Can I Use Gel Stain On Stair Treads?

People frequently use gel stain on furniture because it provides a highly uniform finish, and its thick, pudding-like substance rests on top and doesn't drip or runny. Do you think this would work on your stair treads? Well, we've done some research and have your answer below!

Cherry, birch, maple, and pine are some types of wood used for stair treads. Although these woods are prone to blotches, gel stains work well on them.

You can apply gel stain to your stair treads as long as you follow the application process.

This article will concentrate on gel stain, whether you can apply it on your stair treads, and the tips and steps if possible. We will also talk about some of the great gel stains on the market. There is more information to come, so keep on reading!

Can I Use Gel Stain On Stair Treads?

Industrial style staircase with wooden treads

Gel stains provide a perfect middle ground for individuals who aren't sure whether to stain or paint. The main distinction between a gel stain and a regular stain is that a gel stain lies on top of the wood.

A typical stain sinks in, allowing some of the distinctive marks and grain of the wood to show through while providing a clean, uniform finish akin to paint.

Gel stain is very tolerant with blotch-prone woods, including cherry, birch, maple, and pine.

No matter how many thin coats are applied, these types of woods frequently absorb thin traditional stains unevenly, leaving them looking sloppy and unfinished, yet readily accepting gel stains.

Even on the most resistant wood surfaces, a gel stain produces a professional-looking finish by covering the surface rather than penetrating the wood grain. Because of this, provided you follow the application instructions, you can apply it on wooden stair treads, handrails, or posts.

The good news doesn't end there; possibly the strongest justification for using gel stain is how simple it is to use. When it comes to preparation before application, gel stains require less than everyday stains and paints.

For optimum adherence, you don't need to sand the wood down to its natural state like you would with a conventional stain. A little light sanding will suffice, and after that, you're ready to start applying this gel stain with a lint-free cloth.

What Are The Best Gel Stains On The Market?

Wooden Stair Treads

A gel stain is a good option for staining your stair treads without making a mess with runny wood stain. Here are some of the best-selling gel stains in the market:

1. General Finishes Gel Stain

It is a reliable oil-based gel stain brand since it is a tough stain that you can apply quickly with a foam brush or microfiber cloth. It might assist you in achieving a more uniform appearance on challenging woods like aspen or pine.

See this General Finishes gel stain on Amazon.

2. Minwax Gel Stain

It is like a java gel stain that gives the deep color of fine coffee. Also, it provides a rich appearance to your wood and is less dirty than a typical stain.

Click here to see this Minwax gel stain on Amazon.

3. Unicorn Spit Gel Stain

It is a special product that combines paint with gel stains and glazes for a dazzling finish that sinks deeply into the surface of raw wood grains.

See this Unicorn Spit gel stain on Amazon.

4. Varathane Gel Stain

It brings out the natural beauty of the wood's grain. It delivers twice the coverage of conventional oil-based stains and is formulated with a thicker consistency to avoid drips and runs.

See this Varathane gel stain on Amazon.

5. Retique It Gel Stain

It is a water-based gel stain that leverages nanotechnology to serve as an ideal glaze over surfaces that have already been painted. Three different kits are available for this, with options for rustic, weathered, and contemporary themes.

Click here to see this Retique It gel stain on Amazon.

How To Apply Gel Stain On Stair Treads

The painter paints a varnish wooden board by roller

It requires a few preparations applying gel stain into the treads to achieve acceptable results. To do that, below are the steps:

1. Clean Up The Stair Treads Surface


Use mineral spirits or 50/50 diluted denatured alcohol to clean the surfaces you wish to stain before beginning your gel stain job. To get the 50/50 mixture, mix one part distilled water with two parts of 70% strength isopropyl alcohol.

Click here to see this denatured alcohol on Amazon.

Alternatively, you may use trisodium phosphate (TSP) to clean any woodwork you will stain. Just pay attention to the mixing instructions provided by the manufacturer.

To safeguard your hands, you should put on some thick rubber gloves.

Click here to see this TSP on Amazon.

