dark walnut stains

Dark Walnut Stains Parade: 9 Top Picks for a Rich Neighbor-Envying Finish

Dark walnut stains solve two situations: trying a new wood shade and restaining your black walnut wood. In both scenarios, you need a beautiful wood stain that won’t cause issues

I’ve hand-tested nine dark walnut wood stains and found that the Orange DIY Walnut Wood Stain is the best option for finishing interior and exterior projects. It excels above the rest due to its concentrated formula, easily controlled application, and versatility.

I made my choice based on my woodworking experience, where I’ve finished hundreds of projects. I’ve used stains with different odors and concentrations, so I know walnut wood colors like the back of my palm.

Let’s get started.

My List of Top-tier Dark Walnut Stains for Every Application

Product ImageProduct NameSimpleWood
What I likedWhat I did not likeLink
Orange DIY Walnut Wood StainOrange DIY Walnut Wood StainBest Overall– Nearly odorless
– Works in indoor and outdoor applications
– It doesn’t clean well
– Stains on the skin take days to remove
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Minwax Special Walnut Penetrating StainMinwax Dark Walnut Penetrating StainBest for Versatility– Quick drying oil-based formula
– Doesn’t require any wood prep
– Not for use on floorsCheck Price Here
Varathane Premium Dark Walnut Gel StainVarathane Premium Dark Walnut Gel StainBest for Vertical Surfaces– Designed for vertical applications like window trim and doors
– Designed with a no-drip formula to prevent mess
– Excess paint dries tackyCheck Price Here
Furniture Clinic Walnut Wood StainFurniture Clinic Walnut Wood StainQuickest Drying– Formulated for easy clean-up
– Environmentally friendly
– Low odor profile
– Dries fully in 30 minutes
– It isn’t ideal for exterior use
– Makes a mess
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Minwax Polyshades Tudor Wood StainMinwax Polyshades Tudor Wood StainBest Stain and Finish Combo– Combines a sealer with the stain
– Needs one coat
– It is easy to apply
– It has a strong odor profile
– It takes long to dry
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General Finishes Walnut Wood StainGeneral Finishes Walnut Wood StainBest for Indoor Use– Non-combustible
– Water-based solution
– Easy cleanup
– Dries quickly
– Tends to cause a messCheck Price Here
Ready Seal Dark Walnut ExteriorReady Seal Dark Walnut Exterior StainsBest for Exterior Projects– Doesn’t peel or chip
– High coverage
– Combines stain with sealer
– Self-leveling
– It doesn’t stain wood fillerCheck Price Here
Birchwood Casey Walnut StainBirchwood Casey Walnut StainBest for Small Projects– Dilutable formula
– Concentrated color
– Doesn’t cover scratchesCheck Price Here
SamaN Interior Dark Walnut Stain SamaN Interior Dark Walnut StainNo Sanding Needed– Absorbs well
– Cleanup is easy
– Odor formulation
– Covers like paintCheck Price Here

Top 9 Dark Walnut Stains That Gave Me a Luxurious Finish 

1. Best Overall: Orange DIY Walnut Wood Stain 

OrangeDIY Zero Odor Wood Stain, Water Based, Fast Drying, Color Guaranteed, 1 Quart 946ml | for Furniture, Deck, Fence Walnut, (WBWS-W)

I was a little skeptical about ordering the Orange DIY Walnut Wood Stain because of its low rating count, but the finish made it all worth it.

To be fair, it had a strong smell when I initially applied it. But the odor vanishes after about 3 minutes, and it is almost hard to perceive. This bit was super helpful because high VOCs give my eldest daughter migraines.

The Orange DIY Walnut Wood Stain also works well outside, and I tested this claim by coating a distressed mahogany table on my patio. Like my daughter’s dresser, the patio table only required one coat of stain to renew its luster.

The stain is partly sheer, which allows you to control the color’s depth. But, it is hard to stain if it spills. I was cleaning dark walnut stains from my hands for four days. 

