How to Stain a Basket

Stain a basket? I know this may sound a little weird, but every once in a while I find the (almost) perfect basket…the right size, perfect style, a good price (baskets can be pricey!) but the wrong color! I have painted baskets before but I have also stained them.

I was building some shelves in my new bathroom downstairs and I knew I wanted a large basket with handles to put on the bottom for dirty laundry.  While at Target I spied the (almost) perfect basket. It even had a chalkboard tag! It was part of the Smith and Hawkin product line.  But it was a light tan and I really wanted it to be dark brown.

I didn’t get it that day.

I kept looking online and around town. I couldn’t find one that worked. They were either too big or too small to fit the space in my bathroom.

I went back to Target for some Christmas stuff and the baskets were on sale. I decided to go for it :)

smith and hawkin basket


I chose my “go to” stain color which is Minwax’s Dark Walnut. I actually remembered to put gloves on this time too! I used a foam brush to apply the stain.

how to stain a basket


*This is messy. Make sure the basket is on a tarp, piece of plywood, or thick cardboard so your work surface is protected. My work surface happened to be my kitchen table so I used a scrap piece of plywood.

*Only baskets made of natural material can be stain successfully.

*This basket sucked up the stain like a sponge. I had to do three coats. The more stain used, the LONGER THE DRY TIME. It took this basket 3 days in our dry Utah winter air to fully dry. It may take longer if you have humidity. If you live in a humid area, it is best to stain on a day when the humidity is low. That goes for any staining project really. Make sure the basket  is completely dry before using it.

*Make sure you work in a ventilated area. I opened my door that is right next to the table. I also opened a window. The fumes are not super strong but this is always a good habit when working with paint or stain.

*I ALWAYS have paper towels handy when I am staining. And ideally you should wear gloves to protect your hands.

Here it is all finished! I can’t wait to show you the rest of the shelves tomorrow!



bathroom shelf 1




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  1. says

    I found some awesome, big, lined baskets on clearance for pennies once, but they were white. So I took a rattle can of black paint to them. Voila. They turned out super cute. I think being poor is the mother of most great ideas. :)

  2. Paula says

    Hi Stacy! I’m trying to decide if I should paint some wicker baskets I bought for my daughter’s nursery but I’m not sure how to do it. They’re tan and I’d like them to be white. What would you recommend?

    • Stacy says

      Sometimes when you spray paint, the paint doesn’t get into all the nooks and crannies. So I would paint it with a foam brush first with either craft acrylic paint or latex paint and then do a final coat of spray paint for a smooth finish.

      I hope that helps :)

  3. Tawnya says

    OMG..! Brilliant! I have been eying those same baskets myself forever but hated the blonde color of them since everything in my house is dark. Not a fan of spray-paint because I like the natural look of them but I never once considered staining them. My mind is whirling with ideas now. Only concern I have is if the stain bleeds onto damp things or onto painted surfaces under it if its humid?

  4. Cath T says

    Beautiful results. I love the new color and the cute tag. Gives you a little boost on wash day. I imagine that it will stand up to being banged around better than a coating of paint would. I wonder if using a fabric dye might be another alternative.

  5. Karen says

    I can’t tell for sure from the pics but is the finish matte or does it have a little sheen? I’m wondering if a spray or acrylic sealer would be a good idea?