Polyurethane is a polymer that’s used as a finish/top coating/protectant in woodworking. It basically creates a hard surface that makes whatever surface it’s been applied to resistant to elements, spills, scratches, etc. In my experience, I have seen it most popular with cabinetry, floors, trim and outdoor furniture. The main thing that you want to keep in mind when it comes to polyurethane is if it offers damage protection against all manner of things. That’s pretty much the only reason you would want to use polyurethane, so it’s important that that factor is addressed. All of the polyurethanes I have included on this list offer superior protection. Another thing you have to keep in mind with polyurethane is what you will be using it for. There are two types: oil based and water based. Oil is better for exterior application and water is better for interior application because it produces fewer fumes and can be cleaned up with water. So, take a second to reflect on your polyurethane needs and then continue reading to find out what product is best for you.
Minwax Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane
Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane
Rust-Oleum Varathane 200061H 1/2-Pint Interior Crystal Clear Water-Based Polyurethane
Deft Defthane Interior Exterior Clear Polyurethane Satin
Minwax Water Based Wipe-On Poly
The Minwax® Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane is the best polyurethane because it’s great for anything you need to coat around your home. It’s water based so it produces less fumes and cleans up easily with warm water. It’s also a great polyurethane because it’s available in gloss, semi-gloss and satin sheens. These options mean that you more than likely will have the right sheen to work with any wood in your home. It’s also more valuable than other polyurethanes because it can be applied over both oil and water based stains once the stain is dry, which means you don’t have to worry about messing up any stain. Additionally, it has a recoat time of only 2 hours, which is fairly quick. That saves you time because you don’t have to wait as long to put on follow up coats.
The Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane, an oil based polyurethane (more fumes are produced and mineral spirits or paint thinner is required for clean up) is one of the best polyurethanes because it dries so quickly. Other water based polyurethanes on this list take upwards of 24 hours to completely dry. This one can take as little as 10 hours with recoats. It’s also great for use on both finished and unfinished wood, which just increases the number of instances that it can be used. Like the Minwax® Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane, it also comes in three sheens, which is great because it offers more options. My favorite part of this polyurethane though is the fact that it comes in an aerosol as well, which is great if you want application to be as easy as possible.
The Rust-Oleum Varathane 200061H 1/2-Pint Interior Crystal Clear Water-Based Polyurethane is a great polyurethane to purchase because it comes in three different finishes. It also dries clear and doesn’t yellow with age. That makes it a great choice if you want a polyurethane that will last a long time and still look good. It’s also very cheap at fewer than $15. That makes it a great polyurethane to buy if you are on a budget and want one that is great quality for not a lot of money.
The Deft Defthane Interior Exterior Clear Polyurethane Satin, Quart is another great, oil based polyurethane to consider buying because it’s formulated to work on finished, unfinished, stained, painted, varnished or lacquered wood. This makes it very valuable to have because you don’t have to worry about damaging any wood surface with your protectant. It also can be used in marine applications above the water line (where the hull of a boat meets the water). Furthermore, it contains UV absorbers that block harmful sunrays, which makes it great for outdoor furniture.
The Minwax® Water Based Wipe-On Poly (water based) is the final polyurethane on this list because it is very easy to use. To apply, you simply wipe it on with a cloth. This also gives your product a hand rubbed look, which is desirable due to aesthetic reasons. Another advantage of using a cloth is that you don’t have to worry about visible brush marks on your final product. What I love the most about this polyurethane though, is that thanks to the cloth application, it’s very well suited for smaller applications such as trim, touch ups on floors, railings, etc., where a brush might be too clunky to use effectively.