How to Make Staining EASIER

It’s pretty clear I’m not a professional home improvement person, right? Glad we could clear the air with that disclaimer. Now, there are two things that bug me about staining (or really any DIY project): cleaning up and wasting money.

Unless we are talking about a huge project, like a deck, I’m not going to waste time cleaning brushes after I’ve stained a teeny-tiny project. I also don’t like to spend money on the foam brushes. Even if they are less than a dollar, it still adds up. Plus, they don’t hold up that well.

Yo! I’m a DIY rebel. Kidding, I’m not. I’m just uh, what’s a nice word for lazy? There isn’t one? Darn. Ok, then. Professionals, avert your eyes.


What do I use to apply stain to wood? Shop towels.

Yep. I fold the shop towel up, dip it in the stain and rub away. Shop towels are more absorbent and hold together better than regular paper towels.

The good thing about this technique is that you really end up working the stain into the wood and don’t end up with a lot of extra product pooling on the wood surface. Some people do like to brush on their stain and then wipe off the excess. I like to avoid that scenario if I can.


Also, wear rubber gloves. Trying to clean stain off your hands is way worse than cleaning paint off. We buy the disposable version, but rubber dishwashing gloves would work too. Again, anything that helps make clean-up quick makes your life so much EASIER!

Now, keep in mind, if the wood is particularly rough or if you’ve used the same towel for awhile, you will eventually end up with a mangled shop towel. That’s okay! Just fold it over or get a new one. Easy peasy.

Instead of shop towels, you could also use old rags and then dispose of them. I just don’t always have extra rags handy for this type of project.


I’m sure the pros out there are cringing right now, but it gets the job done for me. You do have to watch out for slivers if your wood is rough – that almost happened once. Crisis averted.


I used this technique to stain our Pottery Barn Knock-Off Bed and it turned out just the way I was hoping. Finding ways to make clean-up easier and saving money on supplies makes me super happy!

P.S. I’ve also been known to do very small paint touch-ups with a paper towel too! Works great in a pinch and I didn’t have to clean up a brush. Rebel, I know. 🙂

I’m all about a work-around! Here are a few others.

Fixing Nasty Grout is Pretty Easy

How to Reshape a Flexible Woven Plastic Basket

The Weird Thing I Use to Remove Ring Around the Toilet

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