What’s the Best Polyurethane for Furniture?

Applying a polyurethane finish to your painted or wood furniture is a great way to protect it from scratches, stains, and other damage. But what’s the best polyurethane for furniture?

With so many different types of polyurethane on the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for your project. Learn more about furniture painting tools and supplies here!

best polyurethane for furniture

Polyurethane is a clear finish that is applied to painted and wood furniture to protect it from scratches, wear, and tear. It can also enhance the appearance of the finish by giving it a glossy sheen.

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In this blog post, we’ll give you a quick overview of three of the best polyurethane so you can choose the best option for your needs.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I also may earn from other qualifying purchases with other companies or get free product to review and use. All opinions are my own.

Best Wipe-On Polyurethane

tin of minwax wipe-on poly

Minwax Wipe-On Polyurethane

Wipe-on polyurethane is ideal for small projects, tabletops, or flat furniture

Minwax Wipe-On Oil Based Polyurethane is our top pick for wipe-on polyurethane because it’s easy to apply and provides a brush free finish.


  • It’s very durable and protects against scratches and dings
  • It’s also moisture-resistant for a long-lasting finish
  • Oil-based polyurethane is also more durable for outdoor furniture


  • Since it’s oil-based, it’s best to use over wood or dark colored paint
  • Oil-based polyurethane has an amber color to it and will turn your light colored paint yellow.
  • It also has a strong odor
  • And wipe on polyurethane can look streaky if you don’t apply it just right

I used Minwax Wipe-On Polyurethane on a dining table makeover here in this post about how to strip a kitchen table.

Where To Buy Minwax Wipe-On Polyurethane

Best Spray Polyurethane

spray can of minwax polycrylic

Minwax Polycrylic in a Spray Can

Spray polyurethane is one of the easiest types of polyurethane to apply, and it’s a great option if you’re working on a smaller project or if you’re new to using polyurethane.

It’s also perfect if you don’t want any streaks or brush marks in the finish.


  • Minwax is the best spray can version of polyurethane
  • It’s easy to use and provides excellent protection against scratches and stains
  • It’s water-based as well and creates a perfect looking finish
  • Comes in an oil-based finish as well if needed.


  • It is more expensive than regular polyurethane in a can

Learn more about the features and how-to’s of Minwax polycrylic spray here.

So if you are spraying a large project or if you are redoing furniture a lot, it might be cheaper, in the end, to invest in a paint sprayer to spray polyurethane.

Here are the best HVLP paint sprayers that are awesome at spraying polyurethane.

See Minwax Polycrylic in action in this Waverly chalk paint review where we did a sofa table makeover.

Learn more about the difference between polycrylic vs polyurethane here.

Where To Buy Minwax Polycrylic in a Spray Can

Best Water-Based Polyurethane for Furniture

can of varathane water-based polyurethane

Varathane Water-Based Polyurethane

Varathane Water-based Polyurethane is another popular option (and my personal favorite) for protecting painted or wood furniture.

This type of poly is rising in popularity because it doesn’t have the strong fumes associated with oil-based polys.

Water-based polyurethanes give off little to no odor. This makes them a great choice for indoor projects! 


  • Can apply it with a brush, foam sponge, or sprayer
  • Little to no odor (perfect for indoor projects!)
  • This product provides a durable, long lasting finish
  • It is moisture resistant
  • Can be used over wood and paint without yellowing


  • I’m trying hard to think of the cons, and I really can’t think of anything

See Varathane Water-based polyurethane in action on most of my posts, but specifically, this makeover on how to paint a dresser white.

Where To Buy Varathane Water-Based Polyurethane

No matter how you want to apply polyurethane to furniture, there’s a perfect type of polyurethane out there for you!

All three of these polyurethanes will provide scratch and stain resistance, but each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Best Way to Apply Polyurethane

The best way to apply polyurethane by hand and avoid streaks is by using a foam sponge. You can find these at most hardware stores or online on Amazon.

foam sponge to apply polyurethane by hand

The next best streak free method is to spray the polyurethane on with either a spray can or a paint sprayer.

You can also brush the water based polyurethane on, but it most likely won’t create a perfect finish.

Darker colors are harder to topcoat with polyurethane than light colors, because light colors hide streaks and brush marks better than dark colors do.

If you are topcoating paint, add some of the water based paint to your water based polyurethane to tint the polyurethane and help prevent streaks from showing as much.

Either way, apply the polyurethane in even, long strokes across the furniture.

Don’t go back over the polyurethane once you’ve applied it. Polyurethane dries quickly, so if you go back over it, more streaks will be created.

Check out how to apply polycrylic to painted furniture here. Get more tips about applying polyurethane in my topcoats for painting furniture post.

Best Brush for Water Based Polyurethane

If you want to brush water based polyurethane onto furniture, the best brush is this Zibra topcoat brush that’s made specifically for topcoating with polyurethane.

Check my blog post for the best paint brushes for polyurethane to learn more.

zibra topcoat brush to apply polyurethane

Best Paint Sprayer for Polyurethane

My favorite entry-level paint sprayer for polyurethane is either the Wagner Double Duty, or the Wagner FLEXiO 3000. The Wagner FEXiO 3500 is the new model of the FLEXiO 3000.

Here’s how to use a Wagner Double Duty paint sprayer and how to use the FLEXiO 3000.

wagner paint sprayer for polyurethane

The Wagner Double Duty paint sprayer sprays polyurethane really well and is cheaper.

But if you are planning on spraying paint with the paint sprayer too, I would suggest the Wagner FLEXiO 3500 (or even the Wagner FLEXiO 5000) because they spray thick paints easier.

Learn more about the best Wagner paint sprayers for furniture here.

More Polyurethane for Furniture Resources

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  1. I just sealed our newly built white oak fireplace mantle using the varathane water based polyurethane in matte. I like that it’s not shiny. I am now restoring our old antique dining table. Would the matte polyurethane look good for an old farmhouse table or do tables need satin? Have you used the matte finish on any table projects before?
    I only recently discovered your emails and info and I find them very helpful.

    1. Hey Kim!
      Matte poly is not as durable as satin or gloss poly. For best durability, use a couple of coats of satin or gloss poly first, and then you can do the last coat with matte to give it the look that you want.

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