Gel Stain - Everything you need to know

What is Gel Stain

Gel Stains are specially formulated with a combination of oils, pigments, and urethane's to give a durable and deep finish. The Gel Stain lies on the surface therefore it does not soak into the wood. Gel Stains color both porous and nonporous surfaces uniformly. 

These stains are suitable for applying vertical surfaces. The Gel Stains neither run nor splatter. This article will focus on the differences between Gel Stains and regular stain, Minwax Gel Stain available colors, and how to apply Gel Stain to finished wood. 

Additionally, it will focus on how to apply Gel Stain to unfinished wood, can one use Gel Stain over paint and how to use Gel Stain on a garage door.

Gel stain vs. regular stain

Gel Stain vs Regular Stain

When updating the look of wood furniture, one can choose either Gel stain or regular stain.  Staining wood is an activity that requires patience because it is time-consuming, but when you choose the right stain, it becomes much more manageable. There are distinct differences between gel stains and regular stains.

Gel stains are usually oil based. They have high viscosity and thick consistency. The thickness makes it not run or splatter, making the surface you are working on clean. Gel stains are great for vertical surfaces. They cover both the porous and nonporous surfaces evenly. The gel stains dry very fast, keeping the project you are working on moving.

The regular stains come in both oil or water-based. The regular stains penetrate the wood as you apply it. Due to their water-based element, they smoothly flow on the surface; hence if one is not careful, they can be messy to work with. The regular stains are easy to work with. They are also long-lasting. The regular stains are  available in a variety of colors.

If you’re getting ready to stain your next project be sure to check out my article “Complete Staining Guide for Beginners”.  It will give you some helpful tips for starting out on the right track.

Minwax Gel Stain colors

The Minwax Gel stain is available in 8 distinct colors that will give your surface that desired look. The available colors are chestnut, aged oak, antique maple, mahogany. Walnut, cherrywood, and Brazilian rosewood.

Minwax Gel Stain Color Chart

Chestnut: The chestnut is suitable for several surfaces like plywood, fine wood, veneer, metal, fiberglass, and fibreboard. This product leaves your surface looking beautiful.


Aged Oak: The aged oak gives a uniform look to both wooden and non-wooden surfaces. It is suitable for woodwork, cabinets, fiberglass, metal, and other surfaces. The aged oak color gives a fascinating look that goes beyond wood. 


Antique Maple: The antique maple gives a uniform color to surfaces making the final results to be very appealing. The color is suitable on a number of surfaces like wood, fiberglass, veneer, and metal. It is ideal for vertical surfaces.


Mahogany: It is designed to give you full control of the staining process to provide appealing results. It is also ideal for both wooden and non-wooden surfaces. It is easy to use on vertical surfaces. It leaves the surfaces with a uniform color.


Walnut: Designed to use on both non-wooden and wooden surfaces. It gives surfaces a uniform and beautiful look. It is ideal to use it on vertical surfaces. This color gives a natural look to the surfaces with its unique look.  


Cherrywood: the cherrywood color is specially formulated to give your surfaces a special. The color provides a natural look that is appealing to the eyes. The color is suitable for both wooden and non-wooden surfaces.


Brazilian rosewood: the dark color of this gel stain gives a natural feel to surfaces. It is suitable for both non-wooden and wooden surfaces. The color is ideal for both household and commercial surfaces.

How to apply Gel Stain to finished wood?

Applying a gel stain to finished wood is an excellent way of giving it a unique look. The process of applying gel stain on sanded wood is not a complex one. The following are steps to follow in applying gel stain to finished wood.

  1. Identify areas that may require sanding and use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the areas.
  2. When you are sure that all areas are smooth to your requirements, vacuum as much dust as possible.
  3. Using a tack cloth wipe the entire surface that requires staining to remove excess dust.
  4. Using a rag or brush, apply a generous amount of gel stain to the surface being stained following the natural direction of the wood grain.
  5. After a few minutes, using a clean cloth wipe off the excess gel and this gives an even tone to the wood
  6. Leave it for a considerable amount of time for it to dry.

How to apply Gel Stain to unfinished wood?

Gel stains can also be applied to unfinished wood. Below are the steps to follow when applying gel stain to unfinished wood.

  1. Prepare the unfinished wood that needs to be worked on.
  2. Clean the surface that requires staining using a vacuum cleaner and a cloth.
  3. Using a brush or a cloth spread a good amount of stain gel to the wood surface following the direction of the wood grain.
  4. Using a clean cloth wipe off excess gel stain after some time of applying it.
  5. Give the gel stain some time to dry off before applying a second layer.
  6. After you are satisfied with the results, please leave it to dry completely for about 24-48 hours

Can you apply Gel Stain over paint?


There are times when one wants to renovate painted surfaces and give it a different look. Applying gel stain to a previously painted surface gives it a new look and feel. 

Gel stains contain urethane that allows it to be used on painted surfaces. It is NOT necessary to strip off the paint on a painted surface before staining it. Gel stains can stick to the paint on various objects without the risk of chipping off over time.


Before applying the gel stain over a painted surface, it is very vital to clean the surface with a cloth. Also, it is good to peel off chipped paint to ensure that when the gel stain is applied, the surface will be smooth and even. 

It is also advisable to spread a thick coat of the gel stain to completely seal the paint underneath.

How to use Gel Stain on a garage door?

A coat of gel stain can give your garage door a new look. Applying a gel stain is one of the cheapest (around $20) and easiest ways of giving your garage door a fascinating new look. 

The process of applying gel stain on the garage door is easy and is not time-consuming. The following is a step by step process on how to use a gel stain on a garage door.

Here is a cool little video I found on YouTube!


  1. Using sandpaper, remove any glazed paint or rust spots on the garage door if there are any.
  2. Using soap and a pressure washer remove all the dust and dirt from the door.
  3. Leave the door for a while to dry completely
  4. Apply a small amount of gel stain on a single spot of the garage door and leave it to dry completely. This step will help decide if the chosen color is the one you want on the garage door.
  5. Spread a drop cloth, sheet, or trap to protect the drive away from any gel stain that might fall to the ground.
  6. Once satisfied with the results of the spot you applied a little gel stain, it is time to continue with the staining process. Add the gel the stain to a paint tray and begin staining. When brushing, it is essential to try and follow the direction of the garage door pattern.
  7. Once the staining process is complete, leave the garage door untouched for about 48 hours to permit the gel stain to dry completely.
  8. For most garage doors, one coat is enough; however, if you need to apply a second wait until the first coat is completely dried up.

The Gel Stain Wrap-up!

To wrap up the mystery, the main difference between Gel Stains and a regular Oil based stain is the way they sit on the surface.  Gel Stains sit mainly on the top of the surface while Regular stain seeps into the wood.  

Give Gel Stains a try on your next project.  You may be surprised what you can do.