8 Best Stain For Cedar of 2023 [Reviewed]

Is it really that hard to maintain the natural color of your cedar wood deck? Well, not if you apply a top-quality stain on it.

However, choosing the best stain that is available in a lot of color options and is easy to apply is not as simple as it sounds. You see, there are several factors to consider, and since there are a ton of cheap variants, choosing the right one can often get a little complicated.

But don’t you worry! To help you buy the best stain for cedar, we have compiled this list of the top 8 options currently available on the market.

After rigorous testing, we have given detailed reviews for each of our recommendations. To make things more interesting, we have included a buyer’s guide towards the end of this article.

So, without wasting another minute, let’s get right into it!

Best Stains For Cedar

Here is the list of the 8 best stains for cedar that you can use to protect, enhance, and highlight the natural beauty of your cedar wood.

1. Ready Seal 512 – Best for Easy Application

Ready Seal, one of the leading American sealer and stain brands, has been committed to protecting our outdoor wood projects with its wide range of wood care products. The 512 cedar stain from the brand is one such product that is designed to deliver professional results every time you use it.

We were quite impressed with what the Ready Seal 512 had to bring to the table. What we loved the most is that it doesn’t require any primer and takes about 14 days to reach its true color.

Furthermore, it is very easy to apply; you can use a brush, a roller, or a sprayer as per your choice. And the best part about it is that you don’t even have to thin it before spraying. Also, it is super easy to maintain, which is a very big plus in our books.

From natural cedar to dark walnut to burnt hickory to mahogany, there is a wide array of color options for you to choose from. Apart from this, it elevates the natural look of your wood by making the texture visible. Lastly, since it is oil-based, it can be applied on various wooden surfaces.

Honestly, we did not come across any significant drawbacks of the Ready Seal 512. However, it is the most expensive product on this list, so it may not be the perfect choice for those on a modest budget. Apart from the expensive price tag, this cedar stain works perfectly.

Material: Oil-Based | Finish: Semi-Transparent | Drying Time: 48Hrs – 72Hrs | Protective Properties: UV Rays, Mold, Mildew, & Water Damage | Eco-Friendly: N/A | Size: 5 Gallons

2. DEFY ‎300158 – Best for Eco-Friendly Choice

Next up, we have another effective product from DEFY by SaverSystems, a brand that manufactures wood stains, wood brighteners, stain strippers, wood cleaners, and a lot more. Having said that, the 300158 cedar wood stain from the brand provides a natural matte finish that will not disappoint you.

For us, the main USP of this eco-friendly and water-based wood stain is that it lets the wood grain shine through with an eye-catching matte finish. For this reason, you can apply it for staining a broad spectrum of surfaces, including decks, patio furniture, fences, and more.

Furthermore, it protects the wood from the harmful UV rays of the Sun by dispersing little zinc particles throughout the stain. This ensures that your deck is not prone to color loss and premature graying. Also, you would be pleased to know that it is 100% VOC compliant. Impressive, isn’t it? Well, there’s more.

The DEFY ‎300158 is made with top-quality resins that offer enhanced resistance to darkening and fading. You can expect it to last a lot more than most options on the market. Plus, it is very easy to maintain; just apply a coat of this product without going through the hassle of stripping or sanding.

There’s no denying that it is an exceptional choice, especially because of its versatility and UV-resistant feature. However, the 1-gallon quantity is not sufficient for staining decks. In our opinion, you will require a minimum of 4 gallons for successfully staining a deck. Other than this issue, we did not find any considerable drawbacks.

Material: Water-Based | Finish: Semi-Transparent, Matte | Drying Time: 24Hrs | Protective Properties: UV Rays | Eco-Friendly: Yes | Size: 1 Gallon

3. Cabot 140.0019202.007 – Best for Versatile Surfaces

Cabot is one of the most popular American woodcare brands that has been manufacturing top-quality and easy-to-use products since 1877. And the 140.0019202.007 exterior stain from the brand is certainly no different. Featuring a unique translucent oil finish, this stain takes the wood’s natural look to a whole different level.

There are quite a few things that we absolutely loved about this product but what caught our attention right from the beginning was its low VOC content. This makes the product very safe for the environment. Plus, not only does it protect your deck, but it also enhances its natural appearance.

