How to Choose the Right Tools for Applying Stain to your Exterior Projects

Written by: Rose Stephan



Time to read min

When it comes to staining an exterior project like a deck or fence, it's important to use the tools that will get you the best results. Choosing the right brush can make all the difference when it comes to how well the stain goes on and how long it lasts.


If you've ever wondered what tools to use for your staining project then you'll 

want to read these helpful tips.

wood stain

First, what kind of stain are you applying?




If applying an oil-based stain we often recommend a natural bristle brush, as it's effective at holding onto a lot of stain as you move back and forth from the can to the wood. And because it is a heavier-duty brush it will hold up better and last longer. Great for "back brushing" and in general worth the price of a few extra dollars because it can be cleaned and re-used.







A great quality natural fibre brush for staining

 your outdoor project with an oil-based stain is this BeautiTone Wood-Shield brush

wood stain

How do you clean the brush after staining with an oil-based stain?

You need to use a paint thinner or mineral spirits. Be sure to pour cleaner into a container that can withstand this substance and that is deep enough to soak the bristles. Do it in a well ventilated area. We recommend you use gloves.





If applying an acrylic water-based stain you may want to avoid using natural bristles as there's a potential for them to swell up with water and loose their shape


So for this type of stain we recommend using a synthetic brush made of polyester because it won't absorb the water and lose its shape

wood shield stain







A great quality synthetic brush for staining your outdoor project with an acrylic water-based stain is this BeautiTone Wood-Sheild Polyester Stain Brush

How clean the brush after staining with water-based stain?







Fill a container with mild dish soap and warm water. Submerge the brush making sure it covers the head of the bristles as this is where stain can really accumulate. With a small brush or your hand rub the stain out and then rinse it with water making sure no soap remaining in bristles.

TIP: Avoid using foam brushes

We don't recommend using a foam brush for your staining job. Although tempting because they are inexpensive, you risk unsightly bubbles

or ridges of stain on your project. Plus when staining a deck or fence chances are the foam will get caught and be damaged by splinters. The other factor is they can wear out and start to dissolve especially with oil-based stain.

What About Using a Roller?


There's nothing wrong with applying stain with a roller and if you're in hurry you may consider it, as you can cover a bigger area in a shorter amount of time.

Keep in mind though that it is much harder to get the stain into any cracks and you may have to do quite a bit of back-brushing to get rid of drips and ridges.

If you're thinking about rolling then be sure to buy a roller kit intended for stain like this one by BeautiTone and you'll want to consider a long handle attachment

to save your back

More Tips for Staining and Brushes

  • Apply stain in direction of grain and not against it
  • Back-brush with your brush to ensure no drips or ridges
  • Don't apply stain in hot or humid weather
  • Put a piece of cardboard under your can of stain or tray to catch drips
  • Keep an old toothbrush on hand for cleaning your brushes after use
  • Attach a long handle to your brush and save your back
  • After cleaning your brush reshape the bristles with your fingers and don't 

    twist or wring it out to dry

If you've invested in a good quality brush then you're going to want to re-use it. It's worth the time and effort to do a thorough job when cleaning, drying and storing it.


After cleaning, blot it dry with a clean rag. Then let it air dry completely before storing, either by hanging it or putting it handle-down in a container. Avoid drying it in a position that could bend the bristles. And don't dry it with hair dryer or sun because it can damage the bristles.


Once it is completely dry then be sure to store it either hanging (just use that handy hole at the top of the brush), laying flat or in a container handle-down. Don't crowd it.

Tip: Keep the packaging it comes in and when dry put it back in that packaging to keep bristles from getting bent. Or wrap it in paper towel or newspaper and put elastic band around bristles to keep in place until it's time to use it again.

- Roger & Rose