Are you searching for a clear coat that not only extends your kitchen cabinet’s lifespan but also enhances its beauty? No matter how expensive paint you use, it’s always prone to chipping, cracking, and scratches. The only way you can get rid of that problem is by using an efficient and high-performance clear coat.
With all the fake promises and deceiving reviews these days, it has become difficult to make the right choice. Thankfully, we have reviewed the best clear coats for kitchen cabinets in this article, only for your benefit. Each of these clear finishes has enticing features that can make all your troubles vanish!
Table of Contents
- 11 Best Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets
- 1. General Finishes High Performance Water Based Topcoat
- 2. Varathane 200041H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane
- 3. Minwax 65555444 Polycrylic Protective Finish
- 4. Minwax 630500444 Water Based Helmsman Spar Urethane
- 5. Minwax 60910000 Wipe-on Poly Finish Clear
- 6. Watco 63041 Lacquer Clear Wood Finish
- 7. Deft Interior Clear Wood Finish Gloss Brushing Lacquer
- 8. Minwax Brushing Lacquer 155100000
- 10. Deft Interior DFT108/04 Waterborne Clear Wood Finish
- 10. Deft Interior Exterior Water-Based Polyurethane Semi-Gloss Finish
- 11. Varathane 200241H 1 Qt Satin Intr Water-Based Diamond Polyurethane Finish
- What to Look for Before Buying?
11 Best Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets
We are aware of how daunting it can be to pick the right clear coat with all the limitless options online. So, to help clear your clouded judgment, we bring you the 11 best clear coats most suitable for kitchen cabinets.
1. General Finishes High Performance Water Based Topcoat
We begin this list of reviews with this impressive topcoat that has been made for utmost durability. It has been specifically manufactured for certain types of furniture that are prone to wear. These types of furniture include study tables, chairs, kitchen countertops, and cabinets.
This high-performance clear coat consists of an advanced hybrid of acrylic and urethane. You can only imagine the level of durability and strength it can offer. Once you apply this top coat, you can use your kitchen cabinets any way you can without worrying about the repercussions.
Since it’s water based, you can easily wash it off with just some soapy water. It can be highly beneficial if you want to try a different coat later on. Not many topcoats on the market will give you this option. Moreover, it only takes a maximum of 2 hours to dry off and be ready for the next coat.
Applying finishes usually needs a lot of patience. Thankfully, this product shortens both the time and the workload by a long shot. Apart from that, it also acts as a protective shield for your kitchen cabinet. Any furniture you apply it on will become resistant to water to a certain extent.
However, the best part is it doesn’t run the risk of catching fire. This can often be a problem when using clear topcoats. Therefore, it’s suitable for all types of kitchen furniture. Another thing that sets it apart is its limited odor, It’s not pungent or harmful to the user in any way.
2. Varathane 200041H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane
At number 2 we have a highly efficient clear topcoat that is most suitable for almost all types of indoor furniture. It has a plethora of features that can make finishing your woodworking projects feel like a breeze. Although it’s a clear topcoat, it boasts a glossy finish that you can’t help but admire.
This product will help you enhance the looks of your interior. Besides the looks, this versatile topcoat can also improve the durability of your kitchen cabinet. Now you can have a sure-fire way of livening up any antique furniture you don’t want to get rid of.
Its incredible ability to endure regular heavy-duty use makes it perfect for applying on kitchen furniture. On top of that, it easily becomes ready for use within 30 minutes of application. So, you can start using your DIY projects almost instantly (even though it’s not recommended).
If you want to apply multiple coats, you won’t have to wait any more than a couple of hours. To summarize, it’s the best and the most reliable way to finish wooden surfaces in a very short time. You never have to worry about any everlasting stains or scratches on your kitchen cabinet once it settles.
Each piece of interior furniture will look as good as new even after several years of regular use. The water-based clear coat can also be removed without creating a fuss. All you need is a piece of cloth or rag and a soap and water mixture. You don’t even need to stress about any lingering odor.
