How to Stain Acacia Wood

Acacia trees are a huge family of trees that grow in many parts of the world, including Australia, Africa, and even Hawaii. Only certain trees of the species produce wood suitable for woodworking, and the wood produced is considered a hardwood. If you are using acacia wood, you may wonder how well it takes a stain and the best method for staining acacia wood. 

Acacia wood takes stain quite well if applied correctly. Sand the wood to the desired finish. Raise the grain by dampening the wood and letting it dry. Apply the stain as evenly as possible, going with the wood's grain once the wood has the desired color, lightly sand, and apply the finish.

Acacia is very hardwood, making it durable, pest resistant, and suitable for use for items that will have much traffic or wear and tear, such as in hardwood flooring. Hardwoods are notoriously difficult to stain because the stain does not soak into them easily and when it does go in, it does not soak in very deeply. Thus, using the right stain and the right methods to apply it is important to stain acacia wood successfully.

Can You Stain Acacia Wood?

Many hardwoods are difficult to stain due to the wood's tight grain structure, which makes it difficult for the stain to penetrate deeply into the wood.

The problem with this is that if the stain does not penetrate deeply and sand down the wood's surface before applying your finish, you could sand beyond the depth at which the stain penetrated.

This will then reveal the true wood color beneath, and when you apply your finish, it will look patchy and unsightly.

Fortunately, acacia wood can most certainly be stained, and if you correctly apply the stain to increase the penetration of the stain into the wood, you are sure to be impressed with the final finish.

Because of the acacia wood structure, you need to follow a different procedure for applying your stain than for other softwoods such as pine, which will take the stain very easily.

How To Stain Acacia Wood

To stain your acacia wood or any other hardwood for that matter, it is best to follow a procedure that incorporates an additional couple of steps to increase the absorption of the stain by the wood.

1. Sand The Acacia Wood

The first step is the same as you would do for any other wood you are about to apply stain to. Sand the wood to the desired finish until you are ready to apply the stain normally.

You can sand the surface of the acacia wood up to the finish grit that your want for the final product, but the next step will raise the grain a little. After the grain has been raised and the stain is applied, you will need to go over the wood with your final grit sandpaper. This will only be a light sanding to knock off the peaks of the raised wood grain.

2. Raise The Wood Grain

This step is the extra step in preparing the wood to accept the most amount of the stain possible and increase the penetration of the stain into the wood.

This process is known by a could of different terms in woodworking circles. It is sometimes called raising the grain or water-popping the grain.

Essentially, this process makes the ends of the wood fibers stand up, which allows the stain to soak into the ends of the wood fibers, which increases the depth of penetration of the stain.

To execute this process, you can follow the procedure detailed below.

  • Wet the wood. Use a wet cloth or a wrung-out mop to make the surface of the wood wet. The cloth or mop should not be dripping wet and should not leave water pools on the wood. The process is wiping the water on in a similar manner as you would apply the stain.
  • Allow the wood to dry thoroughly. Now you need to leave the wood to dry out completely. It is best to leave the wood for at least 30 to 45 minutes to dry. The should be no visible moisture on the wood before you start the next step.

This wetting process does the moisture causes the fibers to expand, and then when it dries quickly, the wood fibers shrink, and the ends of the fibers pull up towards the surface of the wood, and the ends of the grain become exposed.

If you run your hand across the surface of the wood after it has dried, you will feel the raised ends of the grain will feel rough, like the wood needs to be sanded again. This is what you are looking for, and it means the wood is now ready for staining.

3. Apply the Stain To The Acacia Wood

Now comes the part you have been waiting for. It is time to apply the stain to the surface of the wood. The stain must be applied to the wood in even layers to prevent some areas from being darker than others due to them having more stain applied than other areas.

The best way to apply the stain in even layers is to use a cloth or a sponge to apply the wood stain rather than a paintbrush.

You will need a pair of gloves to protect your hands from the stain using the cloth or sponge application method.

The stain is applied with the cloth in much the same way that you used it to wet the wood. Dab the cloth into the stain, don’t let the cloth absorb so much of the stain that it drips on the wood. It will be difficult to disguise the drip marks later on.

Wipe the stain onto the wood, starting at one side and moving your way down the piece of wood. Make sure you are applying even layers and not crossing over layers too much, as these will appear darker in the final product.

Make sure that you are going along the grain of the wood while you are applying the stain, as this will allow more of the stain to soak into the wood than applying it across the grain.

If you like the tone that the stain has given to the wood, then only one coat is necessary. If you would like the wood to be slightly darker, wait for the first coat of stain to dry, which will take about 15-minutes, and then apply a second coat of stain.

To apply the second coat, you can use the same process and method that you used for the first coat. Remember that once the stain is applied, it is a lot of work to remove if the final product is too dark, so wait for each coat to dry to see how it looks before applying the next coat.

