6 Best Cedar Deck Stain- Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

image of wood surface coated with best cedar deck stain

Deck stains are essential, especially when you are looking to protect and give a beautiful look to your wooden structures. Even so, these stains perform differently for different wood types. Some stains do well on softwoods, other hardwoods. So which is the best cedar deck stain?

Most cedar deck owners find it hard to pick the right stain for their structures and end up spending money on the wrong products. In a bid to solve this issue, I have reviewed some of the best cedar deck stains that you can buy today.

Additionally, I have provided a buyer’s guide with things that you need to consider before you settle for a wood stain for your woodworking projects. Read on to find more about the products;

Best Cedar Deck Stain Comparison Table

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Best Cedar Deck Stain Buyer’s Guide

If you are in the market for the best cedar deck stain, ensure that you don’t do a rush buy. There are several deck stains that you can buy in the market today; however, they all don’t function the same. Having prior knowledge of the product can help you land the best possible formula, above all, it will save you the cost of buying the wrong product.

To help you get the best cedar deck stain, I have provided a full range of factors that you need to consider even as you look to shop.

Types of Wood Stains

There are different types of stain that you can buy for your cedar deck; they include:

  • Gel Stains

These stains are the easiest to apply thanks to the fact that they do not run or drip. These formulas have a compact property that prevents them from dripping; hence, they make the perfect fit for beginners. They come in perfect thickness and will require that you thin them before application. This formula comes with a faster drying time of around 24 hours. Apply up to 3 coats of gel stain to your surface for the best results.

  • Wiping Stains

The application of this stain is through wiping; this formula requires multiple coats for you to achieve the color that you desire. For application of this type of wood stain, you will need a piece of cotton clothe, wipe it on your wooden structure for the desired number of coats. A standard time for this stain to dry is just about 24 hours. However, you can offer it more time for the best results possible.

  • Oil-Based Stains

They are the most common stains in the market today; most of these formulas are easy to apply and come with exceptional absorption and penetration into the wood. You will find oil based stains more durable compared to their water based counterparts which explains why they are widely used by wooden structure owners. Oil based stains contains volatile organic compound which makes them less friendly to the environment. You need mineral spirit to clean your tools after staining with oil based stains.

  • Water-Based Stains

These stains are great to work with; they contain no volatile organic compounds and are usually easy to clean in case of a mess. All you need for the cleaning of these formulas is water and soap. If you are working on a shorter timeline and looking for a formula with short dry time then use the water based stains. It takes these formulas just about 6 hours to dry to touch following application.

Here’s a video on how to stain a deck

Factors to Consider When Buying a Stain

There are several factors that you need to consider so that you land the vest best deck stain. Such factors include:

  • Exterior/Interior Usage

Where do you intend to use your deck stain? That’s the first question that should come into your mind when looking to buy a stain. If you are going to use a stain on an exterior structure, then you need to buy a stain that can offer your surface protection against sunlight, water, and other external environmental factors. You cannot use an interior stain outside; on the contrary, external wood stains can work on both external and internal environments.

  • Color

Color is another factor that you need to consider when you are looking to buy a stain. You need to picture how you’d love to have your surface looking like before settling on the stain color. Semi-transparent deck stains are best in situations where you want to maintain the natural beauty of your wood by exposing the grains.

  • Budget/Price

Budget is a critical factor to consider when shopping for a deck stain. Ensure that you are working within your budget so that you don’t strain financially afterward. Remember, not all extra expensive stains are great. You can get cheaper yet top-performing stains in the market.

  • Durability

How long will your stain last on the wooden surfaces? A durable stain saves on cost as well as the time needed to constant re-staining, ensure that you go for the stains that will serve you for as long as possible.

Best Cedar Deck Stain Products Review

In this section, I’ll look at individual cedar deck stains in details. Among aspects of these stains that I shall concentrate on are and not limited to their features, their advantages and their shortcomings. Stay with me for a comprehensive review.

1. Ready Seal 512 5-Gallon Pail Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood

Ready Seal 512 the overall best cedar deck stain you can buy in the market today. The formula can perform as both wood stain and sealer, which is a bonus. If you are looking to enhance your wooden structure’s natural beauty, then this is your product. It is semi-transparent, thereby allowing your wood grain to show.

The fact that this formula is both a stain and seal helps you save on the cost of acquiring the two separately. 

If you want to paint your cedar playset, you should first clean it and remove all the stains on the surface. After cleaning, allow your wood 3 days drying time before applying your stain.

The Summary of Top Features

  • It does not need priming, and dark when first applied but gains its full color in 14 days.
  • This formula needs no back brushing and does not leave laps, runs, or streaks.
  • It does not require a wet-line application as it can blend itself.
  • The application of this formula is easy; you can use a brush or even a sprayer and at any temperature.
  • This formula does not need thinning or diluting.


  • It’s a stain and sealer in one
  • The formula is simple to apply
  • It’s durable
  • It comes with good coverage of about 150 square feet per gallon


  • It is not great for interior applications.
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2. DEFY Extreme 5 Gallon Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain, Cedar Tone

If you are looking to give your cedar deck some treatment using this formula, it is among the best cedar deck stains you can buy today. The moment you realize that your deck starts to appear dull, this formula will grant you a double advantage as it serves both as a stain and sealer.

The sealing aspect of this formula allows you to prevent rotting and warping cases and, therefore, keeps your wooden structure in excellent condition for as long as it takes.

This finish exists in a cedar tone color that enhances the natural beauty of the wood and, above all, protects it.

Furthermore, this formula has zinc nanoparticle technology that offers wood protection from the sun to prevent warping and discoloration.

