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Difference Between IKEA White and IKEA White Stain

I’ve gotten the question about the difference between IKEA white and white stain quite a bit. The questions mostly stem from my nursery dresser, which is the IKEA Hemnes 8-drawer dresser in white stain, and it’s available for $249.

The difference between IKEA white and white stain

I thought I’d share the difference between white and white stain. I own pieces of furniture in both finishes so I feel like I can offer decent insight into the matter. Because it’s obviously very controversial, and I’m certain people lose sleep over the painstaking decision between the two.

I’m going to tackle white first and then move on to white stain.


White is more of a creamy, off-white and has a semi-gloss finish.

difference between ikea white and white stain

My home office workstation and shelving unit, the former 5×5 Expedit (now called Kallax), is white.

You can tell the difference between the creaminess of the IKEA white and the bright white storage boxes, as well as the ultra white paint I used on my file cabinet, especially if you look at the file cabinet handles.

ikea expedit

Owen’s nursery closet shelving unit, the 2X4 Kallax, is also white.

ikea kallax in closet

There are a few posts out in blogland that touch on color matching the IKEA white to specific paint colors. Here’s a really good post by One Little Project. She matches the IKEA white color to different brands of paint. And DecorChick! had the white color matched and shares the color formula here.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, if you’re like me and live 2.5 hours from the nearest IKEA you need to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting and that the item you want is in stock. Or maybe you live near an IKEA but don’t want to buy a piece of furniture, lug it home, assemble it, and then decide that it’s not the right shade of white. So if you’re trying to see if IKEA white will match another piece of furniture in your room, you can grab a paint sample and see if it’ll work.


White stain is more of a bright, true white. It also has less of a sheen than white. I’d say that it’s more of an eggshell finish.

difference between ikea white and white stain

Since it’s a stain, a little bit of the pine woodgrain shows through but it’s not terribly noticeable. Plus, I kind of like it since it adds a little bit of character to the dresser.

I went with white stain Hemnes dresser in Owen’s nursery because his crib is a bright white, and I wanted them to look cohesive. Plus, the trim in his room is painted ultra white, and I knew the white stain would look better next to the baseboards compared to the white finish. Yeah, the nursery closet shelving unit is white, but the doors on his closet are closed more than they’re open, and the Kallax isn’t available in white stain.

ikea hemnes dresser

Here’s a closer look at the drawers. As you can see, the wood grain is barely noticeable.

Tips and tricks for an organized nursery dresser!

Here are some things to consider when choosing between white and white stain.

If you’re wanting to use the dresser in a nursery and have it double as a changing station, which I highly recommend because having a dresser AND and a changing seems like a waste of space to me, you may want to consider some things. Since the white has a semi-gloss finish, it’ll be easier to wipe down. If you really want the white stain, but are still concerned, you can always put a clear coat of poly on the top to help with easier clean up. We didn’t add poly to ours and wiping it down has never been a problem.

Another thing to consider is that it’ll be easier to touch up the white with some color-match semi-gloss paint. I tried finding a color match for the white stain but couldn’t find anything. I’m going to call the IKEA help desk and see if they can help me out with that.

Between the two different types of finishes, I feel like the white is more durable than the white stain. There’s some small dents on the top of Owen’s dresser. The white stain is starting to rub off a little where we stand to change his diaper. My white finish workstation has held up fairly well over the past few years. There’s a couple of small scratches that have taken off the paint but there’s no dents.

Which do you prefer– white or white stain?

 An explanation of the difference between IKEA white and white stain finishes! Great info to know!

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  1. I got a “white” desk from Target for Christmas the other year and it was actually more cream (more like the ikea white). It was super frustrating for me as my trim is pure white and my walls are white with a touch of grey, so it was completely noticeable. I ended up painting parts of it gold so it wasn’t as bad. I have strayed away from “white” furniture since then as it’s a huge pet peeve of mine when the whites don’t match.

    1. I totally understand where you’re coming from. That’s the main reason I went with white stain because it would’ve bugged me if we had a pure white crib and off-white dresser in Owen’s room with ultra white trim.

  2. Ashley Beer says:

    Good comparison! I 100% agree with your assessment – we also own the white stain version of this dresser. I also think something to mention is if you wanted to refinish the piece, it seems MUCH easier to me to use the white stain version since the “white” is more of a laminate-esque layer that I don’t think would take paint very well. The white stain seems like you could sand it and apply paint pretty easily. I might be testing this IRL soon, baby #2 really needs a coral dresser if we find out it’s a girl! 🙂

    (And HOOORAY Ikea in Indy! Can. Not. Wait. Guess I should start saving IKEA funds now lol… it might be a problem so close to home.)

    1. That’s a great point!

      Congrats on baby #2! And yes, I can’t wait! It will be so much more convenient having one here in Indy.