4. Knock Off The Tops Of the Wood Fibers

Once your last coat of stain has dried completely, you are ready for the next step in the process to restore the smoothness to the wood surface. The fibers' end grain will still be raised and will feel rough to the touch as you run your hand across the wood.

You can use the final grit that you want the wood surface's finish to be and give the entire surface of the wood a light sanding.

After each sanding, run your hand over the surface of the wood to see if the smoothness is to your liking. If you are still not entirely happy with the finish, sand the surface a little more until the desired smoothness is achieved.

5. Ready for The Finish On The Acacia Wood

Once the wood is stained, and the end grain has been sanded down, your workpiece is now ready for the final finish that you want to apply to the surface.

Depending on the type of finish you apply, your sanding on the wood may not yet be done. After applying the first coat of the chosen finish, wait for it to dry, and then test the surface for smoothness once again by running your hand over the wood.

If the surface feels a little rough, the finish's first coat has raised the grain of the wood, similar to the water that did in the second step of the process.

The way you address this is in the same manner. Take your last grit sandpaper and very lightly go over the wood's surface to knock these end grains down and smooth over the surface.

You should only need to do this after the first coat of the finish. Subsequent coats can simply be left to dry, and then the next coat of the finish is applied.

The type of finish that you apply to the acacia wood will depend on the piece's intended purpose. A hardwood floor will need a different finish than a tabletop or countertop would require.

What Is The Best Type Of Stain For Acacia Wood?

There are several choices of stains on the market, from oil-based to water-based and solvent-based stains. Each has its appropriate applications and advantages, and disadvantages. So which type of stain would be the best choice to apply to your acacia wood? 

  • Oil-based wood stains. Oil-based wood stains are good for acacia wood because they penetrate deeply into the wood. A solvent such as mineral spirits is often used in the stain to thin out the oil and give it good penetration. The oil also acts to preserve the wood. Linseed oil is usually the oil component, natural oil that is excellent as a wood preservative. It is durable and goes on evenly, but the downside is that it takes a long time to dry. 
  • Water-based wood stains. This stain uses water rather than oil to thin down the stain to penetrate the wood. These stains are more eco-friendly and enhance the grain of the wood better than oil-based stains. These stains dry quickly but do not penetrate the wood as deeply as the oil-based stains do. You can use this type of stain on acacia wood, but it does not offer the same protection as the oil-based variety.
  • Gel wood stains. These stains use a thick gel that the color pigment is embedded in. We will not delve deeply into the detail about this stain other than to mention that it is not suitable for any hardwood, including acacia wood.
  • Lacquer wood stain. Lacquer stains are fast drying and easy to work with but are not good for hardwoods. These stains dry too fast to be able to penetrate the hardwood to any significant depth. If you are working with a hardwood such as acacia, then avoid using this type of stain.

Considering the stains that we have mentioned, the oil-based stains would be the first choice as the best stain to use on the acacia wood. This stain gives good penetration into the wood, and the oil has a preservative effect on the wood.

Water-based stains can be used, especially if you want to enhance the wood's natural grain, but your success on acacia wood may vary. Water-based stains do not penetrate the hardwood as deeply, and it offers no preservative properties for the wood. Therefore, a water-based stain can be used to stain acacia, but it would be a second choice to the oil-based version.

What Color Stains Can You Use On Acacia Wood?

Acacia wood comes in a variety of colors, from golden brown to reddish-brown and even deep rich brown colors.

This makes the color choice of your stain dependent on the original color of your acacia wood. The darker colors can easily be stained to resemble the dark rich tones of walnut, while the lighter colors can be stained to resemble darker oak woods.

Should You Stain Acacia Wood?

A valid question and should be raised in an article about staining acacia wood is whether you should stain the wood at all!

Acacia wood is beautiful wood in its own right, and you will be surprised how good it looks by simply sanding it down and applying your favorite finish to the natural-colored wood.

The grain of the acacia wood varies greatly depending on the region it is from. The Hawaiian Koa is a medium textured grain that has wavy interlocking patterns in the grain. Other species from Australia typically have a fine, uniform grain that is straight and very appealing.

Other acacia wood species have a natural luster to the wood. A clear finish enhances and deepens and produces an exquisite piece using the wood's natural color.


Staining wood can be a satisfying undertaking because it brings out the beauty of the natural material you are working with. Staining the wood is a process that requires patience and should not be rushed.

Staining and applying the finish are the final touches of the project, and it would be a shame to rush the job and end up with a final product that you are not entirely happy with. So, take the time and go through each step properly and give the correct drying times to each stain and final finish coat. 

The reward you will get when you take a step back to admire your work will be well worth it. Hardwoods like acacia woods require a little more preparation and a little more time to complete the wood staining but don’t be tempted to skip steps or cut corners.

Acacia is a beautiful wood that delivers a stunning, durable, and versatile product, and whether you choose to stain it or enjoy its natural colors, it is a great choice of wood!

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