How to make wood stain from black walnut hulls

black walnut tree

Have you ever noticed black blotches, dotting back roads through the countryside? Or stained your hands, peeling away the bright green hulls of black walnuts? Then you’re aware of their powerful pigment.

Personally, I’ve yet to discover a good way to remove black walnut stains. Time seems to work best, as the black blemishes walnuts leave behind are unfazed by soap and water and other traditional cleaning methods.

Black walnuts can create quite a mess if they’re left to lay in your yard or driveway. If left to lay, the evidence they leave behind takes a while to fade.

On the other hand, they can be quite useful when used to create a natural homemade wood stain. All the qualities that make black walnuts such a nuisance to landowners, make them ideal for staining wood. Plus, utilizing the hulls to make a stain is a great way to reduce waste if you’re collecting walnuts to preserve and eat.

Making black walnut wood stain

There are a few different ways to make a wood stain from black walnut hulls. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. The first method is probably the most involved and tedious, but offers the most control, allowing you to get the color you desire.

Wood stain made from walnut hull powder

Using walnut hull powder to make your own custom wood stain allows you to add as much or as little pigment as you want to create your stain. It also offers the advantage of simpler storage as you can simply store the walnut powder to make stain as you need it rather than producing a lot of stain and having to store it in jars. However, it also requires some extra steps to make powder from your discarded walnut hulls.

Making powder from walnut hulls

  1. Peel off the hulls. If you’re planning to store and preserve walnuts, you’re going to have to de-hull them anyways. If you have a small amount of walnuts, you can probably accomplish de-hulling them by hand using a hammer and chisel. If you have a large amount you may want to use a de-huller. When hulls are firm and difficult to remove, set the walnuts aside for a few days. The hulls will soften enough to remove on their own.
  2. Chop up the hulls. Once you’ve removed the hulls, chop them up as finely as you can and set them aside.
  3. Dry out your chopped hulls. Spread thin layers of hulls on mesh-bottomed racks and store in a cool dry place to dry out. Stir them occasionally until they are dark brown to black with a leathery texture.
  4. Grind your dried out hulls. Using a coffee grinder or a food processor grind up your dried hulls. By running your hulls through multiple times, you can make finer powders.

Using walnut-hull powder to make a stain

Once you’ve turned your walnut hulls into a useable powder, you’re ready to make your wood stain.


  • Glass jar
  • Walnut-hull powder
  • Water


  1. Boil a pot of water.
  2. Mix your stain. Add walnut-hull powder to the boiling water, using 1 ounce of walnut-hull powder per quart of water. If you want to make a darker pigment, add more walnut-hull powder to darken your stain.
  3. Remove from heat and stir.
  4. Transfer the stain mixture to the glass jar.
  5. Cool the stain overnight.
  6. Shake the container before use.

Pro tip: If stored out of direct sunlight, your stain should last for a long time.

Wood stain from walnut hulls

If you want to skip making the walnut-hull powder, you can also produce black walnut wood stain by using the husks.


  • 15 walnuts
  • 1 gallon of water
  • Glass jars


  1. Remove the walnut husks, using the above tips.
  2. Place the husks inside a pot filled with 1 gallon of water.
  3. Bring the water and husks to a boil for one hour, stirring the mixture periodically.
  4. Remove the stain from the heat and allow it to cool down.
  5. Separate the husks from the stain using a strainer.
  6. Transfer the stain into your glass jars.
  7. Allow it to cool completely before use.

Wood stain from walnut hulls without heat

The final method for making a wood stain from walnut hulls is the least labor intensive but requires the most time for the stain to mix.


  • 15 walnuts
  • 1 gallon of water
  • Large jar


  1. Remove the walnut husks, using the above tips.
  2. Fill the large jar with the husks and gallon of water and seal it.
  3. Let the mixture sit anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on your desired color.
  4. Strain out the husks, pouring your mixture into a separate jar or jars for use.

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  1. Thank you for this, Miss Sara! With a huge black walnut tree on my farm, now I have a use for those hulls! (And, as every farmer knows with horses–bedding on wood shavings that contain 20% or more black walnut shavings can develop the hoof disease laminitis. A hungry horse that has little to eat except walnut leaves, fallen walnuts, or branches that have fallen into the horse enclosure may be at risk. Always remove moldy walnuts from pastures and other horse areas, because the nuts may contain a fungal toxin.)

  2. The last paragraph is missing. How to color other kind of wood using this stain. Hope you may add this information.
    Thank u

  3. Great article. Thank you for sharing this out. After reading this article it gave me an idea for my wood stain project.

  4. Great article Sara! Here in Sweden we do not have walnut trees in general but in som places. The green hulls/husks are really desierable here due to Plantcolouring of wool and woolfabric. You can use them fresh, but it gives more colour if you have them all black and moist. You can use the fresh ones and have them in an old pot with water for a couple of days and them boils them for a couple of ours. For me atleast 4h for good colour. Or have dried husks and water over night and then boiled for 4h. Let your woolen yarn soak for atleast 30min. And then put the really wet yarn into the pot, (either with the shells in it or strain them before). And slowly heat the pot to 70-90°C for about 1h. stir the yarn slowly a couple of times. Let it cool over night. If you use a stainless steal pot it will be medium to dark brown on white yarn. If you use an iron pot it will be even darker or black.

    Plantdying people would be happy to by dried walnuts shells. Good luck with your harwest <3

  5. Great article! I’m actually in the process of making my first batch of dark walnut stain using the longer method of letting the husks break down over the course of a few weeks.

    I’m wondering how I should store the stain once strained into jars? One person suggested leaving it in the fridge and another mixes his 1:1 with rubbing alcohol.

    Looking forward to hearing what you suggest.




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