What Does Wood Conditioner Do? – Preparation & Use

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So, what does wood conditioner do?

It helps wood evenly absorb any oil-based stains that may be applied to the wood surface. Wood conditioners are mainly used on softwoods and some types of hardwoods that are porous. These kinds of woods normally have varying density and porosity, causing some areas of the wood to absorb more stain than others.

Wood conditioner is useful on softwoods, as it helps future stain applications absorb more or less evenly.

Fact: Problematic woods that often need to be conditioned are pine, alder, fir, birch and maple. Some of these are hardwoods and some of these are softwoods.

Any woodwork that has wood conditioner applied on it rarely develops streaks or splotches. It works as a coating, also preventing oil spills from seeping into the wood.

How does wood conditioner work?

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Minwax Wood Conditioner

A wood surface that has had wood conditioner applied is durable and ready for an even stain coat. Wood conditioning can be useful on bare woods and also new woods.

When wood conditioner is applied on a wood surface, it works by penetrating and temporarily sealing the wood. This seal hinders the absorption of stain, but allows for a very uniform stain coat.

Also note that oil spillage causes uneven staining of wood, and this conditioning ensures that the color of the wood will remain even for a long time.

How To Use Wood Conditioner

Follow these steps to use wood conditioner properly:

1) Preparation

The first thing you need to do is prepare. You should sand your surface to make it smooth and even – a smooth surface ensures that the finish is excellent. If the wood has scratches or any deep cuts, then it should be filled and sanded well. Also make sure to remove any glue residue.

Attention: Make sure the surface is clean. This is necessary in order for the conditioning and staining to produce great results.

After sanding the surface, blow off all the dust from the wood. Blowing helps minimize the chances of more dirt getting on it. Then, use a dry piece of cloth to wipe the surface clean.

Use a piece of fabric soaked in mineral spirit to absorb all the dust that is remaining on the wood surface. You can also use hot water to clean the surface and dry it using paper towels.

2) Application

Here’s a video demonstrating how to use Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner:

Use a soft brush or cloth for application, as this will produce the best results.

Apply the first coat of pre-stain wood conditioner on your wood workpiece. Let the conditioner penetrate the wood for 5 to 20 minutes.

Wipe off any excess wood conditioner before applying the stain. When applying the stain, ensure that you follow the direction of the grain.

Caution: The stain should be applied within two hours of applying the pre-stain wood conditioner. This will likely be indicated on the can. If you wait longer than two hours to apply the stain, the conditioner may lose most or all of its effectiveness, and the result may turn out even worse than if no conditioner had been applied at all.

Note that a second coat of conditioner may be needed if the stock is very absorbent. Paint thinner or mineral spirits can be used for cleanup.


Wood conditioning is often necessary when we need to produce surfaces that look appealing. It ensures that the wood does not stain unevenly and have an ugly finish.

Wood conditioners may come in different colors. The conditioners can also be water or oil based. You can choose the appropriate one according to your preferred color or type. If you follow the correct procedure for application, the output should be what you’re looking for.

Thanks for reading this article. If you have any questions, feedback or comments, drop them in the comments! Feel free to share the article if you liked it using the buttons below. Also check out some of our other articles about using wood routers for your DIY projects.

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2 Responses

  1. Wendel says:

    Thanks Scott. It’s actually surprising how many people don’t know what wood conditioner really does. This covers it nicely!

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