How To Stain A Swing Set, and Which Stain To Use


Odds are high that if you own a wooden swing set, and have for more than a few years, the precipitation and sunshine continue to remove that fresh wood glow. The swing set no longer looks the same as it once did, so it is likely due for a fresh new stain.

Staining and sealing a swing set requires removing all portions except the wood you intend to stain, cleaning it to remove bacteria, dirt, and mildew, and staining the wood once it is completely dry. Be sure to look for a stain that fits your color preferences and a sealant that is water repellent and UV resistant.

Of course, there is a bit more that goes into staining a swing set depending on the model that you are working with. But, all in all, it is a relatively simple task that just requires some physical labor and time to get the job done well. Continue reading to learn more about staining your swing set and why the stain/sealant you choose matters.

Why Do You Need to Stain a Swing Set?

Before we jump into how to stain your swing set, it is important to understand why you are doing so in the first place. Likely, you are wanting to add a fresh coloration to the wood. But, there are so many other factors that should also be considered along the way.

Staining your swing set not only adds to the structure’s curb appeal as it takes up residence in your backyard, but this is a way of making a long-term investment into the structure.

Staining a swing set will allow you to take a closer look at safety hazards and areas that are damaged along the way, and adding a sealant protects the swing set for the long haul.

Curb appeal might sound like something that you do not care as much about right now. Perhaps, your swing set sits far in your backyard and only you are able to see it. If staining your swing set is something that you have been putting off, then it is understandable that this reason to stain it is likely not going to have a large pull.

But, once you do eventually decide to stain your swing set, you will be so thankful that you did and will wish that you had done so before.

  • This is going to help to protect the wood and help the swing set have higher longevity
  • It will no longer be an eyesore for you
  • It might feel like that last box on the checklist that you have been putting off for forever
  • Completing this task will be something you can be proud of each time you take a peek into the backyard.

On another note, staining the swing set will allow you to take a closer look at safety hazards and areas that are damaged.

As you move throughout the staining process, you will be looking more closely at the swing set than you have likely done in awhile. Though your children play on this structure frequently, you might not have taken a close look at each section of wood in a while.

While you are staining the swing set, you will be looking over each section meticulously and sanding down any edges that could be splintering or otherwise damaged.

  • In this case, you are removing a safety hazard that could otherwise hurt your children.
  • Or, in an even worse case, if you notice that some of the wood is rotting, you can remove it to prevent the entire structure from being damaged and your child getting injured.

Finally, though some stains are water repellent, most people end up adding a sealant after they complete the staining portion. This is likely going to be a clear coat that will not affect the coloration (unless you choose a tinted option). But, it will enhance the longevity of the swing set through its protective factors.

By adding a stain and sealant, your wooden structure will be more resistant to weather and other causes of damage.

With this, your children will be more protected, too, and will be able to safely play on their favorite backyard structure while you rest at ease knowing they are safe.

How Often Should You Stain a Swing Set?

Now that you know a little bit about why you need to stain your swing set, you might be wondering how frequently you should partake in the process. After all, upkeep for your swing set is important, but can you overdo it?

How often you stain your swing set depends on the type of set that you have, the weather conditions that you live in, and even the positioning of the swing set in your backyard. If your swing set rests in a sunny spot, you will likely need to stain it each year, and every 2 years for those that sit in the shade. Adding a sealant can likely be done every 2-3 years.

If you are not sure if your swing set needs to be stained, you can ask yourself a series of questions.

  • First, ask yourself how long it has been since you last stained it. If it has been more than 2 years, then you should definitely stain it.
  • Next, ask yourself if you have taken a close look at the structure. If you have not, then do this and then use the review to make your decision.
  • Finally, you can take a look at the coloring and decide if the swing set looks new or heavily used.
  • If the wood looks gray-ish in tint, then it is definitely time for a new stain.

How Do You Stain a Swing Set?

Now that we have taken a look at why you need to stain a swing set and how often you should do so, it is time to get into the process of how you stain your swing set. Most people find that this task is not overly difficult.

Instead, it requires more physical labor and can take some time to ensure that it is properly done.

Here’s a satisfying video showing the restoration of a wooden swing set to give you an idea of the process, scroll down for more in-depth steps below.

To stain your swing set, you will need to follow a series of steps:

Check the weather

Before you are able to actually begin staining your swing set, you need to ensure that the weather will be relatively sunny (and if nothing else, not rainy). You can choose to stain your swing set in a series of sunny days, or you can break it up if it looks like there will only be one sunny day in the near future.

  • Mainly, you need to have a sunny day to remove everything from the swing set and clean the wood
  • A day to apply the stain once the clean wood has dried
  • And a day to apply a sealant once the stain has dried if you would like to include this in the process.

Staining your swing set will not go well if the wood is damp.

The wood will not properly hold the stain or sealant, and there can be splotches left from the raindrops on a stain that is almost dry. To avoid this mess and hassle, just wait until you know there will be a dry, sunny day (or series of days) to complete the project.

Remove everything but the wood

While some people are comfortable working around the swings, steering wheels, and other additions to their swing sets, most people prefer to work with the bare wood with as many of the “fun” additions removed as possible.

Now, you do not have to disassemble the swing set to complete this. If you were concerned, then you should know that the nuts and bolts that are holding your swing set together will not be negatively affected if some stain happens to get on them.

