Homemade nontoxic wood stains offer a great alternative to store bought woods stains. Commercial woods stains often contain chemicals, that are not only problematic environmentally, but may also pose a health risk. A variety of methods can be used to create inexpensive, natural wood stains with ingredients that may even be found in the kitchen, such as black tea, vinegar or walnut hulls.
These naturals stains need between a few hours to a few weeks to soak before they are ready to be applied. Taking good notes while experimenting with homemade woods stains is essential for the possible re-creation of a specific stain. It is recommended to use a scale to record the exact measurements of the ingredients used, to write down the amount of time they were allowed to soak and to keep track of the number of coats applied.
A simple way to create a natural stain is to boil tea leaves in a cup of water to a deep tea concentrate. Tea contains tannins that impart a warm honey-colored tone onto light woods such as maple, pine or birch. It's subtle and easy to control by adding more coats. Different teas will give different shades. The tea tone can be further darkened by following an application with ammonia as ammonia reacts with the tannins.
Walnut hulls are known to create a beautiful dark stain that is darker than tea stains. The walnut hulls are be boiled in water and then soaked in jar for a couple of days until the water turns dark.
Tannins react with metal and can be actively darkened by the application of a metal-vinegar mixture. To make a dark gray or an ebony stain rusty nails are soaked in a jar of vinegar for about two weeks until the vinegar turns dark. Vinegar mixed with pennies will produce a pale blue stain.
For a brown stain chewing tobacco may be added to equal parts of water and ammonia and left to set overnight.
All materials need to be strained before the application. The homemade stain should be tested on a piece of scrap wood. It should be the same type of wood as the actual piece, as the stains can look different on different woods. The stain is rubbed onto the wood with a rag. If the results are satisfactory, the stain may be applied to the actual project. Each coat of stain will darken the wood, some may darken more as they dry. It is recommended to stop before it looks as dark as desired, because the finish will make the wood look even darker.
These homemade stains don´t have a binding agent, like the commercial stains. The stain still needs to be sealed using a finish like shellac, linseed- or tung-oil. It is best to wait a few days after the stain has dried to apply the finish.
Pennies soaked in vinegar
Test piece with different stains