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How And When To Use Wood Conditioner

Wood is one of the most amazing and plentiful resources that we have for building. That’s why almost every home in the world is made of wood. Or at least, it is made with wood along with other materials. 

With something so important and so common, it’s important to make the most out of each piece. There are some woods that don’t take stains well and this can be a problem. But that’s why wood conditioner exists. 

Today, we are going to learn what we need to know about wood conditioners so that you can finish your own projects ort decide if you want to hire someone to do it for you. Either is viable, so let us learn more. 

What Is Wood Conditioner?

What Is Wood ConditionerView in gallery

Wood conditioner is a type of finish that reduces stain penetration in softwoods. This gives your wood a more uniform look and will make it look more similar to hardwoods when stained which are easier to stain the begin with. 

While it isn’t necessary to use wood conditioner, it can really help. If your wood is soft and porous, it usually saves money to use conditioner because it can prevent you from using multiple coats of stains.

Hardwood doesn’t need a conditioner because it isn’t porous and the stain isn’t absorbed deeply into the wood. But softwoods are different. They need an extra boost, and a wood conditioner is just the thing to give them that. 

Wood Conditioner Vs. Wood Polish

Wood Conditioner Vs. Wood PolishView in gallery

A lot of people get the two of these confused. But it is easy to remember how they are different and which one that you need. Wood conditioner is for before you stain your wood and wood polish is for after. 

Wood conditioner is also only used once, even if in several coats. It is used right before you stain your wood. But wood polish can be used every week if you want to use it and is usually in wax form.

Now, sometimes, wood polish is called wood conditioner, primarily when the polish is for unsealed wood. Cutting boards, for example, can still use certain types of wood conditioner to keep them working well. 

Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

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Now you understand that wood conditioner is meant for use before you stain the wood. So we can call it a pre-stain wood conditioner. The conditioner penetrates the wood to seal it before it is stained.

Pre-stain wood conditioners can be purchased in water-based and oil-based forms. If you don’t know which one to use, then find out what your stain uses and use the same form. For example, an oil-based stain needs an oil-based conditioner. 

If your wood is porous, then you should probably buy a good wood conditioner and apply it. Remember, this is only for soft woods. You can use it on hard woods but it probably won’t affect things much. 

How To Apply Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner 

How To Apply Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner View in gallery

Learning to use a pre-stain wood conditioner is fairly simple. All you really have to do is rub the conditioner on the wood and then wipe off the exncess. But let us go over a few simple steps to make things easier. 

Keep in mind that the wood conditioner may change the color of the wood slightly. So it is usually best to test it on a part of the wood that won’t be seen before you use it on your entire project, just to be safe.

Step 1: Wood Filler

Though this step isn’t necessary, it can be very helpful to use wood filler to fill any gaps in the wood. Any knots can be filled or knocked out and filled for even better results. Never underestimate wood filler.

You can get regular wood filler or epoxy wood filler. Another option is to apply a thin layer over the entire project if it is a small project. It needs to be a very thin layer but it can help with extra soft wood. 

Step 2: Sanding

After the wood filler dries, sand the entire piece. Lightly sand non-problematic spots, remember not to go so deep that you remove the wood filler. Then, you are good to go on the rough spots that are protruding.

You want to create a good surface for the wood conditioner but you also want to leave it smooth so when you finish, the furniture looks good and new. Experiment with the sandpaper that you choose for your project. 

Step 3: Clean

After you sand, there will probably be a mess to clean up. So start by dusting off the furniture really well but don’t use anything wet or it could affect your surface negatively. So lightly dust the entire thing.

Then, vacuum up the floor and surrounding area. After you clean up everywhere, go over the furniture again with a  duster or very lightly damp rag. You want everything to be lint-free and dust-free.

Step 4: Apply Conditioner

Now it’s time to really get started. Use a brush or cloth to apply a liberal coat of the wood conditioner to the entire surface of your furniture, or other wood projects. Work in the same direction as the grain of the wood.

After the conditioner has soaked for around 10 minutes, you can begin the next step. Just make sure it has penetrated the wood slightly but has not dried up or else the conditioner won’t work as it should.

Step 5: Wipe Excess And Stain

Now it’s time to remove that excess. Simply wipe the excess off with the cloth but don’t scrub it down. You just want to remove anything that is floating on the surface, dripping, or puddling. Leave a thin layer. 

Most of the time, you’ll need to apply the stain within two hours. So make sure you don’t condition the wood until you’re ready to stain it too. So after you clean up the conditioner a bit, make sure you get on that stain.

What Is The Best Wood Conditioner?

What Is The Best Wood ConditionerView in gallery

You can buy wood conditioners at any home improvement store. But sometimes you don’t want to leave the house. That’s why we’ve gathered a few safe choices that can have you finishing your wood projects in no time.

Keep in mind that there isn’t a best option because there are many equal options. So we are just going to let know of a few options that should cover any type of pre-stain wood conditioner that you are looking for. 

Water-Based: Minwax Pre-Stain

Oil-based pre-stain conditioners are more popular than water-based pre-stain conditioners, so it can often be difficult to find yourself a water-based pre-stain conditioner. But it sure isn’t impossible! Not online!

This water-based pre-stain wood conditioner is made by the trusted company Minwax. So if you are looking for a water-based conditioner for your water-based stain then this is an easy and trusted option. 

Oil-Based: Rust-Oleum Pre-Stain

Rust-Oleum is another trusted brand that is always there. While the container may say Varathane, this is simply a branch of Rust-Oleum, but it is still that brand that we all know and love. So this is a good choice.

As far as oil-based pre-stain conditioners go, this is the safest choice. It works very well, can be bought in small batches, and gives an even stain. If you don’t know where to start looking, then start here.

Alternative: Minwax Pre-Stain 

Now if you want to stick with Minwax then this oil-based alternative can work well. It is slightly pricey which is why a lot of people prefer the Varathane option, but Minwax does what they do well, which is why people love this one.

So if you want Minwax but don’t trust water-based stains, then choose this one. It is safe, effective, and can be purchased in almost any size, starting with half-pints and going up to gallons, maybe even larger in-stores.

Post Stain: Howard Feed-N-Wax

If you have your heart set on a post-stain wood conditioner, you won’t find one much better than this. Howards’ Feed-N-Wax can keep wood looking healthy even after you stain them. This is more of a wood wax.

However, it is also labeled a conditioner because it moisturized and conditions the wood as well. Not only is this product Amazon’s choice post-stain wood conditioner, but it also has the best reviews. 

Hiring A Professional

I always like to offer the option of hiring a professional. Because no matter how big or small the job is, a professional can come in handy. Even if it is just to have one more thing that you don’t have to think about.

Your mental health is always worth it, remember that. If you do decide to hire a professional, it may be best to hire them to complete the job. They will use their own conditioners, stains, and sealers. Which reminds me, don’t forget sealer.

Even if your stain has a sealer built-in, it is usually best to add a sealer on top of it after you finish. This will ensure that your furniture or wood floors have the longest life expectancy possible. This means more years for you to enjoy!