3. Minwax 65555444 Polycrylic Protective Finish
The next finish on this list comes with a wide range of features, but its fast drying performance is what takes the cake. Due to this clear topcoat, you can easily apply several coats consecutively before the day expires. It’s ideal for those professionals who have a lot on their plate at the moment.
If you are not much of an expert on applying finishes, then don’t fret. The protective coat is easy to apply and only requires a foam brush or cloth. With this top-quality table topcoat, you no longer have to hire a professional to bring your old furniture to life.
Even though it’s a crystal clear finish, it adds some brightness and clarity like no other model on the market. It’s a much more convenient way of improving your interior decor without putting much effort or money into it. Also, it’s one of the most durable tabletop finishes out there.
As the cherry on top, it also offers you several different sheens to choose from. It allows you to bring some variety to your indoor furniture while keeping the durability consistent. This is possible due to the superior quality polyurethane used in its manufacture.
As it’s a water-based topcoat, you can always choose to remove it when necessary. You can always pick a different finish if you want to bring some change to your interiors in the future (even though you won’t need to). Also, it only emits an unnoticeable amount of odor,
4. Minwax 630500444 Water Based Helmsman Spar Urethane
Coming in at number 4 is an exclusive water-based topcoat that has been made for all types of kitchen furniture. This is certainly the case because of the level of torture it can endure. Even when it’s in contact with food regularly, it can keep the table or cabinet safe from harm.
There aren’t many clear topcoats on the market that share this feature. This is an efficient way of prolonging your furniture’s lifespan. It’s also good for the pieces of furniture near the window and exposed to incoming sunlight. This is mainly due to the UV blockers in the clear topcoat.
Besides that, this exclusive topcoat also comes with a unique feature. The manufacturer has added special oils to the mix to make it an all-weather table top finish. As you might already know, wood tends to expand and contract based on the temperature.
A regular finish can deteriorate due to this phenomenon. Thanks to the special oils, the water-based urethane coat can adapt to the climate and change accordingly. The topcoat can even protect your furniture from heavy rainfall or the occasional spill.
Therefore, it’s unlike most clear finishes on the market, in multiple ways. You can effortlessly apply it to any piece of light wood and make it last for longer than initally expected. It even dries quickly enough to let you apply as many coats as you need within a small duration.
As if that wasn’t enough, they have even added the possibility of removing the topcoat with just the help of some warm water. But why would you ever want to!
5. Minwax 60910000 Wipe-on Poly Finish Clear
At number 5 we have a superior quality polyurethane clear finish for wooden cabinets. It comes with various features that will not only make your furniture look elegant but also enhance its durability. Despite its many useful attributes, it’s pretty easy to apply on wood.
It offers a no-drip application, which reduces the hassle by a long shot. You can either use a paintbrush to apply this finish or resort to more traditional methods. Even when you use a brush, it won’t leave any everlasting brush marks. This makes the finish look more attractive and fresh for longer.
Unlike most clear finishes on the market, you can also apply this coat with your hand. It gives you a natural hand-rubbed look to your antique furniture. This versatile finish will help you renew the condition of your kitchen cabinet. It’s mostly suitable for kitchen furniture due to its high durability.
Once you apply this finish on your kitchen counter or cabinet, you can carry out your day to day cooking tasks without a care in the world. This is mainly because the clear finish is resistant to food stains. It can also endure continued exposure to household chemicals such as table cleaners.
It protects the furniture from damage and also manages to retain the shine. This is a multipurpose clear coat, to say the least. It’s available in two different sheens for you to choose from. Apart from that, it also protects your cabinet from water damage. It’s an efficient way to prolong your furniture’s lifespan.
