Product Reviews

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What's behind our wood stain Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 28 models in wood stains to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    Overall score is a weighted average of each year's appearance for up to three years of testing.
  • Appearance after 1 year
    Appearance after one year summarizes performance after one year of our accelerated weathering.
  • Appearance after 2 years
    Appearance after two years summarizes performance after two years of our accelerated weathering.
  • Appearance after 3 years
    Appearance after three years summarizes performance after three years of our accelerated weathering.


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Recommended wood stains

Recommended wood stains are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
Wood decking has a warmth that synthetic decks lack. But you pay a price in maintenance. To see how well each wood stain we tested protects, we coated sections of a deck with various wood stains. If you're looking for information about wood stains, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ wood stain reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our wood stain buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased ratings and wood stain reviews to help you choose the best wood stain for your needs.

Wood stain buying guide

Wood decking has a warmth that synthetic decks lack. But you pay a price in maintenance: Wind, rain, summer sun, and winter snow can take a noticeable toll on its finish in only a few months. Some deck treatments can lighten your workload by lasting longer before they have to be reapplied.

To see how well each deck treatment we tested protects, Consumer Reports applies various stains to wood panels at its Yonkers, N.Y., headquarters and leaves them exposed to whatever Mother Nature dishes out. The best we've tested still remained close to their original color after three years, picked up only a little dirt and mildew, and effectively protected the wood from cracking. The worst looked ratty and provided little protection after just one year.

While the longest-lasting products were often the most expensive up front, their longer life should save you money over time. Don't buy strictly by brand; different products from the same manufacturer often performed differently. What's more, a product that worked well for you last time may not do as well this time, as manufacturers keep reformulating to address cost and performance, and to comply with government regulations.

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