7 Best Deck Stains of 2021: Water & Oil-Based Reviewed

Best Deck Stains
Photo: budewindows.co.uk

When it comes to choosing a deck stain for an upcoming project the chances are you will rely on the expert at the store for recommendations. But, while they are very helpful they will not always know the best deck stains for your specific situation.

What you need to ensure you always end up with the right product is to understand what defines a good deck stain and have some ideas on some of the best options available on the market.

In this post, we review some top-rated deck stains that will work for a wide variety of products and also explain the key things to consider as you choose one.

What To Check Before Buying Deck Stain?

How to Buy the Best Deck Stain
Photo: hynesconstruction.com

1. Oil-Based vs Water-Based Deck Stain

As you pick out a deck stain for your projects, you will first need to decide on whether you need an oil-based or water-based one before you get to consider the other key factors.

While both are effective enough and ideal for different projects, each has its merits and demerits.

– Oil-Based Deck Stain

Oil-based deck stains like Ready Seal 512 are the older of the two types, and many users love them for their superior water-repelling characteristics.

Also, these deck stains will condition the wood to prevent warping and cracking.

However, they will take up to 48 hours to dry and are harder to wash out from the brushes and other surfaces after application.

– Water-Based Deck Stain

Water-based deck stains like the Defy Extreme Wood Stain have not been around for as long as the oil-based types, but they are slowly becoming more popular.

Many users love that they can take as little as 2 hours to dry and are formulated to be more environmentally friendly. That said, these deck stains are the more expensive of the two types.

2. Types of Deck Stain

Besides being classified into water and oil-based types, decks stains can also fall into several other types based on the kind of finish that they leave.

The main ones are clear, semi-transparent, and solid deck stains.

– Clear

Clear or transparent deck stains like Thompsons Waterseal TH.041851-16 will contain little to no pigment in them, which means that they will not change the appearance of the wood.

Instead, these decks stains will help enhance the natural appearance of the wood grain.

However, these stains will often not have any UV protection and will need to be reapplied more often.

– Semi-Transparent

With the semi-transparent deck stains like SaverSystems Premium Wood Stain, you will get some level of coloring for the wood, but the natural wood grain is still visible to some extent.

They are still good when you want to show off the wood, but they are still not as tough as the solid deck stains.

– Solid

Solid deck stains are also the types that will be fondly referred to as opaque, and they are the most protective and longest-lasting of the three types.

These stains have paint-like qualities and can last up to 5 years. However, their biggest drawback is that they will cover up the wood grain.

3. Coverage Area

The coverage area matters when choosing the best wood deck stain because it will determine how much quantity of the stain you will need, and hence how much money you end up spending.

A gallon of deck stain that can cover at least 100 square feet should be good enough. This means you will only need a few of these containers to cover the average deck size that is between 300 and 400 square feet. And for smaller decks, one-gallon can even be enough.

But, if you can get something that will give you even better coverage than this, the better as it will help save you money. However, make sure you do not compromise on the quality just to get good coverage.

4. Color

If you want to maintain the natural look of wood for your deck, the color will not be an important consideration for you as you will want to stick with the clear stains.

But, if you prefer the semi-transparent and solid stains, then you will also need to decide on the color that you want. Here it is all about personal preferences and the decor you want to match the deck with.

Some of the most common deck stain colors are cedar, driftwood gray, and walnut, and while they can all look good on your deck, it will also depend on the particular wood you have.

7 Best Deck Stains of 2021 Reviewed




Ready Seal 512

1. Ready Seal 512 (Best Overall)

  • 2-in-1 functionality
  • Applicable with different tools
  • Streak-free formulation
  • Zero thinning or dilution required
Ready Seal 115

2. Ready Seal 115 (Best for Multipurpose)

  • Multipurpose deck stain
  • Stains and seals
  • 8 color options
  • Applicable in any temperature
Defy Extreme Wood Stain

3. Defy Extreme Wood Stain (Best Water-Based)

  • Environment-friendly water-based formula
  • Beautiful semi-transparent finish
  • Zinc nano-particle fortification
  • Easy application and maintenance
Thompsons Waterseal TH.041851-16

4. Thompsons Waterseal TH.041851-16 (Best for Outdoor)

  • Effective water damage prevention
  • Advanced polymers
  • Applicable on both dry and damp wood
  • Mildew and UV resistant coating
Minwax 227184444

5. Minwax 227184444 (Fast-Drying)

  • Under 2 hours dry time
  • Good for both bare and stripped wood
  • 29 color choices
  • Deep penetrating formula
SaverSystems Premium Wood Stain

6. SaverSystems Premium Wood Stain (Effective Fading & Graying Protection)

  • Prevents wood graying and fading
  • Stains and seals
  • Soap and water cleanup
  • Works on damp wood
Woodrich 10TO1

7. Woodrich 10TO1 (Deep-Penetrating)

  • Penetrated deep into wood fibers
  • Streak and run-free
  • Rich natural finish
  • Great for new wood

1. Ready Seal 512 – Best Overall Wood Stain

Ready Seal 512

Photo: Ready Seal

The 2-in-1 formula is what makes the Ready Seal 512 the best overall product on our deck stain review. With this formulation, this product will not just stain the wood but also penetrates deep to seal the wood and protect it from everything from UV rays to mildew.

