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The Best Stain for Outdoor Furniture: Our Top 5 Picks

Outdoor furniture can transform a dull outdoor space into an extension of your home. However, exposure to the elements can damage wooden furniture. The right exterior stain can rejuvenate old furniture or protect new pieces.

We’ve researched and compiled a list of the best exterior furniture stains. Keep reading to find out our top picks for the best stain for outdoor furniture!

Using a paintbrush to apply the best stain for outdoor furniture

Our Top Picks

Best Overall
Cabot Australian Timber Oil Stain

Best Water-Based Stain
Defy Extreme Wood Stain

Best for Color Choices
Varathane Premium Gel Stain

Best Overall

Cabot Australian Timber Oil Stain

Cabot 140.0003458.007 Australian Timber Oil Stain, 1 Gallon, Honey Teak

Cabot’s Australian Timber Oil Stain has claimed the number-one spot as the best stain for outdoor furniture because its unique formula leads to incredible, long-lasting results!

Cabot has perfected the mix of three different types of oils: linseed oil, tung oil, and long oil alkyds. Each of these oils has specific attributes that combine to make an outdoor furniture stain that penetrates the wood deeply and protects it from all kinds of natural elements.

This outdoor furniture stain comes in five shades and protects against harsh UV rays, mold, and mildew. Even the heaviest rains will bead up on top of finished wood.


  • Fantastic results that can save even the most weathered outdoor furniture
  • Easy to apply
  • No need for additional sealant products


  • A bit more expensive than other brands on the market
  • More difficult to clean than a water-based product

Best Water-Based Stain

Defy Extreme Wood Stain

Defy Extreme Wood Stain 1-Gallon (Butternut)

Defy Extreme Wood Stain is a close runner-up for the best stain for outdoor furniture. It’s water-based, which means clean-up is easier.

There are five beautiful, semi-transparent shades to choose from, which means the natural grain and texture of the wood below will remain visible.

This wood stain contains smaller than microscopic particles of zinc, which means it acts as a sort of sunscreen for your outdoor furniture. The zinc nanoparticles will reflect harsh UV rays off the surface of the wood, protecting it from their effects.


  • Easy to clean up— use soap and water
  • Reapply for maintenance without sanding
  • Dries quickly between coats


  • Colors can be inconsistent
  • Thin consistency makes it challenging on vertical surfaces

Best for Color Choices

Varathane Gel Stain

Varathane 358308 Premium Gel Stain, Quart, Red Mahogany

If you’re looking for the best stain for outdoor furniture with a wide range of colors from which to choose, look no further than Varathane Premium Gel Stain. There are ten colors, ranging from light golden pecan to deep black.

This stain has an extremely thick consistency, similar to pudding, making it a fabulous choice for outdoor cabinets or chairs. The thick gel will keep application to vertical surfaces much cleaner than a water-based stain.


  • Easy, clean application
  • Budget-friendly—a little goes a long way
  • Many colors available


  • Gel stain application learning curve

Best for Small Projects

Furniture Clinic Wood Stain

Furniture Clinic Wood Stain | Multiple Finishes | Fast Drying | Indoor and Outdoor Furniture and More | Water Based, Low Odor, Non-Toxic | Polyurethane Finish & Sealer | Dark Oak (17oz / 500ml)

Coming in at under $15 for a 17-ounce bottle, Furniture Clinic Wood Stain is the best stain for small outdoor furniture projects.

This stain is water-based, making for easy cleanup. It’s got a thinner consistency, so keep that in mind if staining something with many vertical surfaces.

This stain for outdoor furniture is also safe to use indoors. Bringing a project inside negates weather variables, making the process even easier.


  • Affordable for small projects
  • Non-toxic and low-odor
  • Dries quickly


  • Covers grain more than enhances
  • Colors sometimes don’t match what’s advertised

Best Plant-Based Stain

Luminos Outdoor Wood Finish

Luminos LUM1103 - CALA SAONA - Oudoor Water-Based Wood Finish Stain Protector BIO-Based Protector - Blue Cala Saona 1QT

Not only is the Luminos Outdoor Wood Finish plant-based, but it’s also full of vibrant colors!

These brightly colored stains were created in Spain and are inspired by the Mediterranean waters surrounding the island of Formentera. With color options spanning the entire rainbow, this is the best stain for outdoor furniture of homes with a backyard oasis.

A single quart of this stain will provide two coats of coverage to 100 square feet of surface area.


  • Unique color options
  • Comes in a plastic, rust-proof container
  • Buildable color intensity


  • Won’t work well on dark wood tones
  • May be blotchy if not applied correctly

Additional Materials You May Need for Outdoor Furniture Staining

Prep Items:

  • Polish Remover: Use to remove furniture polish before staining.
  • Palm Sander: Speeds up sanding process, especially useful for corners and edges.
  • Drop Cloth: Protects surrounding surfaces from stain.
  • Tack Cloth: Removes dust for a smooth finish.

Staining Items:

  • Rags: Closely woven, lint-free rags for applying thicker stains.
  • Brushes: For applying stains with similar viscosity to paint.
  • Foam Brushes: Ideal for getting into nooks and crannies.
A man's hand using a rag to apply stain to a table

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is protecting my wood furniture so important?

UV rays bleach and weaken wood, causing color loss, cracking, and warping. Exterior stain acts like sunscreen for outdoor furniture, protecting it from UV damage. Wood rot, caused by moisture and fungus, can decay wood. Stain acts as a barrier, preventing moisture from penetrating the wood.

Is there a difference between interior and exterior stains?

Interior stain is designed to change the appearance of indoor wood and requires a clear top coat. Exterior stain strengthens and protects outdoor wood, with color change as a secondary benefit. Using interior stain outdoors would lead to premature wear from UV rays and wood rot. It’s possible but not recommended due to the availability and effectiveness of exterior stain.

Is deck stain different from outdoor furniture stain?

While it might seem like a good idea to use deck stain for outdoor furniture due to budget or availability, they are not interchangeable. Deck stains are formulated for specific use on decks and patios, containing properties like pesticides and mold deterrents. Using these on furniture that regularly touches skin isn’t ideal. Similarly, outdoor furniture stain isn’t suitable for entire decks. Exceptions exist, such as certain products cleared by manufacturers for both surfaces. It’s essential to read product information carefully to find the right one for your project and budget.

Water droplets beading on stained outdoor wood table

Wrapping Up the Best Stain for Outdoor Furniture

A fresh coat of stain will bring even the saddest piece of outdoor furniture back to life. Many outdoor stain products are available these days, but they’re not all created equally.

We hope this list of the best stain for outdoor furniture has given you the confidence to jump into your project head-first and transform your space! And don’t worry—if you’ve read this far and decided stain may not be the answer for your outdoor furniture project, check out our posts on how to paint outdoor furniture.