Difference Between Dye and Stain

There are a lot of coloring agents available in the market which are used for the purpose of coloring objects, clothes, paper, etc. Dyes and Stains are two such coloring agents.


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Although not many people are aware of this that they differ from each other in several ways. 

Dye vs Stain

The difference between Dye and Stain is that Dye’s nature is considered crude while Stains are considered natural. Both the terms are often used interchangeably due to the lack of knowledge about them. They do have a similar appearance but have different solubility, composition, drying period, and preparation method.

Dye vs Stain

Dyes are the oldest colouring agents known to the textile, scientific as well as other industries. They require water, alcohol, oils or mineral spirits as carriers.

Dyes are composed of small molecules and are best for woodwork and textile since they are capable of colouring them without necessarily altering the features.

Stains are also a type of colouring agent, but they are less soluble in water or oil when compared to dyes. Therefore they require constant stirring of the solution; otherwise, the stain components will settle at the bottom.

They are made up of larger molecules, too, in comparison to Dyes.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonDyeStain
SolubilityDyes are more soluble in water, oil, alcohol, etc.Stains are less soluble in water, oil, alcohol, etc.
CompositionThe composition of Dye includes a carrier and dye pigment.The composition of Stain includes a carrier, a binder, and colour pigment.
Light-fastDye is more lightfast in nature.Stains are less lightfast in nature.
PreparationThey are made with fewer specifications and have impurities.They are made with many specifications and have very little to no impurities.
PriceThese are cheaper.These are expensive.

What is Dye?

Dyes are excellent colouring agents used by many industries, from textile industries, toys industry, colouring objects, to even scientific use.

Dyes are usually transparent and give a beautiful colour change when used with wood and clothes. They are considered very versatile since they do not alter the features of the object to which they are being applied.

The composition of dyes include carrier and dye pigment.

Dyes are composed of small molecules that are so porous that they allow light to pass through them. Also, they are very easily soluble in carriers such as water, alcohol, alcohol-based liquids, mineral spirit, oils and many more solvents.

The best type of dice that can be used to make shaders are in the dyes that are mixed with alcohol.

The separation of dyes are not very specific, and therefore this results in dyes having a lot of impurities. Due to this reason, they are often considered crude in nature.

When compared under the same brand, it is often observed that dies are a lot cheaper than stains.

When talking about lightfast, which means the property of a component to retain its colour under sunlight or exposure, dyes are often less lightfast in nature.

What is Stain?

Stains are colouring agents that are primarily includes characterised as oil or water-based paints. The composition of stains includes a binder, a carrier and colour pigment.

This Institute of large molecules ultimately makes them less soluble. Stains are generally more lightfast as compared to dice dyes.

Also, preparation of stage requires a lot of specifications, making them very natural and not containing any impurities. 

They are generally categorised into three categories that are film-forming, penetrating, and acid. Film-forming is the oldest type of stain and is the most popular too.

But the drawback to film-forming stains is that they are not very durable, and due to weather conditions, atmosphere, and other reasons, the layer of the stains may peel off or flake. 

If we want a permanent or long-lasting stain, the penetrating still will be the best option. The polymer bonding water-based technology used in penetrating stains drastically minimises the flaking and peeling properties.

All they are not very good at hiding defects, flaws or surface defects. The acid stain is an entirely different kind of stain.

It has the property of reacting with the surface chemically and creating a finished look that appears almost natural. They are the most durable but also a much expensive type of stain.

Main Differences Between Dye and Stain

  1. Dyes are generally more soluble in solvents like water, oil, alcohol, mineral spirits, etch, while Stains are comparatively less soluble in them.
  2. While looking under the same brand, Dyes are supposed to be much cheaper than Stains.
  3. Preparation of Dyes do not involve many specifications, and as a result, they contain impurities giving them the title of crude. On the other hand, the preparation of stains consists of a lot of specifications, making them impurity free.
  4. The composition of Dyes includes a carrier and pigment, whereas that of Stain has a carrier, binder and pigment.
  5. Dyes are composed of smaller molecules, while Stains are made up of larger molecules.
Difference Between Dye and Stain


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/bjd.12130
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/lsm.1102
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