Water Based Pre-Stain Conditioner

Water Based Pre-Stain Conditioner is a formula similar to our water-based stains without the colorant. Use General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural as a wood conditioner to control blotching on hard-to-stain woods, such as maple, pine and cherry, before applying a water-based wood stain.

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General Finishes Natural Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner, Quart

Instructions

Step 1: Preparation of Raw Wood for Water Based Stain

Before applying stain, all raw wood projects require preparation sanding, and all existing finishes require prep cleaning and sanding. If you skip this critical step, your finish may fail.

Prep Sanding for Raw Wood Projects
See our video: How to Prep Sand Raw Wood

  1. Sand open-grain wood (e.g., oak, ash, mahogany, parawood) with 120-grit sandpaper, followed by 150-grit, then 180-grit.
  2. Sand closed-grain wood (e.g., cherry, pine, maple, birch, alder) with 150-grit sandpaper followed by 220-grit.
  3. Remove dust with a vacuum, compressed air, an oil-free tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.
  4. Do not over-sand with fine-grit sandpapers; this will close and seal the wood grain, preventing ideal color absorption.
  5. Do NOT use steel wool with water-based finishes; the particles will get trapped in the finish and rust.

Prep Sanding for Existing Finish

  1. Remove any existing finish by sanding with 120-grit-sandpaper & scuffing with a wire brush if needed. 
  2. Remove dust with a vacuum, compressed air, an oil-free tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.

Reducing Grain Raise on Raw Wood
To reduce grain raise, dampen the wood with water after prep sanding. Let dry completely, then lightly sand with fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad.

Step 2: How To Apply General Finishes Water Based Pre-Stain Conditioner

General Finishes Water Based Pre-Stain Conditioner Application Steps

For use with water-based stains.

Hand-Application Over Raw Wood:

  1. Stir Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural to reincorporate solids that have settled to the bottom of the can before and throughout the application process.
  2. If desired, thin pre-stain with 10-15% General Finishes Extender to maximize flow and level, and increase open time, which is helpful in dry climates.
  3. Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can improve color uniformity over difficult-to-stain wood species such as pine. However, it will limit color absorption, so a darker wood stain may be required to get the desired depth of color.
  4. Test your complete finishing process before starting. The color of stain is affected by variances in wood and deepened by the application of topcoat.
  5. Divide your project into manageable sections: top, side, drawer, door, table seam.
  6. Apply a LIBERAL amount of Pre-Stain Conditioner to ensure easy workability using a synthetic bristle brush, foam brush, pad applicator or roller. If not enough is used, the surface may dry too quickly, causing an uneven appearance. On large projects, leave wet edge between sections to prevent lap lines.
  7. Apply Pre-Stain Conditioner to a complete section and wipe off the excess evenly with the grain using quality paper or shop towels. Check for missed spots and lap marks before moving to the next section. Do NOT use cotton t-shirts because they will "push" the stain around and not absorb it.
  8. Immediately correct lap marks by rewetting the entire working area with stain and wiping off the excess.
  9. Pull excess stain out of corners and detail with a bristle brush.
  10. Let Pre-stain Conditioner dry 20 minutes but no more than 30 minutes before applying GF water-based stain in ideal conditions: 50-70% humidity, 70°F/20°C.
  11. Then apply 1+ coats of General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain.
  12. To accelerate dry time in humid conditions, add General Finishes Accelerator before applying and work in a space with good ventilation and air movement. 

Spray Application Over Raw Wood: 

  1. Before spraying, strain topcoat through a fine-mesh filter.
  2. Spray wet films at 3-5-mil thickness. HVLP: 1.1mm-1.3mm spray tip, medium air cap. Verify tip sizes with your equipment supplier. See our general guide for spray tip sizes.
  3. Wear a full filter respirator (NIOSH/MSHA-approved) and work in a ventilated space.
  4. Keep your gun at a 90° angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large, flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6-8" wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" wide to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.
  5. Let Pre-stain Conditioner dry 20 minutes but no more than 30 minutes before applying GF water-based stain in ideal conditions: 50-70% humidity, 70°F/20°C.
  6. To accelerate dry time in humid conditions, add General Finishes Accelerator before applying and work in a space with good ventilation and air movement. 

Custom Stain Colors
Add 3 tablespoons of any General Finishes Milk Paint color to one pint of Water-Based Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural to make a colored wood stain, or 6 tablespoons Milk Paint to 1 quart Pre-Stain Conditioner.

Dilute Dark Colors 
Add up to 95% Pre-Stain Conditioner to General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain and General Finishes Dye Stain to lighten the color tone.

Warning: Do not use water-based products with Linseed Oils or Danish Oils.

Cleanup of Water Based Products

Application tools and materials containing water-based products can be cleaned with soap and water or GF Brush & Gun Cleaner immediately after use.

Product Spills
Spills may be able to be removed from fabric and carpet if cleaned immediately with soap and water.