6. Watco 63041 Lacquer Clear Wood Finish
This clear finish is not only suitable for indoor furniture but also good for outdoor wooden surfaces. It’s due to its high resistance to water and other environmental issues. There are hardly any other clear finishes out there that are as efficient as this one. It has no lack of beneficial features.
Speaking of which, this clear wood finish dries to the touch in only an hour. This can be incredibly helpful if you want to start using the furniture right after you apply the finish. By the time you are done with your other chores, your kitchen cabinet will be ready for heavy-duty use.
It also eliminates the need for sanding in between coats. You can also apply multiple coats after 30-minute intervals. This is arguably the fastest drying clear finish on the market. It can also be applied conveniently even with no prior experience. Both experts and amateurs will find it fascinating.
I think it’s needless to mention how it enriches the looks of your interior. The furniture that once stood on its lonesome can now be the centerpiece of your interior décor. Moreover, it also adds a good amount of durability to your kitchen cabinets. It stops scratches from settling on wood permanently.
This gives you the freedom to use your kitchen furniture; however you want, and as long as you want. Acids secreting from the foods you cook will not affect your tabletop anymore. Each piece of wood you cover with this finish will boast the same level of shine for years to come.
Also, this clear wood finish is made from a special formula that’s one step about the common polyurethane compound.
7. Deft Interior Clear Wood Finish Gloss Brushing Lacquer
The following clear finish is one to look out for if you don’t want a yellowish hue forming on your white kitchen cabinet. This clear finish formula isn’t just suitable for wooden surfaces. Surprisingly, it goes well with metal pieces as well. This is what sets it apart from most clear finishes on the market.
In fact, you don’t even need to be an expert woodworker to add a professional touch to your projects. It’s so easy to apply that any DIY enthusiast can do so without getting their hands dirty. On top of that, you can cover up to 400 square feet with just one gallon of this exclusive finish.
Due to this, you won’t have to spend a lot of money or effort to liven up your entire kitchen. We specifically mentioned kitchen furniture because of its superior durability. With its glossy sheen, it can brighten up any old piece of furniture to make it look as good as new. That’s not something you’ll come across every day.
Another key feature that makes this product exceptional is that it doesn’t darken over time. You won’t witness any yellowing or distortion of color as the years pass by. Even after several years, you will still notice the same crystal clear finish as day one. It’s only available in a glossy sheen, but it’s one you’ll be bound to admire.
More importantly, this product has been designed to be applied with a brush. This is a special form of nitrocellulose brushing lacquer that simplifies the application process. It doesn’t take long to dry either.
8. Minwax Brushing Lacquer 155100000
We chose to add another finish by this renowned manufacturer because of the wide range of features it offers. Apart from doors and cabinets, you can also apply it to almost all types of wooden accessories. This can come in handy when you’re trying to finish up your woodworking projects.
This top-quality clear finish is perfect for woodworking projects for another reason. It ensures a dust-free and super-smooth application that can make your projects look flawless. And it doesn’t let any dust settle permanently on wooden surfaces. This is an important perk that can keep your furniture intact for longer.
Furthermore, it has been made using a special formula that has shortened its drying time drastically. So much so that it only takes a couple of hours to dry off completely. After that, you can apply a second coat for better finishing.
With this efficient lacquer at your disposal, you can finish all your wooden furniture in a day.
It’s swift, efficient, and easy to use. Most clear finishes available on the market don’t include all three of these features in one. You won’t have to wait any more than 30 minutes to feel the smoothness of the finish with your hands. It barely has any odor that can bother you while working.
Not only that, but it also offers unmatched durability to your kitchen furniture. It can protect your kitchen cabinets from stains and scratches. The clear finish is also unaffected by most household chemicals. As a bonus, you won’t have to sand in between coats anymore.
10. Deft Interior DFT108/04 Waterborne Clear Wood Finish
The next item on this list of reviews is a water-based clear finish that offers the efficiency and performance of lacquer. Not many water-based finishes are this versatile in contact with wood. This is also a crystal clear finish that can make any piece of wood look appealing to the naked eye.
