How to Change the Colour of Wood Using Wood Dye

As a professional Painter and Decorator, changing the colour of wood is something I’m asked to do on a regular basis. Whether I’m trying to match a new floorboard to the existing floor, or giving a windowsill sense of rich depth. The method is simple, prepare your wood, apply a wood dye, then protect the finished surface with varnish.

The first thing I establish when I am asked to change the colour of wood is the current state of the timber; aside from being a different colour to the desired shade, a waxed or oiled wood surface will not take on a new colour, so previous coatings need to be removed.

Bare timber will be natural in colour; quite pale, and normally have a rough dry feel. Whereas sealed wood is normally quite smooth. There is a test you can do if you’re in any doubt. Try putting a few droplets of water on the wood. If the water beads neatly on the surface, it’s likely the wood is already sealed with something like varnish, and this will also need to be stripped entirely before you can change the colour.


Preparing Previously Sealed Wood to accept the dye.


If your wood is bare, skip ahead to the next section. I just wanted to touch on the best preparation for previously sealed timber.


There are a variety of methods to strip wood, my favourite is to sand it off using an electric sander, starting with a lower grade (rougher) sandpaper to really get to grips with removing the bulk of the coating, and then raising the grade to 80 and then 120 to smooth the wood out a little.

It’s important not to use a grade of sandpaper that is too smooth at the later stages, because if the wood is too smooth, it will not take the wood dye very well. You want an open grain if possible. Using a high grade (smooth) sandpaper would have a polishing effect on the surface. We don’t want that just yet. Similarly, you don’t want to finish on anything lower than 120, or else the wood might not be smooth enough. Dying wood that is too rough will leave it looking patchy and blotchy.

If you’re changing the colour of an oak work top like I am here, it’s easier to remove obstacles like taps and scrape off the silicon around the edges. It will look so much neater and create a waterproof edge if these are replaced again afterwards.

changing the colour of wooden worktops

Once the coating has been fully removed, I need to clean the wood. I do this with a wipe over using Methylated Spirits on a microfibre cloth. This is a great way to really make sure all the previous coating is removed.

Keep an eye open for bits of timber that don’t colour with the rest of the wood when you wipe over with methylated spirits. Remember where they are and give them another sand when it’s dry. Do not use too much methylated spirits either. You need it to evaporate before it can penetrate the timber.

When the wood is totally bare, you must exercise caution not to spill anything on the wood, or touch the wood with greasy fingers. The wood is currently porous, and any contaminants might result in preventing the dye from penetrating the wood evenly.


Applying Polyvine Wood Dye


By far the best wood dye on the market is Polyvine, available online here.


You need to do a test piece. This will help you to establish how well the stain takes to the wood, and whether you can reach the desired colour. You can always apply two coats of dye to the timber to reach a stronger (or generally darker) colour, but you still need to be certain you’re using the correct coloured dye to begin with.

Polyvine Wood Dye comes in 11 colours: Antique Pine, Black, Blue, Green, Mahogany, White, Grey, Medium Oak, Teak, Walnut, and Taupe. Polyvine Wood Dye is water-based, so not only do they mix well together, if you need to adapt one colour to change the shade or tint, you can just add a little of another colour until you’re happy. You can also dilute the dye with a bit of water if the strength appears too intense. All this makes it easier for you to find the colour you want. Click here to see online prices.

A little test patch will also help you so see if your application method will bring the desired result; if applying dye with a brush looks too strong, try applying the dye with a slightly damp microfibre cloth instead, this will extrude a much thinner layer, so the colour will be more subtle.

This method of application, however, is hard to control the spread on a flat wooden surface. It is a good method of application for areas of a curved nature, such as spindles or chair legs.

If something or someone scratches the surface of your newly dyed wood after the first coat of dye, you can always touch up with a cloth. However, the application should be so light that you don’t notice any overlapping of colorant.


How to Apply Dye to Change the Colour of Wood


The most common mistake I see marketing agencies and poorly trained users make when applying dye, is not applying the dye the full length of the wood piece. They usually get the first bit right, by always applying the dye the same direction as the wood grain. But the second and equally important part to this, is to apply the dye to a full length of timber at a time.

changing the shade of wood
a worktop which has been dyed with Polyvine Wood Dye

It’s pointless going to the effort of applying the dye in the direction of the wood grain, but then stopping midway to apply the dye to the next piece along, as this will create a tide mark in the wood, which is exactly what you’re to avoid by applying it in the direction of the grain.

Each pass should start at one end of the wood and finish at the other end. That way any tide marks will be in the same direction as the wood grain, as opposed to cutting across the grain.


This will achieve a uniform result with no visible tide marks.

Polyvine Wood Dye is dry in as little as 1-2 hours, and a great colour change is achieved in just one coat when applying the dye by brush. The dye will have penetrated the wood so deeply that you can gently sand the surface before you varnish it to protect it.

Polyvine Wood Dye is a light fast product, so it’s also brilliant for use outside, where this same method can be used to update garden furniture or wooden windowsills. It is available in 500ml bottles, and it is suitable for both hardwoods and soft woods. Click here to see latest prices.

How to Change the colour of wood using wood dye – by Harriet Stone

Posted Mar 29, 2023 | 0 comments


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