Choosing the right product for a project can be like navigating a maze. With so many options, it’s hard to know where to start. Take polycrylic vs polyurethane for example – two products that can easily leave someone scratching their head. It’s like deciding between two shades of green paint – both are similar but have subtle differences that makes one better than the other in certain situations. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at polycrylic vs polyurethane and discuss when each should be used in your next DIY project.

Overview Of Clear Wood Finishes

When it comes to woodworking projects, applying a clear finish to the surface is essential for protecting the material from wear and tear. There are two primary types of durable finishes: polycrylic and polyurethane. Minwax Polycrylic is a water-based product that provides a heat resistant, protective finish without the strong odor of oil-based polyurethanes.

Polycrylic and polyurethane differ in several ways. Polyurethane has a thicker consistency than its water-based counterpart, making it more difficult to apply evenly across the surface. Additionally, it is much more flammable and may discolor when exposed to direct sunlight over time. On the other hand, Polycrylic is much easier to apply due to its thin consistency which allows for even coverage with one coat. It’s also nonflammable and UV-resistant so it won’t discolor or fade in direct sunlight.

These clear wood finishes both provide excellent protection against scratches and scuffs while preserving the natural beauty of wood surfaces. With careful application, either option can extend the life of any project while creating an attractive final look.

Differences Between Polycrylic Vs Polyurethane

Durability-wise, polyurethane is more resilient and longer-lasting than polycrylic. Sheen-level-wise, polycrylic offers a slightly higher gloss than polyurethane. Odor-wise, polyurethane has a stronger smell than polycrylic. Clean-up-wise, polycrylic is easier to clean up than polyurethane, and it’s also generally cheaper.


When it comes to durability, there is a big difference between polycrylic and polyurethane. Polyurethane is known for its high durability, making it the perfect choice for wooden floors or any project that needs an extra layer of protection. On the other hand, water-based polyurethane and oil-based polyurethane have different levels of durability. Water-based finishes are not as durable as oil-based ones, but they are easier to apply and provide a smoother finish. They are also much more affordable than oil-based wood finishes. For projects requiring more protection and a longer lasting finish, it’s best to go with an oil-based polyurethane. However, if you’re looking for something quick and easy to apply with a good finish, then water-based polycrylic is the way to go.

Sheen Level

Polycrylic and polyurethane also differ in terms of sheen level. Polyurethane typically has a higher sheen level than polycrylic, which makes it ideal for projects that require a smooth finish or a wood stain. There are also different types of finishes available for both polycrylic vs. polyurethane – from low-gloss to semi-gloss to high-gloss. For projects where appearance is important, such as furniture or cabinets, high-gloss finishes are usually used to achieve the desired effect. However, if you’re looking for something with a more subtle look, then going with a lower gloss finish might be your best option.

Durability And Maintenance

I’m interested in discussing durability and maintenance of polycrylic vs polyurethane. What are the differences between the two in terms of how long they last? What kind of maintenance do they require to keep them looking good? What are the pros and cons of each in terms of their durability and maintenance? Let’s talk about it!


When comparing polyurethane and polycrylic for durability, it’s important to consider how they’re used. Polyurethane is an oil-based poly that offers superior protection against heat, water and abrasion than its water-based counterpart; however, it can be more difficult to apply and will require protective gear when using mineral spirits or varnish to clean the surface. On the other hand, polycrylic is a water-based poly that is easier to apply and clean with soap and water but may not be as durable as polyurethane in extreme conditions. Sanding between coats of either finish should help improve their durability. Ultimately, both offer good protection when applied properly, but depending on your needs one may be better suited than the other. When making your choice, it’s important to consider how much wear and tear your project will get.


Once you’ve chosen the right finish for your project, it’s just as important to consider how to maintain it. Polyurethane products are best suited for indoor projects such as dining room tables and other woodwork that won’t be exposed to extreme heat or intense outdoor weather conditions. However, if you do have an outdoor project, polycrylic vs polyurethane may be a better option since it can handle the elements better. The difference between oil and water-based finishes is also important to consider when it comes to maintenance; oil-based finishes need to be cleaned with mineral spirits or varnish while water-based ones should only require soap and water. Regular cleaning will help ensure your project lasts longer by preventing dirt and debris buildup. Additionally, sanding between coats can help protect the finish from scratches and scuffs. No matter which type of finish you choose, proper maintenance is key in making sure your projects last for years to come!

Appearance Of Polycrylic Vs Polyurethane

Polycrylic has a satin sheen, while polyurethane has a glossy sheen. Polycrylic is usually a milky white color, whereas polyurethane is usually clear. Both products can help protect and enhance the appearance of a surface, but the sheen and color will depend on the product used. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which product best suits your needs.

Sheen Of Polycrylic

When it comes to making surfaces look beautiful and protecting them from wear, polycrylic and polyurethane are both great options. But one of the main differences between these two products is their sheen levels. Polycrylic comes in a variety of sheens, ranging from flat to high gloss, while polyurethane usually has a slightly higher sheen than its counterpart. If you’re looking for a subtle finish with minimal reflection, then brush on some polycrylic. This product will leave a soft, satin-like tint that won’t overpower the wood or stain below. On the other hand, if you’re aiming for a bit more shine and protection, then go with polyurethane finishes. These coats provide stronger protection against moisture and scratches while also giving surfaces an added layer of glossiness. With either product, your wooden surfaces are sure to be left looking stunning!

