How to Solve Problem of Wood Stain Not Drying

I stripped my cabinets and applied three coats of stain, but the cabinet doors still feel sticky after two days of drying. Should I go ahead and apply the polyurethane finish and hope for the best? -Lauren

Hi Lauren,

If you used a penetrating oil stain, you may have allowed the stain to build up too thick a coat on the surface of the wood. Penetrating wood stains are not intended to be a surface finish. If applied too thickly, they won’t dry properly and will remain tacky to the touch. This can also happen if the wood wasn’t stripped and sanded completely down to bare wood, since the stain will sit on the surface rather than soaking into the wood.

To remove excess oil stain from wood, simply apply another coat of stain, allow it to soak in for a few minutes, then wipe it off. Any excess stain will redissolve and come off, leaving only the stain that penetrated into the wood.

If almost all the stain comes off when you wipe it, the surface probably wasn’t sanded enough. Remove the remaining stain by wiping the wood down with mineral spirits or naphtha (be sure you have plenty of ventilation and don’t work around open flames), followed by wiping with a clean cloth. Allow the wood to dry completely, sand the piece down to bare wood, and apply a coat or two of stain, wiping off any excess.

If you applied the stain correctly, and it still remained tacky, it could be due to rainy weather or high humidity. Give it a few more days to see if it improves. Another possibility is that the stain was old or came from a bad batch.

In either case if the tackiness doesn’t go away, wipe the wood down with mineral spirits or naphtha to remove most of the stain, let it dry thoroughly, then try again using a fresh can of stain.

Good luck with your project,


Further Information


  1. Hi. I bought miniwax polyshades stain to use on a dresser I got off craigslist. I stained the whole dresser and it came out fine but this one side. The first time I did it I put it on too thick so i had to strip it and resand. I have now put another coat on and this time there were a few thick spots, so I went over them with a brush that I dipped in paint thinner. I let the side dry but it’s been 2 days and it’s still tacky. How can I solve this?

    • Hi Crystal,
      Miniwax polyshades is little more than tinted polyurethane, so your drying problem has to do with the varnish type finish not drying rather than the stain. My guess is that either the can of finish was bad or that it was very humid when you applied it. Your best bet is probably to strip the side again and apply a fresh, thin coat of polyurethane from a new can when drying conditions are favorable. Good luck with your project!

  2. I applied three coats of minwax oil based stain to quatersawn oak sanded boards. My last coat looks great and matches my fireplace. The only thing is it is a little tacky, but not wet – sticky. I am going on vacation for three weeks. Will it be dry by then. Has a shinny finish, but want to use polyacrylic satin to dull the finish. Do not want to strip it, since the color matches perfect. What to do? Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Hi Tod,
      As noted in the article above, wood stain is made to soak into wood, not sit on top of it. Time will probably not make the tackiness go away. Minwax stain should dry flat, if it has a shiny sheen, it was put on too thickly. If you try to finish over it with a brush, some of the stain will probably come off on the brush and give the surface an uneven look. You could spray several light coats of finish over the stain, but the adhesion between the finish, stain, and wood will not be very high. Your best bet is to go over it again will another coat of stain, then wipe it off lightly with a dry cloth while the stain is still wet. If it’s not dark enough, use a darker stain, or mix two stains together to get the color you need. Once it dries, topcoat the surface with polyurethane. If it’s still not dark enough, apply one or two coats of the proper shade of Minwax PolyShades, which has colorant in it. PolyShades will make the grain opaque the more coats you apply, so limit it to one or two. Good luck with your project!

  3. We recently wanted to refinish our hardwood floors. We used Minwax oil based stain after all the necessary sanding was done. We did probably 800 square feet. In some places it has absorbed into the wood and other placed it is shiny, but dry and not tacky to the touch. Which is better in this case as we did a larger area? Mineral spirits or applying new stain and wiping?

  4. Hi, we just moved into a house where they stained the hardwood floors with minwax. The stain did not absorb into the wood because the floors already had some kind of seal on them. The surface of the floors is tacky and you can scrape the stain off with your finger… We have a 8 month old baby and I’m concerned about the fumes of the unabsorbed stain and if she crawls around on them. I don’t notice a smell coming from the stain but I’m not sure. Should I be concerned about this??

