Wood Staining – Staying Safe

Staining wood isn’t difficult, but you do have to take care to stay safe. Avoid getting stain on you or clothing. Take care to keep the stain away from fire, and properly dispose of any rags used.

Protect Yourself

Protect your hands with disposable nitrile gloves.Wood stain doesn’t just stain wood; it can stain you, too, and cause allergic reactions. Make sure to be careful and avoid getting stain on you.

  • Wearing old clothing or .
  • Make sure to wear safety glasses or to keep stain out of your eyes.
  • Use nitrile or and not latex ones, as they don’t dissolve when exposed to solvents while latex does.


These precautions will prevent the stain from causing any damage. Children should also be kept away from stains as well.

If the stain does get on you or your clothing, consider the type of stain you are using. Most oil-based stains will respond to Dawn® and flushing with water for at least fifteen minutes. Consider the garment a rag and immerse in water to prevent the risk of fire.

Water-based stains can usually be removed with soap and water if you take quick action and soak the garment in water immediately.

Keep Flames Away

Wood stain is highly flammable, and the fumes can be very dangerous as well. Make sure that you stain wood outside or in a well-ventilated room. In addition, make sure that open flames remain far away from the stain. Don’t have a pilot light going near where you are staining, and avoid smoking while nearby. Otherwise, you run the risk of the stain and wood catching on fire.

Ensure Adequate Ventilation

If the room isn’t ventilated enough, you may begin to feel lightheaded. If that happens, get some fresh air outside.

Dispose of Rags

Used wood stain rags in bucket of water.If you are wiping the stain, you are likely to have rags soaked in the stain. Since the stain is so flammable, these rags can easily combust and catch fire. To combat that, used rags should be immersed in a water-filled bucket before being put in the trash. This will prevent the rags from catching fire.

By properly taking care during wood staining, you can avoid any catastrophes. Make sure to protect yourself by wearing protective clothing and gloves. Avoid smoking and other open flames away from the staining area. Finally, soak any rags in water to prevent fires before you dispose of them. These actions will keep you safe during your wood staining project.

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  1. Anne Moran

    My exterior clapboard were stained a year ago. There is still a strong odor blowing inside when I open the windows. Will this ever go away? Is long term exposure dangerous? Its oil based I think.

    • You should be smelling nothing by now. The only way this could happen is with a linseed based stain. Contact the manufacture and find out if something is wrong with their stain.

  2. Stella

    How much stain will i need for a 31 in × 28in cabinet

  3. Guillermo

    I am refinishing the whole stairs steps and railings putting a darker color. My concern is that I live in NJ and we are in the peak of the winter season with temps between 18-32 F and I cant really open windows or doors. Are the fumes a hazard with having 2 furnace units in my attic and my basement?

    • The oil based stain smell shouldn’t be too bad but applying an oil based finish would be too smelly. You could use a water based stain but they are hard to use, practice on some scrape wood if you plan on using a water based stain. But choosing a water based acrylic or poly finish to go over the stain will be healthier and produce much less VOC’s.

  4. Guillermo

    Thanks Karl, we will use oil based finish given the color match for the hardwood floor. Do you think the fumes represent a fire hazard with the heating system/furnace or they dissipate ? – Thanks again

    • I don’t think it will be a fire hazard but a health hazard. The fumes will give you a headache, dizziness and possibly worse without some ventilation. The fumes are a true health hazard and will be for several hours after application. Consider running the bath and kitchen fans and possibly a fan in a window. If you can wait until the weather is better then you could have much better results, for you and the stairs.

  5. Blake Croson

    Reviving an old thread. In a cold environment, would it be safe to stain wood in a spare bedroom using a combination of a window fan unit with a reverse flow function that ventilated air back out of the room to the outside world, and a maybe a portable hepa air filter that filters out VOC’s? Obviously that might make the room cold pretty quickly, maybe I would take turn the fans off and shut the door behind me after I was done staining and while waiting for it to dry. I’m in an old home with radiator heat, so no system circulating the air throughout the whole home. Welcome your thoughts!

    • Everything seems like it will work. Maybe add an electric radiant heater (oil type radiator) to the room to help keep the temps up near 50 or more. I wouldn’t use a heater that has a focused heating element and no open flame. If you can stain in the morning, then let everything dry during the day you should be able to shut the window but keep the HEPA filter going through the night.

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