An Experiment to Find the BEST Stainable Wood Filler


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July 20, 2022
Zoe Hunt

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the best stainable wood filler text overlay on image of 7 types of wood filler

Is Wood Filler Stainable?

The short answer is yes. You’ll need to check your particular wood filler packaging to see if it says it’s stainable, but 99% of wood fillers are stainable.

People often get confuse wood filler with wood putty, which is not designed to be stained. Check out this article about the differences between wood filler and wood putty. 

Even though nearly every wood filler says it’s stainable, some are definitely better than others. We decided to put 7 popular wood fillers to the test to determine which was the best. Best overall and in terms of how well the wood filler stains on both oak and pine lumber. 

Free download wood sizing cheatsheet

Best Overall Wood Filler

The best overall wood filler is Minwax Stainable Wood Filler. It stains consistently, works well across multiple wood types, and is very easy to apply. The excess also sands off easily. 

That said, I’d encourage you to read through the post and look at the photos to decide on your winners. Different things matter more to different people. 

Best Wood Fillers by Category 

Best Consistency and Ease of Application 

The best consistency and ease of application is a tie between Minwax Stainable Wood Filler and Gorilla High-Performance Wood Filler. 

They both have a more sandy texture compared to the other wood fillers tested. They aren’t too wet or too dry. They are both easy to work with and push down into holes.

Unlike some of the other wood fillers that were tested, both Minwax and Gorilla did not need a second coat over the nail holes after sanding


Okay, there’s no winner here, just a couple of losers. Bondo Wood Filler was the worst culprit in terms of a strong, lingering smell. The other wood filler that took me back when opening it was the Dap Plastic Wood-X. 


When it comes to the color of the wood filler before staining, Minwax Stainable Wood Filler is the winner for oak, and Dap Plastic Wood-X is the clear winner for pine. 


In terms of stainability, almost all of the wood fillers worked fine for small nail holes, especially on oak.

For larger holes, Minwax was our winner. We chose Minwax because it seemed to stain the closet in color to the actual wood, especially on oak. The coloring was also consistent across the entire area that was filled. 

The one potential downside of Minwax is that it does have a sandy texture to it when you get really close. For the most part, you’ll never be examining a finished piece of furniture that closely, but it’s worth noting. 

Goodfilla is a close second in terms of color, but it didn’t stain consistently across the entire filled area.

The Wood Filler Test 

We tested out 7 different wood fillers and how they performed on both pine and oak boards. We also tested both a light and a dark stain color option. Each wood filler was tested on each wood type with each color and rated on how it performed when filling both a nail hole and covering a screw. 

 The Testing Process 

To test these wood fillers out, we tried to make things as scientific as possible. We performed all of the tests at the same time on the same board so that many outside variables could be controlled for. 

First, we added screws and nails to both the oak and pine boards. The nails are placed at the top and bottom of the boards–sometimes they can be difficult to see, especially once things are stained. 

Then we sanded with 120 grit sandpaper to remove any splinters that were on the wood and around the holes we were trying to fill. 

pine and oak boards covered in nail and screw holes to begin test

Then we applied each wood filler using the same process. I tested them out one right after the other and washed and dried my hands in between to make sure there was no cross-contamination. 

7 types of wood filler covering holes in pine and oak wood

I then let the wood fillers dry for 2 hours and then sanded with 120 grit sandpaper. 

holes in pine and oak boards filled with one coat of wood filler and sanded down
P.S. Ignore the missing screw for the Minwax Color-Changing on oak. We got it fixed before the rest of the test continued!

I applied a second layer of wood filler to the ones that needed it and then waited 2 hours for it to dry again. 

I sanded with 120 grit sandpaper, 180 grit sandpaper, and then sanded with a 220-grit sanding block to prep the wood for staining

overhead shot of different wood filler brands on different types of wood

One of the wood fillers said it needed 24 hours before a finish could be applied, so we waited the full 24 hours and then stained the boards with a light color (Minwax Golden Oak) and a dark stain color (Minwax Dark Walnut). 

I let the stain sit for 5 minutes before wiping off the excess stain with a clean rag.

pine and oak board stained in light and dark stain color showing results of how 7 different brands of wood filler stain

So now that you know the process, let’s talk more in-depth about each of the tested wood fillers. 

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Wood Filler Reviews by Brand 

Minwax Stainable Wood Filler 

Consistency and Ease of Application 

Minwax Stainable Wood Filler has a texture that resembles wet sand. It’s the most sandy texture of the wood fillers that we tested out. 

It’s very easy to spread and apply. It’s soft and malleable, but you are still about to push it into holes without creating indents. 

close-up of Minwax Stainable Wood Filler consistency

One thing to note about the sandy texture is that it remains even after being sanded and stained. 

Once dry, the excess sands off pretty easily. This wood filler leaves behind a yellow coloring on the areas that aren’t directly filling a hole, which is very common for most wood fillers. You’ll have to sand down the surrounding areas until the color returns to its original state. 