  5. We bought a house and found hardwood floor under all the carpets, so naturally we pulled up the carpet and stained it. We then decided to go over the stain with Deft lacquer instead of poly because it dries faster. Our problem now is when we walk on the floor the stain is showing on our socks!!! It doesn’t cause any issues with the floor itself, but we have pets and before we move them into the house, I need to figure out what we can do to stop the stain from continuing to pull up. I’m not sure what we did wrong, but now we have to just fix this issue asap! HELP!!!!

  6. I put pecan satin minwax stain and poly 1 step on cubard doord. Wrong color. I boughy=t med oak . How do I take off the first color?

  7. Hello, i recently bought what looked to me to be an old viola from an auction house, when i recieved the item it certainly looked old and needed a clean as it was very dusty. I used some baby wipes to clean and to my surprise i found the stain was coming off onto the wipes, would this tell me that it has only been stained more recently on an item which has been made to look old or would this stain come off if it had been stained lets say 80-90+ years which is how old i thought this item was, many thanks in advance.

  8. We discovered hardwood under our carpets after we moved into our house in 1997. We sanded the floors, cleaned up the mess, then placed stain. After the stained dried, we placed a clear hard coating. Now 2012 I’m seeing these circles and they are sticky and I can take my finger nail and scrap them off. Is this from cleaning my floors with a steamer?? Help please!!!

  9. we sanded our kitchen cabinets and put our stain on everything looks greaat but I think they are a little to shinny. What can i do to tone it down a little?


  11. We just built a breakfast nook and the last coat of stain was very sticky. Read your article, added a coat of stain and took a towel to it and it pulled it off beautifully. I am now looking at a completely finished non-sticky breakfast nook. THANK YOU. All other sites said to sand and use a thinner. Have a great day.

  12. After waiting a couple of days for the stain to dry on my newly built floating shelfs I did some research. All other sites said to use mineral spirits to remove the stain and restain. Your site said to restain and wipe off after a few minutes, this sounded much easier and less expenvise. I finally have nonsticky/ non tacky floating shelfs! Thank you so much!

  13. I think I goofed up big. I decided to refinish bottom cabinets. I don’t know if they were lacquer or poly. I sanded where they wer worn but not down to bare wood every where but all were sanded some. I apply stain and shortly after I applied poly fast drying but it had been in garfge for awhile.I don’t think stain was dry now 18 hrs later cabinets are still sticky look nice but sticky what can i do

  14. We built a desk using new wood. We sanded and stained it and allowed it to dry. The next day we put on polyurethane clear coat. After about 20 hours it is still tacky. The desk is in the garage and I understand it may take longer to dry since its cold but is it normal to still be tacky? Will the tackiness go away if we just allow it to dry longer?


  15. I used a minwax stain poly mix on a 5 yr old dresser, sanded the dresser down and then applied two coats per the directions, allowing for drying in between and doing the whole thing on my outside deck. I allowed 12 hrs of drying time outside before moving it inside to my bedroom. The chemical stain is completely dry and looks great, but the smell is terrible and I just woke up with a sore throat. Is there anyway to resolve this or should I strip it and use a different product??

  16. I used Minwax Satin Polyshade and the first three chairs are perfect. However, the next chair was darker and the last one was darker still. These were done a day later. I think the mix is becoming thicker and so darker when applied. Can I add mineral spirits to the can to thin it out?

  17. Hi,
    Yesterday I sanded down a raw wood toy box/ book case, then after cleaning the sand dust from the surface, I applied one light coat of Minwax Polyshades Espresso. I applied as thin of a coat as I could, though corners retained more stain. I was sure to read and follow the directions very carefully. This particular stain, unlike others I’ve used in the past, did not say to wipe off any excess stain. I thought due to this being a polyshades product- that it may need to be left on. I figured that May have something to do with the poly part of the product. Therefore, I have now allowed it to dry for about 20 hours (6was required according to directions). In some areas, the project still feels slightly tacky. It is unusually cold here yesterday and today- therefore I have not opened the windows for additional ventilation. The nursery is approx 13×15 and the house temp has ranged between 50-63 degrees F during this time. Should I just allow more time to dry? I really want to apply a second coat. The first coat looks great (though some areas look a little more dull than others). I’m praying you don’t tell me I’d have to start over! Thank you in advance for your helpfulness! 🙂
    6 Months Pregnant 🙂

  18. I have two oak cabinets in a laundry room. I sanded both to bare wood and stained them the same stain can (minwax english chestnut). One came out with a wonderful reddish tone and the other did not, more brown. They look like different colors of stain. Both cabinets are oak. Why the difference, or how do I prevent this?

