How Long to Let Stain Dry Before Polyurethrane?

how long to let wood stain dry before polyurethrane

You may be wondering how much time you need let stain dry before you can apply polyurethane. This is a crucial step to consider since it has a significant effect on the quality of your end product. If the stain is not well dried and you make a mistake of applying poly, then you will end up with stain mixing which takes forever to dry. It can also ruin your finish.

The time it takes for a stain to dry depends on the type of stain used. Different stains take vary in the duration they take to dry. Here is how long you should let different brands of stain dry before applying polyurethane.

As a side note, check these woodworking designs and projects that I recommend by clicking here.

How Long to Let Oil-Based Stains Dry Before Polyurethrane

  • Minwax oil-based stain takes an average of 12 hours
  • Varathane stains take a minimum of 8 hours before applying a topcoat.
  • Behr stain takes 72 hours
  • Cabot stains take a minimum of 24 hours to completely dry.
  • Osmo stains take more than 12 hours to dry.

How Long to Let Water-Based Stains Dry Before Polyurethrane

  • Minwax water-based stain – it takes approximately 3 hours to dry.
  • General finishes wood stain, which takes around 3 to 4 hours drying time.

Water-based stains take a much shorter time to dry than oil-based stains. Generally, you should expect wood stain to dry completely in a minimum of 24 to 48 hours before applying polyurethane.

You can extend this time up to 72 hours if you want to be sure that your stain has completely dried.

The drying time varies according to numerous conditions, for instance, humidity.

Minwax Oil-Based Stains

Minwax offers a variety of oil-based stains in liquid form, aerosol and gel form. There are also standard stains and performance stains.

Minwax’s standard and performance (oil-based) stains require the same amount of drying time recommended to them.

For all of them, it is 8 hours before recoating. After recoat, the time will vary according to the brand used, and it varies from 2 to 12 hours.

You can shorten the drying time by sealing the wood with dewaxed shellac like Zinsser seal coat after 2 to 3 hours and then apply a water-based polyurethane.

Minwax’s Gel (oil-based) stains require more time to dry, which is a minimum of 24 hours. The recoat time required is from 8 to 10 hours for the gel stain.

Varathane Stains

Varathane also offers different stains like Minwax. They have a standard stain(liquid), a gel-based stain and an aerosol.

Varathane gives the dry times of their stains a controlled environment of between 70and 80 degrees and humidity of 50%.

Varathane Standard Stains

They refer to it as their premium stain. It takes 2 hours to dry and after recoating it is handled and dry enough to touch in 1 to 2 hours.

Varathane Gel Stains

This stain requires about 2 hours to dry before applying a recoat which also takes between 1 to 2 hours to dry after its application.

Overall it takes a minimum of 8 hours to dry before applying polyurethane thoroughly.

Behr Oil-Based Stain

All Behr wood stains have nearly the same recommended drying time frames.

The standard time for all of them is 1 to 2 hours until the stain is dry to touch. It is at this point that a recoat can be applied if you want to.

For the stain to completely cure, it requires at least 72 hours.

Cabot Oil-Based Stains

Cabot has a lot of different types of oil-based stains.

Most of them have almost the same drying time frame, as per the recommended.

Most of them dry after 24 hours while others take between 24 and 48 hours like their Australian Timber Oil.

Here is a list of some of the Cabot oil-based stains that have a minimum drying time of 24 hours.

  • Cabot Gold
  • #1600 series Cabot Solid Color Oil Deck Stain
  • #1400 series Cabot Semi-Solid Color Oil Deck and Sliding Stain
  • #7600 Series Cabot Solid Color Oil Deck
  • #17400 Series Cabot Semi Solid Deck and Sliding stain

Osmo Stains

Osmo recommends 12 hours at conditions of 73.4 degrees(F) and humidity of 50% for the stain to dry.

The time will be longer than 12 hours if the temperature is lower than 73.4 degrees and humidity higher.

Olympic Elite

This is a high quality wood stain. It takes around 24 to 48 hours to cure after drying depending on the moisture level of your deck the quality of wood your deck is from.

Water Based Stain

General Finishes Wood Stain

It takes around 3 to 4 hours for this brand of stain to dry under ideal conditions of 70% humidity and 70 degrees.

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity tend to prolong the dry time. Air movement and higher temperatures will make the drying processes to be faster.

Minwax Water-Based Stain

It takes 2 hours for the stain to be touched; hence, an application of a second coat applies at that time. The dry time for this stain is 3 hours under ideal conditions.

This time is pushed forward if there is a heavy application, high humidity or low temperatures. Polyurethane can be applied after the stain is all dried up.

How Long Does Interior and Exterior Stains Take to Dry?

The drying time for this two varies because of the difference in their environment.

For interior stains, the air is warmer and can be controlled with a lower humidity level which of course entirely depends on where you live. It takes around 6 to 24 hours for this stain to dry.

The outdoor stain takes longer to dry and from my experience, the general time taken is 24 to 72 hours.

This is because an outdoor environment has temperature fluctuations and can have a difference of 20 degrees or more in other cases. The humidity is also higher, especially in the early morning hours and at night.

How Long Does It Take a Wood Stain to Dry?

Exterior wood stains come in different types thus have a range of drying times.

There are penetrative stains which are very thick and penetrate the wood to form a seal. They usually dry on the top very fast but take 1 to 2 days before drying.

The thinner non-penetrative wood stains take weeks to dry against the wood thoroughly. You should leave them for a week or two before applying a second coat.

Latex stains take even longer to dry. Let’s say a period of between 2 to 3 weeks.


Before the application of polyurethane, you should let the stain dry to ensure you don’t mix stain into your poly.

In some cases, it can result in a poor finish as a result of reduced bonding ability of the poly to the stain.

Different stains take different periods to dry, and this depends on the product or brand of stain used. Water based stains take a shorter time of 3 to 4 hours to dry than oil based stains.

Exteriors wood stains take longer to dry than interior wood stains. Exterior wood stains can take up to 4 days to completely dry.

This time differences vary depending on the humidity and temperature differences of the areas. Different brands of oil-based stains have different drying periods, but all generally range from 24 to 72 hours.

I recently wrote an article on Wiping Stain Vs. Penetrating Stain. Read it here.

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