Are you looking for an easy way to achieve a stained look on your wood projects without having to break out a can of stinky, oil-based stain? I have found a great alternative method to wood staining. It’s called the baby wipe method of staining wood and all you need is some acrylic paint and a package of baby wipes to get that stained look on your wood signs and other wood projects.
It’s no secret that I really love working with wood. Wood is one of the most forgiving mediums with which I’ve ever worked. I love that if I’m unhappy with the way something turned out, I can sand it off and paint it again. It’s kind of exciting to experiment with different techniques to see what you can do to unleash your creativity. Because that’s what crafting is all about, isn’t it?
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I spend quite a bit of time looking at various crafting and sign making groups on Facebook. Late last fall, I kept reading that some of the group members were using the “baby wipe method” as a way of achieving the look of stain without actually using oil or water-based stain.
I’m not a fan of stain. I don’t like the smell of it. I really don’t like the mess of working with it. It’s one of those necessary evils of working with wood if you want an enhanced wood grain appearance in your project. So if this “baby wipe method” could promise me the look of stain without actually using stain, I was immediately intrigued.
The Baby Wipe Method of Painting Explained
Some woodworking folks will tell you the preferred way of applying stain is to wipe it on, rather than brush it on. The idea is that you won’t get the “lap” marks as you put the brush to the wood. Wiping the stain on gives you better coverage.
So by taking a baby wipe and applying paint as a stain, you’re basically “washing” the wood with color. This preserves the grain in the wood, which is really appealing right now thanks to the rustic, farmhouse style of decorating that’s so very popular right now.
Baby wipes contain water and some sort of oil. It’s usually castor oil but could be glycerin or even corn oil. They also typically contain dimethicone which is a silicone based product. I believe it’s the oils and the dimethicone that give the baby wipe some “glide” to help wipe the paint on to the wood.
The wipes themselves are a blend of fibers of silk, cotton, wool, and polyester. They’re essentially lint-free, which makes them especially perfect for washing wood. We don’t need pieces of lint sticking in our paint, do we?
I would imagine that any wet, lint-free cloth would work for washing or staining the wood. I will eventually try this method with some t-shirt scraps just to see if it would work. For now, because I’m kind of a lazy crafter, I love the ease of pulling a baby wipe out of the package. And since I purchase them at the Dollar store or Aldi, they’re pretty cheap.
How To Stain Wood With The Baby Wipe Method
So let’s get to how we do this, shall we? It really could not be easier.
Start with your base color of acrylic paint. In this case, I happened to be in my second home, Hobby Lobby, in the paint section. I noticed this nice-sized jar of Deco-Art espresso brown paint on the shelves and it was drastically marked down from $5.99 to $1.50. Because I’m a fan of dark walnut stains, this seemed to be just what I was looking for!
I pulled a baby wipe out of the package and dipped it right into the jar of paint.
Next, I did just what you think you should do. I started to wipe it all over my board. In this case, I’m using a 12×18 sheet of luan, which is a 1/4 inch sanded plywood. It’s also referred to as underlayment. I actually bought it by mistake by calling my local lumber yard and asked them to cut up some 1/4″ plywood for me. I meant 1/2″ but it was my mistake, so I ended up with a whole sheet of 1/4″ plywood cut into various sizes. I figured I would find some way to use it up.
It’s an easy process, but it can also be a messy one. You could probably break out some rubber gloves to wear while you do this, but since it’s acrylic paint that washes off with soap and water, I decided to live dangerously. Now, if you were using actual wood stain, the gloves would be absolutely necessary because stain stains and no one likes stained fingernails. (Although I have found that wood stain can be removed with olive oil.)
Since I knew I wasn’t going to frame this sign, I went around the edges of the board with the baby wipe and pushed the paint down into the edges.
Here’s what I ended up with after I had wiped on two coats of paint with the baby wipe. It was good, but not really the exact look of what I wanted. I wanted something a little deeper. So I figured I could pull out some black acrylic paint and wipe that on to deepen the espresso color to make it look more like a dark walnut.
I’m a big believer in using what you have and this is the black paint I had within arm’s reach. I do not love this paint. It’s one of Hobby Lobby’s cheapest paints. I think it’s thick and kind of “clotty” in its consistency. But for this application, it works well.