  19. has anybody ever heard of being able to walk on newly applied oil stain without leaving any footprints? My neighbor ,who’s going to help me come spring, says you can but only if there are puddles left over not being wiped away.

  20. I stained my decks this spring and fell in a spot that was very much so over applied. There was a lot of good stain remaining around the spot I made. I simply took some of that stain and tried smoothing it out. It looked really good but someone in the know said come fall I will see problems with it. Do you think I’m okay?

  21. I started a project that I think I did totally incorrect. My kitchen table stains easily so my goal was to touch those areas up, but I gathered in order to do that I would have to touch up the whole table. I brought Minmax Polyshades stain & Polyurethane. I used a medium size paint brush, I stroked the table back and forth and I noticed on one side of the table it was darker in some areas and dry spots in other areas. Currently there is streaks of gloss in some areas, streaks of dull spots in some areas, as well as some areas are darker than others- don’t have a smooth look. What can I do to correct this problem and bring my table back to life.

  22. I sanded, stained & varnished an old bathroom cupboard recently but noticed one drawer was still sticky days after the other parts were dry. I assume it is because that drawer gets the most use & the oil of many hands wasn’t sanded off properly, preventing the stain from being absorbed.

    I have re-sanded & wiped with spirit & hope once stained & varnished again it will be ok. Any other suggestions?

  23. Hey there, I have stained my hardwood floors with Low VOC Penofin Verde (penetrating oil stain). I was careful not to “flood” it, in fact I rubbed it in well, buffed as I went and did another buffing after approx 30 mins. I watched the humidity, the floor was sanded thoroughly. Granted we have had a fairly humid period, but I stained when the humidity level was well below 70%.
    So, it has been a few days now since staining and we had a fairly warm day or two between the humidity. There remains some tacky areas, but no stain is coming up – that I’m aware of…
    I want to seal it with a waterborne varnish, WoodShield Clear Varnish. How should I continue? Should I wait longer for it to dry, or should I wipe down with laquer thinner, or carry on and apply a thin coat of the varnish?
    I have spent months on this project, long story, and really want to get it done, but without error, as it has cost me alot of time and money. Thanks so much!

  24. we stained with a darker color all the chairs in our new restaurant 100 chairs and then had the reupholstered. everything looked great. stain is dry to the touch but when you rub the wood with a napkin it is staining. we have had a few customers with stained cothing during food trials. We open in a week. How can I solve this problem without damaging upholstery. is there any leaner that might remove excess stain-

  25. I am working on building a drawer with fresh wood and like the original poster had to leave quickly before wiping excess stain off the drawer facing. Its more than 24 hrs later and still tacky so I followed the advice above and applied a new coat of stain – only it didn’t help to dissolve the excess from the first application when I wiped off the excess. Is using mineral spirits the only option left? Its still sticky/ tacky / shiny. Sad thing is, its the perfect color and a darker stain isn’t available – if it weren’t for being stick/ tacky/ shiny (and even streaky) I’d just put the finish on it. Sigh. The rest of the pieces all turned out beautifully, if only i’d have wiped the excess off this piece too! I’m a bit concerned that using mineral spirits will lead potentially to an even bigger mess or that the color won’t be close to the other pieces in the set.
    Thank you for any help you can offer!

  26. A few days ago we stained the mantle and it remained sticky. Tried the re- stain and wipe off. We will see if this works. Thanks,

  27. I used Polyshades on the top of a cabinet I am refinishing. It covered the grain more than I wanted and looks thick. I want to remove it NOW without the benefit of letting it dry overnight. Is this possible?

  28. Hello…we finished staining our closet door amd trim…it has been 4 days and is still sticky…can i put the sealer on and it will be ok??? Or no?

  29. I lightly sanded my medium oak bathroom vanity and stained it with Minwax stain and finish yesterday. It was still shiny and sticky today. I googled and found all kinds of complicated fixes. Your suggestion to apply another coat of stain and wipe off seems to be doing the trick. It looks great! Thank you so much.