What I liked

  • Nearly odorless
  • Works in indoor and outdoor applications

What I did not like

  • It doesn’t clean well
  • Stains on the skin take days to remove

2. Best for Easy Application: Minwax Special Walnut Penetrating Stain

qt Minwax 70006 Special Walnut Wood Finish Oil-Based Wood Stain

I used the Minwax Special Walnut Stain to restore some indoor furniture without pre-staining, and I noticed two vital things.

It stained a rich, deep brown, but its drying time was much longer than advertised. The company listed 2 hours, but it was still tacky and took six hours to dry completely. 

However, the oil paint was intense. It penetrated well and covered a lot because I used half of a can for three bathrooms. 

Since I didn’t precondition the wood surfaces, I expected some blotching with the stain. But I haven’t noticed any streaks in the stain job.

The stain was also easy to apply. I used a towel to spread the first layer and wiped it after 10 minutes. But I’d advise pairing this stain with Thompson’s Wood Sealer to keep the surface looking fresh for a long time. 

If you intend to use the Minwax Special Walnut Stain in a bathroom, seal it with polyurethane. Constant humidity can cause walnut wood to absorb moisture and swell.

What I liked

  • Quick drying oil-based formula
  • Doesn’t require any wood prep

What I did not like

  • Not for use on floors

3. Best for Vertical Surfaces: Varathane Premium Dark Walnut Gel Stain 

Varathane 358301 Premium Gel Stain, Quart, Dark Walnut

When staining doors and interior trim, water-based wood stains are your enemy. They tend to drip and make unnecessary messes.

Before staining my interior doors with the Varathane Dark Walnut Gel Stain, I didn’t do any pre-stain prep aside from cleaning dirt.

Firstly, I noticed that the first application had incredible coverage. So, I left it on for 8 minutes and wiped it with a rag. 

I also noticed a matte finish (instead of the advertised satin finish), which I didn’t expect but ended up loving. But if you want a glossy finish, this stain won’t be ideal.

Next came the drying process. I noticed that it goes on tacky, so 5 hours was my minimum guesstimate. But mine took nearly 25 hours. 

So, my doors were out of service for a long time.

I figured that Minnosota’s humid summers may have affected my project. So it might even take longer if you live in more humid climates

What I liked

  • Designed for vertical applications like window trim and doors
  • Designed with a no-drip formula to prevent mess

What I did not like

  • Excess paint dries tacky

4. Quickest Drying: Furniture Clinic Walnut Wood Stain

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

For this application, I started with a brush but soon realized that a rag was more appropriate. Furniture Clinic Walnut Wood Stain is watery, so it is easier to wipe on the stain with cloth.

The dark walnut stain is extremely dark and looks a lot like espresso. So it worked well to hide scratches in furniture. 

I appreciated its low odor profile, which made it suitable to use in the bedroom. Plus, its water-based consistency is easy to clean in case of stains. 

This bit is useful because Furniture Clinic Walnut Wood Stain is almost guaranteed to make a mess due to its consistency.

I used three 750 ml bottles to cover nearly 9 square meters, sparingly staining each surface with one coat. So, a little goes a long way. It also dries quickly, so my project took 15 minutes to dry to the touch and 30 minutes to dry fully.

Overall, this stain is easy to clean and very forgiving. You can correct mistakes with a little sanding, which makes it easier to tackle blemishes.

What I liked

  • Formulated for easy clean-up
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Low odor profile
  • Dries fully in 30 minutes

What I did not like

  • It isn’t ideal for exterior use
  • Makes a mess

5. Best Stain and Finish Combo: Minwax Polyshades Tudor Wood Stain 

Minwax PolyShades Wood Stain + Polyurethane Finish – ½ Pint, Tudor, Satin

The Minwax Polyshades Tudor Wood Stain is your best bet if you want a dark walnut stain and polyurethane finish in one. I used it to refresh a sun-faded exit door made from black walnut wood.