So again, I put a squirt on a baby wipe.
And started blending it in.
This was the deeper dark walnut look I was going for!
It even has an aged wood appearance and I absolutely looooove that! Doesn’t that look awesome?
Now it’s ready for my sign stencil and I can start painting the sign like I always do. I used Oramask 813 like I always do.
I should note that I did not sand the prepped board before applying the stencil. In fact, when I’ve made other signs using the baby wipe method, I also didn’t sand and I’m happy to report that I had no bleeds. If I apply paint with a brush, I always sand in between the base coat and applying the stencil.
Look at my results:
Look at those beautiful crisp lines that I adore so much!
Advantages of Using The Baby Wipe Method
Decreased drying time
If you’re like me and are an impatient crafter or if you host paint parties, I can see where this is very beneficial! The dry time is almost nothing at all. Baby wipes are supposed to be alcohol-free but there still has to be something in the chemical make-up of them to make them dry fast so you can quickly diaper a baby. Also, very little paint is being used in this process. I love how quickly it dries, which allows you to move on to the next step with almost zero wait time. If I would have used actual wood stain, I would have had to let it dry for a few hours.
Using a baby wipe to paint is pretty darn efficient and convenient. It allows for excellent coverage just by wiping on the paint. Using a paintbrush requires you to be a little more precise in your application. Less precision means more efficiency. Also, if I would have used wood stain, my cleanup process would not have been as easy. I could just wash my hands with soap and water when I was finished. I would have had to break out the latex gloves had I used wood stain.
Wood stains have a distinct smell and some people don’t deal well with it. I can easily get a headache if I use wood stain. Acrylic paint is non-toxic and isn’t quite so offensive when it comes to odor. I do notice a slight odor from the chalk paint I use, but I don’t notice an odor with the acrylic paint. And bonus: if I’m using scented baby wipes, I only have that baby fresh scent!
More Color Options
There are some colored wood stain options on the market, but again, those are stains. Using acrylic paint and a baby wipe allows me to have many different color options. I love the endless color options this will allow me to have. I could see where the baby wipe method would make creating faux barn board a pretty easy process! You could also make some pretty coastal style signs using a turquoise, ocean blue or even a light gray “stained” look.
May prevent yellowing of white letters
One of the main complaints sign makers have with using wood stain is that when lettering with white paint, the white paint will yellow over time. The stain brings out the tannin in the wood, which gives the white a yellow appearance. Since this isn’t stain, I don’t expect I’ll have the yellowing of the letters, but only time will tell.
The Baby Wipe Method Of Staining Is A Game Changer
I love coming across a process that makes for a total game changer in my crafting. It’s awesome that I can have that stained wood appearance without actually using stain. I couldn’t say that I would use this if I were staining a piece of furniture or anything that would require some durability. But for making signs, I would say this is a fantastic discovery. It’s such a time saver and I could argue a money saver, as well. I no longer have to buy stain for my wood signs. This means one less product to buy. I like the convenience and cost savings of dual-purpose products.
To answer the original question, YES! You can stain wood with a baby wipe!
So What About That Sign?
I was sitting at my daughter’s softball tournament (where I have been every weekend during the month of June) when I received a text from a friend who asked how hard it would be for me to whip up a “He asked and she said yes” sign. My first thought was that it was her daughter who was engaged and my reply was “Whaaaat?” My second thought was how am I going to get that done when I have to be back at the tournament the next day?
Turns out the sign was for the son of a friend of ours.
I got up early Saturday morning and went to work coming up with a design. The creative juices were not flowing all that well that morning, but this is what I was able to put together. I quickly whipped up the sign (and this tutorial) and had the sign delivered before 11 a.m. and I was on my way to the tournament. By using the baby wipe method to stain my sign, it was very possible to get this sign done quickly without having to worry about the drying time with stain or the odor it leaves behind!
My friend said it exceeded her expectations. Isn’t that what we all want to hear?
FREE He Asked And She Said Yes SVG Cut File
If you’ve been around here awhile, you know I never like you to leave empty-handed. This blog post is no exception. You can get this free He Asked And She Said Yes SVG cut file in my resource library. Note that it will not have the date on it but there will be a space where you can add your own date or even the couple’s names.
