I was at the HomeDepot the other day and was informed that I could pre-Condition wood using Mineral spirit. However, this is the information came from the very same person who told me that I could use Mineral Spirit to clean dried stain from my wood project, but after pouring a gallon of the substance on my project with no result, I realized that the guy probably does not know much of this stuff. Before this I had been using MinWax Pre-Conditioner and noticed how quickly one runs out of those and has to head back for more. I have a gallon of mineral spirit that could come in handy and wanted to know from those here is Mineral Spirit can in fact do the same job the MinWax Pre-Conditioner does, and seems to do well?
Yes, mineral spirits are in fact a good pre-stain conditioner for wood, assuming you're using an oil-based stain. I'm no expert but the test I just did speaks for itself. I took a 1x4 pine board and on two sections I generously put on mineral spirits to get it nice and wet. Then after about a minute I wiped off the excess mineral spirits. Then I applied my Minwax oil-based stain to the board. I just liberally wiped the stain on and let it sit maybe a minute then wiped it off. The two sections of the board that were wet with mineral spirits looked great. The other two parts that I did not treat with mineral spirits looked RIDICULOUS. The blotching on them was awful. The untreated parts looked so, so bad.
So yes, mineral spirits are a fantastic pre-stain wood conditioner. You don't need to go buy a special product. The mineral spirits will even out the way the wood takes the stain pigments by filling in the really thirsty pores, thus limiting how much extra stain pigment they take in compared to the rest of the wood. That reduces blotching and gives you a much more uniform, nicer look. Don't listen to the guy that said solvents are bad for the wood. Solvents are in so many products that you use to stain and finish wood.