  30. I have taken on a rather daunting project. I have stripped my stairwell treads down to the bare wood,sanded very well and now have stained most of the treads. Since I still need to live in the house, I’ve had to stain every other tread so I can still go up and down. Now that I have the upper half stairs stained when I look down I see a few spots that need to be darker. Do I do the restain, wipe off process? Because of high humidity in Honolulu, my stain has taken 4-5 days to dry. That’s normal for my house location. Hope to hear from you soon.

  31. Ben,

    I am writing to let you that I have an antique oak table top project that I restained the 3rd coat before the 2nd coat had dryed.I had stained with a brush without any wipeoff. OK so after 4 days only approx 2% looked to dry.
    I read your advice here and today restained (this logic seemed to go against the grain (pun seems to work here) being that too much stain was the cause of this problem) but trusting in experience I went ahead brushed on a liberal amount and wiped off immediately with my cats. The table is now drying normally and not shiney wet look anymore. It was an easy fix that I am very grateful to you all for. Thank you very much.

    p.s. (Ok so I didnt use the cats but it sure sounded funny when I read it back) 😉

    Thanks again.

  32. I also experienced a problem with a stain that remained sticky to the touch after about 8 hours. This “sticky” surface was the second coat, and I realized that I had put on the second coat too generously– rather than leaving a smooth surface. (I applied the stain with a rag– which I prefer to a brush.) I didn’t stop to look for any advice online. Instead, I immediately took a slightly used rag (from the original staining process), and I rubbed down the sticky surface– until it once again felt slick and smooth. I plan to wait overnight (about 12 hours) and then I’ll apply one last coat– sparingly & “care-ingly”! Well, I wish I had checked into your information first, but I think this will work out for me. In the future, I’ll make sure to apply the stain in a very thin layer–. And I’ll refer to your website for more advice as well. Successful staining is very absorbing.
    Thanks so much! And BTW– the coffee table is looking great.

    • Hi Alan,
      Good point. Wiping tacky oil based stain back down with a rag soaked in stain will usually dissolve the excess stain, since the stain contains solvent.

  33. My husband and I are staining a dresser for our baby due in March. We used a minwax stain and applied the minwax pre stain conditioner prior to staining. Tonight, after about 24 hours, the dresser is still tacky and is not as dark as we’d like. We planned on using another coat or two of stain to darken the color, but since it’s humid where we live, and we’re doing this in our garage, I’m afraid of getting similar results. We applied the first coats with a cloth. Should we try a brush? Any advice is appreciated for us first time strainers.

  34. My problem with Minwax is that, applied thinly enough to dry, it doesn’t stain very much and certainly cannot equate to the surface color I am attempting to restore.

  35. I have taken a end table and sand it down to the wood, the stain did not take all over like it should of, so I put it on thicker and it did not dry. so I put more stain on and wiped it like they suggestetd above. what do i need to do to even the stain all over. the stain i used is wood finish.


    • Hi Bonnie,
      It sounds like the wood may not have been sanded down enough and pores in the grain may still be sealed and are keeping the stain from penetrating. Another possibility is the wood itself. Some close grained woods, like birch, don’t absorb penetrating stain very evenly. You could try wiping the table down with mineral spirits to remove any excess stain, then allow it to dry and apply several coats of a tinted polyurethane (such as Minwax PolyShades). The tint will obscure the wood grain some, but since it’s a surface finish, it won’t absorb unevenly into the wood like penetrating stain can.

  36. We replaced old stairs with the kit you buy at homedepot, we stained, looks great but stairs are still sticky It left foot marks, its a high traffic area, we have not yet put on shine how do we remove foot marks?? Have we ruined the stairs:(

  37. I’m staining my floors and staircase with your stain. My house was built in 1890. The floors and stairs had been painted and I have removed all the paint. The floors have done great however I’m just staining the stairs and it seems so dry it soaks up immediately and really shows no grain. Is there something I should do to condition the wood before staining?

    Thank you

  38. I used semi transparent stain on an old deck that I had power wash and sanded the day before. I don’t like the coverage. How soon can re-stain it with a sold stain????