Unlike most clear wood finishes, this doesn’t have any yellowing effect on your white furniture. It always retains the initial glossy sheen no matter how often you use the furniture. Thus, this is one of the most suitable water-based finishes for kitchen cabinets. It can endure a lot of pressure without wearing out.
Moreover, it helps you rejuvenate your antique furniture regardless of its downtrodden condition. This way, you can renovate your house’s interior without spending a buck on new furniture. Not only that, but it also allows you to retain the color of each piece of wood you apply it on.
It’s also good at protecting wooden surfaces from permanent damage caused by heavy-duty usage. Kitchen furniture mostly faces a lot of torture due the day to day activities. But due to the clear finish’s utmost durability, you never need to worry about long-lasting stains or scratches on your kitchen table.
As it is a water-based finish, you can easily remove it with the help of a soap and water mixture. It’s a highly beneficial feature that lets you apply new finishes with a different sheen if you want to spice things up. On the other hand, it only takes about 2 hours to dry off.
10. Deft Interior Exterior Water-Based Polyurethane Semi-Gloss Finish
As we draw near the end of this list, we would like to include this polyurethane finish that’s perfect for both indoor and outdoor furniture. Whether you need to keep your patio chair safe from the rain or revamp your kitchen cabinet, you can always rely on this transparent cedar finish for outdoors. It never loses its efficiency with time.
It comes in a semi-gloss sheen that’s ideal for giving your indoor furniture an aesthetic look. Even though it’s a water-based finish, it shows better durability than you would expect from regular oil-based polyurethane. It’s pretty rare to find such attributes in a reasonably priced product like this.
With this level of durability, you can extend the expiration date of most of your old furniture. The redundant pieces of wood that once lied in the basement can now be the life of your living room thanks to this finish. This clear finish is also smooth and can be applied with little to no experience!
Some DIY enthusiasts will also find this clear finish pretty satisfying. This is because of how easily it can be applied. On a different note, this clear wood finish also contains UV protectors that keep your outdoor furniture safe from long term sun damage. It can also act as a safeguard against the occasional downpour.
Therefore, you can rely on its durability in all types of weather. This product will benefit even your kitchen cabinets due to its intense resistance to water. There are hardly any VOC added to this finish. Hence, it’s also environment friendly. It barely gives any odor as well.
11. Varathane 200241H 1 Qt Satin Intr Water-Based Diamond Polyurethane Finish
Lastly, we bring you this diamond polyurethane finish that doesn’t harm the environment in any way. The manufacturer has made sure there are no harmful chemicals added to this clear finish. Most other clear wood finish manufacturers don’t pay much attention to this feature.
It’s available in two different sheens – gloss, satin, and semi-gloss. Each type of sheen will give your kitchen furniture a different look. So, you can choose one that fits your preferences. The reason we are talking about kitchen furniture here is because of its high resistance to food acids.
It’s also resistant to alcohol and household chemicals and doesn’t deteriorate under pressure. The best thing about this finish is how easily you can apply it on any wooden surface. You can either spray it on effortlessly or resort to more traditional methods like brushing. Now you can apply multiple coats with minimal skills.
The fact that it can dry really fast can also make your job easier. This will allow you to apply as many coats as necessary with some time to spare. If you focus on multiple projects at once you can get it all done in less than a day. Plus, you can apply this finish on different types of surfaces – from floors to window panels.
If it’s made of wood, you can definitely make it shine with this polyurethane finish. As a cherry on top, it doesn’t have any yellowing effect on your furniture even as years pass by.
What to Look for Before Buying?
No matter how many different models you browse through you still can’t be certain you make the right choice. There is still crucial information left behind that can help you clear your judgment, whether it's the clear coats for kitchen cabinets or epoxy for river table.
These key factors will help understand the product better, and allow you to pick the most suitable one.
