Why Water Based Staining is a Better Choice


When remodeling a kitchen, around 40% to 50% of the total cost comes from cabinets. That’s why choosing the wrong color, and stain type can end up being a big money drain.

There are different stains you can use to turn a boring kitchen cabinet look into a quaint one. However, only one type of stain stands out from the rest – that is water based.

With water based staining, you have more freedom to achieve the cabinet color that you want. Compared to oil and gel stains, water based has a wide range of and intensity of colors you can choose from. Most importantly, you won’t be at the mercy of dangerous fumes. You won’t need ventilation while applying and drying it, and both cleanups is simple as well.

Still on the fence about choosing water based staining over oil-based? Read further and discover why this stain is always the better choice.

What are Water-Based Wood Stains?

Eco-friendliness is not just hype but the new norm these days. You can achieve an eco-friendly kitchen with the use of water-based wood stain for your kitchen cabinets.

You can do water based staining either with the use of a spray gun or manual application. Compared to their oil-based counterpart, water-based stains are clearer and contains very low or no VOCs. Most homeowners prefer this type of stain because it’s more affordable, safe for the family, and easy to apply.

It doesn’t require thorough preparation before applying since it’s easier to apply even on any type of surface.

On the other hand, you can only apply oil-based paints and stains on smooth and even surfaces. This limitation makes it less popular on cabinets with intricate woodwork and design.

Pros and Cons of Water-based Stains

Water based staining has both advantages and drawbacks. Here are its pros and cons:


  • People who use this staining are not at risk of harming their health and those who live where the water base stain was applied.
  • Working with water-based stains is easier.
  • It allows you to do two coats in one day since it dries quickly.
  • This type of stain offers excellent quality and performance.
  • Since it doesn’t use harmful chemicals, it’s friendlier to the environment and to humans as well.
  • Emits no odor and requires no ventilation.
  • It has very low-level VOCs to none at all.
  • Cleaning requires soap and water only.
  • It retains its color for a long time.
  • Water based staining offers excellent UV durability.
  • This type of staining can resist yellowing and cracking.


  • Water based staining is easy to do and can be performed by yourself or a trained professional.
  • It requires a varnish sealer to make it more durable.
  • You’ll need more coats since you’ll have to layer the finishes.

How To Perform Water Base Staining

When you use this type of stain, expect a faster drying time compared to its oil-based counterparts. It also produces a very clear finish and will not become yellowish over time.

However, you’ll need to employ some specific approaches to achieve a professional look and prevent wood grain from rising. Using a foam or synthetic brush is one of these special techniques.

Here are general steps in water based staining:

  1. Use sanding to remove oil, dirt, and slight imperfections on the wood. You can use medium-grained sandpaper rubbed in the direction of the grain.
  2. Complete sanding except for the end-grains, then vacuum up the wood dust particles.
  3. To minimize a raised grain, wipe the surface with a damp, oil-free cloth or lightly spray the wood with water. Allow the wood to completely dry up and lightly perform sanding again.
  4. Use a vacuum or oil-free cloth to remove the sanding dust.
  5. With a foam or synthetic brush, start applying the stain once to achieve a light stain or additional coats to achieve a darker shade. Use a clean cloth to wipe off excess stain and allow it to dry completely.
  6. Perform light sanding between coats.

You don’t usually have to worry about staining the inside of a cabinet or drawer. However, you’ll need to stain the inside of cabinet doors as well.

Choose a Greener Option for Kitchen Cabinets

Water based stain is an excellent option if you want a more affordable alternative. Since it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals, you’re also choosing to go green. Aside from saving money, you’re also making your kitchen project safe for your family.