I've been trying to stain a piece of wood for the last few days that refuses to take stain. Started by sanding the original finish and using Rustoleum Kona stain that did not really apply to the wood.

Then I used a stripper, sanded the wood first with coarse then with fine sandpaper and tried again. That gave me a blotchy finish and barely took as well so I stripped and sanded again.

Then I used Minwax Wood Conditioner and applied a new Minwax ebony stain which took just about as awful as the first stain. Here's a picture after 2 coats of the the ebony stain:

Brown plank of wood, not darkened after two coats of ebony

Why does it refuse to stain?

1 Answer 1


It's very hard to be sure but that doesn't look like it's a known blotch-prone species. If so that you are getting blotching is a sure sign that the wood is contaminated. Although you've stripped and sanded you haven't gotten deep enough to expose completely fresh wood, without a trace of the original varnish and/or any floor polish applied over the years.

If you want to try to get deeper I would suggest you scrape instead of sand (I will nearly always recommend scraping over sanding anyway) but to be quite honest I'd be tempted to just use "gel stain" myself and sidestep the problem entirely. So-called gel stains aren't stain in the conventional sense, they're jellied coloured varnishes and they're the ideal pick for blotch-prone woods and troublesome staining jobs like this.

Gel stain unfortunately is not the perfect finish for areas of high wear since if (when) it wears off you'll expose the uncoloured wood beneath. So after you've achieved the colour you want I would recommend applying at least two or three coats of a floor-grade clear varnish as protection.

  • 2
    "I will nearly always recommend sanding over scraping anyway" You mean that vise-versa, don't you? Jun 30, 2016 at 19:27
  • @CharlieKilian, Oh yeah I do! Thanks, must change that.
    – Graphus
    Jul 1, 2016 at 6:39

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