Top 10 Best Polyurethanes of 2020 – Reviews

Polyurethane is a product which bonds with wood on a molecular level so that the wood doesn’t dry out and is protected from the elements. However, the best polyurethane products do much more than just keep wood surfaces from drying out or sealing them against water and wind. The best products also create a durable shield that not only protects the surface but makes it look better, too. When choosing the best polyurethane product for your intended application, you’ll have several options available to you, which can make it difficult to choose one that suits your needs. Fortunately for you, I’ve decided to fix this problem by listing ten of the best products that are currently available. Not every one of these products are suitable for every job but there’s enough variety to allow you to choose the one that’s suitable for you.

Best Polyurethanes – Top List

10. Rust-Oleum Satin Water Floor Finish-1 Gallon

This crystal-clear water-based formula is designed to be used on hardwood floors and to provide a beautiful and durable surface even on high-traffic areas. It’s designed to be abrasion and scuff resistant and to bring a beautiful shine to wood floors for many years to come. It’s manufactured in the United States, has a satin finish and resists stains and household cleaning chemicals. After application, tools are easy-to-clean using just soap and water and this product spreads on evenly and smoothly. It’s a good product for people who want to provide their floors with a high-quality protective surface.


9. Deft Defthane Interior/Exterior Clear Satin Spray-11.5 Ounce Aerosol

Formulated using a 450 VOC-compliant formula, this oil-based product is designed to be used in hard-to-reach areas both inside and outside. This includes use on doors, furniture, cabinets, and floors. It has a spray valve that’s easy-to-use and flows out quite well during use. It has a high-solids formulation that allows it to adhere to surfaces even when it’s being sprayed into areas that aren’t easily accessible. This product can be used on painted and lacquered surface and on finished or unfinished wood as well. This makes this an ideal product to keep around the home workshop for touch-ups and emergencies.


8. Rust-Oleum Varathane Interior Water-Based Formula-1 Quart

This water-based formula is designed to go on crystal-clear and to provide a smooth satin finish on interior projects which include wood cabinetry, furniture, and trim. While it’s not designed to provide protection against the elements it does provide a clear finish that keeps the wood from drying out and is manufactured to never yellow with age. This allows this wood’s own natural beauty to show through. And once it’s dry, it provides stain and scratch-resistance to the piece. It’s also a low-odor product that can be cleaned off application tools using only soap and water.


7. Rust-Oleum Soft Touch Matte-1 Quart

Providing fingerprint and smudge resistance, as well as protection from stains and scratches, this American-made product provides a matte surface that’s as durable as it is beautiful. It’s also designed to only darken the wood slightly when applied to unfinished wood surfaces and can easily be cleaned up with soap and water. It’s an easy-to-use matte poly that dries quickly and provides a surface that’s durable but is still soft to the touch. This makes it useful for a variety of different projects and a product that will ensure continued protection of wood pieces.


6. Miniwax Clear Semi-Gloss Finish-1 Quart

This oil-based product provides a protective finish that can be used on either unfinished or finished wood and can be used on a variety of different products which makes it a good product for doors, cabinets, and floors. When dry, it provides long-lasting protection that doesn’t mask the wood but allows its natural beauty to shine through. This product dries quickly and provides superior durability. All in all, this semi-gloss product is consistently considered to be one of the more durable poly products available and is sure to protect wood it’s applied to for many years to come.


5. Minwax Fast-Drying Clear Gloss-1 Quart

This product is designed for interior wood products including furniture, cabinetry, floors and wood trim. It can be used on either finished or unfinished wood and provides a clear gloss that allows the natural beauty of the wood to show through. This clear coating also protects the wood from drying out and protects it from stain and scratching. This product provides a long-lasting coating that’s sure to provide years of protection without yellowing as some poly products tend to do.


4. Rust-Oleum Carathane Interior Water-Based Gloss-1/2 Pint

Manufactured in the U.S and designed to provide an elegant finish, the clear water-based product is suitable for a variety of interior wood products such as doors, cabinets, trim and furniture. This low-odor formula is easy-to-apply and to clean-up and leaves a durable crystal clear finish that’s designed to not yellow over time. It’s 33% more durable than previous formulations and dries quickly. This makes it a good product for use on a variety of woodworking projects around the home or for keeping in the wood shop for use on future projects.


3. Rust-Oleum Varathane Interior Satin Finish-1 Quart

More durable than varnish and more than twice as durable as comparable wood finishes, this product is designed to provide high-quality protection to a variety of wood products including furniture, doors, trim and cabinets. It has a self-leveling formula that goes on smoothly, dries quickly and provides a beautiful and warm glow that highlights most wood grains. This surface coating isn’t just beautiful, however, it’s also durable and won’t crack, chip or peel over time. This makes this an ideal product for people who not only want to preserve their wood but also want to enhance it.


