Which Wood Finish Applicator is Best?


Here at Wood Finishes Direct, one of the most common issues we get is when customers hire a painter and decorator to apply a wood oil, stain, varnish or wax. Whilst these professionals are undoubtedly skilled and equipped to apply paint to walls, doors and other interior and exterior surfaces, the same can’t always be said for wood finishing products.

With the exception of varnishes, lacquers and paints, most wood finishes are designed to penetrate into the surface of the wood to nourish and feed the timber. The key to a professional finish is using the correct type of applicator and application method. To help you pick the right tools for the job, we’ve produced a handy infographic which explains which applicators are best for various finishing products and projects.


Recommended Natural Bristle Brushes

For areas big and small, these natural bristle brushes are perfect for use with a wide range of solvent-based and oil-based products.

Recommended Synthetic Bristle Brushes

Perfect for water-based and thicker products such as paints and varnishes.

Recommended Rollers

Ideal for applying a wide range of water, solvent and oil-based wood finishing products to larger areas including walls and floors.

Paint Pads

A modern alternative to paint brushes and rollers. Paint pads offer excellent control, coverage and are compatible with most wood finishing products.

Recommended T-Bar Floor Applicators

The applicator of choice for professional floor finishers. T-bar applicators are best suited to larger floor areas.

Recommended Disposable Applicators

Ideal for arts, crafts and small domestic projects. These cheap, disposable applicators are designed for single use so no need to clean.

Recommended Application Cloths

Wipe on, wipe off. These high quality cloths are colour and lint free meaning no fibres trapped in your oil finish. Ideal for applying a wide range of wood oils and wood stains.

Recommended Application Blades and Knifes

Predominantly used by professional floor finishers, application blades are used to apply oil stains and other oil-based products to large areas. Flexible filler knifes are a must for applying a wide range of wood fillers.

So there you have it. Whether applying a wood oil, wax or other type of finish, you can now be confident in picking the applicator that best suits your needs – Happy DIYing!

Need help choosing an applicator?

From decking to doors, picture frames to floors, we have an applicator that’s right for your choice of product and project. If you’re unsure about which applicator is right for you contact our team of in-house experts who are on hand to help you pick the right brush, roller or other applicator.


  1. Hi

    Please help I have sanded down beautiful mahogany handrail and spindles. I was hoping to achieve a light oak colour to match doors I have put on. I’ve bought Hicksons light oak stain which was not cheap but it is to dark??. Can you advise me please.

    Thank you

    • Good Afternoon Glynis,

      Thank you for getting in touch with your question. You are not the first to ask this and more often than not I would answer this question with a ‘no’ you can not make Mahogany look like light oak. Mahogany is a darker wood the oak and is very red in natural tones so to make it look like and oak you would need to bleach the wood. This requires some skill and if it doesn’t work can be difficult to come back from.

      However we have just had some new products sent our way however and there is a possibility of lightening your wood with the Woca products, when asked your question they have recommended the Application of WOCA lye on new or sanded wooden surface and then next day application of 1-2 coats WOCA Master oil extra white. This may not give an exact oak look, but may be closer to what you are looking to achieve.

      With any project and products like this I would strongly recommend test areas first, wood can be unpredictable at times and its best to ensure you like the result before completing the whole project.

      I hope that helps and if you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to get in touch via our contact us page.

      All the Best Samantha.

  2. Hello
    I have a natural light oak staircase and want to bring it in line with my floor.
    Can I use a tinted oil on the floor then when dry top with Osmo clear Matt wax finish


    • Hello Gill,

      You are able to use the same products on your stairs as you have on the floor the Osmo Polyx Oil and the Osmo Polyx Oil Tints are very versatile products.

      If the wood on your floor and stairs are different, which is often the case, the colour may vary slightly and this is where your test areas come can check for this. There are variations that you are able to do with the tinted and clear, for example you can do one coat of the tint and one of the clear, as you have on the floor, and you are also able to apply two coats of the tint if you need a more intense colour result. On rare occasions a third coat may be possible, with soft woods, this is dependent on the results if a test area show it as possible.

      There is also the option of adding the clear oil to the tinted oil to adjust the colour slightly or visa versa, this needs to be done with care and exact measuring, starting with very small ratios to get the colour and then when you have the desired result mixing larger amounts suitable for the areas to be treated. Its not something that we always recommend unless you have some experience and are exact with measuring

      It will be vital if you do do this that you create enough for full coverage of two coats, too have to mix a second batch to complete the job will result in a variation of colour.

      I hope that helps and if you have any questions we have a great team always on hand to help or get in touch via our contact us page.

      Kind regards Samantha.

  3. Hi There we have a house that has cedar ship lac half way up and has been treated with oil based stain in rust colour. We would like to stain/paint it in a more contemporary dark graphite grey colour and need advice on the best product and how to apply please? I can send a picture if better.

    • Good Morning Rachel,

      Thank you for getting in touch with your enquiry. Grey is very popular at the moment and we do have a product that you are able to consider, however the current finish will need to be removed, as the colour will impact on the grey that you want to achieve.

      Sticking with an oiled finish is a good idea as they are easier to maintain over time, and the Osmo Country Colour this give a more solid opaque type finish, like other oils from osmoo it is a two thin coats product and it will not peel and flake over time.

      If you take a look at the product, sample sizes are available and I would recommend these to try on your wood and if you have any questions at all please, or would like some alternate recommendations, do not hesitate to get in touch via our contact us page.

      Kind regards Samantha.

  4. As a school we are looking for a wood coating/preservative to treat a large array of benching and seating ares. All wood is hardwood althougth not exactly sure which as it has now weathered turning grey/silver. All repairs have been done using iroko and this has weathered very similar. Can you recommend a treatment that would
    1 bring back some colour and
    2 preserve the timber.
    This would be applied later this month during school holiday, so timber may be a little damp. Is there any thing we could use in these condition to achieve all the above.
    Many thanks in advance

    • Good Afternoon John,

      Thank you for getting in touch. I would not advice the application of any product whilst the wood is damp, you will be sealing in the damp and whilst many products are micro porous to allow moisture out, it is still recommended that application is done to clean dry wood. Also do you know if the benches have any remaining previous product? As this will also impact on what can be advised moving forward.

      And finally are these exterior benches that are stored outside at all times? Perhaps you can email me via our contact us page with the above details.

      For now, assuming that these are for an exterior space you could have a look at the Osmo Decking Oil which is a thinner oil more suited to tropical hard woods like Iroko, however does require application to bear well prepared wood.

      I look forward to hearing from you.

      Kind Regards Samantha.

  5. Please tell me the correct brushes to use for Base coat, and UV Protection Oil.

    Also how long will it last before it needs doing again?

    • Good Afternoon Pauline,

      For the application of wood oils we always recommend using a natural bristle paint brush.

      Longevity of a treatment will depend on a number of factors and if you would like to let me know a little more about your project, what it is? Where it is? Type of wood? And anything else you think is relevant, I will be able to offer more specific advice.

      Feel free to contact us with further information.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here