Also, this deck stain is formulated to give you an easy time when it comes to the application as you can apply it with a brush, roller, and even spray it on, which is quite convenient. Better yet, you will not need to dilute or thin it before application.

Because this stain will not run or streak, it will be easy to get a pleasant and more uniform finish. You will not have to wait for a specific time of the year to work on your deck as it is safe and stable to apply at any temperature.

This deck stain seems to take more time to cure fully given that it is an oil-based stain. However, the quality of finish that you get and the level of protection will make it worth the wait.


  • Great for all-round wood protection
  • Does not run or streak
  • Easy to apply with roller, brush or spray
  • No diluting or thinning required
  • Applicable in all temperatures


  • Longer dry time

2. Ready Seal 115 – Best Multipurpose

Ready Seal 115

Photo: Ready Seal

Whether you want to stain the deck, wood siding, gazebo, patio cover, or any other wooden structure, the multipurpose Ready Seal 115 will be very useful. Better yet, you get to choose from 8 color options to ensure you get the perfect hue for your wood.

What’s more, this top-rated deck stain will be useful for both staining and sealing the wood, and it will hence protect against UV rays and mildew, while giving the wood superior waterproofing.

You can apply this stain using a spray, brush or roller, and it will be good to apply at any temperature. The application will be easy as this stain will not require a wet-line application, does not run, and will not streak.

One of the most notable complain about this deck stain is that it seems to provide a smaller coverage than indicated. However, if you are keen on your application and spray it on instead of brushing you should get more coverage. Also, for an oil-based deck stain, the dry time is still acceptable.


  • Works well on different wood surfaces
  • Easy to apply in any temperature
  • Several finish color options
  • Provides effect UV protection
  • It does not run or streak


  • Relatively smaller coverage
  • Drying time could be shorter

3. Defy Extreme Wood Stain – Best Water-Based

Defy Extreme Wood Stain

Photo: Defy

Water-based decks stains like the Defy Extreme Wood Stain are more environment-friendly. Also, this wood stain will have a nice semi-transparent finish that will ensure that the wood grain still shows and that your wood still gets maximum protection.

With different colors to choose from, you will easily get something that will suit the specific wood you have. And given that this is a water-based deck stain, you can be sure it will take less time to cure.

The application will be more straightforward, and you can choose to brush or spray it on depending on what you find easiest for you. When it comes to maintenance, there will be no sanding required as you only need to wash the surface and apply another coat. Better yet, the zinc nanoparticle fortification minimizes graying and fading for minimal maintenance.

Many people prefer being able to apply their deck stain at any temperature but with this one, you do not get that freedom as it will not work well when you apply it at very high temperatures. But, this is a small drawback that should not be a deal-breaker.


  • More environment friendly
  • Fast drying
  • Quick and easy application
  • Pleasant semi-transparent finish
  • Many color choices


  • Not good for high-temperature application

4. Thompsons Waterseal TH.041851-16 – Best Outdoor

Thompsons Waterseal TH.041851-16

Photo: Thompson’s Water Seal

Thompsons Waterseal TH.041851-16 is one of the best options for outdoor use on our exterior wood stain review. This is because it has been specially formulated for outdoor use as it will provide superior waterproof performance to protect the deck from the elements.

The advanced polymers help make this a good deck stain for the outdoors as they ensure the wood ends up with a fade-resistant color. Also, this deck stain has an all-in-one formula that will be useful for both staining and sealing the wood.

Because this deck stain can be applied in both dray and dump wood it will be ideal for different kinds of wood surfaces and situations. When using it for your outdoor space, you will never have to worry about mildew growing on your deck as it is very effective at resisting it.

When compared to other deck stains, this one seems a little harder to apply given its consistency. However, as you apply it more and more and get used to it, things should become easier. Also, it seems to have some pigment, but it is still transparent enough to highlight the wood grain nicely.


  • Leaves a waterproof surface
  • Fade-resistant color
  • All in one formula stains and seals
  • UV and mildew resistant coat
  • Applicable in almost any wood


  • A little harder to apply
  • Coating does not seem completely transparent

5. Minwax 227184444 – Fast-Drying Deck Stain

Minwax 227184444

Photo: Minwax

If you are looking for the best interior wood stain, Minwax 227184444 will be a perfect choice for you. But, what truly makes it amazing is super-fast drying time as this deck stain will cure in under 2 hours, which is quite impressive.

You can use this deck stain to stain unfinished wood furniture, doors, cabinet, trims, and even your hardwood floors. Also, the formulation makes this a good enough stain for use on both stripped and bare wood surfaces.