  39. I recently sanded my oak banister down to bare wood (it was originally painted white). I applies 4 coats of varathan oil based stain. It took 4 coats to get the dark colour I was looking for, I used ‘KONA’. I allowed each coat to dry for 2-3 hours as per the insrtuctions and then let it sit overnight. In the morning there were a few tiny sections that weren’t quite dry so I left for a few more hours. When it was all dry to the touch and smooth I started to apply varathane professional oil based clear coat. When I brushed on the clear coat it removed stain in some areas. I only did a small section when I noticed so I stopped but that small sections has some very light streaks in it. I have no idea why that happened or what to do with the rest of the banister. Please help!!!!!!!!

  40. Hi, my dad is building a casket for a man who can not afford to buy one, his question is: how does he get dry spots out after he stains and clear coats the wood?

  41. Hi Ben,
    I have read all the comments and problems, that people are having with stain oil based. I am having the same problem, I striped the old stain on a Mahogany Buffet, sanded and put the conditioner. After the first two coats of oil base stain. All was okay I wiped all excess,and was dry next day, but then on the third coat I forgot to clean excess and now after 12 hour still is sticky to the touch. I went to HD and people there told me to strip and sand all over again. Sorry I will try what you say first and then I will let you know what happens.
    Hope you are right. Thanks in advance..

  42. Thank you so much. Redid my son’s rocking chair from when he was a little guy for his up coming baby. I thought it was the humidity so i put it in an air conditioned room for two days and still not dry. I am going to put a skim coat on and take a t-shirt and try that. Thanks again for posting this.

  43. I put two coats of Wolman’s F&P sealer on my cedar deck. Waiting about hr between coats. Deck was lightly power washed. I also used electric blower before applying the sealer. Also used brush to apply each coat. It’s been 48 hours and the wood is slippery. What can I do to remedy the problem? Help

  44. My wife used oil based stain over a non-sanded painted table. It’s not drying – still tacky after two days. I say strip it down to bare wood. She says apply more stain and rub lightly and even out the color. I say it will never dry? If it stays tacky, can we put poly over it and will it dry and be durable?

  45. Hi,
    I am in the process of refinishing an antique vanity. It was in rough shape, so I removed all the old finish down to bare wood. But during that process there were a few blemishes on the top that seemed to be some sort of oil or hair product. I applied to coats of stain covered and blended these blemishes very well. Then I applied my first coat of polyurethane and everything seemed well. So I sanded it down with a 220 before my second coat of poly and all the stain came right off where the blemish was it’s not large maybe the size of a dime. I re-tinted it, but in the same spot it seems the poly will not dry or adhere properly. Is there something I can do to fix this or at least help the poly to cure fully so it is not tacky?

  46. I recently purchased Minwax Water Based stain (honeydew color) and Minwax pre-stain conditioner for applying on my stripped kitchen cabinets. The oak cabinets were sanded down to the wood very smoothly using 220 grit aluminum oxide sandpaper. I apply the stain with a bristle brush and wipe clean with cheesecloth soon after. Due to the fast drying time of water based stains, I apply the stain with a bristle brush and about 15 seconds later wipe off with cheesecloth. My problem is that when I apply the next brush stroke of stain adjacent to the one I just wiped off, I am left with about one eighth of an inch streak of brighter stain between the two areas. I don’t want to take the chance and stain the whole cabinet door right away due to the fast drying time. Are there any tricks when staining adjacent areas so they don’t overlap and cause problems when wiped down with the cheesecloth?

  47. Thanks so much! We are striping and staining our banister. We wanted it really dark so we put the second coat on heavy and probably did not wipe enough off. It was still tacky after 3 days. Just tried lightly restaining and wiped off right away. Already looks better. hopefully it will dry this time!

  48. We are doing a quick fix on a house and did not sand the floors before we stained, so of course the floor is still very tacky. If we apply polyurethane over the tacky floor, will that work or not? Thanks

  49. Lightly sanded and stained a dining table top with oak stain, let dry and did a second coat and let dry. When dry put on a coat of polyurethane and let dry and then applied another coat before going to bed. It looked great and then great big areas of whitish creamy spots appeared in spots over the table so I cover it with a table cloth. Where there are no white spots the finish is great. I am wondering why this happened? I am thinking of sanding it so it is rough, putting on a paint primer and painting it. I have done quite a bit of refinishing and have never had this happen before.

  50. I just had new oak cabinets built which I stain Early American. Some of the doors came out really really dark and some of them a nice light brown. How can I fix it?

