revisit: enviro-friendly outdoor stain, one year later


As I wrote last year, we thought the Penofin Aquafin we used on our deck railings was great — easy to apply, easy to clean up, non-flammable, and much more environmentally friendly than regular stain. After a Seattle winter, however, parts of our project weren’t holding up like we’d hoped. The stain looked pretty good on anything that was vertical, but the horizonal portions of the railings did not fare well — there was some peeling and a lot of spots that weathered as if they hadn’t been stained at all. Two weeks ago, we went ahead and ordered several more gallons to reapply. We were staining newbies last year, so what do you think — was the weathering normal, is the stain not up to par, or did we do something wrong? My theories and more photos after the jump. –Mary T.

These photos show the difference between the raiilngs just afer staining last year, and just after re-staining this year. (To be honest, it looks pretty good in the photos, but remember — the second photo was taken after we completely restained the whole thing):

Last year, the deck looked much more red, even though we used the same color stain both times. This year, it looks very yellow — the wood strips bleached, even though they had been stained.

This is how most of the railings look now — uneven in color, with some parts weathered gray. Normal or not?

Our theories: Our railings were built with untreated cedar, so maybe we stained them too soon (you need to let the wood weather just a little). Or maybe we stained too close to a rainy day. Or maybe we didn’t mix the stain well enough, leading to the uneven bleaching and color.

What we did differently this year: Mix, mix, and then mix some more. We bought a mixing attachment to use with our drill, and the color of the stain was noticeably stronger when applied. We also stained during two entirely rain-free weeks, so all the surfaces have had ample time to dry.

I’ll let you know how it all looks in the spring, and if we’ll be sticking with Penofin Aquafin or moving on. In the meantime, if you want to give it a try yourself, I found the best online pricing at Designs in Outer Space. –Mary T.

From our partners

Looks like the finish yellowed…

I’m not a fan of water based products for outdoor finishes… Penofin makes great oil based products, but it looks like their “environmentally friendly” water based stain could use some improvement.

You might check out Natural Deck Oil, I’ve heard good things about it, but never tried it myself. …available at environmental home center (

I’m not sure there is any water based product that can replace a good penetrating oil stain on an exterior deck…

Mary T

Thanks, Chris! I appreciate the input.


Try linseed oil on cedar wood.