Furthermore, it is highly versatile. Apart from decks, you can apply this on a range of other wooden surfaces such as trim, fences, and siding. Plus, we really liked that it is available in 5 different colors, including heartwood and cedar.

What’s more? Well, it is very easy to apply, and like most other Cabot products, it is long-lasting as well. Overall, the Cabot 140.0019202.007 is one of the most sought-after wood stains on the market mainly because of its effective results and versatile applications.

We didn’t find this product to be faulty. However, there are a couple of minor issues. Firstly, it is slightly more expensive than most other wood stains on this list. The other issue was its packaging, which was not great at all. Apart from these 2 minor issues, the Cabot 140.0019202.007 is an investment worth making.

Material: N/A | Finish: Translucent Oil | Drying Time: N/A | Protective Properties: UV Rays & Water Damage | Eco-Friendly: Yes | Size: 1 Gallon

4. OLD MASTERS 11916

OLD MASTERS manufactures quality products that you can depend on for a very long time. For this reason, we thought of introducing you to the 11916 cedar wood stain from the brand. Designed with enduring craftsmanship and attention to detail, this product is best suited for woodworking professionals and enthusiasts.

Affordable and suited for light-duty interior work, the OLD MASTERS 11916 wood stain provides superior color control that helps in delivering quality results. There used to be a time when stains would only be available in limited color options. But with this product, you get a ton of color options to choose from, such as crimson fire, dark walnut, maple, and golden oak, to name a few.

Apart from this, it is a multi-purpose wood stain which means you can apply it on both finished and bare wood. Covering about 500 square feet, this wood stain offers superior color control and is best suited for interior projects. Oh! And did we forget to mention, it is very easy to apply as well?

Lastly, this unit features a very modest price tag, which makes it one of the most affordable options that all DIYers and woodworking enthusiasts should consider.

One of the major complaints we have against the OLD MASTERS 11916 wood stain is that it comes in a very small quantity. Packed with just 3 ounces of wood stain, it may not be enough for most projects. This was quite disappointing considering all the other outstanding results from this product.

Material: Oil-Based | Finish: N/A | Drying Time: 10Hrs | Protective Properties: N/A | Eco-Friendly: N/A | Size: 3oz

5. SaverSystems #1 Deck

For over 41 years, SaverSystem has dedicated itself to creating innovative solutions and quality wood care products to enrich the lives of homeowners. And the #1 Deck premium wood stain is a true testament to the brand’s quality. Of course, there is more to this product, so keep reading.

For starters, it is a dual-purpose product. It brings color to the wood and seals it, thereby ensuring it is safe from water damage. In other words, you can use it both as a stain and a sealer. Furthermore, it can be applied to a range of softwoods such as fir, cedar, redwood, or pine.

We were floored by its range of color options, which help enhance your deck’s visual appeal by providing natural finishes. Plus, it was a relief to know that it contains less than 50 g/L VOC content, making it an eco-friendly option on our list.

Apart from this, the #1 Deck is super easy to clean up, all you need to do is apply water and soap, and you are good to go. It works on damp wood as well, which is definitely a bonus.

We liked the overall quality of this cedar wood stain and were quite impressed with the results it had to offer. However, it is a premium product from a well-renowned brand, which means it comes with an expensive price tag. Having said that, it is definitely worth every buck you invest.

Material: Water-Based | Finish: Semi-Transparent | Drying Time: N/A | Protective Properties: Fading, Graying, Mold, & Water Damage | Eco-Friendly: Yes | Size: 2.5 Gallons

6. SamaN SAM-303-1L

SamaN is a Canadian brand that specializes in the manufacture of maintenance and finishing products for a variety of woodwork. Having said that, the SAM-303-1L wood stain from the brand is an option that DIYers and homeowners cannot afford to ignore, mainly because of its high quality and low VOC.

This product is everything that you would expect from a high-quality wood stain. As a DIYer, maintaining that natural cedar look on your furniture might seem like a dream, but with this product, you can get that look. On that note, it is odorless, and the low VOC content makes it very safe to use.

Apart from this, we were absolutely delighted to find out that it doesn’t require any stripping or sanding, just apply it smoothly with a good quality brush. From coffee to aged oak to dark chestnut, this product is available in 20 different color options, making this product all the more noteworthy.