    2. Did you ever text sanding and painting this? I would love this dresser and want to paint the drawer doors

      1. Ashley Beer says:

        Hi Gini – No, actually we ended up with a second boy and didn’t change the dresser. I bet it would be ok, especially if you are just painting the drawer fronts. Good luck!

      2. Great assessment on these two colors. Unfortunately for me I’ve had this dresser for quite a few years and still love it, but the color looks like dingy off white. I’d like to paint it white since I need to add another dresser to the mix. Any idea what to use to accomplish that?

  3. I personally like the white since it would be easier to match but the stain is a pretty color too. Have a great day!

    1. Yeah, I think it just depends on different shades of white furniture and trim in the same room will bother you. Both are great, especially for the prices.

  4. Ann Koehler says:

    I have the Hemnes 8-drawer dresser in white stain and I love it. When I was in the showroom and saw it in the white, I didn’t like it because it had a yellow tinge to it.

    1. I LOOOOOVE the white (and not the white stain). The white is closer to the Pottery Barn look, and is very elegant. The white stain, to me, is too drab. I bought a couple of night stands last year in white, and this year bought the Hemnes bed frame — lo and behold, when I got it home, the bed frame is a white STAIN and doesn’t match my nightstands (nor my Pottery Barn desk). I see they offer the Daybed in white, but can’t seem to locate the bed frame. Any thoughts?!

      1. PS — I think the white stain (the “purer” white is good for a baby’s room, where you want to have a very clean untarnished look. I didn’t’ mean to suggest that it’s not nice – it’s simply a matter of where you use it. I’m using mine in an adult’s room, and the creaminess of the white is very calming.

      2. Thank you for this, I have a white pottery barn crib and I was debating which color dresser to get, WHITE it is!

    2. Thanks for this. Which crib did you use though!! 🙂

  5. Love the white stain!! Definitely a helpful post as we will be purchasing that same dresser when baby time comes around here. 😉 Thanks!

    Visiting from LorimerLiving.Com
    XO, Jaclyn

  6. I happened to have the white. Both my daughter and I have the same Hemnes dresser that you showed in your post. We were just saying how much we love, love, love that piece of furniture. We love how the drawers roll out so easily and how deep they are. It’s a great piece of furniture and easy on the budget.

    1. Yes! And I also love how the drawers come pre-lined– such a nice added bonus! We did find when we put the drawers in that we needed to try the drawers in different slots because a couple moved smoother than others in certain spots.

  7. Liz Michaud says:

    I have used the Annie Sloan Chalk paint in white when I was doing a little IKEA hack for the Hemnes tv console in white stain. You can hardly tell the difference. Also, if you just bring a drawer with you to home depot you can have them paint match it in sore or at least have a good reference for picking something close.

    I have to say that the stain finish is not as durable – for example our tv console has a ton of dings and scratches (from my son playing and dropping his cars of it!). I don’t mind since I like a little distressing – but if you don’t then the white is the way to go. We have the white dresser in his room and its held up great!

    1. Hi,
      Sorry to bother you but I have several pieces of Ikea dressers in white stain. The top of the dressers have scratches and I was wondering how to fix it.
      I don’t want to repaint the whole thing, just the top.
      Would this chalk paint work for that without showing a difference?
      Would I just need to sand it then paint it?

  8. I have the stain finish and I chose it because of the color difference and future rehab-ability as others have noted. I agree with other comments about the durability, as mine came out of the box with cracks and bubbles in the finish over small knots and cracks in the wood. “Stain” is a total misnomer. I had the same issue with the dark brown colored “stain”. Disappointed.

    1. That stinks. I only found one little bubble on the top of ours but the changing pad covers it so it wasn’t that big of a deal to me.

  9. Thanks for this! I’m looking to buy this dresser for our new son’s bedroom….. we currently have the 4 cube expedit in white that will be joining it in his future room, and I was worried about getting the dresser in white stain and it not matching (we aren’t putting the cube in the closet – if we were, i wouldn’t care). But after all the comments, etc. – I think we will stick with the white because it seems more durable over time. I put the bookcase in the room against the base boards (which are white) and our floors (wood tile), and it doesn’t appear as “yellow” as i thought it would look. But I enjoyed reading your comparison – it definitely helped make my decision easier!

  10. I had no idea there were two versions of white! We have a bunch of white-coloured pieces from ikea in our home but I have no idea if they are white or white-stain!

  11. How well does th IKEA furniture hold up? I have often wondered. Great post.

    1. I feel like it holds up pretty well for the price. I’ve had my office work station for 3 years, and I haven’t had any issues with it.

  12. We ended up with the white stain Hemnes eight drawer dress (on sale now!), many thanks to your post. I feel that it has more character and as you said, will look more cohesive with a bright white crib. You mention adding poly to the top of the dresser. Can this be applied directly or would I still need to sand and prime?? Haven’t ever undergone such a project, and if we are to poly the top, might as well do it before baby arrives.

