I built a wooden table using Pine. I sanded and stained the whole thing, wiping off the excess. It is in my garage and temperatures have been in the upper 40s - low 50s so I was expecting longer drying times.

Now, about 7 days later, the stain feels dry to the touch and is not tacky but when I wipe it with a white cloth (like an old t-shirt) I see stain residue coming off on the cloth. This will not do for a table that will be in the house and leaned on (and probably climbed on) by small children.

Is this because the stain hasn't fully dried or is this a product of some other factor? Do I need to attempt to strip/sand and re-stain it?

  • Did you apply any kind of polyurethane or something similar over the stain? Or are you using 'stain' as a general term for any sort of finishing treatment you apply to the wood?
    – brhans
    Dec 9, 2020 at 1:47
  • @brhans Literal stain. Specifically MinWax oil-based semi-transparent stain (from Lowes). No poly yet as I wanted to ensure it was dry first. I also did not originally intend to poly over the legs, just the top, so this would still be an issue for the legs. Dec 9, 2020 at 5:55
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    40-50° F is most likely below the working temp specified for the product. It's likely to take significantly longer to dry and may not ever "set up" properly due to the cold temps. Bringing it into the house and putting it somewhere off-limits (or behind a closed door) to the young'uns may get it to finish they drying process.
    – FreeMan
    Dec 9, 2020 at 16:46
  • @FreeMan today is mid-70s (welcome to the south) so hopefully the next few days will help. Dec 9, 2020 at 18:44

1 Answer 1


A stain only application will rub off even when dry this is one of the reasons poly is used to seal the surface. The pigment that is on the surface is the issue once the solvent evaporates the pigment is left on top of the denser wood. Wiping the excess will help but without sealing the pigment on the surface residue can rub off for years.

  • I am semi-new to staining so this makes sense though I don't remember it happening on past projects. Would a matte sealant keep it from looking like it is coated? Dec 9, 2020 at 18:45
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    I sealed it with a matte ploy and it still looks how I wanted, but no more stain residue. Thanks! Dec 29, 2020 at 18:35

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