Type of Furniture
Before you pick a certain type of finish, you first need to analyze the condition of the furniture you want to apply it on. This will help you determine which type of wood finish is most suitable for your furniture. For example, if the wood is entirely unfurnished, it’s better to rely on an oil-based finish.
This will make the wooden surface look much smoother in comparison. It will also minimize the need for sanding. Oil-based coats might take a while to settle permanently, but their high durability makes up for that. Also, make sure it's compatible with the bar top epoxy resin if you decide to coat on top of the resin.
Level of Sheen
When picking a clear finish, you will always face the issue of choosing between different types of sheens. Each level of sheen will provide a different appearance to your furniture. However, you should also keep in mind the type of furniture you want to apply it on. Exterior furniture doesn’t have as many options in that case.
- Glossy Wood Finish
Most people go for the glossy wood finish as it’s classier than others. It enhances the looks of your antique furniture to an extent where it looks totally new. The colors look more vibrant and pleasantly noticeable.
Alternatively, a matte finish is much more comforting and has a down to earth feel to it. It’s mostly suitable for those of you who find comfort in simplicity.
- Soft Finish
Also, you can never go wrong with a soft satin finish for your outdoor furniture. If you want to improvise, you can also mix different levels of sheens to create an entirely new one. However, it’s not an ideal choice if you are an amateur.
How Long Will It Last?
Before you make any drastic decisions, it’s always wise to check the durability of the product you’re buying, whether it's a coating or wood glue. Same goes for clear finishes. They each come with various properties that can prolong the lifespan of your age-old furniture. But not all of them can live up to their promises.
A clear finish’s durability is often determined by the level of torture it can endure without wearing out. The best clear coats can resist a good amount of pressure. They are not prone to everlasting scratches or stains from an accidental pour. Some are even resistant to water damage.
There are also some clear coats that contain UV protectors that save them from the harmful rays of the sun. This can surely come in handy if you’re planning to finish your exteriors. Kitchen furniture takes the most beating of them all.
If you’re looking to finish a kitchen cabinet, you should pick one that resists household chemicals. It must also be unaffected by acids secreting from foods. And the same theory applies when you're choosing sealers for cedar, so click here if you're interested.
Maintenance vs Durability
Whenever we talk about wood finishes, we tend to find that the users are often confused between two different categories. While one category promotes easy maintenance, the other ensures high durability. Varnishes and paints are the type of coatings that remain on the surface.
They act as a seal that protects the furniture from liquid spillage and heavy-duty usage. It usually provides several long years of service before it needs to be removed. Unfortunately, when they start to wear out, near its expiration date, it starts flaking off. This makes it harder to keep using the furniture.
Waxes and oils tend to seep through the wood and settle almost permanently. However, they are prone to water damage and the occasional spill stain. Therefore, they’re suitable for low contact surfaces such as paint frames and small wooden artifacts. They are also incredibly easy to maintain.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What polyurethane finish should I use on kitchen cabinets?
When it comes to choosing the best polyurethane finish for kitchen cabinets, customers are often torn between two types of finishes – oil-based and water-based. They each have distinctive qualities that make it so hard to come to a decision. Water-based clear finishes are often recommended by professionals.
This is due to the level of efficiency it offers and how easy it is to maintain a water-based finish. As you might already know, water-based finishes can be easily removed with just a mild solution of soapy water. This gives you the added option of changing the level of sheen at any time in the future.
Moreover, water based polyurethane finishes make the kitchen cabinet resistant to water. We all know how kitchen furniture is prone to spillage and are in constant contact with food. This is why water-based finishes are more suitable for those types of furniture. They are also not flammable either.
This type of finish adds somewhat of a shine to your wooden furniture but not as much as oil-based finishes. One good thing about them is that they don’t alter the original color of the wood. Oil-based coats are usually longer-lasting as they are soaked in by the wood if applied correctly.