There are 29 color options to choose from with this deck stain, which will ensure you can easily get something to go with your tastes. Because this deck stain will penetrate deep into the wood fibers, it will be very effective at highlighting the wood’s natural grain.

There seems to be very little product on the container, but this should be expected since this wood stain comes in 1/2 pint container. But, you can always buy several of them to ensure you have enough as it is not expensive.


  • Drying much faster
  • Provides more color options
  • Will work on almost any wood surface
  • Only one coat required
  • Highlight the wood grain nicely


  • Small quantity in the can

6. SaverSystems Premium Wood Stain – Effective Fading and Graying Protection

SaverSystems Premium Wood Stain

Photo: SaverSystems

SaverSystems Premium Wood Stain is the kind of deck stain that will always have a place in any semi-transparent deck stain review as it is one of the best out there in this category. What makes it such a pleasant decks stain is its high effectiveness at preventing fading, graying, and peeling.

This product will be effective at both staining and sealing, which eliminates the need to use several products on your wood deck and hence saving you money. Because it is semi-transparent, it will allow the wood grain to show, which creates a more pleasant finish.

You can easily clean up this deck stain with soap and water, which makes it easy to maintain. When applying it for the first time, there will be a minimal wait between cleaning the deck and staining as it can also work on damp wood.

While the thinner, watery composition might seem like a drawback at first for some users, once you get used to this stain, you will find that it is a huge advantage as it makes application easier.


  • Protective against graying and fading
  • Will both stain and seal the wood
  • Easy to cleanup
  • Minimal wait time before staining
  • Allows wood grain to show


  • Thinner, watery composition

7. Woodrich 10TO1 – Deep-Penetrating Deck Stain

Woodrich 10TO1

Photo: Woodrich

Woodrich 10TO1 is one of the deepest penetrating products on our deck stain review, and it will be perfect when you want to rejuvenate old dry wood. With this stain, you can be confident of always ending up with a rich and more natural-looking finish.

Many users will love that besides decks, it will do an amazing job staining other surfaces like siding, log cabins, and wood fences. This stain can be applied to new wood, and you will not need to give it time to weather out.

The application is more straightforward, as the consistency of the deck stain is good enough to allow for spray application. Hence, with a good sprayer pump and a few hours to spare over the weekend, you should be able to stain your deck. And this stain will not run or leave unsightly drip marks.

The strong smell of this deck stain can be annoying, and this is more so when you have a larger deck to cover. But, the smell dissipates fast and it only takes some getting used to.


  • Penetrates deep to rejuvenates old dry wood
  • Leave a nice and natural-looking finish
  • Applicable to new wood with no need to weather out
  • Easy spray-on application
  • It does not run or leave drip marks


  • Strong smell

How to Properly Apply Deck Stain?

How to Apply Deck Stain and Tips
Photo: SaverSystems

Once you have the best outdoor deck stain, you will also need to figure out how to apply it properly. But this is also fairly easy, and below we show you how to do it correctly.

Things You Will Need

  • Water or oil-based deck stain
  • A 2 to 3-inch wide brush
  • Canvas paint drop cloth
  • Paint pad and tray
  • Rubber gloves

Step 1: Clean/Wide the Deck

Just like deck paint, deck stain will not adhere to the surface correctly if it is dirty or full of debris.

Hence, the first step should always be to give the deck and all other wooden parts that you intend to stain a thorough clean up. Sanding will be vital for this step.

Step 2: Stain the Handrails

With the deck clean and dry, you should start staining it from the handrails or the highest point on the structure.

Doing this will ensure that the stain will not drip onto other surfaces later on.

Step 3: Stain the Horizontal/Vertical Members

Once the handrails and other high points on the deck are adequately stained, you should stain the horizontal and vertical members.

Step 4: Stain under the Handrails

Next, you should stain under the handrails. When doing this, you make sure that you get all the corners and all other parts you cannot see easily.

Attention to detail is vital here because any spot that you miss will leave an unsightly look.

Step 5: Stain the Deck

The last and perhaps most important step is to stain the deck. Here you will first need to place a drop cloth under the pan to make sure that you will not have the stain dripping all over the loading area.

Also, when staining the deck, you need to plan for your exit to make sure you will not have to step on the freshly stained deck when passing.

A good idea is to start from the furthest corner and work towards the exit.

Once the application is complete, you need to give the deck enough time to cure which can range from a few hours to a couple of days depending on the type and number of coats.


Whether you are looking for a deck stain for indoor or outdoor use or prefer water-based ones over the oil-based stains and vice versa, there is something for you on our list

However, from this list, the Ready Seal 512 is the best overall as it will both stain and seal the wood and also has a lot more to offer such as easy application using different methods and a nice streak-free finish.

But for those that want the environment-friendly water-based deck stains, the Defy Extreme Wood Stain is our recommendation.