  51. I accidentally put another layer of oil base stain on and I figured out how to get rid of sticky stain after I thought it should be dry already. I tried Clorox wipe (orange dispenser), it worked perfectly, cleaned up all the excess stain. No need to sand it and repaint all over again.

  52. My wood boards and rods for shelving have dried to touch but still give off a horrible smell. We sanded them all, applied a pre-stain conditioner, and then applied one coat of Minwax Polyshades Stain and Polyurethane in One. The Polyshades coat seemed too dark for our tastes, and too thick in application, so we wiped the excess off with paper towels, with hopes that it would dry quicker and with a better color. It has a great color and seems dry to touch, but smells. We think we may have wiped off the stain component in the Polyshades with our paper towels. On top of that, it is just too cold outside to dry, and the only other place to keep it safely is our basement, which may be too cool and humid. Will I need to apply another Polyshades coat without wiping it off? Can we apply a water-based finish to dry quickly and cover up the smell? Will time and air flow help the smell go away?’ (We read that stains can emit fumes for up to months and years.) Anything will help! Thanks.

  53. HELP!! I used a water based stain and my chairs are still tacky after 24 hours. I applied the stain generously ( which I know was a mistake) because I was in a hurry to get it finished. I KNOW I DID A HUGE BOOBOO. I have gone back over the furniture with a dry sponge brush making sure any excess is gone. I have also had a portable heater running in the garage for the last 8 hours and it is not drying. What do I need to do? My dad is no longer with me or I could ask him so please tell me what do I do?

    Thank you,

    Shannon Fleet
    Cordova, Tn

  54. After two days, the Minwax stain and seal was still tacky. I realize I made the mistake of not wiping down after applying the stuff. I took the advice above of applying another coat and wiping down and it worked! This time, after one night with the fan blowing, it was dry to the touch. I wiped again and applied a coat of car wax and now it is completely dry and smooth. Thanks for the great tip.

  55. This worked for me: I stained a wood (red oak) night stand, bare wood. Used MINWAX red oak oil based stain, two coats. After two days I have some stickiness so I brought it inside for a day & the stickiness remained. It wasn’t real bad but I certainly couldn’t add polyurethane. I didn’t want to apply any more stain to try & de-solve the existing stain – it was already dark enough. I also didn’t want to remove much of the stain or go back to bare wood. Since these appeared to be my only two options I got an old hand towel, (100% cotton). Don’t use anything else like micro fiber (they seem to stick). I carefully rubbed a small area back & forth until the tackiness was gone. I started in the back where no one would see. This removed the tackiness and the surface became smooth & dry. I then carefully did the rest of the unit. Now I’ll let it sit for another couple of days minimum to make sure. I can’t guarantee you’ll get the same results because I don’t know how thick your tackiness is compared with mine. But I’m sure thankful this worked for me. Good luck.

  56. We over-stained a kitchen table with non-oil based minwax stain and it is still tacky. Most of the remedies address oil-based stain – will they also work for non-oil based stain? Will a gel stain over our tacky surface dry appropriately if we try that? Should we rub down with the mineral spirits, let dry, and then use the gel stain? Thanks for any help.

  57. I live in an apartment and got sick and tired of dingy wood door frames so I bought a stain that looked close to what was already used. After hours it’s sticky. Did I make a mistake? I have 3 small children so I can’t use really harsh chemicals to strip it. Any alternatives? I didn’t strip anything off before I applied the stain. I’m sure that’s what my problem is. But how do I fix it? My kids have touched it and I have finger prints on my walls and furniture! Please help.
    Thank you

  58. If you did indeed sand down to wood, stain that is “still wet” after 24-48 hours needs to come off with mineral spirits. Pain right in the a$$, but take a green pad (like you would scrub dishes with) and scrub that whole floor! The stain that truly penetrated the wood shall stay, the stain that dried on the surface will dissolve in the mineral spirits. Wipe it down REALLY well when you finish scrubbing an area. All done!

  59. I, too, made the mistake of putting the stain on too heavy and not wiping it off. My project was paper and mod podge over glass. I was scared that I was going to have take it all off and start over. Every other source said it wouldn’t and that I would have to take it off with mineral spirits. Thanks to your advice, I put on more stain and it wiped right off.