2. General Finishes High Performance Semi-Gloss Water-Based Topcoat

Formulated to be one of the more durable and hardest top coats currently available. It’s a PolyAcrylic blend that contains UV stabilizers that prevent it from breaking down in sunlight and causing the stain to fade. It also has a durability that’s strong enough to allow it to be used on floors and can be thinned if necessary. Once applied, it dries quickly and produces a nice coating that’s scratch and stain resistant and is more durable than other brands on the market. This product can be applied using a paint pad applicator, a sponge or a foam brush and goes on smoothly.


1. Interlux Brightside Poly Paint-1 Quart

This one-part poly finish comes in a variety of different colors which include steel gray, dark blue, fire red and sea green and is designed to paint fiberglass products such as boats or camper tops. It goes on smoothly, dries fairly quickly and provides a beautiful gloss finish. It’s formulated using a fluoro micro additive that increases stain resistance and makes this stain easier to clean. This allows it to be used for a variety of different projects around the home and the garage and is sure to provide a surface that lasts a very long time.


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Polyurethane Guide

To protect your wood after you have finished cutting and sanding, a quality polyurethane is the final part of the process. It is used on cabinets, floors, outdoor furniture, and plenty more. For you to ensure the finished article is resistant to spills, scratches, is washable, and protected against the mercy of the great outdoors, it is a must-have when it comes to DIY.

The better products made the whole process a lot easier and are built to last so it is an important purchase. To make sure you find the right one for your needs, we have created the following guide.

What To Look For In Polyurethane

Compatible Surface

Some polyurethane is designed to be used on floorboards whilst others are better for coating outdoor furniture. Before you purchase, it is best to consider the task you need it to make sure it is suitible. A brush-on product will work better on a flat surface so if you are using it to coat your floorboards, this is a good place to start.

Fast Drying

Generally, polyurethane is a final coat so if it takes a little longer to dry it isn’t too much of a hardship. However, no one likes to stand around waiting for something to dry and the faster it does so, the quicker you can get back into that room.


The finished product is something you are going to have to look at every time you step over it or pass it in the hall. This is why you want to find a polyurethane that looks good. Typically, polyurethane is clear, complementing the color of the wood, especially when using water-based products. However, some brands offer a handful of colors if you want to change things up a bit.


The closer you can get to this the better. Whilst homes with young children and pets should pay closer attention to the number of chemicals and fumes the polyurethane under consideration has, using a water-based product often solves a lot of the issues around toxicity.

Easy To Clean

Depending on how messy things get, you might be glad you used a certain type of polyurethane. Water-based products are easier to clean but even if you are accurate in how you apply the coating, you still need to get the polyurethane off the brush after.

Those using a polyurethane for spraying will need to make sure the surrounding area is well protected.


The whole point of using polyurethane is that it should protect the surface underneath. Of course, this is going to wear over time but you should find a product that doesn’t require another application for a while. Depending on the product, some products can last for 10 – 20 years although the quality of the product and type of sheen will affect this.

Polyurethane: Oil Based Vs Water Based

These are the two main types of polyurethane and each of them has their benefits.

Oil Based

These are more potent and tend to omit more chemicals and VOCs which is why there are certain restrictions on some products. This is why they are favored for outdoor use along with the fact that they are heavy-duty in terms of performance.


The fewer chemicals used in water-based polyurethane makes it preferable for indoor use. Of course, it is still advisable to ensure you have adequate ventilation but expect to be able to clean spills easier and brushes. A water-based product might require additional coats but are generally considered a safer option.

Polyurethane Sheen

One of the best things about buying these products is you can choose the most common types of sheens to give your surface the look you desire. Here are the most common types.


For a shiny appearance that lasts, gloss is a popular finish. Fine for indoor and outdoor use it is a durable sheen that is often found in bathrooms and kitchens or other surfaces that need frequent cleaning. Popular for use on walls metals.


Another common sheen for polyurethane, semi-gloss is less shiny but still has a vibrancy that is not flat when dried. It is commonly used on wooden surfaces such as floors and furniture and can dry fast.


Less common but good for anyone who wants a matte finish. Satin dries fast compared to other types but expect less shine. Satin tends to wash well but it won’t mask any imperfections when you apply the polyurethane.

Whichever type you choose, the product should be used within 12 months of opening to ensure it is capable of protecting the surface properly.