  13. I have the IKEA bed in white stain — I love it! I’m planning to build a pine desk to match and after reading this am definitely wanting to stain it white vs painting (décor-wise). I would love to hear if you found any new conclusions on white stain matching. Also I am curious to know how much your dresser wore as a baby changing table. Is the wear on the stain very noticeable (Would you have a picture?)?

    Thank you for this post! x

  14. Christina says:

    So … I am so frustrated with the “white” at Ikea. We have a white Kallax and a white Billy. Not “white stain”, but “white”. They match perfect and have the same cleanable/durable laminate type finish. I went to Ikea yesterday to pick up the 8 drawer Hemnes dresser. I knew I wanted the same “white” to match my other Ikea “white” pieces. It looked a little yellowish, but DH assured me it was the lighting in the store. I took it home and took a piece out of the box and laid it across my Kallax and Billy … and sure enough the “white” Hemnes is NOT the same “white” as the other “white” Ikea pieces (Kallax and Billy). It is definatly more yellow and a little more shinny too. WTF Ikea?!?!?!? I’m ok if you want to have two different whites (“white” and “white stain”), but you need to keep the “white” consistent across the various Ikea lines. Anyone else have this problem?

    1. Yes, my husband and I just had this exact thing happen to us. After assembling this dresser and it taking forever, he is pretty mad that it doesn’t match our other one. IKEA needs to fix this.

  15. Hi Chelsea! Thanks for the great tips. My husband and I are interested in buying this dresser, but we want to make sure there are no VOC’s in the dresser as well as the glue. Any thoughts on this?


  16. Wow, I was wondering about this and can’t believe someone wrote about it- thank you!

  17. Sarah Bailey says:

    Ikea is now not manufacturing white stain!!!! I cried a little and had to settle for the white. It’s actually not to bad. If they bring it back I would recommend the white stain. For color matching and refinishing and matching things from other stores.

  18. First off – I bought the 8 drawer HEMNES based on your amazing dresser organization post (I’m as OCD as you, it would appear) – so thanks for that! I’m commenting to mention that IKEA (at least here in Germany) now sells a white stain paint (BEHANDLA) which matches perfectly the HEMNES white stain color. Also the SUNDVIK kids furniture line (we have the crib and the wardrobe) is “white stain” like the HEMNES, even if it is listed online as “white”. We bought new hardware (knobs) for both the dresser and the wardrobe and now all three of our units match perfectly!!! <— seems like you're all set but might be useful for other new parents!

    1. Melanie, would you have a picture of your dresser with the new knobs?

  19. Christine says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I thought I was going to go crazy trying to figure out which one was whiter and would match my cabinets better!! You are my hero today!

  20. Christine says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I thought I was going to go crazy trying to figure out which one was whiter and would match my cabinets better!! You are my hero today!

  21. For me the difference was in the material – the “white stain” dresser is solid pine, while the “white” is made up of particleboard. I’ve had the particleboard ikea furniture in the past, and found that it chips and doesn’t hold up that well. I figured with the white stain solid pine dresser, we could rehab it and make it look good again.

  22. I love the white stain as it is more of a true white, and you can always get the HEMNES Glass top for extra durability and an easy clean!

  23. Hi I am looking into getting the 8 drawer HEMNES, 2 HEMNES nightstands, and the 6 drawer HEMNES dresser. The only problem is the 6 drawer ONLY comes in White and all the other ones come in both white stain and white. I was thinking I wanted to go with the white stain but I am torn because I feel like the 6 drawer will stand out like a sore thumb with the white stain furniture. Do you think that will happen? Also you said that the white is more durable? I was thinking the white stain would be which is why I was going to go with that but maybe we will have to get all the furniture in white if its more durable.

    1. In the exact same boat unfortunately. I was told the 6-drawer was recalled (though why it was recalled in only one color, I can’t understand…) The two colors are definitely noticeably different – it depends how OCD you are. (For me, mixing the white and the white stain is a no-go!) White seems more durable since it has more of a lacquered finish whereas the white stain is a flat, matte finish that probably won’t hold up as well in time.

  24. Kelly Dungan says:

    Did you ever find a good touch up solution for the white stain?

  25. I stumbled upon this review as I ready to throw in the towel finding a dresser to
    Match our “French white” crib. It’s quite creamy and I haven’t been able to find anything other than the matching dresser which I am not interested in. Do you think the White is creamy enough to match a crib that almost looks ivory? Thanks so much!

  26. Thank you so much for your review. This helped my wife and I so much to determine which color we went with for the nursery dresser. We love the white stain 🙂

  27. I too am debating between the two of these choices. I have the hemnes white stain bed (since it only comes in white stain and not white), but I wasn’t sure if I should get the hemnes night stand in white or white stain. Which do you think would look better? Love your little one’s rooms by the way!

