I have used Zar solvent-based stains in the past and had no problems. As far a water-based stains, the only one I've used so far is General Finishes, bought because they had the color (Rosewood) I was looking for. It seemed on the thick side, applying with a rag, and I noticed little white flecks all over the surface on the first coat where the stain wasn't sinking into the wood grain (red oak). I talked to customer service at the manufacturer and they advised using a paint pad that has the short stiff "bristles" to overcome this, and that solved the problem. After that, the stain worked out well, giving a nice even coverage.