How to Stain a Door the Easy Way


I’m Holly
My mission is to help you create a timeless home that you love through interior design, DIY, and organization!
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How to stain a door the easy way, no sanding or striping involved! If you’re looking for an easy way to quickly add curb appeal, check out how easy it is to stain your front door.

How to Stain a Door


This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. For more info, please see my full disclosures here

When I first saw this house, I fell madly in love with the front door. At the time, I really didn’t notice how worn and scratched it was. There was also some tape stuck to the front of the door where someone had tried to hang a wreath. I just couldn’t believe someone would do that to this beautiful wood door!

I had been putting this project off for a few months because I had always heard stories of staining going wrong on real-wood doors, and it made me a little nervous. Plus, I wasn’t too happy with the idea of sanding and stripping the door. I was just really scared I was going to mess up the door. As I was doing my research on techniques for staining I came across this thing everyone was talking about and recommending…..gel stain.  The no stripping or sanding really made it a win, win!

Gel stain was explained to me that it was like painting, but was still as durable as stain.

After research on the brands and colors, I decided to go with General Finishes Antique Walnut. It is on the darker side, but not as dark as their Java finish. One thing I also found during my research was that most people would only recommend the General Finishes brand and that the same result wasn’t promised with other brands. For this tutorial I am only testing out the General Finishes brand.

*You will want to make sure you use eyewear and gloves, and open the windows (if you’re not in a well ventilated area).

How to Stain a Door with Gel Stain

Materials Needed:


How to Stain a Door without Sanding

Step 1: Prep

Your first step will be to remove the door from the hinges with a screwdriver. (As you can see, I left my door attached to the hinges and took the risk because I couldn’t have my door off for 24 hours at a time since I didn’t have a second door. I had not problems with this and the stain did not mess up from me leaving it on the hinges, but it is up to you if you feel it will be easier to work with).

You will then remove the hardware with a screwdriver and put all the pieces together in a ziplock or somewhere you don’t lose them. Clean off the front door very well with a rag and some dish soap to get all the dirt particles off. Try to get it as clean as possible.

Next, you will want to lightly sand the door with your 3M sanding block. You aren’t trying to remove the old finish, just scruff it up a bit. Here is what my door looked like after I sanded it down:

Clean off any dust particles from the sanding. I got my vacuum out and gave it a good brush over to make sure I got it all. You don’t want any of those little particles getting into your stain.

Wipe on the de-glosser and allow it to dry completely before moving on. Mine took 10 min, but make sure to read the directions.

Last step in your prep is to make sure and cover any areas you don’t want stained with Frogtape. In my case, I taped off my windows.

Step 2: Stain

Get on your gloves, open up your gel stain, and gently stir it up good.

Take your lint free cloth or old sock and start to lightly apply the stain. Don’t over do it on this part. It only takes a light coat.

*While I was applying to stain, I looked over it and it looked really streaky. Thankfully I had read that this is how it will look after the 1st coat and that after the 2nd coat is when it starts to look normal. So don’t worry if you apply your first coat and it looks really streaky.

Do not wipe away any excess.

Let it dry for 24 hours.

After 24 hours – repeat with your second coat.

After your second coat is dry (around 24 hours), you will want to wait an additional 48 hours before you apply your top coat.

Step 3: Apply Top Coat

To apply top coat (48 hours later), stir the top coat and use a clean cloth to lightly but quickly wipe it on the door.

I then waited 8 hours and applied my second coat of top coat.

After everything is fully dry ( I waited another 8 hours), reassemble the hardware.

You’re Done!

I really enjoyed this project and I couldn’t be happier with the results. The hardest part was the drying time. I ended up putting my deadbolt back on every night so I could properly lock up my door. I had no issues with the stain rubbing off where I put the deadbolt back or where I shut the door at night.

You will definitely see this stuff come out in some of my other home projects around the house! Another great thing is that I have almost 3/4 of the stain left. This stuff goes a long way.

Give your doors new life with this small home project that makes a huge impact now that you know how to stain a door the easy way!

Looking for More DIY Posts:

If you’re looking for more FREE home decor tips and tricks, the Creating a Timeless Home Guide will help you create a home you love that will never go out of style! Also check out a couple of helpful cheat-sheets to help you out along the way. The Decorator’s Cheat Sheet has all the home decorator’s measurements you need to design a room you love and the Guide to Picking Perfect Paint Colors will ensure you always choose the best paint color for your space!


Guide to Staining a Door


This post contained some affiliate links for your convenience. For more info, please see my full disclosures here




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  1. Christine says:

    Your door looks great and I have only used gel stain once and I liked it a lot. I bet it works great for doors hung in place. You did a great job on your door, it looks brand new.

    • Holly @ Life on Southpointe Drive says:

      Thank you, Christine! I was worried that it wouldn’t turn out so great without me taking the doors of the hinges, but it honestly worked out so good!

  2. Brittany says:

    Looks great! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. Linda says:

    I love this how-to project. In fact, I love anything to do with home, decor and fixer-upper. Beautiful….love you blog.

    • Holly @ Life on Southpointe Drive says:

      Thank you so much! I love anything decor and DIY too….maybe a little too much! 🙂

  4. Susanne says:

    Oh wow, I wish I had a wood door! Great tutorial, thank you for sharing!

    • Holly @ Life on Southpointe Drive says:

      Thank you! The door is one of my favorite things about this house so had to show it some love!

  5. BonBon says:

    Thanks for sharing at Inspire Me Monday. I wanted to let you know that you are one of my Featured Picks this week. I hope you come by and check it out at http://www.farmhouse40.com/inspire-me-monday-128

    • Holly @ Life on Southpointe Drive says:

      Thank you soooo much for the feature! I love linking up to the party, and it was so exciting to go over and see my feature!

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