The SVG cut file is free to you if you sign up for my mailing list. Once you sign up, you’ll be sent the password to my free resource library. That library contains a growing selection of free SVG cut files that you may use in your crafting projects.
If you’d like this file for free, sign up for my mailing list and the Free Resource Library by entering your name and email in the box below:
Do you use the baby wipe method to stain your wood? If so, I’d love to hear how it works for you!
What will you do to Craft Your Happy today?
If you found this tutorial helpful, would you please consider pinning it to your Pinterest account?
Did you use a brush or baby wipe method for the stencil paint?
I use a makeup sponge to dab the paint on. 🙂
What type of paint do you use?
what type of paint do you use with the stencil fo the letters?
I use Waverly Chalk Paint mostly because it’s quick to pick up at Walmart, but I’ve also never had any issues with it. I like how quickly it dries!
Melissa sumner says
Hello! How many coats of paint do you use on your stencil? Do you pull the stencil up when the paint is wet or dry?? Thank you.
Hi Melissa, I’m not sure exactly how many coats I use on the stencil. I use many light coats as heavier coats will result in bleeding under the stencil. I’m a pretty impatient crafter, so this took me a while to “get.” It also depends upon the base color of your sign. Some base colors are more difficult to cover. I do pull my stencil off while it’s wet. Never let it dry. 🙂
Absolutely brilliant idea! I’m going to use it to RE-do my wood front door.
That’ll be fun! Let us know how it turns out!
Hi, Lori – We had a craft party at my workplace two months ago and made signs and stained wood using this method. I’m planning to use this method to stain some 1/6 scale furniture I’ve been working on because I’d rather not deal with fumy stains with crafts so small. Thanks for sharing this – I needed a refresher on this method!
You’re welcome! This weekend, I was working on some projects and ran out of baby wipes. I tried using some wet t-shirt squares instead. The baby wipes definitely make the job easier!
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Hi Priscilla, if you haven’t already just join my mailing list by using the form on this page. 🙂
Caitlin Scott says
Hello, thanks for the tutorial! Quick question, can I seal this in polyurethane? Also, can I apply vinyl to the wood? I am very new to Cricut, thanks!
You certainly could seal in it poly afterwards. I prefer a water-based poly since it doesn’t yellow any white I may have on my project as oil-based poly does. I have not tried using vinyl on wood since I always create stencils so I can paint. I don’t know why vinyl wouldn’t stick to it. I see other crafters use vinyl on wood with great results.
I use dollarama paint and use the premise pine boards from homedepot but every time I do the baby wipe method they bow… any suggestions I have to use pressure from heavy objects while the paint is wet to try and flatten it while it drys
That’s interesting. When I use baby wipes, they’re never really that wet that it adds that much moisture to the board. I’ve always kind of wondered about that. Maybe between the baby wipes you’re using and the paint you’re using, it’s adding too much moisture to the board?
This post is so helpful to me, thank you. I was just at the point where I was going to give up on crafting bc it has gotten so expensive. I just spent $17 on a wood stain and seal that I will be returning and using this method. I was heartbroken as I love to craft and feel its “healing” perfect for stress and anxiety. Happy to say I’m going to continue and will sign up or follow you and look forward to seeing what else you come up with. This was beautifully written with a ton of useful information. I’m tired of clicking on diy things leading to Etsy to purchase. I also appreciate a story that goes along with project but not one I’m scrolling through pages of. Yours was short and sweet. I’m all about using what’s on hand and up cycling but the price tag on crafting has gotten ridiculous. I’m excited to finally do something with things I already have and proud to say I pulled my wood out of a free bin at a local construction site. And it just so happens I picked up baby wipes at the store today. This project is meant to be. You have restored my faith and love for crafting.
Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m glad you found this post useful! I agree about the price of crafting being ridiculous! “They” know we are addicted to it! 🙂
Love the baby wipe method and plan on trying it soon! Can you please tell me what a SVG cutout is?
Hi Patti. Thanks for asking! An SVG cut out is when you cut a stencil from an SVG file on your home vinyl cutter to make a sign as I did in the tutorial. 🙂