May 22, 2024

It is very important that you protect bare wood. If you have furniture that does not have a protective coating then you can use stains and lacquer to finish it. This will enhance the look of the wood as well as protect it.

Here we will discuss the different types of wood stains available as well as lacquers and varnishes. We want you to make the right choice for your furniture so that you end up with a great looking result that provides full protection for your wood. So let’s take a look at the different types of stains and finishes for wood.

What Stains and Finishes for your Wood?

The first thing that you need to know is that wood stains can be either water or oil based. They contain pigments or dyes that will soak into the bare wood and accentuate the grain. These are the type of finishes available to protect bare wood from sunlight and moisture:

  • Natural Oils
  • Water-based finishes
  • Lacquers
  • Shellacs
  • Varnishes

Stains that are Water Based

A water-based stain emits few volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and they clean up easily using just soap and water. A water-based stain will also dry pretty fast. If you are going to choose a water-based stain then it is best to avoid solvents and glycol as these could be toxic.

You need to look carefully at what is included in a water-based stain. Most manufacturers of stains and lacquer will happily provide a material safety data sheet (MSDS) which will indicate any potential health risks. Once you have used a water-based stain on your wood you can apply another finish such as a lacquer to improve durability.

Stains that are Natural Oil Based

Natural oil based stains are plant-based. These are very durable and you don’t need to use a sealer like you will need if you choose a water-based stain if you don’t want to. The problem with natural oil stains is that they can emit higher amounts of VOC’s.

As always you need to check the MSDS of any natural oil-based stain that you are thinking of purchasing. It is certainly possible to buy oil based stains that have a low level of VOC’s and this might be the right decision in some situations.

Stains that are Oil or Synthetic Based

We do not recommend the use of stains that are oil or synthetic based for indoor projects. This is because they usually use urethane or acrylic binders which often contain dangerous chemicals that emit high levels of VOC’s.

It is OK to use these oil and synthetic based for outdoor projects. In fact, they are good for fences and other outdoor applications because they are a lot more water resistant than standard water-based stains.


Lacquer can really make your wood look great. It dries really fast and is a more durable finish than shellac. Lacquer is usually very thin and you will need to apply a number of coats to finish the job.

There are many different types of lacquer available. You can buy it in a high gloss form, matte finish, satin finish, in a clear format or even in a color stain clear form. Although lacquer creates a stunning finish for wood you need to work quickly as it dries so rapidly. You can purchase lacquer in aerosol cans for easier application.

We can assist you with Stains and Lacquer

People often have a hard time deciding which kind of wood finish to use for their projects. We know a great deal about stains and lacquer as well as other types of wood finishes. We would be delighted to discuss your requirements so please contact TJ Hardware.