Does Varnish Freeze?

Alex Williams
11 Min Read

Harsh weather is not only difficult for living things, but it also influences the appearance of various non-living things that you use and sees around. Things made from wood, metal, concrete, etc., everything get damaged due to seasonal changes. Therefore, it became the need of time to develop something that would protect these things. To protect and retain the finishing of wood, Valentine Pulsifer developed varnish. So, does varnish freeze? Is stain still good if frozen? What is varnish freezing? 

1. What is Varnish?

A transparent clear and hard protective coating or film is known as varnish. It is not the same as a stain. Varnish can have a colored shade or be pigmented as per the preferences of the customer. The yellow shade of the varnish is usually because of the materials used in its manufacturing. It is mainly used as a wood finish but does not hide the grains and distinctive tones of the wood. So, does varnish freeze? Read till the end to know the answer. (See Which Solvent is Needed to Remove an Oil Spot?)

2. What are the Components of Varnish?

Traditionally, the varnish was a combination of thinner, drying oil, and solvent. Different types of varnish have different components.

  • Drying oil: It is a mixture of China wood oil (tung oil), walnut oil, and linseed oil.
  • Resin: Natural resins like dammar, copal, amber, kauri gum, sandarac, mastic, shellac, elemi, and pine resin (colophony) are used. Synthetic resins like polyurethane, alkyl, and acrylic resins are also used.
  • Solvent: Earlier turpentine or alcohol was used, but petroleum distillates are now substituting them. They are mineral spirit, white spirit, and paint thinner.

3. What are the Qualities of a Good Varnish?

Despite different compositions of different types of varnish, it must have the following features that you should check before moving ahead to know, does varnish freeze? 

  • It must dry quickly.
  • After drying there should be a tough and hard film on the surface. This layer must be durable.
  • The look must be uniform and pleasant after it dries.
  • A good varnish is one that has good weathering properties.
  • It must be abrasion-resistant.
  • It should not wear off all at once and quickly.
  • The color and shine must be retained for long periods.

4. What is a Wood Stain?

Photo by Jack Douglass on Unsplash

It is basically wood paint or paints used to color the wood. It is made of colorant dissolved or suspended in a solvent or a vehicle. Here the term vehicle refers to the solvent water, a petroleum distillate, or finishing agents like lacquer, polyurethane, shellac, or varnish. Usually, there are 3 primary components in stains, namely, binder, paint, and vehicle. Must read What adjusts the Viscosity of the Paint?

5. What are the Features of a Good Stain?

Irrespective of their constituents, stains must have the tendency to convert from liquid to solid as they are applied to the surface. The pigments in the stains define the features of the stain. Overall, the basic features that you should look for in a good stain are as follows:

  • The gloss must be correct depending on the color and variation that you are buying.
  • The adherence quality must be strong. It should adhere to the surface as you apply it.
  • The mechanical properties must be correct. The scratching and bending impact should not be weak.

6. Does Varnish Freeze?

Yes, in winter, varnishes tend to change their state due to their constituents. But oil-based varnishes are known to tolerate freezing. So, why does varnish freeze? Exposure of varnish to conditions like keeping it on the window, outside the house open, lid not properly closed, etc. can freeze it. Such conditions are a complete no for a water-based varnish because they are more prone to freezing. (See Why does Black Absorb more Heat?)

7. How to Prevent Varnish Freezing?

The continuous cycle of freezing and thawing of varnish will degrade its quality. So, we recommend preventing varnish from freezing. Water-based varnish may bear freezing once or twice, but oil-based varnish cannot withstand freezing. Thus, you should not let it freeze. You can do the following to prevent varnish from freezing: 

  • Store in a cool and dry place
  • Do not keep it on the floor
  • Keep away from windows
  • Cover carefully, if necessary, and wrap in cling film

8. Is Varnish still Good if Frozen?

Image by Michał from Pixabay

To consider whether the varnish is fit to be used after the freeze-thaw cycle you need to open and stir the varnish properly. If it seems like all the constituents are mixed properly and have the same shine and appearance as before, you can try applying it. But if the appearances are altered, it will not be useful. (See What Happens to Metal at High Temperature?)

9. Is Stain still Good if Frozen?

Does varnish freeze? You already know the answer, now consider looking at the usefulness of stain after it froze. Wood stains are mostly color-based and freezing does not impact color. Some dyes may convert into a solid or semi-solid state, mostly water-based finishes. Many manufacturers produce wood stains to withstand accidental freezing and thawing but too much freeze-thaw cycle will surely degrade the quality. Continuous exposure to freezing or winter conditions will develop a cottage cheese-like texture. (See Which Best Describes the Dissolving Process?)

10. How to Store Different Types of Wood Stains?

Photo by Karl Solano on Unsplash

Different types of stains need different storage conditions to keep their texture and keep them useful. Here is a brief description of storing different types of wood stains.

  • Water-borne wood stains: These stains have a short shelf life in comparison to oil-based wood stains. But they will go on for around 2 to 3 years if stored properly. It needs to be stored at temperatures above 0° Celsius (32° Fahrenheit). 
  • Oil-based wood stains: These stains are usually freeze-proof but only if you keep them properly sealed. These stains lack water as oil is the main constituent of them. They will not freeze but get thick. This happens when you let the lid loose, all the thinners evaporate from the container and the remaining oil thickens. If stored properly, oil-based stains will have a shelf life of about 5 or more years.

11. How to Properly Apply the Stain?

Working with stains and varnish can be challenging if you are new to this. After discovering how does varnish freeze and how to prevent it, you need to keep a check on the temperature too because too much cold will lead to the freezing of the material. But here I have mentioned a few tips that you can apply.

  • Begin with wearing gloves, preferably rubber gloves.
  • Clothing must be protective that should cover your arms and legs as well.
  • Keep the mineral spirits, water, or any other solvent handy to clean the application tools as and when required.
  • Make sure the room is properly ventilated, especially when you are working with a non-water-based stain or varnish.
  • Make sure to read and follow the instructions mentioned in the product containers. It is necessary because application methods and techniques along with cleaning instructions are not the same for each product.

12. Which Conditions are Best to Apply Varnish?

You need to remember that lower temperatures will increase the drying time, low humidity will make the varnish cure take longer, and high humidity will affect and reduce the gloss. So, here are a few tips for both indoor and outdoor applications.

Indoor applications:

  • Adequate ventilation is required
  • There should not be lots of dust in the area

Outdoor application:

  • It would be good if the day is bright and sunny with no rain forecast for the day
  • Avoid varnishing in direct sunlight
  • Protect the area from wind
  • The final coat must dry enough before the evening

So, today you learned- does varnish freeze or not? The answer to this was a yes, we have also explained the way to check whether varnish freezing affected the product or not. Is stain still good if frozen? The answer to this is hidden in the fact of which stain you are considering. (See How is Polyester Glitter made?)

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