Is there a difference? And the answer is definitely yes.
First and foremost, water-based woodstains dry much faster than do oil-based stains.
This means that you can typically finish a job in 4 hours with water-based woodstains, whereas, with oil-based, it typically will take 24-hours to dry.
Secondly, if you use water-based wood stain, you will not be stunk out of your home. The odor is significantly less with water-based than with oil-based stains. Use oil and you will really need to ventilate your home well.
Water-based stains allow air to move in and out of the wood, so that trapped water will not cause decay.
In addition, water-based stains allow the color of the wood to show through longer.
Another element, which is really a risk in using a wood stain, is that water-based stains are significantly less-flammable than using wood stains.
In addition, water-based stains generally require only soap and water to clean.
However, despite the many advantages of water-based stains, there are definite advantages to oil-based stains.
The first is that as it dries slow, you can add many coats to it and make a smoother finish without brushstrokes.
The second is that oil-based stains are more durable, and thus require significantly less maintenance.
And naturally, oil-based stains lock out the elements.
While there are many uses for a wood stain, by far the most popular use for a wood stain is in applications for a wood floor. And when it comes to using stain for a
wood floor, there are additional factors that you should consider when applying stains to flooring.
The first consideration is where you live. In some areas of the country, notably California, you can no longer buy oil-based stain as it is considered too toxic for the environment.
Also, it depends upon whether you have real hardwood floors or engineered hardwood.
If you are using the former, you most likely will want to use an oil-based stain while if you use the latter, you will want to use a water-based stain.
Another factor is the price. An oil-based stain is significantly cheaper than a water-based stain.
We’ve already touched on drying time but to belabor the point, if you want to do three coats of stain on your wood, it will normally take you at least 2 days to stain with oil-based, whereas you can do the whole job in one day with a water-based stain.
On the other hand, if you have floors made out of Ash, Pine, or Fir, they have certain yellowish tones in them which are accelerated by oil-based stains. So to prevent a yellowish look, definitely use water-based stains.