I prepped the wood by cleaning off excess dirt and scuffing it lightly with sandpaper. Then, I wiped on the stain with a rag and left it on for 15 minutes before smoothing off the excess.

To my surprise, the first coat was a shade darker than I originally intended. So, a little paint provides good coverage.

However, the odor after application was powerful. I was outside but you should be in a properly ventilated area to use this stain. 

The stain took over 7 hours to fully dry, so you’ll need to decommission the surface you’re working on (and possibly even the entire area). It’ll help you prevent children and pets from tampering with the stain.

I should also add that sanding was a MUST for this project. This Minwax Polyshades Tudor Wood Stain is more like a varnish than a wood stain, so an already varnished surface won’t absorb the wood stain properly.

What I liked

  • Combines a sealer with the stain
  • Needs one coat
  • It is easy to apply

What I did not like

  • It has a strong odor profile
  • It takes long to dry

6. Best for Indoor Use: General Finishes Walnut Wood Stain

General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain, 1 Quart, Walnut

I tested the General Finishes Walnut Wood Stain on a mahogany tabletop and instantly got the richest walnut finish I’ve ever used. Luckily, it was a dark espresso color that still retained the wood’s natural characteristics.

The water-based formula penetrates deep into the wood’s grain to create a uniform finish. However, it was a bit messy to work with. 

But since the stain yielded to soap and water, cleanup was a breeze.

The General Finishes Walnut Wood Stain dries quickly.  So, I’ll advise you to use General Finishes Dry-time Extender to thin out the stain and buy some time.

In 35 minutes, my table top had dried completely but I had tracks from my leading edge. So, I layered on another coat, and it cleared out the streaks.

What I liked

  • Non-combustible
  • Water-based solution
  • Easy cleanup
  • Dries quickly

What I did not like

  • Tends to cause a mess

7. Best for Exterior Projects: Ready Seal Dark Walnut Exterior Stains

Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer-1 Gallon can (Dark Walnut 125)

The Ready Seal Dark Walnut Exterior Stains is the ideal dark walnut stain for decks and patio flooring. It is a self-leveling mineral oil stain that layers on and finishes without making a huge mess. 

I used it to renew my parents’ deck and started by power-washing and sanding. To test out its goof-proof formula, I slopped some stain onto the deck and went in with a roller.

Surprisingly, the stain spreads out easily and only requires you to back brush for a uniform finish. So, it took me nearly half the time I’d normally use on this task.

However, I noticed that the stain didn’t penetrate the wood filler on the deck. So, you might need to consider color-matching your wood gaps.

What I liked

  • Doesn’t peel or chip
  • High coverage
  • Combines stain with sealer
  • Self-leveling

What I did not like

  • It doesn’t stain wood filler

8. Best for Small Projects: Birchwood Casey Walnut Stain

Birchwood Casey Easy-to-Use Fast-Acting Walnut Wood Water-Based Stain for Gun Stock Staining & Antiquing, 3 OZ Bottle, Brown

I used the Birchwood Casey Walnut Stain to stain my old gunstocks. The first thing I noticed was its dilutable formula.

The stain was a strong coffee-brown color, but it was too dark for my project. After diluting, I had better control of the stain and layered two coats to get my desired finish. 

Since this stain is water-based, I finished the stocks with the Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil Gun Stock Finish

However, this stain does a bad job of covering scratches and dents. So, if you’re skipping the sanding, you’ll still notice dents in your stocks.

Overall, the Birchwood Casey Walnut Stain is a cheap and effective wood stain for small projects.

What I liked

  • Dilutable formula
  • Concentrated color

What I did not like

  • Doesn’t cover scratches

9. No Sanding Needed: SamaN Interior Dark Walnut Stain 

SamaN Interior Water Based Wood Stain - Natural Stain for Furniture, Moldings, Wood Paneling, Cabinets (Antique Walnut TEW-212-12, 12 oz)

I used the SamaN Interior Dark Walnut Stain to stain an unfinished coffee table. 