  60. I am refinishing a 65 year old front door. I sanded, applied Minwax Pre – Staining Wood Conditioner…and then applied Varathane over it. I have a spot where there is white ghosting (for lack of a better word) over some spots. It’s as if white water spots surface…(when in fact it was dry before applying.) I remember the same thing happened when I did some window sills. Why does this happen? And what do I need to do to fix it? Thank you!

  61. To Everyone that is referring to the tackiness after applying oil based stain there is a very simple process to remove and have beautiful stain without removing any color. Take 0000 grade steel wool. Easily rub back and forth a long the direction of the wood. It completely removes the tackiness and gives you an ultra smooth finish. Just remember to use a tack cloth afterwards to pick up any left over steel particles on the wood. I actually use this grade steel wool between every coat of stain, it gives it a perfect end finish that way.

  62. I sanded the underside of a mahogany drop leaf table. Re-stained and to keep the mahogany from bleeding through, I applied a sealer after the stain had dried. I was trying to avoid the bleed through from ruining my final poly finish. Now I am having trouble getting the top to dry. It has been three days since I applied the sealer. What should I do? It has really been humid here recently so perhaps I just need to wait awhile longer.

  63. Hello!
    I’ve been working on a matching backdrop/floor combo for my studio. I ordered in long planks of cedar and cut them to size. I then stained the rougher side with minwax penetrating stain (jacobean), it is oil based. It has been 5 full days and it is still tacky but getting better. My biggest issue is that there is a shimmery look to all of the boards. I cannot use them for a backdrop if they have any glare whatsoever. That is why I choose to go the real wood route. I am terribly disappointed as no one can explain the shimmer to me and give me suggestions on how to fix it.
    Any ideas at all on what caused this or if it can be fixed?
    Thanks in advance.

  64. Thank goodness for this site — last night I was in a full-on panic. I’d put stain (Minwax Penetrating Wood stain) on our wood floors to darken some scratches and then wiped it off as the hardware store person told me to do. Ten hours later, the floors were tacky, sticky, and showed no real signs of getting any better. I read every comment on this thread and the thought of re-staining or using mineral spirits to strip the stain off and start over were daunting. Somewhere in the course of the thread I read that Clorox wipes (the yellow/orange) version would help. After trying the “re-apply stain, let it sit, then re-wipe” to a 4′ square I thought there is no way I can do this entire floor that way. So, I went to the dollar store and bought Clorox wipes. While I was there something told me to also pick up a bottle of the Murphy’s Oil Soap (multi-use wood cleaner). I came home and started scrubbing with the Clorox wipes — it worked!!! But it was a LOT of work. I thought my arms and hands would fall off. Then it occurred to me to spray on the Murphy’s Oil Soap, let it sit for a few moments, then use the clorox wipes to lift off the excess stain, and then wipe thoroughly with paper towels. Voila!!! It left the stain in the scratches, but took all the excess gummy, tacky, sticky stain off the surface of the floor. The re-stain and wipe of a 4′ square took about 30 minutes. The Clorox wipes only took so much effort and a 20′ square took 2-1/2 hours. The Murphy’s Oil Soap, then Clorox wipes, then paper toweling of a 40′ square took less than an hour and the results were perfect. They floors were dry in minutes and tomorrow I will polish them with a water-based polish. Thank you for this site.

  65. If you like the look of heavy stain and your current stain is not drying remove by restaining or using mineral spirits and then get Rustoleum Ultimate Wood Stain in the color of choice and use instead of whatever you’re using that isn’t drying. It may take up to two days to dry (I live in the SW and it drys in a few hours) and unlike Minwax that will be tacky two weeks later, Rustoleum Ultimate will dry. I LOVE RUSTOLEUM !! Lowes used to carry it and they no longer carry in stores but online. However, Walmart to the rescue!—They carry Rustoleum Ultimate and I use it for all my wood staining and many other things are well. You can use like paint and it will dry. It can work miracles for reviving old furniture without having to strip and sand. Note that going darker produces a better result than going lighter.

  66. I was also having a problem with my second coat of stain drying on a table. After letting it dry for 12 hours and it was still sticky I tried using alcohol wipes. I took the wipes and wiped off the excess stain. I then wiped the table off with a dry paper towel. I let it dry a couple more hours and the stickiness was gone. Worked great.

