Wood stain generally takes from 3 to 8 hours to dry. Refer to the product’s packaging for individual dry time; exceptions may vary widely.
For example—a gel stain, which is a very thick stain designed for use on vertical and hard-to-penetrate wood, takes 24 hours to dry. On the other end of the spectrum is a product like Minwax’s Express Color Wiping Stain & Finish that has a speedy dry time of only 1 hour.
Factors that will increase the length of a wood staining project include preparation, recoating and sealing. Before a surface is stained, it should be sanded and, depending on the wood, treated with a pre-stain conditioner. This will insure even acceptance of stain. The pre-stain dries quickly; within minutes.
After applying the stain, a second coat may be desired for a richer color. The first coat doesn’t have to be dry to apply a second coat. In most cases, a second coat can be applied after half the recommended dry time has passed.
A finish will add durability and shine to a stained wood surface. A finish is often polyurethane or lacquer. Dry time of this step is 24 hours and a second coat may be desired.
Once recommended dry time has passed, the stained surface may be handled, but it is advisable to allow an extra 12-24 hours before it is considered completely dry.
Temperature and humidity may affect drying time.