Instructables
Picture of Vegetable Juice Stain for Wood Furniture
My husband and I were gifted a table before we got married (meaning we've had it about 7 years now). I don't know how old it was before we got it. It is an awesome table - straightforward and reasonably sturdy and awesome. Over the years it has dried out further than it was, and just needed some oooomph.

Enter vegetable juice! I wanted a pop of color without harsh chemicals in the house. I was inspired by some cranberries that leaked juice on the table to try a juice stain.

I am by no means a professional when it comes to wood, so please if you are going to try this test it in an inconspicuous area and make sure you and your (parent, spouse, whoever) agree to try it :)
 
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Step 1: You will need

You don't need much for this project.

Vegetable/fruit juice (amount will vary depending on what you are covering and how many coats you want to do)
clean paint brush/foam brush/cloth rag for applying stain
bowl for your stain
damp cloth that you don't mind getting stained
object to stain
paper towels for spills/small cleanups
masking tape if you only want to do part of your object

optional: oxygen bleach in case you get any juice on your clothes/other fabric, and gloves if you need your hands not to be colors for a day or two

Step 2: Make your stain

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For my stain I knew I wanted to go reddish. I ran half a bag of cranberries, 5 beets of varying sizes, and the arils of 1 pomegranate through my juicer. I did not get much juice from the cranberries (though that could be because they were a bit old). This yielded me roughly 26 - 28 ounces of juice once I skimmed off the foam.

You can use a variety of fruit and/or veggie combos to get different shades of greens, reds, purples, probably oranges .... feel free to experiment!

I have read you can cut up vegetables and simmer them for 4 hours or so (adding water as necessary) and strain that off to create a stain as well. I think directly juicing would give you a darker stain but either way should be fine.

I did 3 generous coats on my entire table and a 4th coat on half of it. My table, with leaves in, is approximately 7 feet by 3.5 feet. I used 12 or ounces including any spills and what was left in the foam brush when I was done.

I would advise making more than you think you need, because this will be a completely custom color for you and running out part way through would be sad!

Step 3: Prepare your surface

Prepare your surface. Wipe it clean, free of any debris or dust. If you want to mask part of it off, do so. I chose not to sand the surface. It has been oiled or waxed at some point(s) in the past, but the surface is very dry. I know it would be more proper to sand, but I did this just as much for the experiment of it as for the wanting an updated table.

I wanted a two-tone effect, so I masked off the trim on the table top.


Also, be sure to clear this project with anyone who thinks they own the table. Princess approved.

Step 4: Start applying!

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Now the real fun begins! Brush/paint/rag on your stain! Try to work with the grain whenever possible. This first coat will most likely be the hardest, just work steadily and in a thin coat.

Work in manageable sections. For me, that meant a quarter of the table at a time, which was nicely delineated by the seams where the leaves get added in.

Let this set for 5 minutes.

Step 5: Wipe off

Picture of Wipe off
After 5 minutes, take your slightly damp rag and wipe the entire area that you just stained. Still try to work with the grain. A lot will come up on the rag and that is ok, you will build your color in multiple coats.

You will need to let the section dry for a bit (20 or 30 minutes for me) to be able to accurately see what color stage you are at.

Step 6: Stubborn Areas

Remember how I said I didn't sand, but the table had some sort of wax or oil at some point in the past? Well, a few areas still had a weak seal to them. You can see in the first picture how the stain sort of beaded up on one of those areas.

With some careful work I was able to overcome the slight seal, so I thought I'd show you in case you ran into something similar.

First, I would gently press my foam brush into the table top, getting a puddle of stain on there. Then I would very gently dab, with my brush perpendicular to the table, across the sealed area. By moving slowly I was able to get coverage so that the stain could work into the wood better. Some areas still resisted stain after doing this in multiple coats, but not very big areas when all was done.

Step 7: Keep going!

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Keep working in manageable sections across your object. If you have clearly delineated sections that will help. You don't want your area so big that one part is being exposed to the stain longer than the other before you wipe it off.

For this first coat, keep doing the 5 minute rest before you wipe the excess off. You can adjust time after you see how the first coat takes.

Step 8: Build up your color

Picture of Build up your color
Once you have your first coat done, you have a good idea how the stain is soaking into the whole piece and what color level you are at.

If you like it at this point - awesome! If not, add a coat. Remember to let it dry to gauge where you really are with the color.

At this point you can also adjust the wait time before wiping. For me, I let the leaves (the middle half of my table) sit 10 minutes on the second coat because it was not taking the color as fast as the outer parts.

Keep adding layers of stain, wiping them after 5-15 minutes to get up the excess, and letting it dry to verify the color until you are happy with the color depth.

This was most of the way through the 3rd coat on my table. When this dried we removed the leaves and I did one more coat on the ends.

Step 11: Clean up!

Time to tidy up! This was my hand before I was even done with the first coat. I didn't mind (though I thought the ring line was rather funny) - but you could certainly avoid awkward hand stains with a pair of gloves if you chose.

I accidentally used a dish cloth from a new set for wiping between coats. I gave it an oxygen bleach soak as soon as I was done with the last wipe down. It came clean very well.

