Gel Stain Too Thick? (Do This FIRST!)

gel stain too thick

Gel stain is a popular stain product that works differently than traditional stains. Gel stain doesn’t soak into the wood and when it is applied on top of the wood surface, eventually it builds up like paint.

Usually, gel stain is supposed to be a thick stain. But what should we do if, Gel stain too thick?

Here’s what I learned:

Gel stain too thick when the applied coats are too thick. Apply mineral spirit or lacquer thinner and wipe off the stain to fix a gel stain that is too thick. Mineral spirit and lacquer thinner dissolve the gel stain. Reapply thin coats of gel stain and dry properly to avoid sticky and blotchy surface.

But there’s more to know about fixing gel stain that is too thick.

So, in this article, we’ll examine what should we do when gel stain too thick, how to fix this issue, and what happens if you put gel stain on too thick and will sticky gel stain eventually dry.

Plus, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions as well.

How To Fix Gel Stain That Is Too Thick?

You can fix a gel stain that is too thick by applying mineral spirit or lacquer thinner and wiping it off with a clean rag.

Both mineral sprit and lacquer thinner dissolve gel stain and help to remove thick coats of stain.

After that reapply thin coats of gel stain while wiping excess stain with a rag. But that needs to be done using the correct method.

Otherwise, your whole wood can be ruined.

If the gel stain too thick, here’re the steps you can follow to fix the issue.

  1. Apply mineral spirit and dissolve thick coats of gel stain and wipe off with a rag.
  2. Strip down thick gel stain and sand the entire surface.

After following the above steps, you can give a fresh start by applying thin coats of gel stain without making it too thick.

How To Apply Gel Stain to Avoid Getting Too Thick Stain?

By applying gel stain correctly, you can avoid getting a too thick stain.

When the gel stain too thick, it takes so much time to dry or sometimes it never dries.

So, let’s find out how to apply gel stain correctly without making any mistakes.


  • Gel stain
  • Sandpaper
  • Rags
  • Gloves
  • Drop cloths
  • Foam brush
  • Polyurethane

Here’re the steps you should follow to apply gel stain correctly to avoid getting a too thick stain.

  1. Prepare the surface
  2. Apply gel stain
  3. Remove excess
  4. Let it dry completely
  5. Apply another coat of stain

So, let’s discuss each of the above steps one by one to get an idea about how to use gel stain correctly.

1. Prepare the Surface

First of all, sand the entire wood surface. Sanding is important to open pore structures of wood and make them available to accept the stain.

Sanding eliminates saw marks from manufacturing that cannot be seen by the naked eye.

Make sure to sand the entire area with an even pressure to apply the stain evenly. Sand along the direction of the wood grain to avoid wood scratching.

A scratched surface results in a blotchy surface once it gets contacted with a wood stain.

Once you’re done with sanding, wipe the surface using rags to remove sawdust and make it smooth as silk to take the stain.

Before applying gel stain directly on your main woodwork/project, it’s good to test on scrap wood. Then you’ll know how much gel stain coating you need to achieve the color you want and how thick your gel stain coatings should be.

2. Apply Gel Stain

First of all dip the foam brush into the stain and apply gel stain all over the wood. To push the stain into the pores structures of the wood, stain along the opposite direction of the wood grain. 

Then go back over the stain and brush again with the grain.

Apply stain coatings with an even pressure because when the applying pressure is too high, the color will get deeper and darker, and the gel stain will be too thick.

Wipe the stain evenly across the surface. Usually, the first coat of gel stain is thick, and don’t wipe it off as you are working on a traditional stain, because gel stain is usually thicker than the regular stain.

By wiping off excess stain with a rag, you’ll be able to make thin coats.

3. Remove Excess Stain

Let the gel stain set for about 5 minutes and wipe excess with a rag along the direction of the wood grain.

So that any marks will blend along with the wood grain. This step is important to achieve evenly thin coats of stain.

Gel stain makes a thick pudding-like paste and dries on top of the wood surface

4. Let the Wood Dry Completely

After the application of the first coat of gel stain, make sure to let it dry for at least 24 hours.

Once the stain is fully dried; it’ll start getting true colors and you can easily decide whether it’s necessary to go for another coat or not.

