How Can I Prevent Stain Bleed-back?
Issue: Issue 321
Posted Date: 3/5/2013
When I am staining red oak with Minwax®, there are droplets coming up on the stained surface of the oak. What is causing this, and how do I prevent it? - Brian Woods
Tim Inman: Your stain is showing a classic problem -- bleed back. The open grain of the oak is allowing tons of liquid stain to “suck” into the structure of the wood. It stays wet down in there. Then, after the surface dries, the wet leftovers start to be leached, by capillary action, back up to the surface. There, exposed to air, the stain continues to dry down to form concentrated little tar baby clumps. Correct it by simply wiping off the surface with a cloth coated lightly with mineral spirits or VMP naptha. Prevent it by not soaking down the wood so much.
Chris Marshall: When I'm staining a project, I take the "less is more" approach. While many folks brush on stain, I prefer to wipe it on with a rag. That gives me better control and generally a neater way to apply the fluid without getting it all over everything. So, bleed back isn't a problem ... I'm spreading it pretty thin from the get-go and not filling the open pores to the same degree as brushing. Brian, you don't say how you are laying on the stain, but try a rag applicator instead and see if that works better for you, too.