Best Brush for Staining Wood
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7 Best Brushes for Staining Wood (Tested & Reviewed 2023)

Staining your wood projects is a vital step that can make or break your project. By staining it correctly, you’ll add protection and give it the look you want.

I’ve been using wood stains on my projects for years, but there’s one aspect many woodworkers overlook – finding the right brush!

In this post, I’ll rate several different brushes so you can find the absolute best brush for staining wood for any project. Let’s dig in!

In a hurry? The best brush for staining wood is the Purdy Ox-Hair Brush because of how well it penetrates wood and leaves an even coat of stain.

Best Brushes for Staining Wood

Best Polyurethane Brushes

1. Purdy Ox-Hair Series Brush – #1 Best Overall

Purdy Ox-Hair Poly Brush
Purdy 144300020 Ox-Hair Series Ox-O-Thin Flat Trim Paint Brush, 2 inch , Yellow
  • Ox-hair is the softest, most supple natural bristle Purdy uses for its handcrafted brushes
  • It is carefully blended with the softest White China bristle for just the right amount of resiliency.
  • These extraordinary painting tools are perfect for ultra-fine enamel and varnish projects where an ultra smooth, exquisite finish is desired.

Purdy is well known for making some of the best brushes on the market, and their Ox-Hair brush is one of the best.

This natural bristle brush provides tremendous coverage and works well with both oil based and water based stains.

It comes in several sizes depending on the surface you’re staining, and it’s also very comfortable so you won’t deal with a strain in your hands when staining wood. Sign me up!

Applying stain with this brush was easy and you can easily clean it once you’re finished so it can last.

What I Liked:

  • Terrific coverage thanks to the natural bristle construction, meaning less coats of stain
  • Can handle all sorts of paints, stains, and polyurethane making it one of the most versatile brushes you can find
  • Very high quality brush that can last for decades if taken care of

What I Didn’t Like:

  • More expensive than other wood stain brushes
  • Sheds a normal amount of bristles when compared to similar brushes

My Thoughts:

Overall, this 3″ Purdy Ox-Hair Brush is one of the best brushes for staining wood that you can find. It’s a versatile brush that provides excellent coverage and can last for years if well maintained. Brush marks were difficult to find because of the natural bristles – which is a huge plus. It’s perfect for all staining projects and yields professional quality results. My only gripe is the price, but it’s one of the highest quality brushes you’ll find – so highly recommend it.

2. Minwax Polycrylic Wood Stain Brush – Best for Water Based Wood Stains

Minwax Polycrylic Polyurethane Brush
Minwax 427320008 Polycrylic Wood Stain Brush, 2”, White
  • WOOD STAIN BRUSH – This 2” wood staining brush is a fine craft, blend of nylon and polyester designed for water-based stains and finishes. Using this high-quality synthetic bristle brush provides…
  • SMOOTH, EVEN FINISH – The soft application design and synthetic bristles promote a smooth finish of wood stain and protective or clear finishes for your wood projects.
  • USE WITH – This 2” wood stain brush is for use for quart size cans of water-based stains and finishes. Rinse well after use, and clean with soap and water.

If you’re working with a water based stain, this Minwax Polyacrylic Brush is a great option. The quality is just a hair below the Purdy Ox-Hair brush above (pun intended) – but I found this brush works well with any water based stain.

This is one of the best synthetic brushes you can buy and it works great for staining wood projects both small and large.

What I Liked:

  • Provides great coverage without brush marks
  • Bristles don’t shed as much as some natural bristle brushes
  • Pretty good value for the price
  • Comes in several size options depending on your needs

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Not as versatile as other brushes, it’s best for water based stains

My Thoughts:

This Minwax Polyacrylic Brush is an amazing brush for all water based stains. While it will still work with oil based stains, I found that it didn’t do quite as good of a job with these wood stains. It’s a great value stain brush for the money, and although it’s a synthetic bristle brush – brush marks were hard to spot. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a great wood stain brush and typically use water based stains – this is the brush for you.

3. Wooster Angle Sash Paintbrush – Best for Tight Spaces & Small Projects

Wooster Silver Tip Poly Brush
Wooster Brush 5221-2 1/2 5221-2-1/2 Tip Angle Sash Paintbrush, 2-1/2-Inch, 2-1/2 Inch, White,Silver
  • Silver tip, 2-1/2″, angle Sash, paint Brush, white & Silver chisel trim polyester, very soft formulation, feather stroke, rust resistant, Brushed steel Ferrule
  • Adds extra shine to your product
  • Satin ferrule

If you’re looking to stain smaller wood projects, this Wooster Angle Sash Brush is a great choice. The angled tip allows you to reach tighter spaces and is more accurate than a flat tip brush – which might be required for some projects.

This is a synthetic bristle brush that’s great to stain wood projects of any kind. It’s also super easy to clean and can last for years if maintained properly.