5. Apply Another Coat of Stain

Gel stain sits on the surface like paint. By applying multiple coats you’ll be able to get a streak-free glossy surface.

But you should make sure to apply gel stain coats as thin as possible without applying high pressure on the foam brush.

Gel stain doesn’t absorb as much as the traditional stain. It absorbs slightly into the pores’ structure. Mostly, 2 -3 coats of gel stain do the job perfectly.

Better not to go above 4 coats of gel stain because you might end up with a gel stain too thick and tacky surface which is hard to eliminate.

Tips To Apply Gel Stain

  • Make sure not to apply gel stain over the regular stain. Gel stain can go horribly wrong, never drying and too thick if you apply it over the regular stain. If the surface is already stained and you want to apply gel stain on top of that, strip down the remaining stain and sand the surface with an increasingly higher grade of sandpaper until the wood is smooth as silk. Then apply the gel stain to avoid getting a too thick stain.
  • Thin coats of gel stain are better than leaving thick coats for a darker color. Thick coats don’t dry properly.
  • If you apply gel stain over a finished surface, use a rag to ensure the coats are thin. It is crucial to apply thin coats of gel stain on top of the finished surface because stain love to set on unfinished wood more than the finished ones.
  • Do more thinner coats rather than less thicker ones.

What Happens If You Put Gel Stain on Too Thick?

When the gel stain too thick, simply it will be a disaster.

Gel stain coats will be uneven and tacky even after it letting it dries for more than 24 hours. Sometimes it never dries.

When gel stain too thick the stain will absorb into the wood unevenly and make the surface blotchy.

  1. Apply a little amount of mineral spirit or thinner to dissolve the too-thick gel stain.
  2. If that’s insufficient, scape the thick gel stain layers using a single-edged razor blade.
  3. The last option you have is, to sand the entire surface and give a fresh start.

Will Sickly Gel Stain Eventually Dry?

Drying of sticky thick gel naturally depends on the environmental humidity. If the environmental humidity is less, water molecules will release from too thick gel stain and eventually make it dry.

But if the humidity is high tickly gel stain will never dry eventually.

If you live in an area that has high humidity, the only option is to take down thick sticky gel stain and start from the beginning with thin coats of stain.

Keep sticky gel stain for a maximum of about 48 hours to see any difference.

If the stickiness of the gel stain remains the same even after 48 hours, probably it won’t dry eventually and you should follow the manual procedure to take down the gel stain that is too thick.

Now you know what should do when gel stain too thick and how to avoid getting gel stain that is too thick.

So, let’s find out some frequently asked questions about gel stains and answer them.

Can You Thin Gel Stain?

Yes, you can thin gel stain using mineral spirit. Mineral spirit dissolves gel stain and creates a glaze that is lighter in color.

The glaze adds a unique appearance to your woodwork while working as a stain.

Can You Sand Gel Stain?

Yes, you can sand gel stain with about 300 grit sandpaper or a sanding block. Sanding gel stain is useful to reduce the shiny look of the surface after applying gel stain.

Sanding will reduce its shine and make it look nice.

But if the gel stain is too thick and you think to remove the entire coat of gel stain and start from the beginning, better not to touch sandpaper to the sticky gel stain.

Because gel stain is too thick, it won’t remove easily with sandpaper. This might damage the wood grain as well.

So, better to apply mineral spirit or lacquer thinner fist, and then remove gel stain coatings by dissolving.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: When Gel Stain Too Thick

In this article, we have deeply discussed conditions that gel stain too thick and what should we do in that kind of situation to fix that.

We have talked about how to fix too thick gel stain and how to apply gel stain without getting too thick stain with a step-by-step guide.

When the gel stain too thick, the best option is to apply mineral spirit or lacquer thinner to dissolve and eliminate the thick coatings and start over from the beginning.

Most of the wood stain issues can be easily solved by adding appropriate chemicals.

Furthermore, I gave some pro tips to get rid of thick gel stain issues and answered some frequently asked questions as well.

Hope you have gained good knowledge about gel stain too thick and how to avoid that.

So, let’s begin your next wood finishing project with gel stain follow the above process to make it succeed. Keep practicing until you become a pro in woodworking!

Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him!

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