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Are Deck Stains Oil-Based?

Deck stains come in various formulations, and while oil-based deck stains were once predominant, there's now a wider array of options available to consumers. Historically, oil-based deck stains were popular due to their durability and ability to penetrate wood deeply, providing excellent protection against the elements. However, advancements in technology have led to the development of water-based and hybrid deck stains, offering different benefits and features. In this article we will go over oil-based deck stains, water-based deck stains, and the hybrid option.


deck being stained
A deck in the process of being stained in Brookfield, WI

Oil-Based Deck Stain

Traditionally, oil-based deck stains were formulated with natural or synthetic oils, such as linseed oil, tung oil, or alkyd resins. These oils penetrate deep into the wood fibers, protecting the wood from within. Oil-based stains typically provide a rich, almost shiny, natural appearance and enhance the wood's grain. They are also known for their excellent UV resistance, preventing wood from fading or graying due to sun exposure. Additionally, oil-based stains tend to be very water-repellent, helping to prevent moisture penetration and subsequent wood rot.


Despite their many benefits, oil-based deck stains also have some drawbacks. They often emit strong odors and require longer drying times compared to water-based alternatives. Cleanup is more challenging as well, as oil-based stains typically require solvents like mineral spirits or paint thinner for cleaning tools and brushes.


Water-Based Deck Stain

In recent years, water-based deck stains have gained popularity due to their eco-friendly properties and ease of use. Water-based stains use water as the primary solvent instead of oil, making them low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and more environmentally friendly. They also have a faster drying time, often allowing for recoating within a few hours, and cleanup is simple with soap and water.


Water-based stains offer excellent color retention and UV resistance, although they may not penetrate wood fibers as deeply as oil-based stains. However, their quick drying time and ease of application make them a preferred choice for many DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike.


Water-based deck stains are the preferred stains for EcoWash as our environmental impact is important to us. Sherwin-Williams has an excellent line of water-based products that we recommend.


Deck with pergola red
Water-based stain can be just as vibrant as oil-based

Hybrid Deck Stains

Hybrid deck stains combine the best of both oil-based and water-based formulations. These stains typically contain a blend of oils and water-based resins, offering the deep penetration and durability of oil-based stains with the easy cleanup and faster drying time of water-based stains. Hybrid stains provide excellent protection against UV rays, moisture, and mildew growth while offering a wide range of color options and finishes.


SuperDeck 9600 is a product Sherwin-Williams has formulated as a hybrid deck stain.


While oil-based deck stains were once the go-to choice for many homeowners, advancements in technology have led to the development of water-based and hybrid alternatives. Ultimately, the choice between oil-based, water-based, or hybrid deck stains depends on factors such as personal preference, environmental considerations, and the specific needs of the project. Each type of stain offers its own set of benefits and considerations, and homeowners should carefully evaluate their options before making a decision.


Oil-based stains offer deep penetration and durability (something water-based can also offer) but emit strong odors and require longer drying times. Water-based stains are eco-friendly, easy to use, and offer quick drying times, while hybrid stains combine the best of both worlds. Ultimately, the best deck stain for your project will depend on your preferences, needs, and priorities. If you are a homeowner looking for assistance with your deck staining project, reach out to EcoWash today.

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