Storage of Water Based Products

Life of Product
Water-based products do not last forever, even when unopened. General Finishes products are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

Settling
Gravity can cause some solids to settle on the bottom of the can and slight separation on the top. This is normal. If working with older paint, use paint mixing attachment on a drill. If the solids dissolve and clumps smooth out after mixing from the bottom, the product is in good condition for use.

Storage Tips
See video tutorial: Tips on Storing Leftover Finishes
Water-based finishes crystalize and form a skin due to evaporation when the air-tight seal on a can is broken at first use. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:

  1. Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal. 
  2. Keep lid closed while working. Pour what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work.
  3. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Paint in the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  4. Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
  5. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50°F/10°C or above 80°F/26°C. Keep from freezing. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to something warm like a water heater or furnace.
  6. Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimize evaporation and reduce the chance of crystallization. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring. 
  7. Decant leftovers to a smaller container when the finish is almost used up. Alternative storage containers for water-based products are plastic FIFO bottles or glass bottles. Do not fill metal-lidded containers completely to prevent them from rusting.

The following water-based product mixtures can be stored:

  1. Product thinned with up to 15% General Finishes Extender or General Finishes Accelerator can be stored, with the exception of thinned General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain.
  2. Mixtures involving colors & sheens within the same product line, such as:
    • High Performance Satin + High Performance Gloss
    • Snow White Milk Paint + Coastal Blue Milk Paint
    • Amber Dye Stain + Merlot Dye Stain

The following product mixtures should NOT be stored:

  • Any water based product with thinned tap water; water often contains bacteria that will adversely affect stored paint.
  • Topcoat + Stain or Paint
  • Milk Paint + Chalk Style Paint
  • Water Based Wood Stain + Dye Stain

Warnings and Warranties

Compatibility: Do not use water-based products with Linseed Oils or Danish Oils.

Limited Warranty
General Finishes products must be tested to your complete satisfaction before using. General Finishes will not be responsible for color satisfaction, misapplication, nor compatibility with other manufacturers' products. General Finishes will be responsible only for the cost of our products, and not for costs such as labor, damage or project replacement. 

Contamination and Compatibility
Our finishes are engineered as a system and are compatible with each other. General Finishes cannot guarantee an ideal refinish when applying our products on top of or combined with another company's products or over surfaces that have been in contact with waxes, polishes or sprays containing contaminants such as silicone. Test for adherence and aesthetics before beginning. 

Danger: Contents are COMBUSTIBLE. Keep away from heat and open flame. Application materials or other waste soaked with this product may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately after use, place rags, steel wool or waste in a sealed, water-filled, metal container. Dispose of in accordance with local fire regulations.

CAUTION: Contains ALIPHATIC HYDROCARBONS. VAPOR HARMFUL. Use only with adequate ventilation. DELAYED EFFECTS FROM LONG-TERM OVEREXPOSURE. Contains solvents which can cause permanent brain and nervous system damage. Intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating & inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal.

Warning
If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log onto www.epa.gov/lead.

Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye and skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.

FIRST AID: In case of eye contact, flush thoroughly with large amounts of water for 15 minutes and get medical attention. For skin contact, wash thoroughly with soap and water. In case of respiratory difficulty, provide fresh air and call physician. If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. Get medical attention immediately. 

Warning
This product contains a chemical known to the State Of California to cause cancer and birth defects. Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye or skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.

Specifications

Basic Features
Product Colors Natural
Base Type Water
Interior or Exterior Interior/Exterior
Type Wood Conditioner
Application
Coats 1 coat
Application Method Brush, Spray
Brushable Yes
Usable over existing finishes No
Sprayable Yes
Spray Tip Sizes HVLP 1.1mm-1.3mm
Dry Time
Dry Time - Touch 10+ min.
Dry Time - Recoat 30+ min. before adding stain
Contents
Can Sizes Pints, Quarts, Gallons
Coverage 50-75 sq.ft./pint, 100-150 sq.ft./quart, 400-600 sq.ft./gallon
Technical Data
VOC 204.621 g/L

Videos

FAQs

*Can I Use Interior Wood Stains Outdoors If I Coat With an Exterior Topcoat?

Interior wood stains are formulated for interior use and do not contain UV absorbers, mold retardants or HALS (Hindered amine light stabilizers used to protect the polymers from the effects of photo-oxidation.) Waterbased interior stains are much more likely to fail.

You could try this look on an exterior door that will not receive a lot of sun, but be prepared for more maintenance than usual. It is not recommended.

Everyone should note that all exterior finishes need to be maintained at some point - MOTHER NATURE wins the longevity war

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*How to Spray Water Based Finishes

General Finishes water-based products can be sprayed through compressed air, HVLP, airless or C.A.S. units.

SURFACE PREPARATION:

All surfaces should be clean and free from dirt and oil and sanded.