The SamaN SAM-303-1L is specifically made for interior work. So, you can apply it to all types of woodwork, including cabinets, furniture, doors, and a lot more. Lastly, it comes at a very reasonable price, making it the ideal choice for homeowners and DIYers.

We were, for most parts, quite satisfied with what this product had to offer. However, while testing it, we found out that it is a lot thinner than we would like it to be. Nevertheless, the budget-friendly price and a variety of color options make the SamaN SAM-303-1L wood stain perfect for homeowners.

Material: Water-Based | Finish: ‎Gloss, Matte | Drying Time: 24Hrs – 48Hrs | Protective Properties: UV Rays, Water Damage, & Abrasion | Eco-Friendly: Yes | Size: 1 Gallon

7. Olympic Stain ‎410017

Since we are towards the end of our list, let us introduce you to another high-quality product from a brand called Olympic Stain. It has been consistently delivering top-notch wood care products such as cleaners, resurfacers, and stains for homeowners since its inception. Made using water-proofing technology, the Olympic Stain ‎410017 protects your wood from water.

This exclusive product from Olympic Stain features pigments made from transparent iron oxide, which helps deliver super clear and color-rich results. You can use it on exterior wood surfaces, including railings, fences, and decks. Furthermore, it is quite durable and is resistant to peeling and scratching.

Besides, it just takes 24 hours to dry up, which is pretty commendable in our opinion. Plus, it is UV-resistant, and the innovative water-proofing technology keeps your wood safe from all the weather elements. And since it is oil-based, it penetrates deep within both hardwood and softwood for better results.

Apart from this, the Olympic Stain ‎410017 is very easy to apply; simply use a brush, roller, or sprayer as per your choice and get the job done in no time. Overall, it is a high-quality and durable cedar wood stain that you can rely on despite rough usage.

We do not have much to complain about this product. However, while testing it, we noticed a couple of drawbacks. You will need to spend a considerable amount of time preparing the surface. So, ensure that the wood is dry, clean, and, most importantly, free of oil. The other issue is that it is a lot shinier than we expected it to be.

Material: Oil-Based | Finish: Semi-Transparent | Drying Time: 24Hrs | Protective Properties: UV Rays, Water Damage, & Just to Name a Few | Eco-Friendly: Yes | Size: 3 Gallons

8. SEAL-ONCE Nano+Poly

To be frank, there would be something lacking on this list if we didn’t include this outstanding product from SEAL-ONCE. On that note, the Nano+Poly stain from this brand is a completely eco-friendly and non-toxic product that is well capable of competing with most options mentioned on this list. So, let’s dig deeper!

The SEAL-ONCE Nano+Poly is not just any conventional stain. The reason why we say so is because it offers top-notch protection against decay, mold, and water damage. Unlike most options on the market, this product is capable of penetrating deep within the wood’s surface to form a porous barrier, thereby coating the cells of the wood fibers.

Furthermore, the brand promises protection against water for 6 years on surfaces that are horizontal and for 10 years on surfaces that are vertical. Worried about durability? Well, this product has poly in it, which creates a robust surface coating that helps protect your wood against weather elements and general wear and tear.

It is very easy to apply, and the coating is UV-resistant which helps in preserving the wood’s natural appearance. And lastly, you get to choose from a wide array of colors such as cape cod gray, bronze cedar, and battleship gray, to name a few.

The SEAL-ONCE Nano+Poly is undoubtedly a noteworthy mention on the list, especially because of its durability and color options. However, the cedar look is a bit on the orangish side. We had to recoat it with a layer of polyurethane to get the desired look.

Material: Water-Based | Finish: ‎Gloss, Matte | Drying Time: 24Hrs – 48Hrs | Protective Properties: UV Rays, Water Damage, & Abrasion | Eco-Friendly: N/A | Container Size: 1 Gallon