It also makes the furniture look more vibrant and glossy. This increases the aesthetics of your interior and adds a little bit of elegance. However, they do tend to darken over time and can end up changing the color of the wood. This won’t be much of a problem if you want a little variety among your furniture.
2. How many coats of polyurethane should I put on cabinets?
You must know that the main reason you’re coating a cabinet with polyurethane is to protect it from water damage. It’s highly unlikely that a cabinet stored in your interior is going to be affected by water. But excess humidity or accidental spillage can also have some damaging effects.
We need to apply the right amount of coats to prevent that from happening. Ideally, a couple of coats will be enough to protect a cabinet from moisture. The first coat acts as the basic seal for the cabinet. This will keep the moisture away. You can apply a second coat to stop the first coat from chipping.
This acts as a seal for the seal itself. To add more durability, you can add a few more coats once it dries off. The type of finish you purchase will determine how long you’ll have to wait before you can apply the next coat. Keep in mind that kitchen cabinets aren’t subject to a lot of abuse.
Therefore, you don’t need to apply any more than two coats. No matter how many coats you apply, it will eventually start peeling away. Nothing lasts forever!
3. Can I put a clear coat over painted cabinets?
Yes, it’s always wise and nowadays compulsory to apply a clear coat over painted cabinets. It’s highly recommended that you do so because the paint you apply on wood tends to fade away over time. It can also peel away after a certain duration. Without a clear coat, a painted cabinet will also be prone to lasting scratches.
In that case, you would have to repaint the entire cabinet to make it look as good as new. Even continuous exposure to air can dry up the paint to the point of cracking. It sounds like too much hassle to go through just because you didn’t spend a few more bucks on an efficient, clear coat.
A clear coat will act as a safeguard and keep the paint intact for longer. It also makes the cabinet look more bright and lively. It’s a clever way for increasing the lifespan of any given piece of furniture. And it’s true that a clear coat isn’t fully invincible. You can create dents or cracks by applying enough pressure.
But the changes aren’t that significant and can barely be noticed. Hence, it’s always mandatory to apply clear over painted cabinets. Oh! You can also choose concealed soft close cabinet hinges for a better look.
4. Does polyurethane keep paint from chipping?
I think we might have already stated the fact that polyurethane is effective at keeping the paint intact. It is basically a protective layer that keeps the environmental factors from tampering with the paint and altering it. You may be aware that there are different types of elements floating in the atmosphere.
The air in your room consists of different types of invisible gases that can harm the paint in many ways. Air also contains water vapor that can affect the paint on your cabinet if not coated by a clear finish. Temperature can also create a major issue when it comes to damaging the paint.
The difference in climates and temperatures can cause the paint to contract in the winter and expand in the summer. This slight expansion and contraction might be unnoticeable at first but can cause drastic paint chipping after a few years. All types of paint and finishes are bound to wear out eventually.
A good clear coat will just give that extra few years of service. Another thing you need to consider is the change caused by harmful rays in the sunlight. Sun rays contain UV radiation, which might seem mild in nature but can severely harm the paint on your cabinet. This is mainly a dilemma for those with a sunny kitchen.
However, you can’t rely on just any clear coat to protect your kitchen cabinet from UV rays. There are specific, clear wood finishes on the market (like the ones mentioned above) that consist of UV blockers. These are special additives that enable a clear coat to prevent mild radiation damage.
Once you apply this coat, all the UV rays will be reflected off the surface. The polyurethane clear coat will protect your cabinet from all these issues and keep the paint from chipping for several years to come. If applied generously, a few coats of polyurethane can last up to 20 years! And that's more than some of the best soft close drawer slides.
By now, you probably have a basic idea about why a good clear wood finish is essential for you. Our detailed list of best clear coats for kitchen cabinets and the guide that follows is all the information you need to make the correct purchase. Don’t forget to take all the necessary precautions when you’re applying the coat.