Gray Wood Stains – Five Good Options

Gray stain for wood is a popular option for many different types of wood. It is a cool, neutral color that can fit into nearly any home design from farmhouse to coastal to modern. Wood stain can be used on DIY furniture projects, flooring, interior and exterior trim, and other miscellaneous home decor pieces. Are you considering using a wood stain on an upcoming project and finding yourself overwhelmed with all the different stains on the market? In this blog post, we will take a look at my five favorite gray wood stains and see how they compare to one another!

I’ve previously shared with you my favorite wood stains which is all about the traditional brown wood stains. Today though is all about gray wood stains!

See my other wood stain reviews and guides:
Guide to White Stains
Guide to Blue Stains

For your convenience, this post may contain affiliate links. That means, at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on your purchase. Click here to read my full disclosure policy

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Gray Wood Stain

Wood Type and Grain Pattern

Different wood varieties and grain patterns will take the same gray stain differently. Test stains on scrap pieces of wood to get an idea of how it will look before staining the entirety of your project.

Desired Shade of Gray

These wood stains can range from a light gray to a deep charcoal, so be sure to choose the color that fits your project and decorating style best.

Transparency or Opacity of the Stain

Gray wood stains can range from semi-transparent to solid, so be sure to consider how much of the natural grain pattern you would like to show through.

Compatibility with Existing Furniture and Decor

Be sure to consider the existing furniture and decor pieces in your home when choosing a gray stain. A light gray may conflict with dark-toned pieces, whereas a deep charcoal may clash with lighter colors and vice versa.

My Favorite Gray Wood Stain Options

Weathered Gray

gray stain for wood on a dining table
via Sweet Parrish Place

The Weathered Gray Stain by Varathane is a great choice for those looking to achieve a rustic look with wood stain. As far as appearance Weathered Oak is a light to medium gray with hints of brown. Verathane’s Weathered Oak allows you to get that vintage wood grain effect without any additional wood treatments or additives. This is a great wood stain if you are looking to achieve that ever popular farmhouse look.

Sunbleached Gray

Sunbleached by Rustoleum is a great stain to choose for those looking to achieve a beachy coastal look with their wood stain project. In terms of appearance, Sunbleached Gray is an even more subtle color than Verathanes Weathered Oak. This wood stain has more than just a hint of white which truly brings out the wood grain. I would recommend using this stain on projects that have unique grain patterns that you want to highlight. Like Weathered Oak, Sunbleached Gray gives you a rustic look without additional chemicals or wood additives. I use this stain regularly because of its superior coverage and gorgeous color.

Graystone Wood Stain

Graystone wood stain by Varathane is a beautiful dark stain that maintains some of its brown undertones. In certain lighting, Graystone is so rich that it can almost be mistaken for a black wood stain. This stain for wood is perfect for those who are looking for a more industrial modern look with their projects. Verathane’s Graystone is a beautiful interior wood stain that looks amazing on furniture and flooring.

Carbon Gray Wood Stain

If you are looking for a dark stain – then you might want to check out Carbon Gray. This stain is just barely in the gray color category, it’s so dark and rich that it can often times be mistaken for black. This stain has a slight softness that lightens the color just enough that it’s a beautifully rich dark color. Carbon Gray makes the wood grain really pop. This stain will certainly make your next project stand out. Of all the the wood stain options discussed here today, this is one to consider if you want a stain that makes a statement.

Classic Gray

The Minwax Classic Gray Stain is the ole reliable standby and one that I always have on hand in my garage. It is the ideal stain for anyone who is looking for a true gray stain. This stain is perfect for those who are looking for a stain that gives their project the traditional gray stain look. Minwax Classic Gray is also a good choice if you are trying to match the other colors in your home as it leans neither too cool nor too warm.  If you want a popular stain that will withstand the test of time then you can’t go wrong with Minwax Classic Gray Stain.

I made these DIY nightstands that I absolutely love! I was inspired by a pair of Pottery Barn nightstands. We used Minwax Classic Gray on this custom DIY piece of furniture and Minwax Classic Gray wood stain was exactly the color I wanted for this project.

Custom Wood Stains

The great part of wood stain is the ability to customize the stain to suit your specific needs. Looking for a subtle stain than the ones mentioned above add some white to any gray stain to lighten the stains hue a bit. Are you looking for something a bit darker but don’t want to lose the naturalness of the wood undertones?  Add some Special Walnut or Early American Stain to any gray stain to achieve that look.

Custom stains are my personal favorite. The possibilities with a custom wood stain are truly endless and its the perfect way to get the exact look you desire. I love using the combination of Rustoluem’s Sunbleached stain and Minwax’s Special Walnut.

Tips for Using Custom Wood Stain

  • I would always recommend testing your custom wood stain on either a scrap piece of material or on an inconspicuous location on your project just in case it’s not exactly the look you were hoping for.
  • Unless you are using precise measurements for your custom stain be sure to make a large enough batch to stain the entire piece as it can be nearly impossible to replicate a custom wood stain recipe.
  • Choose wood stains with similar undertones to avoid the clashing of undertones in your final product. 

Now that you have hopefully selected your wood stain color it is time to decide what type of stain is right for your DIY project.

Types of Wood Stain

It’s important to be aware of the different types of wood stains before you even apply your first coat of stain. Knowing the difference between water-based, oil-based, and gel stains will help you prepare for your project.

Water-Based Stain

Something to keep in mind when using water-based stain is that they are not as durable as an oil-based stain. This downside can be overcome by using a few coats of polyurethane once the stain has dried.  Water-based stain is much easier to use than oil-based stains and comes in a far greater variety of colors than oil-based stains. This is the type of stain I use most often and water based stain combined with a nice polyurethane have never let me down.

Oil-Based Stain

If you are looking for a really durable wood stain than look no further than oil based stains they is the most durable type of stain. Thus, it can be used in areas subject to tear and wear. It can also be applied to exterior wood, such as patio furniture, decks, fences, and house trim.  While many manufacturers make oil-based stains water-based stains come in a far greater variety of colors.  If you do choose an oil-based stain be sure to only use the stain in a well-ventilated area as the odors can be very strong.

Gel Wood Stains

Essentially gel stains are oil-based or water-based stains that have been made to prevent the stain from dripping or running down the vertical surface. Because a gel stain finish is less affected by surface flaws, many DIY’ers prefer to use gel stains on wood that tends to blot or with wood that is known to contain many flaws, such as pine wood.

Tips for Staining Wood

Wood Staining Supplies You’ll Need

Lint Free Cloth
Wood Conditioner
Stain(s) of your choice
Wood finishing coat (like polyurethane)

Before you start your next woodworking project, make sure the material is clean and dry. A lot of people like to use a wood conditioner to avoid having any unevenness in the final product, but if you do choose to go this route just make sure that it’s completely dry before continuing on. Once you’ve finished staining your project, put some sort of sealant over it; I prefer using a name brand polyurethane.

Gray Stain for Wood Conclusion

So there you have it, five stains reviewed ranging from rustic wood stains to dark modern, and industrial grays!

Hopefully, this guide has given you better insight so that your future projects using gray stain will turn out exactly how you want them to!

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