What I Liked:

  • Angled brush allows for more precise coverage
  • Was comfortable and felt extremely high quality

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Bristles fell out with heavier strokes

My Thoughts:

If you’re looking for a brush that’s great in tight areas, I definitely recommend this Wooster Brush. It’s one of the best synthetic bristle brushes on the market that’s comfortable and provided an even coat of stain across the entire surface of the wood. The one downfall with this brush was that the bristles did shed when pushing down heavier. Despite that, it’s still one of the best brushes for wood stain and I’d recommend it for smaller projects.

4. Wooster Bravo Stainer Brush – Best for Staining Wood Decks

Wooster Brush F5116-4 Stainer Stain Brush, 4-Inch
  • Excellent results with all oil-based stains sealers wood toners
  • White China bristle with square construction
  • Nickel-plated steel ferrule

If you’re looking for the best brush for staining wood decks – this 4″ Wooster Bravo brush is the perfect choice.

It has firmer bristles that make it more durable when staining a wood deck compared to traditional brushes. It’s also slightly larger than the other brushes I’ve mentioned at 4″ wide. This makes staining your deck quicker and if time is money, a larger brush is certainly worth it. If you have larger deck boards, you can opt for an even larger version of the brush such as the 4 3/4 or 5 1/2″ brushes.

This brush did a good job of providing a thick coat of stain, but it’s not as great for more detailed work.

If you’re looking for a deck stain, I highly recommend these deck stains!

What I Liked:

  • Larger brush that makes staining decks and large projects much faster
  • Firmer bristles that can withstand more pressure and doesn’t shed as much

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Not good for smaller projects because of its size
  • Doesn’t penetrate tight cracks in wood because of the firmness of the bristles

My Thoughts:

If you’re planning to stain your deck, this Wooster Bravo Brush is the brush for you. It’s suitable for both water and oil based stains and thanks to its size, you can finish your job much quicker than you could with other brushes. The bristles are extremely firm, which is helpful when staining a deck and they don’t shed nearly as much. I can’t recommend this brush enough when it comes to larger wood projects like decks.

5. Wooster Brush 4″ Paintbrush Softip – Best Brush for Staining Wood Fence

Wooster 4" Brush
Wooster Brush Q3108-4 Paintbrush Softip, 4-Inch, Yellow
310 Reviews
Wooster Brush Q3108-4 Paintbrush Softip, 4-Inch, Yellow
  • Soft brush tips provide a smooth and even finish with all latex and oil-based paints
  • White nylon and gold polyester with chisel trim
  • Brass-plated steel ferrule

If you’re looking to stain a wooden fence, this Wooster 4″ Softip Brush is the best choice for you. It’s similar to the brush above, but there are a few differences that make it better suited for fences.

Firstly, the soft, synthetic bristles are better at penetrating wood fences compared to the firmer bristles of the brush above. Second, this staining brush is super comfortable thanks to the large plastic handle compared to the wood handle of the brush above.

Both of these brushes are on the larger side, however. They come in sizes greater than 4″ – which is perfect for larger projects like fences and decks.

What I Liked:

  • Soft tips allows the brush to easily coat old wood
  • Larger brush makes the job faster
  • Plastic handle was very comfortable

What I Didn’t Like:

  • More streaking and brush marks than other brushes
  • Bristles shed a decent amount

My Thoughts:

If you’re looking for the best brush for staining fences, this 4″ Wooster Brush is the best option. With it’s soft bristles, it can easily penetrate all of the crevices that a wood fence brings. It’s also on the larger side, which makes it faster to apply stain on your fence so you don’t have to spend all day staining. Overall, I highly recommend this brush for large projects like fences.

6. Wooster Brush Foam King Paintbrush

Wooster Foam Brush
Wooster Brush 3103-1 1/2 3103-1-1/2 Foam King Paintbrush, 1-1/2-Inch, White
  • High-quality made in USA brushes for all paints as well as varnishes and stains
  • Thick polyurethane foam for the smoothest no-brush marks finish
  • White plastic handle with built-in stiffener blade for consistent flex and neat results

If you specifically want a foam brush, this Wooster Foam King Brush is a solid choice for staining wood. While I personally don’t love using foam brushes for applying stain, some people do!

This is a small brush that’s also one of the best brushes for applying polyurethane, so it’s hard to go wrong if you’re looking for a foam option.

It’s also priced affordably, so you can purchase a few of them to keep around as they don’t last as long as other types of brushes.

What I Liked:

  • Extremely affordable
  • Can be used on paints, stains, and polyurethane
  • Didn’t have to worry about bristles falling out and causing streaking

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Not as durable as other brushes
  • Single size, so it might not work for every project

My Thoughts:

If you’re looking for a foam brush to apply polyurethane, this Wooster Foam King Paint Brush is the right brush for you. It’s extremely affordable and it provided a very even coat of polyurethane that’s hard to beat. It’s also nice not having to deal with bristles falling out because it’s a foam brush. The only downsides are that it comes in a single size, and it’s not very durable. The foam breaks down and needs to be replaced every few applications.