  28. Trying to clarify, will the white kallax not match a white stain hemnes dresser? It looks very WHITE vs the off white color of the regular white hemnes

  29. thanks for your post Chelsea! its been very helpful 🙂 I have decided to buy the ikea hemnes day-bed for the nursery which comes in white and really want to buy a hemnes chest of 3 drawers which comes in both white and white stain. i have not decided on the crib yet…might go for the ikea Sundvik cot in white or choose one from a different company. the dresser and crib will go on one side of the room and the day bed on the other side. I am having trouble choosing the colour for the hemnes dresser. It feels to me that the dresser in white appears more creamy/off-white compared to he day bed in the same colour. Does anyone have experience of this? im worried that if i get the dresser in white, it may not match the crib i will eventually choose. any advice on what i should choose would be much appreciated! thanks!

  30. WE are super frustrated with IKEA right now. Purchased the Hemnes daybed, dresser and night stand. Haven’t gotten the nightstand out of box yet. But the dresser and bed don’t match. WTF. Have you seen this problem before? I ordered white for all the pieces but it appears they must have sent me the white stain for one of the pieces.

  31. Might be a little out of the box in asking this – but I’m looking to get the Sundvik wardrobe, along with the Hemnes dresser (and have another brand, bright white crib).
    I was planning to get the white stain Hemnes dresser – but does anyone know what type of white the Sundvik Wardrobe is…?

  32. YENisbeth says:

    IM broken it took my husband a while!
    I notice my room furniture is white but we got ikea chest in white and it doesn’t match anyway we can fix it and make it look more whiter help please !!!!

  33. Thanks for your post. Do you mind sharing which crib you matched with the white stain dresser?

    I just left IKEA and they have discontinued the White HEMNES Dresser but all their cribs only come in white.

  34. I guess nobody noticed that the white stain is solid wood while the white isn’t. The white stain is a bit sturdier and easy to paint if you decide to in the future. I would go for solid wood over particle wood and plastic any day!

  35. Did you find the change pad on top of the Hemnes dresser to be an ok height? My husband and I are both tall and all of our furniture is hemnes. I’m just concerned the changing pad height might be awkward as we plan to use the dresser as a change table as well.

  36. Jessica Wiznitzer says:


    This is is very very helpful!! I am looking to get this dresser and have no idea which one makes more sense.
    I am looking at the Babyletto Hudson Crib and a matching dresser.
    So you would think its the white satin that matches better?
    Babyletto Hudon crib just says white, so not sure which do go with, satin or regular white!


    1. I know this is a few months old now but did you end up going with the white or white stain for the dresser? We are also getting the Babyletto Hudson crib and wondering which color would be better!

  37. Jen Morris says:

    I’m about to purchase a Hemnes bedside table and was just hoping to clarify: is the White the same white as the Expedit bookcase? I have 2 Malm chests of drawers in white that will sit on the opposite wall of the bedside tables so they won’t be right next to them but I do want them to match, if possible. I know the Malm drawers are the same white as the Expedits, so was just checking what you think.

  38. Thank you so much for this post!! It was a lifesaver. I’m definitely going with “white stain” dresser in the nursery to match our true white crib and surrounding trim – but probably never would have realized it was a better choice than “white” until I read this. Thanks again!

  39. I wanted to get the semi gloss white but, BUT asked the Ikea attendant. The main difference between the two? The stained white is solid wood but the semi gloss is particle board. SO IMPORTANT. Particleboard offgasses, people. Make sure you’re comfortable with that before just going with color and cleanability!

  40. I just purchased the white stain version after going to the store with intention of getting white. My husband noticed that the white is listed as made of mostly particleboard/MDF with a couple sections pine, whereas the white stain is primarily pine with a couple pieces like the backer board made of particleboard. We went with the more solid pine white stain because there’s less chance of splitting/cracking around hardware holes.

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  42. I know this post is old, but wondering if you ever found a paint to match the white stain?

  43. Ajay Sindwani says:

    I just bought two white Ikea hemnes dressers for our children’s rooms. As I get around to assembling I saw the parts are particle board now. Sure enough I checked the Ikea app and the new difference between white and white stain is if it’s solid wood or not. I think most of us buying Hemnes furniture are doing it solely for the solid wood furniture quality. Stick with the white stain folks

  44. We are buying the Hemnes Daybed which only comes in white. We also are getting a nightstand and dresser so I assume we should match?? Now hearing the above poster (and reading online) it seems the stained white is more real wood. I’m not sure what to do? Would they blend if I mix the two?
    Thanks for anyone’s opinion : )

  45. I’m wondering the same, I think with my OCD I better get all white stain…i was planning to get white until i realized the bed only comes in white stain

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