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Low-VOC Stain for Interior Trim

user-1034802 | Posted in General Questions on

Hey everyone,

I live in the Northeast of the US, and I never stained and sealed my interior window trim. It’s been several years, and it’s pretty moldy and Sun bleached.  They’re Marvin Integrity casements.

I’m planning on cleaning up with vinegar, doing some repairs and sanding.

I want something durable with a matte look to be able to finally stain and seal. Any products y’all recommend for my freeze/thaw life with a minimum of VOCs?

Many thanks!  Gotta get this done before I’m all out of 50+ degree days. 😁

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  1. user-5946022 | | #1

    You need to figure out why there is mold...that seems to indicate too much moisture condensing on the wood, which indicates you might have air leaks.

    As to removing the mold, yes try vinegar. I think I would try to remove and wait to be sure it is really gone. You can then try to seal the windows with water based pre stain conditioner, water based stain in a color to your liking, and then a matte water based finish coat.

    I would be concerned about two things:
    1. Not getting all the mold out of the wood, and that using an oil based stain would seal in the mold.
    2. Not stopping the vapor/water/source of mold, and it would breach water based products.
    Since 2 is less of a mess to deal with than 1, I'd get rid of the source then proceed with water based...

    1. user-1034802 | | #2

      Hi! Thanks for the reply "user".

      Indeed you are correct. There is only mold where I've accidentally left a window slightly cracked for a few months in a remote room. And it grew. :( Fortunately, only one bad spot.

      I hadn't thought of the pre-stain conditioner. That's a nice idea. They're a bit eaten up by the mold and cleaning.

      I found some nice water based stains and sealants.

      Thanks for the tips!

      1. user-5946022 | | #7

        Ok, if only one area and you know why, then you probably won't have an ongoing problem.

        In that case I would consider a water based preconditioner, stain and sealer system.
        - Are the windows pine? Some mfg use ponderosa pine. I'd try to find out the specific species your windows are made of.
        - Do you want more of a soft stained with enough grain to know it is wood but not too much look? - ie to diminish the differential between the soft and hard portions of the pine?
        - Or are you seeking to accentuate the grain of the wood?
        - Will you be using the same stain (ie want the color to match) on other trim throughout the house, such as base, doors, casings, etc? What species is all the other wood?

        1. user-1034802 | | #8

          I'm pretty sure Marvin used Southern Yellow Pine. The grain is pretty open, it's pretty soft.

          The grain is really boring. I'm looking for a softer stain to mimic the color of the 100+ year old posts and beams that make up the structure.

          Not using the stain elsewhere. Trim around doors is rough cut pine with milkpaint white. Looks great! Trim on stairwells, handrails, etc is going to be a bit darker and redder, and I'll use a nice hard maple with good figuration or something.

          1. user-5946022 | | #9

            So I'm interpreting your response to mean you want to minimize the contrast in the grain. In that case, one method is to use ALOT of water based prestain conditioner, and sand with very fine grit like 220 after it dries. Then apply water based stain in color or your choice, and finish with matte water based sealer.

            The prestain conditioner will help even out the contrast in the pine grain. The sanding will further help.

            Try it on some scrap pine boards first.

  2. Patrick_OSullivan | | #3

    I would look into Rubio Monocoat. It colors and finishes in a single product and I have heard good things about it.

    1. user-1034802 | | #4


  3. kbentley57 | | #5

    It took me longer than it should have to figure out that you weren't looking for green (as in kermit) stain.

    1. user-1034802 | | #6

      (banjo playing softly)

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