The Best Grey Wood Stains – Tested on 7 types of wood!


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September 30, 2022
Zoe Hunt

Looking for a grey stain for your next DIY project? We’ve put 10 different grey stain colors to the test so you can see what they look like on actual wood. 

In this post, we’ll share how the following stain colors look on 7 types of wood: 

grey stain for wood color guide

We’ll also break things down by wood type tested. So if you know which wood type you’re using on your next project, you can click below to jump to the section that compares the stains on your specific wood:

Grey stains are great if you’re looking for a farmhouse, rustic, or weathered look. Let’s dive into the test!

Stain Test Methodology 

How you prep your wood can impact the final color of your stain. For this example, we sanded everything with 220-grit sandpaper and applied a pre-stain wood conditioner. 

For each stain, we opened the can and stirred the stain until we could no longer feel any pigments at the bottom of the can. Grey wood stains tend to have a lot of color pigments that settle at the bottom of the can, which is why it’s super important to thoroughly stir before starting.

When applying the stains, we wiped them on with a clean rag and then waited the maximum time specified on the back of the can. For the Minwax stains, that was 15 minutes. The Varathane stains ranged from “do not wait” to 2-3 minutes. 

We only applied one coat to our samples. If you want your color to be more rich and saturated, you can wait the time specified on the back of the can and add a second coat. 

Grey Stain for Wood 

Minwax Phantom Gray 

Minwax Phantom Gray has a pretty strong blue undertone, making it a unique gray stain choice. 

Varathane Phantom Gray stain on 7 types of wood

Minwax Rustic Beige 

Minwax Rustic Beige is one of my favorite wood stain colors on oak. We’ve used it on our linen closet shelves and my DIY desk with drawers. It’s a beautiful neutral color. Somehow it feels both cool and warm and inviting. 

Varathane Rustic Beige stain on 7 types of wood

Minwax Silvered Gray 

Minwax Silvered Gray is commonly used when finishing oak floors. It’s a very light stain color, but does add a slight silverish hue to the wood. 

Varathane Silvered Gray stain on 7 types of wood

Minwax Classic Gray 

Minwax Classic Gray is always a fan favorite in the grey stain category. It’s a brownish-gray, making it neutral enough to go with a lot of different styles and decor. 

Classic Gray is also an awesome color to mix with other stains. We made our own stain color for our canopy bed by combining Classic Gray and Minwax Dark Walnut.

Minwax Classic Gray stain on 7 types of wood

Varathane Classic Gray

Though they have the same name, Varathane’s Classic Gray stain is much lighter than Minwax’s. It has a similar undertone, but would require multiple coats to achieve the same deep color, especially on 2x boards and common board. 

Varathane Classic Gray stain on 7 types of wood

Varathane Gray Stone 

I was very surprised by the results of this color in our test. The color on and in the can appeared much darker than what the stain ended up looking like on actual wood. 

Varathane Gray Stone stain on 7 types of wood

Varathane Fogstone 

Fogstone is another unique stain color. On common board and poplar you can see the greenish undertones of the stain color. On redder wood, this greenish undertone helps to somewhat counteract the red. 

Varathane Fogstone stain on 7 types of wood

Varathane Weathered Gray 

This stain has a slight purple undertone to it. 

Varathane Weathered Gray stain on 7 types of wood

Varathane Carbon Gray 

Of the stain colors we tested, this one to me seemed to be the most “true” gray. That’s tough to stay though what a “true” gray is because grey always has different undertones! 

Varathane Carbon Gray stain on 7 types of wood

Varathane Smoke Gray

Similar to gray stone, this color ended up applying much lighter on the wood than I had expected. If you want a darker color, you can always apply a second coat of stain after letting the first coat dry for 2 hours. 

Varathane Smoke Gray stain on 7 types of wood

Other Grey Stains to Consider 

We didn’t include any exterior or water-based wood stains in this test, but I wanted to give a quick shoutout to Cabot Pewter Grey stain. We used it on our crib mattress porch swing and love the color. The solid opacity also gave amazing coverage in just one coat. 

If you read through the post and still didn’t find a stain option that’s right for you project, consider trying Minwax Water-Based Stains. They offer over 200 colors and you can get the stain color-matched or tinted to anything at Lowe’s. The options are literally endless. 

Grey Stains on Different Wood Types

There’s no doubt that wood stains look different on different species of wood. In fact, they can even end up looking different on different pieces of wood that are the same species. It’s always important to test on your particular project before staining, but hopefully, this test gives you a great starting point. Below is the breakdown of each wood stain by wood species. 

The piece of the middle of each photo is the wood that has been sanded, but not stained. You can compare the different colors back to the board in the middle to see how the stain affected the overall color.

Grey Stain Colors on Pine (aka Common Board) 

Common board (aka pine aka whitewood) is a common building material, particularly for rustic or farmhouse style furniture. Though it doesn’t always stain consistently, I’d say the stain colors turned out well. In fact, I think the stains looked the most “gray” on common board since it doesn’t have a strong underlying color. 

10 grey stain colors on common board

Grey Stain Colors on Select Pine 

10 grey stain colors on select pine wood

Grey Stain Colors on Poplar 

Since poplar is known for it green and brown streaks, we tried to include a piece of a green streak on every sample so you can get a better idea of how it stains on different colors of poplar.

10 grey stain colors on poplar wood

Grey Stain Colors on Red Oak

It’s important to note that this particular piece of red oak was very red. Normally our red oak will stain more similarly to the red oak plywood that will be shown next. 

Though we sanded the wood and prepped it as normal, this particular piece of red oak also didn’t accept as much stain as most pieces do. You can see the color of the stain in the grains, but the rest of the piece still remains pretty red on most of the pieces. 

10 grey stain colors on red oak

Grey Stain Colors on Red Oak Plywood 

Of all of the wood types we tested, I think the stains looked the best on red oak plywood. It always accepts stain well! 

10 grey stain colors on red oak plywood

Grey Stain Colors on Maple Plywood 

10 grey stain colors on maple plywood

Gray Stain Colors on 2x Lumber

As is characteristic of pine and 2x lumber, you can see that most of the stains enhanced the yellow wood grain. 

10 grey stain colors on standard 2x lumber

There you have it! Now you know what 10 different grey stain colors look like on 7 different types of wood. Did you find the color you’re using on your next project? Let me know in the comments below if there are any other colors you want us to test out! 

Be sure to pin the image below to save for later!

Grey wood stains on common board
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