  67. I want to restain some wood which is under cover. I don’t know if oil or water stain was previously used. It has been many years since the original staining was done

  68. I applied pre stain to door after sanding down to bare wood. then brushed on mahogany minwax gel stain to entire door & started to wipe off but cloth stuck to door. I left it alone & 24 hours later its still tacky. the stain looks more like walnut than mahogany. it was difficult to apply with brush, very thick even after stirring

  69. I found a great deal on an antique dinette set. It has a lot of detailed carvings in the wood so I knew sanding then staining would take too long so I just just stain over everything, well it wouldn’t dry and was sticky so I googled what to do and read to restain then wipe off. I instead used lemon oil furniture polish on everything and wiped it all down and it took the stickyness away and now I can move onto reupholstering….my advice, use lemon oil and save yourself the time of restaining.

  70. I put minwax stain on bedroom furniture,it’s been a week and it’s still tacky.
    I didn’t sand it first. What can I do?

    • Hi, Karen!

      If the tackiness doesn’t go away, wipe the wood down with mineral spirits or naphtha to remove most of the stain, let it dry thoroughly, sand, and then try again using a fresh can of stain.
      Good luck,

  71. I tried many of the remedies listed in this trail.

    The problem I had was I did NOT remove the stain from the kitchen table so the stain never soaked into the wood hence the table felt wet. I ultimately had to remove the stain (which literally sat on top of the wood) then re apply the stain the right way and it turned out amazing.

  72. So, I think after reading this article and comments I neglected to wipe off stain properly during coats. I spent hours prepping and sanding my surfaces, so I knew that wasn’t the issue! I’m kicking myself because I totally forgot about the urgency of wiping off excess stain. As a result I’m getting a sticky surface that won’t dry. I applied a total of 3 coats. Im praying that applying 4th coat and wipe off will do the trick. I’m running out of time to complete this project! I do not want to strip all the way down & start over! Any other suggestions!

  73. First of all if it’s not unfinished furniture or wood you need to double down on sanding…means twice to 3 times starting with 60, then 100 then 120 grit sand paper. All top choice lumber is oiled/ waxed and needs to be properly taking off( I like an orbital sander, for edging that is detailed, do it by hand) once taking off properly you can apply the stain as heavy as you want as long as the wood can sustain it…lol, so start light and do test pieces , dry times all depend on density of wood, moisture, and thickness applied..hope this helps

  74. If your hardwood stained floor (or any wood project) is NOT TERRIBLY tacky, then you can just apply poly which will harden over and dry up real fast. The tacky feel shouldn’t exist after the floor completely cures.

    I know the “NOT TERRIBLY tacky” is going to be different for each and can create a quandary but I think with most seasoned DIYers, they can use their best judgement. When in doubt, just follow some of the remedies previously posted.

  75. So I used varathane poly and stain in one and it’s not working! I got an old dresser and am trying to restore it but it the stain isn’t working. I got the darkest color espresso and I I used acetone to take the previous stain off and sanded it down lightly with 180 grit then went to put the poly and stain on with a rag and it didn’t even take any color! And then I tried a brush but then it just stayed tacky! What am I doing wrong? Or is this do
    Thing I have to do a few coats on to get color out of?

  76. Help! Ok. i am trying to repair a major screw up, (not my doing), Our staging company had some laborers stain a couple hundred sheets of veneer plywood with minwax. They put it on with rollers, didnt wipe it off, put on more, then before it was dry, put polyurethane over it also with a roller. Its been months and the poly on many sheets is still sticky feeling. The sheets got stacked and basically glued together by the undried products. so now im supposed to repair the damaged sheets, and finish them to match. TWO questions. first, will new poly seal over the poly and dry to a non sticky finish. Second, any suggestions on sealing in the mess, just to make it usable for stage flooring and not pulling off people socks? I know how to fix this on a dresser, or small project, but im seriously talking 250 sheets of European plyboard and I have three weeks to solve the problem and have it user ready. Any realistic suggestions?

    • Glad to hear it, Chris! Please feel free to share this tip on social media and we’ll continue to produce more like it. 🙂

  77. I just got two oak end tables from my parents that i want to refinish so that was very helpful and well done

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed this content, Hannah! Please share it with friends — that’s how we’re able to create similar content.


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