Number of Coats Applied 

We did not need a second coat of Minwax Stainable Wood Filer for this test.

Stain Results 

Minwax Stainable Wood Filler stain results on pine and oak board

Minwax Stainable Wood Filler was the winner of our stain results because it most closely matched the stain of the surrounding wood. It did stain a tad darker than the rest of the wood, especially for the light stain, but overall it was still the best match. 

Other Notes

When used on red oak, this wood filler blended in the best before stain. If you’re working on a project using red oak and aren’t planning to stain, this is the wood filler I would recommend. 

Minwax Color-Changing Wood Filler 

Consistency and Ease of Application 

The texture of this wood filler was smooth and a little bit thicker. I actually liked it for the nail holes, but it was a tad more difficult for the larger screw holes. 

close-up on consistency of Minwax Color-Changing Wood Filler

As I pressed it into the screw hole, it indented. It did not want to layer in the way I needed it to to overfill the hole. 

The next thing I want to mention is something strange that happened to the surrounding wood. 

I’m not a chemist so I can’t say this as a fact, but I wonder if something in the color-changing property of the wood filler reacts poorly with tannins in wood.

The reason I say this is because both this wood filler and the DAP wood filler that changes colors when dry discolored the wood around one of the holes on the oak board. They were both fine on pine, which has almost no tannins, but did discolor around one of the holes on the oak boards.

This seemed to be some sort of reaction because I spent a few minutes trying to sand it down and get the surrounding area to be the same color as the rest of the wood and it did not seem to be coming off. In comparison, some of the wood fillers will turn the wood slightly yellow around the hole, but I was able to sand those down to the normal wood color within a few seconds. 

overhead shot of different wood filler brands on different types of wood

Number of Coats Applied 

This wood filler only needed one coat. The excess sanded off easily aside from the issue mentioned above. 

Stain Results 

results of Minwax Color-Changing Wood Filler stain test on pine and oak

The wood filler itself stained really well, but the area around every single one of the wood-filled holes (nails included) stained darker than the rest of the wood. 

If it weren’t for the area around the holes, this wood filler had the best coloring out of all the tested wood fillers on pine. 

Other Notes

I worry that this wood filler might dry out really quickly in the container. Even the first time I opened it, some areas in the container already seemed to be drying out and harder than other areas. 

Gorilla High-Performace Wood Filler 

Consistency and Ease of Application 

The Gorilla High-Performance Wood Filler has a thick, sandy texture. It’s not quite as sandy as the Minwax Stainable Wood Filler and it’s definitely thicker.

close-up of Gorilla High-Performance Wood Filler consistency

It’s very easy to apply and push into the larger holes. I was able to overfill both the small and large holes with ease. 

The excess wood filler, and the discoloration left behind, sands off pretty easily. 

Number of Coats Applied 

Gorilla High-Performance Wood Filler did not need a second coat to cover the nail or screw holes.

Stain Results 

results of Gorilla High Performance wood filler stain test on pine and oak boards

Because of how much I enjoyed the texture and ease of application of this wood filler, I was really hoping it would stain great. Unfortunately, the wood filler itself has a darker, almost green undertone to it, which translated to the wood stain. It stained darker and not quite as warm as the rest of the wood. 

DAP Plastic Wood with Drydex

Consistency and Ease of Application 

This stuff is smooootthhhhh. Too smooth in my opinion. It was so smooth that it was hard to fill the larger screw holes. Anytime I would try to push the wood filler into the hole, it just kept picking itself back up. 

close-up of DAP Plastic Wood-X Wood Filler consistency

It’s very difficult to layer and fill larger holes. When it didn’t pick itself back up, it would just create indentations in the larger holes. 

Number of Coats Applied 

Because the wood filler did not want to stay or allow me to overfill, after sanding, it did require a second coat on nearly all of the screw holes. It wasn’t a lot, but the holes weren’t fully smooth and filled after the first coat. 

Stain Results

Example of how DAP Plastic-Wood-X Wood Filler stains on pine and oak boards with light and dark stain

I had high expectations for this one, particularly on pine. Before staining, it was by far the best color match on pine. After staining, it wasn’t quite as impressive. 

It stained well, but overall it was darker and a cooler color tone than the rest of the wood. 

Other Notes

Compared to the other wood fillers (aside from Bondo), this one has a noticeable smell when I opened the container. It wasn’t as strong and didn’t linger as long compared to the Bondo, but it was noticeable to me. 

Like the Minwax Color-Changing Wood Filler, the DAP Plastic Wood with Drydex did discolor the area around one of the holes on my oak board. After a few minutes of sanding, I decided I was unable to sand it off.

Free download wood sizing cheatsheet

Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Filler 

Consistency and Ease of Application 

I started with a brand new bottle of Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Filler and it was a mess. It was extremely liquidity at first, unusable really. Then it switched to being super difficult to get out. 

Once I got past the initial problems, but it was better, but still too soft and runny to fill deeper holes. 