It will be like if paint got on them- it is the same principle. If you are really concerned, then you can be sure to wipe the stain off as soon as it hits the metal, but this really should not be an issue.

With the rest of the features that have been added to your swing set, you will likely find that it is much easier to stain the wood once these pieces have been removed.

Though it will take you a little bit of time upfront to remove the components in the first place, this will not compare to the time (or energy) that it will take to work around them. And it’s easier to repair the components when they’re removed.

Clean the swing set to remove bacteria, dirt, and mildew before staining it

You would not want to simply stain over something grotesque, so it is important that you clean the swing set before you stain it.

Even if it has only been one season, you never know what could have grown on your swing set- or what your children might have lovingly decided to provide a home for. This will give you a great chance to inspect the structure, too.

To clean the swing set:

  • You can mix bleach with water (a 1:1 ratio) and pour the mixture into a pump sprayer
  • Connect the pump sprayer into your hose and thoroughly rinse the swing set
  • From here, you can use a large sponge (like one that you would use to wash a car) to scrub any surfaces that need more pressure added.
  • Then, you will need to allow the freshly cleaned wooden surface to dry before you begin staining your swing set

If you have plants or grass nearby the set that you are worried about damaging with the bleach, I recommend this Charlies Soap Non-Toxic CleanerOpens in a new tab. (link to Amazon) as a non-toxic, natural, alternative.

Ideally, you will have a few sunny days in a row. But, if not, it is ok for the swing set to sit clean for a few days between the bleach wash and the stain. Surely, you will not have too much buildup in this short period.

Drop a cloth to prevent staining under the swing set

If you are staining your swing set in your yard, you might be less concerned about the stain getting on it (though the environmental impacts could be questionable in your yard).

But, if you are staining your swing set on your driveway or another location, be sure to place something under the wood so that the stain does not go off of the wooden swing set.

Look over the swing set with a close examination

Hopefully, you would have done a good review of the swing set while you were cleaning it. At this point, you will want to make a note of any areas that have been damaged and need to be sanded down before you begin to stain the swing set.

Doing this review is going to help in the appearance of the structure as well as safety. If there are any jagged edges or fall hazards for your children, then you can take care of those now.

Additionally, you will want to look closely to ensure that all of the hardware for the swing set is up to safety standards. Be sure that all nuts and bolts are screwed tightly and that any loose pieces of hardware are replaced. Once you make these repairs, you will be ready to stain your swing set.

Using a pump sprayer, apply your stain

Of course, you will have to choose a good stain to use, but there will be more on that below. Working from top to bottom, begin to apply the first coat of the stain.

Be sure that the weather is appropriate and that the temperature outside does not exceed 95 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The exact temperatures that the stain should be applied should be listed on the container that it comes in.

  • If it is not showing up in the coloration that you were hoping for, it is best to allow a thinner first layer to dry before adding another
  • Too thick of a coat will become difficult to dry, and it could mess up the way it composes on the wood of the swing set
  • Further, you might need a paintbrush to get between any crevices in the wood such as between boards or around any toys or other components that you are working around

I like to spray the wood with the sprayer, and then brush over the area with a paint brush as I go. That way the stain is surely applied evenly.

Move at a reasonable pace, but know that you can always return for a second coat if the first does not meet your standards. It is best to take your time on a task like this one to ensure that it is properly done- especially if you are fighting the weather and have secured a sunny day (or series of days).

Then, you can choose if you would like to add a sealant. If so, follow similar procedures as applying the stain. Just be sure that you are applying it to a dry surface for it to be able to seal properly and protect the wood as it is supposed to.

What Kind of Stain Should You Use on a Swing Set?

Choosing the right stain for your swing set is critical. If you go with an option that is not suitable for the outdoors, or for wear and tear, then you might be wasting your time on this time-consuming task. But do not fret. There are some pretty simple ways to know that you are choosing the right stain for your swing set.

First, you need to recognize that a stain and a sealant are two different things. While a stain will add a nice coloration, and some are water repellent, its purpose is more for an aesthetic upgrade to your swing set.

On the other hand, a sealant is going to be a clear color (though sometimes tinted if you prefer) and it will be the portion that adds to the weather and bug resistance of the wood. Adding a sealant is incredibly important, but you might not have to do this as often as you would like to re-stain your swing set.

There are stain/sealant combo options available, which is what I prefer. Like this Ready Seal Wood Stain and SealerOpens in a new tab. (link to Amazon) that comes in a variety of colors, has excellent reviews, and cuts down on the time it takes to stain and seal the wood by combining them into one step.

  • You will need to look for a stain/sealant option that is not only water repellent but one that offers UV protection, too
  • Especially for swing sets that sit in the sun, the UV rays are going to cause just as much damage to the wood (especially to the coloration) as heavy rainfall and storms do
  • Be sure to find a stain and sealant that offer UV protection.

Though color is a personal preference, darker stains can help to protect the wood from UV rays. Again, it is important to remember that the stain is what changes the color and the sealant is what will ultimately help to protect your wood- though the coloration of the stain can still help in this way.

Finally, you will likely need to choose between a water-based and an oil-based stain. This comes down to personal preference, but most people are finding that water-based is preferred on a structure like a swing set.

Often, this is because a water-based stain is not going to give off such a strong, toxic odor that an oil-based stain would. And of course, with children around, it is always important to think of their safety.

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Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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