It has a thick consistency, which looks a lot like paint but without the strong fumes. In fact, this stain was completely odorless.

It was also very dark, so I had to cut it with some water to achieve my desired shade. Now more watery, it was a lot more messy. However, I used a simple soap and water solution to remove spills.

After 50 minutes, the table was completely dry, and I had the perfect walnut shade. But it dried to a flat finish, and I wanted a more refined one, so I used tung oil to seal the wood.

I’d advise you not to use a rag for this stain because it is too thick. A roller or stain brush will do the job perfectly.

What I liked

  • Absorbs well
  • Cleanup is easy
  • Odor formulation

What I did not like

  • Covers like paint

My Final Verdict: Orange DIY Dark Walnut Wood Stain

My favorite product is the Orange DIY Walnut Wood Stain because of its versatility and odor profile. 

It works well in interior and exterior applications, which provides more value in every container. The Orange DIY Walnut Wood Stain also has a sheer design to help you control the stain as you work.

The downside is the mess. It can take days to wash off if this product touches your skin. So I’ll advise you to wear gloves before staining.

The Buyer’s Guide for Choosing Dark Walnut Stains 

Before buying dark walnut stains, here are four factors you should consider to avoid a sticky situation:

Oil or Water-based?

Water-based stains are typically less toxic and pungent than oil-based stains, and they penetrate the wood better. So, you can apply them in indoor and outdoor applications that are sensitive to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 

However, oil-based stains are much more durable than water-based stains, even though they smell strong. So, you can use them in high-activity areas like decks and flooring.

Drying Time 

Always check the stain’s drying time to ensure that it matches your project. For instance, kitchen cabinets require a quick-drying stain to avoid disrupting an important area of the house. However, if your project can wait longer, oil-based stains are worth the wait.


Wood stains with a runny consistency tend to make a mess because they leak easily. But they’ll usually yield to a soap and water solution and clean better. 

However, oil-based stains contain stronger compounds, causing them to leave stains on your skin and clothes. If you insist on using an oil-based stain, pair your purchase with a pair of gloves


Some wood stains are specially designed for interior use, while others work effectively in all applications. Before buying your next wood stain, check the manufacturer’s notes for any use specifics or restrictions on the product.

The Magic of Dark Walnut Stains

Dark walnut stains have the power to transform dull woodwork into eye-catching furnishings. 

These nine hand-picked stains cover well, dry fast, and last long. So, depending on your needs, these will be the last dark walnut stains you’ll need.

If you’re excited to try these out, you should look into some easy wood carving ideas. I’ve covered 16 sculptures to give you the perfect canvas for your next wood stain project.

What’s your favorite furniture to finish with dark walnut stains? Put me on in the comments and share this piece with someone due for a new wood project!

Frequently Asked Questions 

What Color Stain is Dark Walnut?

Dark walnut is a mocha-black color stain. This shade can resemble black from afar, but it is prized for its luxurious feel and its ability to warm up a space.

Which is Darker Oak or Walnut?

Here’s where it gets tricky: walnut wood is generally darker than oak, especially if we are referring to its heartwood. However, walnut sapwood is a white-blonde color, which looks similar to oak wood. But you’re more likely to see super dark walnut because dealers steam the sapwood to achieve the signature black walnut shade.

Can Walnut Be Stained Dark?

Walnut wood can be easily stained dark because its lumber takes stains well. So, people who want a mocha-brown hue will often stain their walnut wood to the darkest shade on the lumber. This also works if your black walnut wood has faded from sun exposure.

What Color Compliments Dark Walnut?

Olive combinations like cream, green, and black go beautifully with dark walnut furniture. For example, you can use green walls and cream hardware with dark walnut. However, you should remember that dark walnut floors tend to make a room appear smaller.

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