If you’re starting out with a new container, I would definitely recommend massaging the bottle some before you start applying it. This likely would’ve helped my issues. I didn’t think about it because the bottle did not say that this step was required. 

close up of Elmer's Carpenter's Wood Filler consistency

Number of Coats Applied 

A second coat was definitely needed for this one. In fact, the wood filler has completely caved in on two of my 4 screw holes within minutes of applying the wood filler. I think a lot of this was due to how liquidity it was at first, so I did apply some additional wood filler to those screw holes before letting it dry and sanding. 

That said, three of the holes still needed a second coat. Including both of the ones that I already added extra to.

Stain Results 

Example of how Elmer's Carpenter's Wood Filler stains on pine and oak boards with light and dark stain

Like all of the wood fillers, it did stain darker than the rest of the wood. Other than that, it stained pretty well. 

Goodfilla Water-Based Wood Filler 

For this experiment, I used the Maple/Beech/Pine variety of the Goodfilla Water-Based Wood Filler. They have all sorts of colors and you can get different ones based on your wood type. 

Consistency and Ease of Application 

The consistency is like a super smooth, slightly thinner than normal, peanut butter consistency. 

close-up of Goodfilla Wood Filler consistency

Filling the nails was great. Super easy and I liked the smooth texture. 

The larger screw holes were much harder to fill. Like some of the other smooth wood fillers we tested, the wood filler just wanted to squeeze out and indent into the hole. 

In terms of sanding, aside from the Bondo, this was the most time-consuming wood filler to sand off the excess. 

Number of Coats Applied 

The larger holes did require a second coat of wood filler. 

Stain Results 

Example of how Goodfilla Wood Filler stains on pine and oak boards with light and dark stain

Like most of the wood filler, the wood filler blended in more when stained with a darker color. For the light stain, this wood filler stained the darkest of the wood fillers we tested. 

Bondo Wood Filler 

Consistency and Ease of Application 

Bondo ranks poorly on the ease of application for a few reasons. Reason #1 is that you have to mix the wood filler yourself. Because you’re mixing it yourself, there’s more room for error and inconsistency. Add too much hardener and your Bondo will become a rock before you can even apply it to your project! 

Reason #2: you need gloves to protect your hands. You can’t just apply Bondo with your fingers and then wash off the excess like you can with other wood fillers. You need to protect yourself first. Aside from gloves, you’ll also want to work in a well-ventilated area and potentially wear a mask. It’s a strong smell that definitely lingers for a few hours. 

One last note about mixing Bondo, you might end up wasting a lot. With the pre-mixed wood fillers, you use want you want to and then close up the container. With Bondo, you have to mix how much you need. If you way overmix, you can’t save it for later. It’s just a sunk cost. 

close-up of Bondo Wood Filler consistency

Number of Coats Applied 

Bondo only needed one coat for this experiment. It has really solid coverage. That said, it’s really difficult to sand off the extra. Of all the wood fillers, this is the one I spent the most time sanding. 

Stain Results 

Example of how BondoWood Filler stains on pine and oak boards with light and dark stain

I’m not sure if I mixed it wrong or what, but my Bondo was kind of a strange color. They recently changed the hardener from a red paste to a blue paste. (Yes, the instructions on mine said it would be red, but when I opened the top, it had a note that it was now updated to be blue). I’m not really sure how mixing blue in is supposed to make my wood filler a “yellowish-gold” color. 

It never got all that yellow. Instead, it was more of a greenish-gold color. 

Because of the greenish undertones, it had from the start (which are very different than the yellow undertones of pine and the red undertones of red oak), the stain wasn’t a great match in my opinion. Though greenish undertones definitely shined through the stain. 

Other Notes

Since the wood grain of oak has some texture, the Bondo got in the wood grain and refused to come out despite extra sanding. This left a discoloration blob around the hole on all of the oak filled holes. Because of this, I would not recommend Bondo for use on oak unless you are first filling the grain of the entire piece. 

Though I don’t recommend Bondo on oak, I do recommend it for a few things. 

First, I’d recommend it when you want to repair large things. For example, if you have a leg of a furniture piece that’s missing a big chunk of wood, you can use Bondo to reshape and fill the piece of the leg that’s gone missing. 

Bondo is also great for exterior projects because it won’t crack due to weather changes. It is designed to stay in place and exactly as is once it dries.

If you aren’t convinced by the staining results, you can always paint over Bondo Wood Filler. You’d end up with a great finish if you did this! 

There you have it! In this test, we proved that wood filler is stainable, but not all wood fillers stain as well as others. Our overall winner, and the most accurate in terms in stain color, goes to Minwax Stainable Wood Filler. 

We repeated this same wood filler test with some DIY wood fillers. Check it out to see which wood filler is best: store-bought or DIY?

The next wood filler test we’re hoping to try is the durability test. How resistant is to the cracking and shrinking? We’ll need a few months to get the results of that one, so stay tuned! 

stainable wood filler - which brand is the best text overlay on sample of 7 types of wood filler on different types of wood
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