7. Pro Grade Paint Brushes – Best Budget Brush

Pro Grade Polyurethane Brushes
Pro Grade – Paint Brushes – 5 Ea – Paint Brush Set
  • Paint Brush Set Includes 1 Ea of 1″ Flat, 1-1/2″ Angle, 2″ Stubby Angle, 2″ Flat & 2-1/2″ Angle
  • Paint Brushes For Interior Or Exterior Projects. Use Angle Sash Paint Brush For Cutting Crisp Lines.
  • Professional Results On Walls, Trim, Cabinets, Doors, Fences, Decks, Touch Ups, Arts And Crafts.

If you’re looking for a solid brush for staining wood on a budget, this set of Pro Grade Paint Brushes is a solid pick. Despite their low price, this brush set did a great job of providing an even coverage of stain.

Another benefit of this choice is that you get a set if different sized brushes that are extremely versatile. Whether you need to paint, stain, or add a varnish to your projects – these brushes will get the job done.

They work with all types of paints and stains, making them versatile and great for all sorts of interior and exterior projects.

What I Liked:

  • Extremely good value for the money
  • Comes with several sizes for a variety of projects

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Slightly more streaking and brush strokes than other options
  • Didn’t feel as durable as others

My Thoughts:

Overall, if you don’t want to spend a ton of money – these Pro Grade Paint Brushes are a solid choice that will get the job done. While they aren’t nearly as quality as some of the other brushes I’ve listed so far, they did a surprisingly good job. You can use the smaller brush in tight spaces and utilize the larger brushes for some of your larger staining jobs. This brush set is worth the money and is great to apply stain or paint on virtually any project.

What Makes the Best Brush for Staining Wood


Some brushes can be expensive, so having a brush that can withstand years of staining is important. Some high quality brushes can last for decades if they’re cleaned and maintained properly.

Additionally, you want to opt for a brush that doesn’t easily shed bristles as this can cause it to deteriorate quickly.

Type of Bristles

There are a couple of types of bristles that most staining brushes use: natural and synthetic bristles.

But which is better?

Unfortunately, there isn’t always one right answer. While natural bristle brushes are better at preventing streaking, they can shed more easily and come with a higher price. Synthetic bristle brushes can be more durable, but sometimes they aren’t great in terms of shedding and streaking.

There’s also foam brushes. These are different than the others because there are no bristles at all, so you don’t have to worry about them shedding. However, these can be difficult to clean and are tougher to get a smooth finish on older woods with cracks and gaps.

Size and Shape

The size and shape of your stain brush is another important consideration.

For example, if you’re staining a wood deck, you’re going to want a larger brush that gets the job done faster. However, if you’re working on a more intricate project, you might opt for a smaller brush with an angled tip so you can reach the hard to reach areas.

Most brushes will come in several sizes, with most offering a 2″ to 3″ option. However, larger brushes can be over 6″ wide for faster staining.


There’s a pretty large discrepancy in prices between a high quality stain brush and a basic brush. Depending on your budget, some brushes may be better suited for you than others. For example, the Purdy Ox-Hair brush is a great brush that will last for years, but it’s also one of the more expensive options. If price is of concern, option for the Minwax Polyacrylic brush or the set of Pro Grade Brushes is your best bet.


What kind of brush do you use to stain wood?

The best brushes for staining wood and achieving a smooth finish is either a natural or synthetic bristle brush. These can penetrate the wood and provide even coverage without brush strokes. They work with most oil and water based stains and they can work with other substances, making them even more versatile.

How to Stain Wood

Staining Wood

To apply stain correctly, there are a few things you’ll want to do to ensure even coverage.

Prep the Surface

First, you’ll want to prep the surface of the wood for stain. This means you’ll want to remove any dust or debris that’s on the surface as this can prevent the stain from penetrating the wood.

Stir the Stain

Stirring the stain before applying it is another critical step to ensure you get the right color and coverage. Because wood stain will settle over time, it’s important to stir it well before applying it.

TIP: Don’t shake the stain! Shaking it can cause it to bubble and it doesn’t mix it as well.

Apply Evenly

When applying stain, try to stick to long brush strokes that follow the grain of the wood. If you notice any uneven areas, try to go over them again for a smooth finish.

Wipe Away Excess Stain

Once you’ve applied the stain, use a clean rag to wipe away any excess stain on the surface. This will help to ensure a consistent color and removes any drips or runs.

Allow it to Dry

Finally, let the stain dry. Depending on the type of stain you’re using, it can take anywhere from 24 hours to 3 days to completely dry.

Check out the video below for more help with staining wood!

Final Thoughts

The best brush for staining wood is hands down the Purdy Ox-Hair Brush. This is an extremely high quality brush that features natural bristles for a smooth finish.

If you’re looking for for a larger brush that’s best for staining a deck or fence – the 4″ Wooster Bravo Stainer Brush is your best bet.

Finally, if you want the best budget friendly brush for staining wood, go with these Pro Grade Paint Brushes.