Can You Stain Red Oak Grey, Black, or White?

staining red oak grey

You might have old red oak flooring, furniture, or other decor pieces in your home that needs some color update and redo.

But before proceeding, I am sure many of you might wonder if you can stain your red oak grey, black, or any other darker or lighter color.

Since oak is porous, it can easily absorb stains better than many other kinds of wood, like maple or birch.

This means you can stain it all the way from lighter to darker colors, but be prepared to add relatively more coats of stain before the exact color comes out.

The shade of the red oak wood also matters when you want to stain and change the color of your red oak to something like grey.

If it’s vibrant, for example, you will need a darker shade of grey to offset the wood’s warm color. Due to this, I recommend mixing white and ebony (a very dark black) stains, which will help reduce pink undertones in red oak better than using a store-bought grey stain.

The next immediate question that comes to mind is how you can go about it so that you can get the best possible results. Let’s have a look…

How to Stain Red Oak Grey?

Red oak hardwood comes with its characteristic textured grain and color with paler sapwood and light to medium brown (with a reddish cast) heartwood.

The upper layer of the timber has pinkish to reddish tones throughout, and it’s more porous than the deeper parts.

So, red oak is not the easiest wood to stain grey. But that doesn’t mean you can not.

To achieve a weathered look on your red oak furniture or floor, it’s best to use a grey wood stain two to three shades lighter than the desired final color because you will have to put up several thin coats to gradually build up the darkness without overdoing it.

Before starting, always do a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area to see how the stain will look and react with the wood.

Step 1: Start by Sanding the Surface

No matter what kind of wood you are working with, always sand the surface to create a smooth base for the stain.

Sanding opens up the wood’s pores and creates more areas for the stain to penetrate. As a result, the color will last longer.

Use medium-grit sandpaper (60 to 80) for red oak surfaces, and work your way up to finer grit (100 to 120) as you go along. Make sure to sand by hand in the direction of the grain to avoid damaging or tearing out the wood fibers of the wood.

Step 2: Clean the Surface to Remove the Dust

After you finish sanding and are content with the results, it’s time to remove all the leftover dust created from sanding. Many people recommend using a tack cloth; however, some argue it doesn’t do an adequate job.

Tack cloths have been known to leave residue behind on your oak wood surface, showing through the stain—not ideal.

To avoid this issue, I suggest using microfiber cloths in conjunction with tack clothes. This will prevent any surface damage from happening due to missed dust particles.

Step 3: Apply a Pre-Stain Conditioner to Red Oak

Wood conditioners aren’t essential for staining wood; stains can still enter the pores without one being applied.

But if you are working with dark wood, it’s imperative to use a conditioner as it allows the stain to grip the surface of the wood better. Applying a wood conditioner to the wood will also help produce a cleaner end product without leaving any stain blotches.

So, it’s good to apply a wood conditioner over the entire surface of the now-clean oak wood using a paintbrush – make short strokes while applying thin layers of conditioner.

Once you have applied, let the conditioner sit on the wood for about 15 to 20 minutes to dry. If you are in a hurry, you can use a hair dryer on the low setting to speed up the drying process.

Step 4: Time to Stain the Red Oak Wood

When it’s time to start staining the porous red oak wood, I recommend mixing your preferred stain color thoroughly and using a synthetic paint brush.

For instance, if you prefer a grey shade, dip your brush into the stain can to get a generous amount of product to the bristles.

And then, gently apply the grey stain in a circular motion, making sure to press it into the pores of the wood for best results. Your hand should be moving with the grain of the wood, not against it.

After two to three minutes of stain application, wipe it off gently with a clean, dry rag to achieve a light grey coloring effect.

If you prefer getting a darker greyish tone, wait for five to ten minutes and apply subsequent coats of the grey stain over the surface.

Step 5: Allow the Stain to Dry and Apply Wood Finish

Once the stain has been applied to the wood, wait at least 24 hours for it to dry. Once completely dried, you may then apply your chosen wood finish, like polyurethane and lacquer.

There is often a significant difference in drying time between these two options; usually, polyurethane takes longer to dry but produces a more durable end product over stained wood that doesn’t get off easily.

Conversely, Lacquer has a shorter drying time but does not produce as high-quality and durable finish as polyurethane does when dry.

So, if you want to protect your wooden flooring, it’s best to use polyurethane as a protective barrier against the stain and the wood itself. But, to achieve a glossy effect on furniture, lacquer works wonders.

Can you stain red oak black

Staining Red Oak Black (or Other Dark Colors)

Red oak is a little bit tricky to stain dark black. While the process is pretty much the same as above, you will need to get the stain that is one shade darker than what you are aiming for.

The reason being is that once the stain dries, it will be one shade lighter.

So, if you want to stain your red oak floors or furniture in true black, the stain color should be much darker than ebony.

If you can’t find that, one good way to achieve the results is by using a black dye on the oak before staining with black. This way, you can be sure that the final result will be as dark as you want it.

Applying the black dye is pretty easy – just follow the same steps as any other stain, and make sure to apply a generous amount over the entire surface with a brush or a clean rag. Afterward, let it dry, and then proceed to stain with black.

Some of the best black wood stains I have worked with before are Minwax True Black, Varathane Classic Black, and General Finishes Water-Based Matte Black. You can check more about them in detail online before purchasing one for your project.

How Can You Get the Pink and Red Tones Out of Red Oak?

Neutralizing red tones in the wood is often preferred if you want to stain red oak to match white oak or get a lighter shade.

Although you cannot make your red oak look completely identical to white oak, there are ways to lighten the shade of red and achieve a similar effect.

One excellent method is to bleach the wood with a store-bought bleaching agent or prepare a homemade bleach using hydrogen peroxide and Lye. This will help to brighten the wood and remove any unwanted red tones.

Here’s a step-by-step process for bleaching red oak cabinets and floors…

a) Protect yourself

Always use gloves and eye protection when working with or handling lye.

Also, carry out this job in a well-ventilated area, and be sure to read the instructions and warnings on the label of the bleaching agent you are using.

b) Prepare the lye solution

Fill a plastic or glass container with 1 quart of water (do not use any metal container). Add lye to the water three tablespoons at a time, stirring slowly between each addition.

Never pour water into the lye; instead, slowly add the lye to the water bit by bit. Also, never mix lye into your peroxide.

The amount of solution you make should be based on the wood you will be bleaching.

c) Apply the peroxide and then brush on the lye

Once the lye water solution is ready, keep it aside. We will start with peroxide first.

Pour a bit of hydrogen peroxide onto the red oak, ensuring you do not miss any spots.

After the surface is soaked in peroxide, spread the lye solution over with a foam brush, getting good thick coverage.

d) Dry and rinse the bleached wood

After the wood has been treated with peroxide and lye, let it dry in direct sunlight.

Once the wood has entirely dried, you might notice a slight yellow tint due to residue from the lye solution. To get rid of this, rinse with water and white vinegar—the mild acid will dissolve any leftover lye on the wood.

Finally, rinse the wood surface with clean water, wipe it with a clean cloth, and let it dry.

The pink and reddish tones within the wood have now been neutralized. You can apply any wood stain color to it as per your choice.

The bottom line

With different stains and processes, it’s crucial not to get discouraged when you want to stain your red oak furniture or floor with shades like grey, black, white, or any other.

With some patience and extra steps, you can do that. All you need is to choose a bit lighter shade of wood stain and apply at least 2-3 coats to create a darker effect.

Alternatively, you can minimize the appearance of red hues in the oak wood and apply a light stain to give your piece a more whitewashed look without the need to replace them entirely.

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