This product contains high-quality resins which give it strong resistance to fading and flaking; the presence of zinc nanoparticle technology helps prevent the growth of molds in the wood.

The Summary of Top Features

  • The formula is water-based and semi-transparent 
  • It comes with zinc nanoparticles that help prevent the growth of molds
  • The formula is highly durable
  • You can easily apply and maintain it 


  • Enhances the natural beauty of the wood
  • It is durable 
  • The formula resists fading.


  • It’s not great for indoor use.
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3. Flood FLD520-05 5G CWF-UV Cedar 275 VOC

Flood CWF-UV Penetrating Oil Finish deserves its position in this list as the best cedar deck stain thanks to its amazing features and performance on cedarwood. 

This formula comes with a simple way of application; you can apply it using a standard paintbrush. Additionally, this formula comes with an easy way of cleaning; all you need is water and soap. 

CWF-UV penetrates deep into the wood to offer advanced protection against moisture, mildew, and sun damage. This formula is available in 4 ready mixed semi transparent colors that help enhance the natural beauty of the wood through exposing wood grains.

The Summary of Top Features

  • The formula is semi transparent
  • It comes with advanced protection against moisture and mildew
  • The formula resists the damaging UV light hence prevents discoloration


  • It is a translucent penetrating Acrylic Oil emulsion formula
  • Soap & water cleanup
  • It does not chip or peels easily


  • Some users have questioned its durability.
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4. Olympic Stain 80115 Elite Woodland Oil Stain, 1 Gallon, Red Cedar

Olympic ELITE Woodland Oil Stain is among the best performing wood stains for cedar decks. The formula is super-pigmented ready-mix colors, it has transparent iron oxide pigments that give intense color with extreme clarity, and above all, it is durable.

This wood stain is an optimized blend of natural oils that provides terrific color that enriches the grain of your wood. 

Before you apply this formula to exterior wood surfaces, ensure that you prepare the surface properly. You can apply it to exterior surfaces such as decks, sidings, fences, railings, outdoor furniture such as picnic tables, and other surfaces. 

Feel free to apply this formula to new, dry, pressure-treated wood, uncoated new or old wood.

The Summary of Top Features

  • It comes with extensive coverage of approximately 250 to 350 square feet per gallon, depending on the texture and porosity of the wood.
  • The formula comes with fast drying time, generally in 24 hours, when applied at optimal temperatures of 50ºF (10ºC) to 85ºF (29ºC). 
  • It takes a little longer if you apply it in high humid conditions and can take up to 24 to 48 hours to dry.
  • You can clean it easily using warm, soapy water.


  • It has extensive coverage
  • You can apply it to many wood surfaces
  • The formula is easy to clean


  • Users complained of low adhesion.
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5. DEFY Water Repellent Wood Stain, Log Home Stain & Log Sealer for Log Cabins – Coastal Cedar

DEFY Original Synthetic Water Repellent Wood Stain is an exceptional water-based formula that protects your cedar decks without any negative impact on the environment. This formula work best for log home and cabinsoffering protection against the damaging UV rays from sunlight, which causes discoloration. 

This deck stain comes with superior technology that allows it to penetrates deeply into the wood; it has strong adhesion to pores and, at the same time, allows the water vapors to escape. As the water vapor escape, the stain expands and contract without peeling or cracking. 

Most professional woodworkers and painters love using DEFY Original Synthetic Water Repellent Wood Stain because of its top-quality performance. Additionally, it offers easy maintenance thanks to its water-based properties. 

This product is fantastic on a pine log, cedar siding, redwood, and CCA decking; it is the first choice for those with cedar log home or cabin.

The Summary of Top Features

  • The formula is excellent for exterior Log Home Stain & Log Sealer
  • It cures into a beautiful Semi-Transparent finish
  • This stain offers protects against the harmful UV rays that prevent graying
  • It comes with a unique Oil/Water Blend
  • The stain is eco-friendly.


  • Environmentally sound formula
  • Cleaning is easy using water and soap
  • It dries within 24 hours
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This formula, AMTECO Division of Gemini Industrie TWP-1501-5, answers all your needs for the best cedar deck stain. The formula comes with Volatile Organic Compounds and is excellent for exterior usages. Using this formula gives you a smooth, even coverage, and superior application results. 

This stain is the best if you are thinking about renewing your exterior wood surfaces such as shutters, wood siding, fences, porch decking, shakes, fascia, wood shingles, and more. 

Note: For the best results possible, you should use this formula on rough sawn Cedar. 

The Summary of Top Features

  • The formula has EPA registered wood preservative
  • It is a premium semi transparent stain
  • The product guarantees superior color retention
  • It prevents wood rot
  • This formula repels water longer
  • It has UV blockers


  • It is semi transparent allowing the wood grains to show through
  • The product is easy to apply and maintain
  • You can apply it on multiple wood surfaces
  • It contains low VOCs


  • Some users complained of non-uniform absorption into the wood.
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Best cedar deck stains provide lasting protection as well as beauty to your cedar deck and other wooden structures. There are so many such stains in the market. Regardless, not all of them are top-performing. 

My number of overall best cedar deck stains is Ready Seal 512 5-Gallon Pail Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood. This formula guarantees beauty as well as lasting protection for your structures. The choice for the above product is based on user experience and personal preferences. Other formulas reviewed in this article are the best you can find out there, and any you settle for will serve you right.

I hope that at this point, you have found the right cedar deck stain for your project. If you have found this article helpful, and you have a question, opinion or suggestion please share it with me in the comment section below. 

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.