Avoiding Blotchiness!


Blotchiness can occur on just about any wood, as my wife Leigh Ann discovered a few years ago when she stained this unfinished maple curio cabinet for her office. If you would like to see how you can avoid a case of the blotchiness on any of your staining projects, just follow along with me.

Blotchiness is caused by irregular pores, most often found in maple, pine, alder, aspen, poplar and birch, that absorb stain unevenly.

The best way to reduce blotchiness is to apply a coat of Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner after your final sanding, but before you apply your Minwax® stain. Simply brush on a liberal coat of Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner, then let it penetrate from 5 to 15 minutes before wiping off any excess conditioner with a clean, dry cloth.

For best results, allow the oil-based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to set for at least 15 minutes but no more than two hours before then brushing on your stain.


The pine board on the left had Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner applied first, while the one on the right did not. You can see how it reduces the blotchiness.

This was Leigh Ann’s next project and, as you can see, Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner helped this entertainment center absorb her stain more evenly. No more blotchiness!

It’s like taking out an insurance policy on your staining project.

Until next time,

Thanks for stopping by!


PS – Be sure to check out the Minwax® Facebook page for even more tips on wood staining and finishing.


9 comments on “Avoiding Blotchiness!

  1. melissa

    I am staining our brand new set of oak steps. I have applied two coats of stain and one coat of polyurethane. Now I have begun sanding the steps with 120 grain sand paper to get them ready for the next coat of polyurethane. At the edges of the steps I have noticed a line that almost looks like the bare wood where it looks like it took the stain off, I know I haven’t sanded that hard. Is this to be expected or did I do something wrong?

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      I think your first assumption is probably correct, Melissa, as a straight line may have been left in the milling process rather than by nature. I think the #120 grit sand paper was probably too coarse for between coat sanding as it may have removed all of the finish over that ridge. You might be able to touch it up using a Stain Marker. In the future just use #220 grit sandpaper between coats. Good luck!

  2. George Schoenfeld

    You didn’t give much information in your question. Are the edges you mention the toe of the step which is the front edge? How wide is the line? Is it right on the edge of the step? Most steps have a small radius at the toe. Assuming your stain and finish are compatible and are left to dry a few days I think 120 grit is a bit too aggressive. I use 3 or 4 ought steel wool to prepare for the next coat of urethane. I would have finished the steps before installation and added one more coat after the install to cover any dings. Did you use an orbital sander to prep for the next coat? If you sanded by hand did you use a sanding block to keep the paper flat? I’m just shooting in the dark here but if you hand held the paper it is easy to apply more pressure to the edges of boards where your fingers may wrap around the corner. I gotta go and put the second coat of urethane on some kitchen doors

  3. Gail

    I’ve been using Minwax products for years…my favorite products are stains and paste wax. I have 100 year old golden oak furniture and nothing makes it glow like your pasts wax.

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      Thanks for the note, Gail. I always keep one can of Minwax Paste Finishing Wax in the house and a second can in my workshop as they are a great way to protect an antique finish. Thanks again.

  4. Jeanne

    Applied the gel stain to my front door and the weather was hot. It’s now pretty blotchy. How can I fix this problem without completely starting over. My project is a re stain. More like a veneer..

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      Hi Jeanne, I would first try scrubbing it with mineral spirits, but if that doesn’t work a light sanding will be required before you stain it a second time.

  5. Sarah

    HELP: I used Minwax tung oil to finish a cedar chest and the finish was blotched. I then read on line that oil shouldn’t be used on cedar because of natural oils in cedar wood. So I sanded chest until it was back to natural state. Now I started to apply Minwax water based Polycrylic protective finish and even though the finish is clear the red color in the chest is much darker. What can I use to protect the wood without darkening the wood too much?

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      As you have discovered, Sarah, all finishes will effect the color of the wood. The redish color is probably found naturally in the cedar and the finish is simply enhancing it. Cedar is a naturally blotchy wood, so you may not be able to make it blemish free. Your choice of tung oil, however, was correct. Naturally oily woods such as Cedar can be finished using tung oil and other penetrating oils. Thanks for your question and good luck with your refinishing project.

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