What To Do If Your Gel Stain Is Not Dark Enough?

Your furniture is not as dark as you want it to be after applying gel stain. Can you make it darker without going back and starting over? We did detailed research to provide a guide on how you can achieve a darker shade for your furniture with gel stain.

The easiest fix to resolving gel stain that is not dark enough is by applying a darker shade of gel stain on top of the first gel stain application. You could also apply an extra coat of gel stain, add polyurethane to your gel stain, or apply a coat of dark glaze.

Getting the dark shade you want for your furniture is important. It will boost your confidence when glamming up your furniture at home. Continue reading to learn the details of how to darken your wood and to become more knowledgeable about staining.

How To Darken Gel Stain 

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You can apply gel stain to various materials, such as metal and wood (pine, maple, birch, poplar, and cherry). Gel staining achieves the best result on vertical surfaces. Moreover, it comes in different colors, from light to dark shades, similar to natural wood colors.

DIYers prefer gel stain due to its easy application and uniform finish. It doesn't drip and has a pudding-like texture that is easy to wipe and distribute.

Here are some methods you can explore to get your gel stain dark enough:

Gloved hand holding a paintbrush over wooden surface, protecting wood for exterior influences and weathering

Apply A Darker Shade Of Gel Stain

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Use a darker shade of gel stain for your second stain if you notice that the first stain job is not as deep as you want. Remember to wait at least two hours for the first stain to dry before applying the second coat.

Also, do not over-stain because it will shroud the wood. It is best to use a maximum of two coats of gel stain. 

Check out this gel stain on Amazon.


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Reapplication is another method to achieve a deeper shade of wood. To do this:

  1. Let the first coat dry.
  2. Use a stiff or foam brush to apply a heavy second coat.
  3. Remove any extra stain using a clean, dry brush. You should brush according to the wood grain direction.

Check out these foam brushes on Amazon.

Add An Oil-Based Polyurethane

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Use an oil-based polyurethane for the oil-based gel stain. Oil-based polyurethane tends to darken gradually.

Prepare your workspace. Choose a well-ventilated area and cover the floor with a plastic sheet or drop cloth. Next, proceed as follows:

  1. Stir the stain and the polyurethane before mixing them.
  2. Pour equal parts of the gel stain and polyurethane into a glass container.
  3. Gently mix them for a few minutes until you get a uniform consistency.

Check out this polyurethane on Amazon.

Apply A Dark Coat Of Glaze

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You can also apply a dark glaze. Glaze is very easy to use—it's beginner-friendly.

Apply it lightly with a brush to prevent any runs or spills. Wait at least 72 hours before applying the glaze over the gel stain.

Check out this glaze on Amazon.

How To Darken Wood 

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

Aside from getting a darker shade of gel stain or glaze, there are other ways to make your furniture have a darker finish. We discuss some ways below.

Sand The Wood

Sanding the wood with a coarse sanding block or sandpaper will create more space for the stain to sit, leading to a darker effect. However, sanding with an overly coarse block may make scratches visible to the naked eye. So, keep the right balance between coarse and fine grits to hide the marks after sanding.

Carpenter covers wood furniture parts with wood wax, What To Do If Your Gel Stain Is Not Dark Enough?

Use a sanding block or medium grit (120 to 150) sandpaper. Follow the wood grain when sanding to avoid destroying the wood's natural grain. Using your hands rather than a machine to sand the wood is advisable.

Check out these 120 grit sandpaper blocks on Amazon.

Wet The Grain

You may be surprised, but putting water on the unsealed wood grain can give you the darker shade you want. This method lifts the wood grain, giving it a rough texture as it dries, which is the correct surface you need for darker staining. Let the wood dry completely before staining.

Add A Darker Colorant Or Dye

Mix your gel stain with a darker pigment or colorant. Make sure to practice mixing to achieve the right shade. The darker the shade you want, the more pigment you should add to your mixture.

Add the pigment in small amounts until you achieve the shade you want. Also, match the base of your stain to the pigment you will use. You should use an oil-based pigment for your oil-based gel stain.

Check out this wood dye on Amazon.

Use A Toner

A toner has a pigment or dye ingredient. It's often used to soften tones or even out blemishes, but you can also spray it on a wooden surface after staining to darken the wood. It is advisable to use a dye-based toner to avoid a murky look.

Staining Tips

Here are some staining tips to remember whenever you stain your wood at home:

  • Wear protective clothing such as safety glasses and rubber gloves to protect yourself from dirt or chemical contact. Also, protect your clothes, floors, and working space from stains.
  • Practice mixing and staining on a wood scrap before working on your wooden surface.
  • Stir oil-based stains before using them.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Use the necessary tools, such as a brush, foam brush, or a rag depending on the stain material.
  • Carefully wipe stained surfaces with a cloth or rag after about five minutes to achieve a lighter stain shade. You can increase the waiting time to five to 10 minutes for a darker shade.
  • Wipe the stain following the wood grain pattern for the stain to saturate well.
  • Apply a finish after staining. Staining provides color to the wood, but a finish offers a protective layer.
  • Use a brush to apply the finish. Carefully brush the surface following the grain to avoid marks.
  • Cover your stain with an airtight lid until your next wood project.

How To Maintain Stain On Wood

A man holding brush and painting on the wooden table

Gel stain is usable for about three years. To ensure that your stain stays put, keep the wooden surface clear of dirt or water. Wipe up spills immediately. Also, protect your wooden surfaces from things that can cause scratches.

Check for holes, scratches, cracks, or discoloration and fix the damage immediately. You can ask for professional assistance with serious repairs.

Avoid exposing wooden surfaces to harsh environments with too much moisture or heat. Depending on use and treatment, you may also need to refinish some wooden surfaces after six months.

How To Stain Already Stained Furniture

sanding a wood with orbital sander at workshop

You can stain over stained wood to give the wood a darkened or fresh look. It's not necessary to remove the old stain. You can also mix two different stains to have a custom color for your wood.

  1. Clean the wood surface, then sand it a little.
  2. Apply a darker stain to the wood surface.
  3. Wait for several hours before applying the second coat to make it darker or to achieve the deep color you want.

Summing Up

Carpenter covers wood furniture parts with wood wax

There are a few different ways to darken gel stain. You can apply a second coat of gel stain or get a darker shade for your second coat if your gel stain is not dark enough. You can also add polyurethane to your gel stain or glaze your wood with a deeper color to achieve a darker effect.

You can learn more more about staining wood from these posts:

Do You Need To Prime Wood Before Staining?

How to Paint or Stain Plywood Stairs? [4 Steps]

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