Best Stain For Cedar Comparison Table

Products Material Finish Drying Time Protective Properties Eco-Friendly Container Size
Ready Seal 512 Oil-Based Semi-Transparent 48Hrs – 72Hrs UV Rays, Mold, Mildew, & Water Damage N/A 5 Gallons
DEFY ‎300158 Water-Based Semi-Transparent, Matte 24Hrs UV Rays Yes 1 Gallon
Cabot 140.0019202.007 N/A Translucent Oil N/A UV Rays & Water Damage Yes 1 Gallon
OLD MASTERS 11916 Oil-Based N/A 10Hrs N/A N/A 3oz
SaverSystems #1 Deck Water-Based Semi-Transparent N/A Fading, Graying, Mold, & Water Damage Yes 2.5 Gallons
SamaN SAM-303-1L Water-Based Semi-Transparent N/A Scratch Yes 32oz
Olympic Stain ‎410017 Oil-Based Semi-Transparent 24Hrs UV Rays, Water Damage, & Just to Name a Few Yes 3 Gallons
SEAL-ONCE Nano+Poly Water-Based ‎Gloss, Matte 24Hrs – 48Hrs UV Rays, Water Damage, & Abrasion N/A 1 Gallon

Buying Guide For The Best Stain For Cedar

Now that you know the top 8 best stains for cedar, you are only halfway through the goal. Let us face it, you are still confused and are not able to make a choice. Well, we would not blame you as knowing just the names and a few pros and cons is certainly not enough, especially when buying the best option.

That being said, there are certain important factors that you need to keep in mind in order to buy the right cedar stain. So, to make things easier for you, we have explained these important factors in detail in this section that will help you to make an informed purchase. We strongly recommend reading this part till the end.

Now, let’s cut to the chase!

Stain Color

Color is one of the most important factors that you need to take into account while buying the right stain. Most stains are available in a wide variety of colors, so you need to choose wisely.

Having said that, if you want to retain the natural appearance of your deck, go with a semi-transparent option as it exposes the grains. However, if you want a total makeover, we suggest going with a darker tone.

Interior/Exterior Application

Where you are going to apply the stain is also an important factor. If you will be using it on exterior surfaces such as decks and fences, it is best to go with a product that offers protection against environmental elements. In other words, it should be UV-resistant, water-resistant, and decay-proof.

However, if you want to use it on interior surfaces, then these features are not that useful. That being said, exterior stains can be used on both interior and exterior surfaces.


Your stain should be able to last long. A durable and long-lasting stain comes in handy as it saves you from the hassle of recoating and saves money. So, make sure that you always go with an option that promises to last long.

Oil-Based/Water-Based Stain

If you want to buy the stain specifically for cedar, then always go with oil-based stains. The biggest advantage that an oil-based stain offers is that it has the ability to penetrate deep within the wood fibers.

On the contrary, water-based stains do not penetrate the wood fibers and may result in damage to the wood. So, it is always best to go with an oil-based option instead of a water-based one.

What types of stains are best for cedar?

Oil-based stains are the best for cedar because they penetrate the wood and protect the surface. Water-based stains are also an option, but they may not last as long.

Can I use a clear finish on cedar?

Yes, you can use a clear finish such as a polyurethane or a varnish to protect cedar from moisture and UV rays.

Are there any special considerations when staining cedar?

Cedar is a softwood, so it may be more prone to staining unevenly. Make sure to use a high-quality stain and take extra care when applying it to ensure even coverage.

Can I stain cedar that has been previously stained?

Yes, you can stain cedar that has already been stained. However, you may need to lightly sand the surface before applying a new coat of stain.

How long does it take for cedar to dry after staining?

It usually takes about 24 hours for cedar to dry after staining. However, it may take longer depending on the weather and air circulation.


Protecting and beautifying cedar outdoor projects is crucial to ensure their longevity. Choosing the right stain not only enhances the project’s visual appeal but also guards against damage.

From the above 8 best stains for cedar, here are the top three expert recommendations:

For those seeking a premium, professional result that doesn’t require a primer and can be applied on various wooden surfaces, the Ready Seal 512 is an ideal option. However, it comes with a higher price tag.

As an eco-friendly, water-based, and UV-resistant stain, the DEFY ‎300158 is a good option for those looking to let the wood grain shine through with a matte finish. The only downside is its limited 1-gallon quantity.

The Cabot 140.0019202.007 is the right choice if you’re looking for a versatile stain that works well on multiple wooden surfaces while maintaining low VOC content and emphasizing the natural grain of the wood.

Armed with these expert recommendations, you can now confidently choose the best cedar stain to preserve the beauty and durability of your wood projects.

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