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Staining Wood with PureColor

PureColor Water Based Stains

By Erin O’Donnell
Founder and CEO, Dovetail Community Workshop

When you stain wood, you have a lot of choices: color, gloss, level of protection — and safety. Traditional stains give off strong fumes, and you should use them only in a well-ventilated area. Plus, a solvent-based stain is guaranteed to stain everything it comes in contact with, whether you want it to or not.

So it was a bit of a surprise when the good folks at PureColor Inc. spread out a work area for us right in their conference room.

PureColor, like us, is based in Albuquerque. They produce wood stains made with “clean chemistry” — that is, all of their products are water-based, with no solvents or polymers. The PureColor formula takes advantage of the natural interaction between water and wood to seal in the color. And it’s fast-drying, which minimizes effects such as grain pop (when the water raises the grain and creates a “fuzzy” feeling across the surface). It also cleans up easily, which is why I was more nervous about their nice table and conference call phone than they were.

PureColor finishing kit

Scott Caruso, PureColor’s CEO, invited Sonja and I to visit and try out their consumer product, EvenGrain Stain. We brought along the wine rack we built as an example for our Brew and Build event earlier this month, which was still bare wood. Scott and his director of operations, Jessica Garrett, supplied everything else and guided us in the proper technique.

We had considered making time at the workshop for people to stain their projects, but decided against it for a couple of reasons. First, most stain takes a long time to dry between coats, and we had only two hours. Second, the fumes. In a windowless room, we didn’t think it was smart to unleash those powerful odors and send everyone home with a headache. So, no stain.

Back at PureColor, Scott opened a box of color No. 55: Lava. It’s a rich red that reminded me of chili powder (because, New Mexico). Inside the box was not a can of stain but a bag with a screwtop.

PureColor stain, Lava color

Prepping for PureColor stain applicationI poured about a quarter-cup into a plastic dish.

“You smell that?” Scott asked.

No. No, we didn’t. There’s a faint claylike scent, but that’s it. No noxious, migraine-inducing fumes.


Scott explained that their products use a patented formula that performs as well as traditional stains without causing harm to the user, or the environment. It’s derived from PureColor’s professional-grade stains for the same level of performance. The box-and-bag approach also creates less waste. It’s easy to squeeze extra air out of the bag and reseal it to use later, which helps preserve the leftovers. Ever see what happens to a half-empty can of regular stain? And how much space does it take up in your workshop?

PureColor wood stain products

I’m a big fan of recycling, upcycling, and repurposing, so this appeals to me. Even cooler is how the PureColor products ship to their professional clients, like industrial cabinet shops. Their five-gallon kit contains about a gallon of concentrated liquid base, again in a bag, and a smaller bag of pigment. It’s nonflammable, so it requires no special, more expensive shipping. When the client opens the package, they add it to four gallons of water, mix, and use. The products are created in both spray and wipe-on formulas.

Staining with PureColor


Sonja and I got to work. We sanded the pine a little first to help with adhesion. Then we dove into the Lava. The deep red color was a stark contrast to the light blond natural wood. It was easy to work with, and very forgiving. Scott advised that we work in sections because it is so fast-drying. The soft wood soaked it up quickly, so I went over each section a few times with the foam brush, then wiped it with a clean white rag. For a deeper color, you can leave it on longer, but I wanted to allow the grain to show through. Jessica told us some of their customers who use their black stain don’t wipe it at all to get the darkest finish possible.

Sonja tests out the clear coat on a piece of scrap wood.

In less than 15 minutes, the stain was dry enough that we were ready to apply the clear coat. I was skeptical. For a traditional oil-based stain you’re supposed to wait up to SIX HOURS between coats of stain, then wait another eight hours before applying a clear protective finish. With PureColor, you’re done before the sun goes down — ideal for Dovetail’s make-and-take project events.

The final result looks spectacular. And I didn’t go home with a headache:

Wine Rack Stained with PureColor

Many thanks to Scott, Jessica, and the whole team at PureColor for the invitation and the hospitality! You can easily order their consumer products online at Amazon. If you try them out, be sure to let us know on Twitter or Facebook so we can see your results!

One Comment on “Staining Wood with PureColor”

  1. Sounds like an interesting product line! Thanks for letting us know about it!