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Interior Vs Exterior Stain – Which Is Best? Beginner’s Guide

Hardwoods look beautiful wherever you use them, whether they are inside the home or outside of it.

Interior Vs Exterior Stain

But, this amazing look comes with a price because looking after hardwood can be a pain.

There are a lot of considerations you need to make when it comes to how you are going to look after this part of your home.

There is one thing you need to keep in mind. You should not treat interior hardwood and exterior hardwood like they are identical. If you try this, one will end up getting damaged.

The main consideration you need to make when it comes to comparing how to look after interior and exterior hardwood is the stain you need to use on it.

Both kinds of wood need very different stains. These protect them from the very different environments they keep them in. 

Knowing the difference between these stains is important and worth considering. But, this is not the only thing.

You will also need to know how you should clean your interior and exterior hardwood.  You also need to know the proper steps to maintain it.

We put this guide together to show all the differences between interior and exterior wood protection.

This ensures you know all the defining qualities of these woods. You also need to know how you can keep them as safe as possible for as long as possible.

You know how expensive hardwood can be if you have it yourself. So if you want to avoid a repair that will not be cheap, keep reading to get all the information you need on the hardwood!

Interior Wood Stains

When you are looking for interior wood stains and wood oils, you will notice that these penetrate deep into the floors.

They do this so they can help with making it, so your hardwood floors are able to withstand normal daily wear and tear.

But, they are not a finishing product and they usually contain polyurethane. This means that they are often pretty dangerous to work with, and they can often be toxic. 

So what do you look out for when buying wood oil? We recommend looking for a wood stain that is non-toxic as well as plant-based.

You also want to look out for wood oil that does not contain that many volatile organic compounds, or as they are usually called VOCs.

If you look for an organic wood stain that does not use these, you will find that they tend to be safer. These are better at penetrating and hardening your hardwood. They give extra protection against stains, warping, cracking, and water damage. 

But, when choosing a wood stain, you will find that a lot of these are not finishing products. And you might still need an extra layer to seal it in.

So make sure you know what you are purchasing when looking for an interior wood stain as some might need you to buy extra products!

Exterior Wood Stains

For an exterior wood stain or wood oil, you will find that these are  quite different from interior wood stains. This is because these will withstand different conditions.

Exterior wood oils tend to give you much better protection against elements. Common issues are sunlight as well as excessive water damage too. 

But, these wood stains do tend to have some traits in common with interior wood stains.

They also tend to contain toxins before they dry. Because of this, you want to ensure that you are using the right ones.

It is not as hard to find alternative exterior wood stains that are plant-based and do not contain as many VOCs. But, these can be a lot more expensive. 

One main aspect that separates exterior wood stains and interior ones is that you use exterior coats for the finishing coat.

Because of this you do not have to worry about adding any other products onto it once it has finished drying.

Make sure to do plenty of research and ensure that you are not using an interior stain on exterior hardwood. This will not give you enough protection and your hardwood will end up damaged!

Interior Wood Cleaning

Interior Vs Exterior Stain

There is another aspect of caring for hardwood surfaces that is different depending on where the wood is. It also depends on how you have stained it is how you will clean it.

For interior hardwood you are going to need some specific cleaning products. Knowing what to use is as important as knowing what wood stain to use. Especially since this you will use this more often.

Generally speaking, you can get some great results from using a natural hardwood soap. This will clean and further protect your hardwood.

It will not strip any of the stain or color as well. But, if you are going to try and re-stain the hardwood then you are going to need a more intense cleaning solution.

This will reopen the grain on the floor, but, make sure to do plenty of research before choosing one of these!

Exterior Wood Cleaning

Exterior hardwood will not need as much cleaning, especially if it is out on the patio. This is even more true if you are only using the space in certain seasons, but, you will still want to try and keep it clean. 

You will want to deep clean your exterior hardwood products every year to get rid of any mold, mildew, or dirt. There are stains which will build up over time.

It is sometimes even recommended to sand down your exterior wood surfaces. This will ensure that there are no splinters.

You can also find specific products made for cleaning exterior hardwood. And this will work well for your wooden outdoors furniture.

But, you can also find plenty of homemade cleaning solutions as well. We recommend working out what is making your exterior hardwood pieces dirty.

Then find a specific cleaning solution for this. For example, you need to clean stains and mold in a specific way. So find a specific cleaning solution for whichever one you are experiencing!

Interior Wood Maintenance And Protection

So, how do you keep your hardwood in top condition? If you want this then you need to know more about protecting them.

Also maintaining it as well as removing stains and cleaning. If you know how to clean your interior hardwood you will be able to make it last for a long time.

Keeping this surface maintained is not too hard. People often do this by using a soap spray which will protect the wood when using it instead of stripping it.

But what happens if the color starts to lack? You can find soaps and products made to rejuvenate your floors.

But, in some conditions, you might need to strip the stain and the finish and re-stain. Then you need to refinish your interior floor. 

But, this is not always the case. If you have been maintaining your hardwood interior floors well enough then this should not be an issue.

You could feel like you are struggling to keep your interior hardwood floors clean. If so we recommend contacting a professional to assess the situation!

Exterior Wood Maintenance And Protection

As we point out throughout the article, exterior hardwood surfaces will face much tougher elements. So knowing how to protect and maintain the surfaces can be quite challenging.

Keep track of what your exterior hardwood is facing. Then clean before damage can sink in, it is not that hard to keep track of.

Then the best way to maintain and protect exterior hardwood. This is to use specific protective items.

Some specific items that we recommend using are furniture covers for specific pieces. Also use patio shades you can store the items under.

There are also patio screens, curtains and umbrellas which can all be useful as well. We recommend that if you have room in your home, try to store smaller hardwood pieces inside. Do this during more intense weather to help improve their longevity.


We hope this guide has put into perspective the different ways you need to look after your hardwood surfaces.

No matter where they are in your home. It is important to know the different products which you need. This depends on whether they are exterior or interior.

This is the perfect way to keep your hardwood products lasting as long as possible. 

We know how expensive these products can be. So we recommend putting considerable effort into learning how to protect these surfaces.

In spite of this, once you know how, it is not that tricky to remember!

Our best advice for keeping hardwood surfaces indoors healthy for as long as possible is to put most of the effort into staining and sealing.

This will increase the lifespan of your hardwood the most, and put some effort into cleaning. Then there is exterior hardwood.

We know that keeping it clean when it is dirty is important for preventing any long-term damage to it.

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