I jarred up the unused stain and put it in my freezer, just in case I need to touch anything up before we seal the table, or if we decide to stain more of it.

Anyway, there you go! Unsealed this will probably fade a lot, faster the more it is in the sun. However, it is a fun way to play with color and add your personal touch to some furniture, without introducing harsh chemicals into your home.

I hope you have fun playing with this and feel inspired to experiment! And please, again, be sure you have permission to try this on whatever you are trying it on! My hubby thought I was a little crazy for wanting to try it but he was totally ok with me doing so. He does really like the color now that it is done!
jsadler17 months ago

I did a experimental piece with beet juice and did not apply a sealer. In about six weeks it went from reddish to brown. Maybe the sealer will keep that from happening. Thick coffee makes an interesting stain as does the classic steel wool rotted in water.

jsadler17 months ago

I did a experimental piece with beet juice and did not apply a sealer. In about six weeks it went from reddish to brown. Maybe the sealer will keep that from happening. Thick coffee makes an interesting stain as does the classic steel wool rotted in water.

DAnnCline1 year ago
Awesome job ....and a great idea!!!! I wonder if this would work if you applied it over Kilz
taransa (author)  DAnnCline1 year ago
Thank you very much! I am not very familiar with Kilz. If it is oily, I am not sure how well the color could soak in (like the trouble I had over the old stain?). If you have a spare piece of wood I would definitely try it on that first.

And this definitely needs some sort of sealant over the top. When it gets wet, the color does lift. We need to do some work on the table so I haven't been able to seal it yet (hubby wants to sand it for part of the repair, kinda silly to finish it first). It still doesn't smell or anything weird like that, I am very pleased!
Stone_UFO1 year ago
That's awesome, I'm going to try using some beets too
jwoods101 year ago
@Corwim Does this look about it? If so then you have whats known in the south as Polk. is this berry stage it is very poisonous. Do not get on hands and especially around your mouth.
but when it is very young(less than 2ft tall) it is picked, cooked and eaten like any other form of greens so long as the stalk is fully green.

http://www.instructables.com/files/deriv/FPO/6HJ2/HD4VF8WK/FPO6HJ2HD4VF8WK.SQUARE.jpg
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Regarding the 'beading' in step 6, did you try anything to break the surface tension of the water such as a few drops of washing-up liquid added to the dye mix?
taransa (author)  I am in the shed!1 year ago
I did not. Dabbing slowly yielded an even-enough coating, since I was not necessarily trying to get a consistent color across the entire surface. Interesting idea!
Corwim2 years ago
@taransa:some kind of purplish red.I don't know what the plant is coz it's a kind of wild plant who has many small fruits with purplish red juice
taransa (author)  Corwim1 year ago
That is awesome :) (sorry for the delayed reply!)
Looks great,nice job... Im curious to see how the color will change over time as well as the odor... Will it ferment? Will it cause fruit flies? Did you wax over top of the juice?
taransa (author)  SlickSqueegie2 years ago
I was actually going to post an update on that this afternoon. So far I have not done anything on top to seal it. Unsealed, it will come off as you clean up wet spills on it (so, maybe not a big deal on say a picture frame but not good on a table). I plan to try butcher block oil since it is a surface we serve food on, and someday (hopefully) there will be kids who might eat directly off of it.

We have not noticed any smell or any extra flies. Granted, we just hit our first big cold snap here (down into the low 50s outside during the day) so it isn't as big a fly season as June would be. I would imagine what fruit/veggies you chose would affect that - some are going to be more sugary than others.

So, perhaps if you live somewhere hot (which I do) this would be a better cool weather project, so you could properly let it dry before sealing it. But I do recommend sealing it especially if you think it will get wet.
Corwim2 years ago
Awesome!I remember I ‘ve dyed my wooden comb with vegetable stain
taransa (author)  Corwim2 years ago
Very cool! What color did you dye it?
kretzlord2 years ago
very cool! It's a shame the industrialized world has moved on to chemical stains when the plants around us give such awesome results. might i suggest This instructable to do the edges?
taransa (author)  kretzlord2 years ago
I was actually looking at that 'ible before I posted mine (I was trying to see if anyone else had posted about using vegetable based stain). If I do decide to redo the trim at all I will certainly revisit it, though at the moment I am liking the color combo. I will post an updated day time picture this weekend to help show the color that it is better.

Thanks for the link - it'll make it much easier to reference later :)
WriterChick2 years ago
This is wonderful. I'd no idea this was possible. Thanks so much for sharing an alternative to the heavy-in-nasty-chemicals stuff.
taransa (author)  WriterChick2 years ago
You are quite welcome! It was awesome that the strongest smell while I was working was beets lol :)
Lorddrake2 years ago
Great Job! I am always amazed at how much a little cosmetic adjustment, like an application of stain, will change the look of something so dramatically.

I like how you left the border unstained to get a two-tone table top.
taransa (author)  Lorddrake2 years ago
Thanks! I love customizing what I have - way cheaper than buying custom!

I really like the two-tone as well. I was a little unsure if it would work with the final color but it really makes it pop.