Varathane - fast dry oil stain (Rating: 3)

I've been using minwax oil stains for years with pretty good success. This particular project called for a different color and better uniformity so I branched out and took a friend's suggestion of the fast dry varathane oil stain. In the end, I was able to get a good cover with good color, but it was so fast drying that it was difficult to work with and took a few pieces before I learned best practices with this product.


First impressions were fairly liquidy, a bit thicker than minwax but absorbed in my rag just fine. These particular colors were very opaque, went on opaque, but cleared up a bit after the excess was wiped off. Initially it looked like really thin paint.

I was surprised by the odor, or lack thereof. Minwax has a notably pungent chemical stink to it, and I expected this stuff to be even worse given it's fast dry time. But, I was pleasantly surprised that in a decently ventilated garage (main door ~6-8" open and a side window fully open), it wasn't as bad. Still had a smell, but didn't knock me off my feet like opening a can of minwax does.

-APPLICATION-(my experience)

Normally I'd cover the whole piece, then come back and wipe off the excess and let it sit for a day. I got halfway through the first piece and noticed it was already drying so I put down my applicator rag and got a fresh one to wipe off the excess. This is my biggest gripe with this product. It dries extremely fast, and after it does, it needs to be almost buffed off instead of just absorbed into a clean rag. If your rag has any of the product on it at all, it will just smear around and take forever, so it took a lot of rags (I use disposable blue shop towels) - about 20-30 for 2 coats on these 3 pieces.

On the first 2 pieces, I wasn't expecting it to dry so fast, and I missed a few drips that now look like a paint drip down the side of the piece. Luckily the colors I chose sort of lend themselves to the rustic, distressed look, but if you're going for a clean look, this would never fly. It was just tough to do really well.

By the time I got to the 3rd piece I found a rhythm and got it to apply pretty evenly, but I could only do one component at a time (apply 1 leg, 4 sides, wipe off, apply one "X", wipe off, apply one shelf, wipe off, etc). Even still, it got a little tacky on me by the time I was done applying on the single component, and for the big flat surfaces like the tops, it took a couple clean rags to get all the excess off.

I found that if you have a problem with an area drying before you can wipe it off, as long as it's only been a few minutes, you can re-apply to that area and it will essentially melt the first layer and allow you to remove the excess (for lack of a better way of explaining it).

I used 2 colors for the look I wanted. Weathered gray first, which came out too dark, and sunbleached on top as sort of a white-wash. The final color was closer to what I wanted. I did lots of tests on scraps and I found that both of these colors covered really well, even over an already-finished piece with polyurethane. It was more of a "white-wash" on the latter, but I was surprised it stuck at all, and it worked. What was weird was applying the 2nd color over the first made the final finish more transparent than the first layer alone. I was expecting it to make it more opaque, but the two layers interacted to some extent somehow. I like that it doesn't look like paint with 2 layers.

This product took me a long time to apply. 2 coats on these 3 pieces took me 6 hours. It was primarily due to the time it took to wipe off the excess, since it required a clean rag every time and it dries so fast most of the time it was buffing it out, not removing. It was even raining out when I applied this and it still dried crazy fast.


If you need something fast drying, this product is for YOU. You can finish on top of this stain after 1 hour, supposedly, and I'd believe it. It dried quick for me, even on a 100% humidity, colder rainy day.

Color is spot on, even the gray on this red-oak. The colors I picked were almost expected to be an opaque color though, and it was. I've heard other more natural colors are more true to the grain and more transparent.

Great, even coverage, if you get the application right and wipe off all the excess.

Still an odor, but less than other stains I've used.


Difficult to apply because it dries so fast. I ended up buffing off the excess more than anything, and it needed lots of clean rags or it would just smear on the surface.

Took me a lot of time to apply because of above buffing off comment

It took me a few full pieces to really get the application technique down. My first two are not great - dried-on drips, uneven coverage, not happy with them.


Overall I'm happy with this product, but there was a learning curve coming from using a regular oil based stain. I'm not thrilled with my first two pieces I did up with this product, but the third, and biggest, came out well. Good color, good coverage, and it sure lives up to its advertising of drying fast.

Any questions, let me know! I'll do my best to answer them.