Finishing Hardwood Floors 7 – Applying the Stain

stained hardwood floor
  • 4-8 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 100-500
What You'll Need
Clean rags
Wood dough
Wood sealer (optional)
Wood stain
Rags, brushes, or a roller

It is best to finish the floor and apply a protective sealant as soon as possible after sanding the floor, preferably on the same day. This protects the floor from moisture and other problems that could cause the wood grain to rise and create a rough surface. To finish your hardwood floors by applying a stain, simply follow these six steps.

Clean the Floor

Before you begin finishing the floor, you need to be sure that it is perfectly clean and free of dust or debris.

Bleach Stains

If there are stains that cannot be removed by sanding, try bleaching them out. Wearing gloves and goggles, use an undiluted household bleach and apply it directly to the center of the stain. In a few minutes, the bleach should lighten the stain. Apply enough bleach to blend the stain with the color of the wood. Then, wash the bleached area with warm water and let it dry.


Next, vacuum the floors well, and go over them with a tack cloth. These cloths are sticky and, when rubbed across the floor, pick up all of the fine dust.

Check for Imperfections

Next, carefully check for any flaws or imperfections. Then, fill cracks or holes with wood dough, allow it to adequately dry, and then sand smooth. Sand off any swirl or sanding marks.

Apply Wood Sealer (Optional)

Before staining, you may want to apply a special wood sealer to the flooring. This is especially important if you are applying the stain to a softwood floor. This sealer is not the heavy-duty protective finish to be applied last. Rather, it is a lightweight product that simply seals the open pores of the wood. This makes for an even application of stain. Some wood sealers are colored, staining and sealing the floor in one application.

Test the Stain Color

Staining the floor is optional. You may want to just put on the protective finish and let the natural color of the wood show through. However, if you want to stain, you should remember that oftentimes the sample stain at the store will look differently on your wood than in the store. You should first test a small area of your flooring before applying it elsewhere.

Apply the Stain

To begin, pour all the stain you need into one container and mix thoroughly to ensure an even application. You can apply the stain using rags, brushes, or a roller, and you should always wear gloves when working with the product. Brush the stain on carefully and be sure it is penetrating to give an even color. Apply a generous coat and, after 5-10 minutes, vigorously wipe with a rag to remove excess stain. The amount of time you allow it to set on the floor will determine its degree of darkness.

Keep rags handy to wipe up any excess. The pigments of the stain are in suspension, not in solution, so the stain must be stirred regularly during application. If the end result is uneven, you can always correct it by re-sanding and re-staining the surface.

Buff the Floor

Although optional, you should buff the floor with a professional buffer and a no. 2 steel-wool disc, after the stain dries but before you apply your final finish coat. To apply the finish, follow the manufacturer’s directions closely.