How To Darken Wood Without Stain – 4 Ways

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There are many different reasons why people prefer darker wood, but the most common reason is its ability to improve or change the look of your furniture, fence, deck, or porch.

But everyone knows that natural dark wood is almost impossible to find, and this is a problem that has led to an increase in the use of wood stains as the best way to darken wood.

So, how can you darken wood without stain? First lets go over what a wood stain is.

Wood Stains – All You Need To Know

A wood stain can be thought of as type of paint used to change the color of wood. Wood stains are made in various colors and contain dyes or pigments suspended in a solvent or substance such as alcohol, varnish, shellac, lacquer, water, or polyurethane.

It is important to note that wood stains which contain dyes have the ability to color fine-grained woods (maple or cherry) better than wood stains which contain pigments.

Disadvantages Of Wood Stain

Wood stains may be easy to purchase and apply, but there are a few disadvantages you should consider before you choose wood stains as your long-term wood coloring solution.

Here are a few of these disadvantages:

  • Some wood stains can hide the grain of the wood.
  • Wood stains are harmful to the environment due to the compounds they release.
  • Wood stains are poisonous.
  • Takes a lot of time to dry completely.
  • The color fades when continuously exposed to sunlight.
  • Stains can only be cleaned with acetone.
  • Wood stains can be difficult to apply.

How To Darken Wood Without Stain

Most people believe it’s difficult to get a darkened wood without stain, but this belief has been proven wrong; different colors of wood stains can be created via the use of simple household items such as tea, beetroot, vinegar, coffee, and metals.

Let’s take a look at some of the best natural wood stain recipes that work a treat:

1. Acetic Acid And Metals

Acetic acid is like vinegar, so don’t get confused or overwhelmed yet or you’ll miss out on the great things this mixture can do.

How To Darken Wood Without Stain - Vinegar
White vinegar

Vinegar is a simple ingredient, but don’t underestimate it because when it creates a chemical reaction when mixed with iron, the chemical reaction darkens wood rapidly.

Here’s how to make this natural wood stain:

  1. Get 4 different jars to experiment.
  2. Add 1 steel wool pad to each jar.
  3. Add vinegar (one of apple cider/white/balsamic vinegar) to three jars. Fill them most of the way and make sure that the steel wool is covered.
  4. Add white vinegar and rusty nails to the fourth jar.
  5. Place the lid on top of the jar (don’t tighten).
  6. Open and remove the metallic items from the jar after 24 hours.
  7. Test the stains. Wait 10-30 mins after brushing for best results.

Amazing, eh? How do you like the grey tint the apple cider vinegar provides?

2. Tea Stain

How To Darken Wood Without Stain - Tea Bags
Tea bags

Most people who drink tea a lot have noticed that tea leaves a brown color on/in the mug. This is because tea contains tannic acid which is used for the production of dyes.

This is why tea can be used as a natural wood stain, as wood has been known to absorb its color quickly. Here’s how you can do it:


  • Boiling water (2 cups)
  • Family size tea bags (4)
  • A 0000-grade steel wool pad
  • Apple cider vinegar (16 ounces)
  • Chip brushes (2)


  1. Leave the tea bags in the boiling water for 24 hours. Put the steel wool pad and vinegar in a bowl for 24 hours.
  2. Brush your wood with the tea mixture after 24 hours.
  3. Wait 3 hours.
  4. Brush with the apple cider mixture.
  5. Wait for 1 hour to see results.

It’s pretty easy and quite fun.

3. Acrylic Paint And Water

How To Darken Wood Without Stain - Acrylic Paint
Acrylic paint

This is a simple and effective homemade mixture that gives you the opportunity to experiment with different colors of acrylic paint for staining. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Get any acrylic paint of your choice (nontoxic).
  2. Mix the acrylic paint with water (50% paint and 50% water).
  3. Wash or brush the wood with the mixture.

Looks nice and colorful, right? I bet you like it.

4. Other Stain Mixtures You Can Try

You think acrylic paint and water or the tea stain are cool mixtures? Here are other mixtures that might surprise you:

  • Coffee & vinegar wood stain – dark grey
  • Steel wool stain and balsamic vinegar – Gold (best on pine)

Here’s a video illustrating how to do a coffee stain:

Just mix and apply different stains together and you may invent a new color.

Advantages Of Natural Wood Stains

The advantages of natural wood stains are many, and there are little to no negative effects. Here are a few you should know:

  • Healthy and safe
  • Eco-friendly
  • Natural wood stains are inexpensive
  • A finisher can be applied
  • Stains made from vinegar can be used outdoors

Wood stains are important as they add color to furniture and other woodwork, but wood stains made from high-chemical compounds can be dangerous, and this is why natural stains are recommended.

Other ways to darken wood without wood stains include spraying a toner after or between coats, adding a sealer, and using a glaze. Remember to sand the wood properly (coarsely).

So, which natural wood stain are you most inclined to try? Pick one or more and give them a try! And if you’re interesting in cutting stained woodwork precisely, you might be interested in our article on CNC machining applications.

Thanks for reading this article. If you have any questions, feedback or comments, drop them in the comments! Feel free to share the article with your friends by using the buttons below.

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2 Responses

  1. paula says:

    Thanks for this. I tried acrylic paints with water and got some pretty interesting stains. There are certainly many good stainless options!

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