ago

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

James Dome
James Dome7 years ago

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?

Chris Scott
Chris Scott7 years ago

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

Julia W
Julia Waters8 years ago

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!

Caitlen Whitehead

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. =)

Deb Mariotti
Deb Mariotti8 years ago

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