See this box of rubber gloves on Amazon.

You merely need a lint-free cloth or shop clothes for light cleaning. You will need a scouring sponge for severe cleaning on grimy or wood-grain-textured treads, and it can take several attempts to get it clean.

Man hand wiping stairs with towel

See this lint-free cloth on Amazon.

View this scouring sponge on Amazon.

2. Sand The Treads

In doing this, you may use a sanding respirator mask or dust mask for protection. Sand your stair tread surface with 220-grit sandpaper or a sanding block to give it some texture.

You might require a bit tougher sandpaper if your treads have a lot of texture.

Click here to see this dust mask on Amazon.

View this 220-grit paper on Amazon.

This is merely a light sanding to provide a surface for the gel stain to adhere to. Use a tack cloth or wet paper towel to remove the sanding dust.

Click here to see this tack cloth on Amazon.

Click here to see this paper towel on Amazon.

3. Seal Holes And Cracks

Use wood putty to patch up holes and cracks. Use a putty knife to scrape off the extra putty. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying the putty. Repeat the sanding process to the filled areas.

Use a cloth dipped in denatured alcohol to remove the dust. If you can still see the cracks and holes, repeat this procedure.

Click here to see this wood putty on Amazon.

See this putty knife on Amazon.

4. Tape Off Anything That You Don't Want The Gel Stain To Contact

Before staining the treads, remove the painter's tape and make barriers at the edges of the risers and the sides of the staircase. 

Use a tape that doesn't seem to be as much leaking underneath it as it forms a much better seal with the surface. Less leaking equals less final touch-up, which is a good thing!

Click here to see this painter’s tape on Amazon.

Wooden Stairs and white wall leading up, Can I Use Gel Stain On Stair Treads?

5. Apply Gel Stain To The Tread

Gel stains allow you to achieve a wide variety of appearances. There are two techniques you may apply to achieve those appearances.

The first is the wiping technique. Stir the gel dye thoroughly. Apply the stain to a small area using a 2” foam brush. There's no need to cover every area. Just rub the stain with a shop cloth to cover the small area, then wipe the stain away in most parts.

Click here to see this foam brush on Amazon.

Click here to see this shop cloth on Amazon.

With this technique, the color of your treads will change, but you will still see the wood grain. All of the treads should be completed in this manner.

The second approach is the painting method. Paint the stain on thickly, covering everything to create the appearance of a more solid color.

Paint some stain onto a lint-free cloth and use that to smooth the layer of a stain rather than wiping the stain off with a shop cloth. This will achieve an even coat as you essentially distribute the thick patches.

6. Allow The Treads To Dry

Give the wood time to dry completely or let the stain sit for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer. Sometimes it takes at least 12 hours or maybe longer. The humidity will affect how long it takes for something to dry.

7. Apply Additional Coats

You can apply a second coat when your stain has dried if necessary. In contrast to conventional stains, gel stain coats the area like paint.

And similar to painting, you'll discover that you'll probably need several coats to achieve a flawless, streak-free finish.

Be assured that successive applications will be thinner because they will dry and look extremely streaky. It's important to remember that the stain won't absorb as much as a conventional stain.

Unfinished wood will absorb a small amount of the gel stain but not non-porous surfaces.

8. Apply Protective Top Coat

Apply a water-based polyurethane coat to the finished surface to protect it once you have achieved the look you want. When applying it, use a foam brush, not a paintbrush.

If a large bubble dries in your polyurethane, sand it out.

Add a second coat after the polyurethane has dried. This finish takes substantially less time to dry than a stain, just around 4 hours. The stair is ready once the top coat has dried.

See this water-based polyurethane on Amazon.

To Finish Up

It is easy to refresh and modify staircases with gel stain. Much simpler than disassembling them and applying conventional stain.

We hope this article helps you resolve your curiosity and guide you to have a quicker and simpler application. Enjoy staining!

Made it to the end? Check out these related articles:

What Color To Paint Stair Railing?

What Adhesive To Use For Stair Tread?

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