DIY Wood Stain using household products

The hardest part about winter has to be that I can’t go outside and paint, cut wood, and all those other things you can’t do inside (especially with kids). However, I have been locking myself in the basement smelling some fumes because I am desperate! But today, I have a fun little project for you that helps with avoiding those fumes! Did you know you can make your own wood stain with just a few household products? It’s true! I remember doing this with my mom when I was a little girl. My grandfather was a painter and showed us how to do this. I haven’t done it in forever and can’t believe I waited this long!

Make your own DIY wood stain using just steel wool, vinegar, and instant coffeeSo let’s gather up some supplies shall we?

What you need: 

- Steel wool (I used 000-extra fine grade)
- Distilled White Vinegar
- Instant Coffee
- Quart Size Mason Jar

How to make DIY Wood Stain: (be sure and read my notes at the bottom)

UPDATE: If you are applying to actual wood for a finishing project, you will need to apply several coats until you get the desired darkness! It will not appear very dark until it soaks into the wood. I let the stain dry about 15 minutes between coats. It might not be completely dry, but it worked for me. Once, dry it will look very flat in color. (example here) You will need to seal it with something to get that “wet” look from the stain. It is really is not an exact science, so please test this out before you try it on something important! 

First make sure your mason jar is clean. Then you will take out one pad of the steel wool (pictured above). I sort of broke mine up a little so it wasn’t so tight together and then just push it down in your mason jar. Now just fill it up with your vinegar. Don’t fill it up all the way because it does expand a little. You can see how full mine is above, you might even go with a tad bit less if you want. Now the fun part… add in 1 Tablespoon of Instant Coffee. I prefer instant because it dissolves where as regular coffee would leave the grinds in it. That isn’t the end of the world, but you just have to deal with them when you are staining. That’s it! Now you just have to wait!

Make your own DIY wood stain using just steel wool, vinegar, and instant coffeeIt needs to sit at least 24 hours, but the longer it sits, the richer the color gets. Then once it sits you are ready to use it. I did let mine sit for about 5 or 6 days before I used it. The color just gets prettier (in my opinion) But totally up to you. Test it out each day, see how you like it. Keep in mind though once you apply it to the wood, you won’t see the final color until it is COMPLETELY dry! It gets a little darker as the days go on. So I have to say, if you are looking for an exact color, this probably isn’t the stain you want. If you are going for a reclaimed look, then this is PERFECT! I will be sharing with you soon how to get a great weathered look using this stain ; )

So let’s see how the color looks….

Make your own DIY wood stain using just steel wool, vinegar, and instant coffee

 

On the left is Minwax’s Dark Walnut, and the Right is the DIY Wood Stain. I wanted you to be able to see the difference. The DIY Wood Stain has a little bit of a gray tone to it from the steel wool, which is what makes is perfect for making wood look older than it is!

Just a few little side notes: 

- you can omit the coffee if you are wanting more of a gray color. This is traditionally how we made it when I was a kid, but I added the coffee for a little bit of a brown color
- this is not an exact science, it is homemade and your results will MOST LIKELY be different every time you make it, so if you are doing a big project, make enough for the whole thing and be sure and apply it at the same time because the stain does change the longer it sits. You could remove the steel wool to try and keep the color the same, but you would have to test this out to see if it works

Make your own DIY wood stain using just steel wool, vinegar, and instant coffee

Want to see how it looks on an actual project? I used this exact stain for my DIY Coat Rack

DIY Coat Rack Tutorial

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Comments

    • Ashley says

      I’ve heard that too Bobby! I plan on playing with a few difference mix ups : ) I think I’ll give the tea a try next! Thanks for stopping by!

      • Ashley says

        Yes, vinegar can have a strong scent, but I still prefer this to smelling traditional stain during the winter months when I’m working in my basement. Sometimes I do find wearing a mask when working with any strong fumes helps.

    • Ashley says

      I’m sorry you are not happy with it. It doesn’t appear dark at first and it does require multiple coats. You also have to apply a top coat sealant to get the true color to come through. Let me know if you have any questions.

  1. says

    I love this technique! I do a similar one, hadn’t seen it this way. I will try it. The one I do, you make the steel wool vinegar combo and set it aside, no coffee. Then, while you wait for that to “cook” I make a strong batch of black tea or coffee, and paint my boards in it and really let it soak in. Then after it dries, I go over it with the steel wool vinegar mix, and it changes color right before your eyes. I will have to try your method and see how it goes!

    Here’s one of the times I did it:
    http://ninered.blogspot.com/2013/05/diy-floor-mirror.html

  2. Jen says

    After going to the store to get the wood stain and completely not reading about the DIY wood stain tutorial…I came home and found I had no coffee or tea, so I used Mexican vanilla. It smells good and it’s dark. Do you think it might work at all?

    • Ashley says

      Hey Jen! I am not entirely sure how that would work. It seems like it would. I just kinda threw the coffee in there and hoped for the best : ) But I suppose it just depends how it reacts with the vinegar. What I’d probably do is rub it on some wood by itself… if it changes the shade at all, I’d go for it. : ) Hope that helps a little! I’d love to know how it comes out though if you do end up trying it!

  3. Barbara says

    Hi Ashley, I’m so intrigued! Can you tell me if I’m going more for the dark walnut color, is it achievable? If so, just let it sit in jar much longer? Thank you so much for this tip, can’t wait to try it♥
    Barb

  4. Ashley says

    I’m not sure if it will get that deep brown look, but mine has been sitting for almost 2 weeks. I can test it out and send you an email with the two different pieces so you can see the type of difference there is as time passes : ) I’ll see if I can get that done tonight after the kiddos go to bed ; ) If you don’t hear from me though, please shoot me an email or message me on facebook… my mommy brains is awful these days, lol!

Trackbacks

  1. […] We’ve told you about many projects where you can use wood stain, it’s available in many shops. But if you don’t want to buy it, you can make it at home! You’ll need steel wool, distilled white vinegar, instant coffee, a quart size mason jar. First make sure your mason jar is clean. Then you will take out one pad of the steel wool and then just push it down in your mason jar. Now just fill it up with your vinegar. Don’t fill it up all the way because it does expand a little. Add in 1 tablespoon of instant coffee. That’s it! Now you just have to wait. Read the rest of the tutorial here. […]

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