Indicated below are instructional videos we have for preparing a surface for a new coat of paint or finish:

SPRAY APPLICATION OF GENERAL FINISHES WATER BASED FINISHES:

All General Finishes water based topcoats and wood stains are ready to spray from the container without additives with the exception of Conversion Varnish. Always strain material through a medium to fine mesh filter before spraying. If necessary, in hot or dry climates, reduce 10 to 15% with General Finishes Extender to extend the open time.

PRE SEALING:

Softwoods such as Pine absorb stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter so you may need to use a darker color. Always test your color on a hidden part of the furniture. Allow the Pre-Stain Conditioner to dry 30 minutes before applying your final stain color.

If you are using a sprayer that has been used for oil based or lacquers, clean the unit thoroughly with acetone followed with hot water to purge the fluid passage. Apply a thin coat first that will dry and harden faster. Sand this first coat down to a smooth base on which to build your finish coats with a 220-320 grade foam sanding pad or #400-grit sandpaper. It is better to spray 2 thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat.

Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment. GF's general recommended fluid tips for Wood Stains and Top Coats are Compressed air - .040 and Airless - .009. 

RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR GENERAL FINISHES PRODUCTS USING HVLP:

  • Milk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Chalk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Stain Blocker: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Pearl Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Glaze Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • High Performance Topcoat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Flat Out Flat Top Coat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro-Var  1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Wood Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Dye Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat:1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Sanding Sealer: 1.3-1.4mm
  • Enduro White Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro Black Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro White Under Coat 1.5mm-1.8mm
  • Enduro Clear Poly: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Pre Cat Lacquer: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Conversion Varnish: 1.1mm-1.3mm

Air caps should be medium size. Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment.

Break your work into sections such as dresser top or drawer fronts. Spraying too large of an area can result in a textured grainy surface. A correctly sprayed finish should appear even and glossy. It is important to spray enough material to allow proper flow and leveling of the finish.

Spray medium wet films at 3-5 wet ml thickness. Practice makes perfect. If you have never sprayed finishes before, take a large piece of cardboard and practice your technique first. Spray water on the cardboard to learn how the gun works. Check your fluid settings and adjust the controls to get comfortable with the spray angles and to develop your technique.

SPRAYING TOPCOATS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. For topcoats, overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.

Watch our video how to spray water based topcoats here.

SPRAYING WATER BASED WOOD STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage and wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

SPRAYING WATER BASED DYE STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage. If coverage is even, there is no need to wipe. If you have issues with uneven coverage, wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

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Can I apply General Finishes Water Based stain on green white oak timbers?

No, you cannot. The stain  will not absorb due to the high moisture content of green wood and not accept the stain. 

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Can I create a glaze with General Finishes Water Based Stains?

General Finishes stains make beautiful glazes. Just add 10% High Performance Top Coat. 

 

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Can I thin General Finishes EF Water Based Stains?

Thin GF water based stains with 10-15% extender or water at point of use only. Decant what you need into a separate container and use immediately. If thinned water based stains are stored, they will separate and lose the semi-gel consistency.

GF Enduro RTM stains are a thinner formula designed for professional spray applications.

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How do I prevent bleed through when applying Whitewash over Espresso Water Based Stain?

Water Based Stains will always exhibit a bit of bleed through. When glazing with any color over water stains, we recommend some type of seal coat be applied first. Unfortunately, the two colors you have chosen do not work very well together. Expresso will always bleed if Whitewash is applied directly over top. In the future seal the Espresso stain with a coat Shellac,  and then High Performance, allowing both to dry,  before applying Whitewash as a glaze (1 part stain, 1 part top coat mix). 
 
We suggest two remedies:
1. Strip away finish and start over.
Stain with Espresso, top with Shellac, top that with 1-2 coats HP, top that with Whitewash as a glaze (Glaze = 1:1 EF stain : HP). Seal with High Performance.
2. Paint over the bleeding stain
Seal current finish with Shellac and then paint with Seagull Gray Milk Paint.
Any time you apply a light stain over a dark stain there is a possibility of bleed through. Therefore, it's important to seal off the base color first. If the look of the wood grain is not important, Dark Chocolate Milk Paint is an exact match to Java Gel Stain when painted, and it could be used as an alternative base color.

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Why can't I get a dark stain color on Maple wood using water based wood stain over pre-stain conditioner?

Maple is one of the most difficult woods to achieve a dark, uniform stain color on because it is a dense, closed grain wood and often absorbs stain very unevenly. General Finishes Gel Stains or Water Based Stains usually will perform very well because they are more topical than traditional liquid oil stains, and contain more colorants. 

We do not recommend pre-sealing Maple with a conditioner because it closes up the grain of the wood even more, further preventing color adherence. In the future, just use our water-based stains or gel stains on their own. Do not use liquid oil-based stains on Maple because they will blotch.

Also, prep sand Maple with 120 grit, followed by 150 grit or 220 grit. 

 

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