Will Gel Stain Eventually Dry? [What To Do When It Remains Tacky Or Sticky]

The only thing that makes waiting for gel stains bearable is the knowledge that they'll eventually dry. But what should you do if your gel stain gets tacky or sticky instead? We discovered helpful information from reliable sources to sort out your confusion.

Gel stains do dry, but it takes  about eight to 24 hours, depending on the coats' thickness. Wait for 72 hours before applying other products over the gel stain.

However, if your gel stain is still tacky or sticky for two to five days, there is an issue. To fix it, do one of the following:

  • Remove excess gel stain
  • Dry with a hair dryer
  • Reapply gel stain

Continue reading to learn these steps and how to ensure gel stains don't get tacky the next time you apply them below.

Gel Stain Drying Time

Hand holding brush shows how to apply brown mahogany stain to raw oak wood furniture or floor, Will Gel Stain Eventually Dry? [What To Do When It Remains Tacky Or Sticky]

Gel stains dry after some time, but it will be helpful if you know how to deal with them if they don't. The ways mentioned above aren't complex. Here are the details of how you should do it too.

Generally, gel stains take eight to twenty-four hours to dry. The time varies depending on the gel stain brand and what temperature and humidity level it is on. Additionally, if you apply many thick coats, the drying time increases.

Different brands usually include the drying time for their product on their manuals. For instance, water-based gel stains can dry within two to three hours. In contrast, fast-drying gel stains dry in an hour, while solvent-based gel stains need 12 to 24 hours.

The suitable temperature for gel stains is 70° Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, the best humidity for gel stains ranges from 45% to 70%. So, you may set your humidifier between these levels.

Considering all these factors affecting how long gel stains dry, you must wait 72 hours before applying another coat. Additionally, you must wait two to five days before concluding that your gel stain isn't drying and needs to be resolved or reapplied.

Step-By-Step Guide To Resolving Tacky Gel Stain

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Gel stains only dry if you remove the excess as soon as possible. If you haven't correctly prepared the surface or exceeded the recommended number of coats, gel stains don't dry.

To fix this, here are some of the things you can do:

Remove Excess Gel Stain

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If you cannot remove excess gel stain within five minutes after application, it causes issues. Only the top area of a gel stain that's too thick will dry, while the product under it will continue to be wet or tacky.

To resolve this, you should:

  1. Dampen a rag using mineral spirit. Ensure that the rag you use is lint-free so no lint sticks in your tacky gel stain.
  2. Wipe the dampened rag over the surface with the tacky gel stain.
  3. If the gel stain doesn't thin out after wiping, use a putty scrapper instead.

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Dry With A Hair Dryer

Use a hair dryer for spot drying if only a specific area with the gel stain is tacky. Just turn it on, then point it toward the sticky areas. Remember to move the hair dryer around the surface.

However, note that using a hair dryer isn't recommended if the surface you've applied gel stain on is large, as it will take too much time.

Using a hair dryer may get dust over your tacky stain, so take care when using this technique.

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Reapply Gel Stain

Varnishing a wooden shelf using paintbrush

Removing and reapplying the product might be your best choice, especially if you have already tried removing excess stain and using a hair dryer.

How To Reapply Gel Stains

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Reapplying a gel stain is a relatively straightforward process. Here's what you should do:

Remove The Gel Stain

You should only directly apply a new coat of gel stain after removing the previous one so as not to worsen the situation. Follow these steps for gel stain removal:

  • Put on rubber gloves, so the gel stain doesn't stick to you.
  • Dampen a lint-free rag with a lacquer thinner.
  • Wipe your gel-stained surface using the dampened rug firmly and rapidly. This step takes time, especially in areas where the gel stain has dried. Thoroughly remove the previously applied product before proceeding.
  • Throw the used rag away because the thinner is toxic and may harm your health.

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Apply The Gel Stain

After you've prepped the surface, reapply the gel stain using these steps:

  • Use a drop cloth to protect the floor and furniture close to the surface of reapplication. If there are knobs or drawers where you'll apply the product, ensure to remove them.
  • Wear rubber gloves and dip a foam brush into a stirred gel stain. Try to wipe it over the surface evenly.
  • If you want to apply the stain on your knobs and drawers (if the surface you applied gel stain to has them), leave them in place. Spread the product on them as you did in the previous step.
  • Wipe off the excess stain using a lint-free rag. Then, let the product dry before reapplying.

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Tips To Avoid Gel Stain Becoming Tacky

Man painting wood stain at timber plank in garden. Paint protective varnish on wooden picket f

When reapplying, avoid repeating the same mistakes that caused the stain to become tacky the first time. To help you, here are several tips you can follow:

  • Do not apply gel stain over a regular one. If the surface hsa a previous coat, remove it. If not, the product will never dry and be too thick if coated over a standard stain.
  • Stir the product thoroughly. If this step is omitted, the stain settles more at the bottom of the can, causing a thicker consistency and making it harder to dry.
  • Apply thin coats of gel stain. Thick coats have difficulty drying even at an ideal temperature. Furthermore, a finished surface doesn't need thick gel stain coats as these stains are suitable for unfinished ones.

How Many Coats Of Gel Stain Should You Apply?

A man holding brush and painting on the wooden table

Experts recommend that you only apply two to three coats of gel stain. If you want a smoother finish, recoating helps. Multiple coats are also necessary to achieve a darker shade for gel. However, applying more than the recommended coatings may make the product tacky, so stay faithful to this rule of thumb to avoid any issues.

Should Gel Stain Be Sealed?

Wood staining diy. Brush. Painting wooden patio deck with protective brown oak varnish. Outdoo

Any stain, including gel, is protected with a top coat or a seal. Although it isn't required, applying a seal over it will help you achieve a shiny finish. In addition, it also protects the surface you apply your stain from drying out. Sealing is an excellent choice against spills or dirt from high foot traffic.

In Closing

Hand holding brush shows how to apply brown mahogany stain to raw oak wood furniture or floor

Gel stains do dry, but if they don't, there is an issue you should fix. Water-based gel stains dry in two to three hours, fast-drying gel stains only take one hour, and solvent-based gel stains take 12 to 24 hours.

These drying times are only estimates. Several factors, like the temperature and humidity in your area, may also affect how long it'll take. More extended drying periods can be a concern. Try fixing that by wiping down the excess gel, drying a hair dryer, or removing and reapplying the product.

Do you have other questions about staining? Well, here are posts that might help you:

Do You Need To Prime Wood Before Staining?

Can You Stain A Deck In The Evening? [Yes! Here's What You Need To Know!]

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