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Storing Wood Stains and Cleaners in Cold Winter Weather

Updated on December 6, 2011

Wood Stain and Cleaner Storage in Cold Weather

With cold winter weather already in full swing throughout the United States, it is very important to store your wood and deck stains and cleaners properly. This lens provides some helpful tips to insure your stains and cleaners are protected during the winter months.

World of Stains Knows Wood Finishes, From California to Maine

World of Stains ships high quality wood finishes, stains, and other products to all corners of the country - from California to Maine and everywhere in between. We are often asked by customers in Northern climates, or anywhere the weather gets cold, about the proper storage conditions for the products we offer. In this lens we'll share our recommendations for safe storage of deck stains and wood maintenance products.

Oil Wood and Deck Stain Label
Oil Wood and Deck Stain Label

Oil Based Wood Stains Can Take the Cold

Make sure they're sealed tight

The majority of wood stain sold by is oil based and does not contain water. You don't need to store these products above freezing temperatures, because oils will simply thicken as they get colder. Be sure that all lids or caps on stain containers are tightly secured. This will keep the thinners from evaporating from the stain and insure that the product does not gel or thicken with time. If possible, try to store oil based wood finishes in full or nearly full containers. The "head space" or air above the liquid product in a partly filled container can allow it to skin over or gel. Properly sealed oil based wood finishes can have a shelf life of five years or more, with some manufacturers stating shelf lives of ten years. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer with the batch code from the packaging. They can often determine the age of a wood or deck stain with this number.

Waterborne Wood and Deck Stain Label
Waterborne Wood and Deck Stain Label

Waterborne Stains Require More Care, Warmer Storage

Shorter shelf life than oil based

Waterborne or water-based products can be identified by label instructions referring to cleanup with soap and water. These products have a shorter shelf life, often just two to three years even in good storage conditions. Waterborne products need to be kept above freezing temperatures. Manufacturers often formulate to allow for a few "freeze-thaw" cycles, but the products can break down and degrade if they are frozen and thawed more than once or twice. Check the wood stain or coating for a gritty texture or lumpy appearance similar to cottage cheese. If it shows signs of freezing damage then it should be properly disposed of. Allow it to dry out completely on layers of newspaper, and then throw it away in your household garbage pickup. As always, be sure to follow any local regulations you may have regarding waste disposal.

Storing Your Wood Cleaners, Brighteners and Strippers

Powder products are the most hardy

Liquid wood cleaners, brighteners, or strippers should be kept above freezing, but are less susceptible to permanent damage. If the product has gotten too cold or been frozen in the past, it may appear cloudy or have separated. Before use, warm the product up and stir it back to a consistent mixture. Powder concentrates are not harmed by cold temperatures and have an almost unlimited shelf life if kept dry.

With proper storage, you can insure that your wood stains, finishes and prep products are ready to use when the weather warms. Make sure all products are tightly sealed. Keep waterborne products above freezing temperatures, and be sure to follow all label directions on any product you use.

Contact World of Stains


At World of Stains, we pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service. Our online store provides extensive information on our wood stain, wood finish, and other exterior wood care products. In addition, we are available by telephone between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m MST at 1-866-645-5544, or by email at

Unlike traditional hardware or paint stores that may carry just a few brands in limited colors, we stock all of the high quality stains at the best pricing. With no minimum order requirements, we can ship any quantity directly to your door. World of Stains is your source for wood and deck stains and all other wood stain products.

Comments and questions are welcome!

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    • WoodStainExpert profile image

      WoodStainExpert 6 years ago

      @rewards4life info: Thank you, many people prefer to work with waterborne stains as they are easier to clean up, but in my experience they are more sensitive to peeling than oil. Make sure that any waterborne finishes are completely removed or weathered away before trying a penetrating oil, they need bare or weathered and cleaned wood to work properly!

    • rewards4life info profile image

      rewards4life info 6 years ago

      Very useful information, I have a large decked area in my garden which I treat every couple of years, normally with a water-based stain although I might try oil as it gives a nice finish. I know this lens will come in very handy.