Skip to Content

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may receive a commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my link. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Homemade Natural Wood Stain

Make a simple natural wood stain with steel wool, vinegar, coffee or tea.

I love using homemade natural wood stain. It is a beautiful option for a rustic or weathered wood stain. And even better, this stain is cheap! 

Its so easy to make a DIY wood stain out of steel wool and white vinegar. But I also love adding a layer of coffee or black tea to give it even more depth. 

I have used this inexpensive homemade wood stain for many projects. All of the wood in my office & craft room was stained with this natural wood stain. Which was great since we remodeled the entire room for only $100.

Desk built in a closet and then stained with a DIY wood stain.

The top of this farmhouse coffee table was also stained with the natural wood stain, but with a few differences. I love the difference in the color.

Part of the color difference was due to the wood species, the other part was due to the wood stain recipe.

Farmhouse coffee table with iron accents and a weathered gray natural stain on the top.

Since I have used this stain so much, with varying results, I thought it would be fun to document the way the differences in the recipe looked. That would make it easier to repeat my favorite combination on future projects.

So I put together video on the differences in the DIY natural wood stain. It’s fun to see how the wood reacts to the variations of steel wool, vinegar, coffee and tea to create a variety of beautiful stains.

 

Natural Wood Stain Recipe

Supplies:

  • Fine grade (#0000) steel wool
  • White vinegar
  • Brewed coffee or tea
  • Glass jar
    • I like using leftover food jars to make and store my DIY wood stain in.

This recipe does not have exact measurements. The fun part of natural stain is that it can be adjusted and tweaked to get difference colors from the same (or similar) supplies. 

Start by soaking the steel wool in the vinegar in a glass jar.

  • Let is soak for a couple days for a weathered grey wood stain. To keep the stain light, remove the steel wool from the vinegar.  
  • Let is soak until the vinegar becomes orange with rust for a deeper, browner stain color. 

You can paint just the steel wool and vinegar on the wood, but I have found better results by including a second element: brewed coffee or tea.

The coffee or tea will give the wood slightly different coloring. I found the coffee had a greener undertone to the brown and the tea was a warmer gray color. 

A strong brew will give you the most color. Make sure to let it cool before using. 

Make sure to test your natural wood stain on a scrap of the type of wood you are using to see how it reacts before using it. Here is a picture of teh finished experiment between my two vinegar mixtures and coffee and tea.

Two pieces of wood stained with different homemade natural wood recipes to show the difference in color.

How to Apply Your Natural Wood Stain

Make sure to use gloves. You may think this natural stain will not stain your fingers, but it is just as bad or worse than other stains!

You can apply the stain with a rag or a foam brush. If you are working on a large area, do not let the wood dry between strokes or you will get streaks. So make sure to pick a method that is right for your size of project.

Start by applying a coat of the brewed coffee or tea (make sure to cool it first). Give the wood a through coat, but do not soak it.

Use a natural wood stain to add color to wood on a budget.

Do not let the wood dry. Immediately, follow the layer of coffee or tea with a layer of your vinegar mixture. Make sure the vinegar mixture does not dry between strokes or you will get streaks. 

The color will start to appear immediately on the wood, but will darken as it fully dries. Give it 2-3 hours before you will see the finished color. 

The top of a farmhouse console table stained with DIY natural wood stain.

Finish off your project with a finish of your choice. The DIY wood stain is water-based so it doesn’t offer any protection to the wood surface.

I have used both wax and polyurethane finishes on my projects stained with natural wood and both have worked great. Pick a finish that will hold up to the use your project will get. 

Two pieces of wood stained with different homemade natural wood recipes to show the difference in color.

Homemade Natural Wood Stain

Yield: Small Jar Of Wood Stain
Active Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 3 days
Total Time: 3 days 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $5
Make a simple natural wood stain with steel wool, vinegar, coffee or tea.

Materials

  • White vinegar
  • Brewed coffee or tea
  • Glass jar
  • Steel Wool

Tools

  • No tools needed!

Instructions

    1. Start by soaking the steel wool in the vinegar in a glass jar.
    2. Let is soak for a couple days for a weathered grey wood stain. To keep the stain light, remove the steel wool from the vinegar.  
    3. Let is soak until the vinegar becomes orange with rust for a deeper, browner stain color. 
    4. You can paint just the steel wool and vinegar on the wood, but I have found better results by including a second element: brewed coffee or tea.
    5. The coffee or tea will give the wood slightly different coloring. 
    6. Make sure to test your natural wood stain on a scrap of the type of wood you are using to see how it reacts before using it.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Have you tried any natural wood stains? Share your favorite recipe in the comments.

-Kati with picture of blog author Kati

Papercraft Winter Tablescape
← Previous
Office & Craft Room Reveal - $100 Room Challenge
Next →

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Gray Fox

Friday 2nd of October 2020

Hello Kati,

Woodworking noob here. Your coffee table in this post (with the blue and beige book on top of it) looks amazing! I'm planning on building a dining room table and would really appreciate it if you could please let me know what species of wood you used on it as well as the finish? It's exactly the color scheme I had in mind. Thank you!

-GF

Kati

Tuesday 27th of October 2020

For the coffee table I used white wood for the top. It is a soft wood, but very inexpensive. Just know that the soft wood will get dents and dings easily. The finish I used is the natural stain in the post with a wax sealer.

Ryan

Thursday 3rd of September 2020

I just made this stain recipe,well,I desired a darker,richer color (yes we’re looking at you,Snow White) ,so,for the sake of experimentation, in addition to the requisite ingredients, ( vinegar,coffee grounds ,* (* thank god my roommate was craving a cup of 2 of coffee at the time.) I added two bags of UNSEEPED black tea to the mix;now here’s the hard part;waiting a couple of days to use!!

Was wondering,what if I supplemented black (liquid) shoe polish to the mix?

Would that help darken the stain further?

Kati

Tuesday 8th of September 2020

This natural stain is not a dark stain. It is more of a medium brown. You can certainly test it out with other darker things (like shoe polish), but it will no longer be a natural wood stain so why not just use the store bought version from the store that will guarantee a darker result?

Kimberly

Thursday 9th of July 2020

Sorry I meant strain*

Kati

Tuesday 28th of July 2020

Ha ha, just saw this correction. No I do not strain it.

Kimberly

Thursday 9th of July 2020

Question, do you or should you stain the vinegar solution before you start on project?

Kati

Tuesday 28th of July 2020

I don't stain the wood until the project is fully assembled. But if you mean should you start soaking the steel wool in the vinegar, you need to give it some time so I would recommend starting it before you need it ;)

Marlyn B

Sunday 29th of March 2020

I have an antique oak dresser from the 1930's that has been completely stripped and had some of the damaged wood replaced using a white oak. Now I want to refinish the entire dresser but need to find a way to make the new oak look aged like the original oak (it has a slight brown color to it after stripping) so the new and old oak wood will better match when the finish stain is applied. I have tried the vinegar/steel wool/coffee mix on scrap oak pieces but anything with steel wool makes it look black or dark purple. Any suggestions on a mixture to try?

Kati

Wednesday 8th of April 2020

Have you tried to sand the scrap piece after applying the mixture? If you want it to match the stripped dresser, you will need to sand it before refinishing and that may take off the darker areas to make it match better?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.