Sheen Of Polyurethane

When talking about the sheen of polyurethane, you have a few different options. You can choose from a glossy finish, satin finish, or even a matte latex paint look. If you’re looking for something more subtle and environmentally-friendly, then opt for the oil-based option. It will give your surface a glossy level without overpowering it. On the other hand, if you want something that will stand out more and provide strong protection against moisture and scratches, then go with type of polyurethane that has higher sheen levels. Applying a polycrylic coat over this type of finish is always an option if you want to add an extra layer of glossiness while still protecting your wooden surfaces. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which type of sheen best suits your needs and preferences!

Applying Polycrylic VS Polyurethane

Before tackling either finish, make sure you prep the surface properly. Sand it smooth, wipe away any dust, and apply a stain if desired. Applying polycrylic is pretty straightforward – just brush it on and let it dry. Using polyurethane is a bit more involved, as you’ll need to wipe off any excess and use a fresh brush each time. Cleanup is usually just a matter of washing the brush with warm water and soap. However, you may need mineral spirits if you’re working with polyurethane. Both finishes should give you great results, just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.

Preparing The Surface

Getting started on your project is often the most exciting part, but it can also be a bit daunting. It’s important to prepare the surface of whatever product you’re working with before you apply polycrylic or polyurethane, so that your finish will be as smooth and consistent as possible. Whether you’re working with wood pieces, flooring, or furniture, start by sanding any paint residue from the surface with steel wool or fine grit sandpaper. For raw wood pieces, use 120-150 grit sandpaper and make sure you dry it completely between coats. Be sure to allow for adequate drying times when applying polycrylic or polyurethane; following the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time can help ensure a successful product. With the right preparation and attention to detail, your project will shine in no time!

Applying The Finish

Now that you’ve prepped the surface, it’s time to apply the finish. Applying polycrylic or polyurethane is a straightforward process, but it does require patience and precision. Be sure to use a synthetic brush for an even application, and brush in one direction with each coat. After allowing 3-4 hours for drying between coats, lightly sand with fine-grit sandpaper and finish by wiping with a damp cloth. Don’t rush this step as taking your time with the application will ensure a smooth and consistent finish. When you’re finished, clean up any excess material with warm water and a damp cloth, and enjoy your satisfied work!

Cleaning Up

Now that you’ve applied your finish, it’s important to clean up any excess material so you can enjoy the results of your work. Always use a damp cloth with warm water to clean up any excess material from polycrylic and polyurethane coats depending on the level of protection you’re after. For a protective water-based coat, opt for a high-quality synthetic bristle brush as opposed to using a natural product like a nylon brush. If you want to achieve lighter colors, such as white or pastel shades, use a natural color or warm amber color polyurethane instead of clear coats. This will help you avoid brush marks that can appear when using clear coats with light colors. Now all that’s left is to admire your hard work!

Clean Up Process

First, we need to prepare the surface by sanding it down and removing any existing coatings. Next, we need to clean the surface to ensure that it’s free of dirt and dust before applying either a polycrylic or polyurethane coating. Finally, we need to make sure that the surface is protected by applying multiple coats of the chosen coating. All of this will help to ensure that the surface is clean and well-protected.

Preparing The Surface

Getting ready for the clean up process is key when it comes to using either polycrylic or polyurethane. It all starts with making sure the surface looks its best. This means taking the time to sand down vertical surfaces, tables and hardwood floors. Once everything is prepped and looking good, it’s time to apply a coat of Minwax in an appropriate color of your choice. Depending on what type of piece you’re working on, you might need a brush or a spray kit for kitchen tables.

Now that the surface is ready, it’s time to decide if you’re going with polycrylic or polyurethane – two very popular options for protection and longevity. Polycrylic provides a nice glossy finish that can last for hours without chipping or fading, while polyurethane offers more durability against scratches and wear-and-tear. In addition, polyurethane takes longer to dry so make sure you allow enough drying time before applying additional coats.

Ultimately, which product you choose depends on the project at hand and your desired outcome. Keep in mind that both of these products offer great protection and will make your furniture look beautiful for years to come!

Cleaning And Protecting The Surface

Once you’ve selected your polycrylic or polyurethane option, it’s time to clean and protect the surface. It’s important to start with a clean slate before applying any organic compound. Depending on the type of item you’re protecting (picture frames, wooden surfaces, etc.), you may need to use an applicator brush or spray kit for larger items like kitchen tables. Additionally, polycrylic products have a runny consistency so make sure to use light coats when applying. If you’re working with dark woods, consider using a polycrylic finish that will provide optimal protection while also making the wood look beautiful. When finished applying the product, allow time for it to dry before using the item or applying additional coats. With this simple step in place, your furniture and other wood items will be protected and look great for years!

Types Of Polycrylic And Polyurethane

Polycrylic and Polyurethane are two types of protective coatings used for wood and other surfaces. They both provide a clear finish, but have different properties. Polycrylic is a water-based acrylic coating that is easy to apply, fast drying and is best used for light-duty projects. Polyurethane is an oil-based finish that is durable and provides a higher level of protection than Polycrylic. Polycrylic is best used on furniture, trim, woodwork, and cabinets, while Polyurethane is ideal for outdoor projects and other heavy-duty applications. Both Polycrylic and Polyurethane provide a clear finish and can be used to protect surfaces from scratches, stains, and other damage.

Types Of Polycrylic

When it comes to the different types of polycrylic and polyurethane, it’s important to understand the differences between them. Polycrylic is a water-based protective finish that is used for DIY projects and furniture projects, while polyurethane is an oil-based finish that provides protection for larger projects. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to using them on colored paints or dark-colored paints.

Polycrylic is a great choice for those looking for a topcoat that will protect the surface without changing its existing color. It dries quickly and provides protection against scratches and water damage. However, it can be difficult to apply evenly on dark-colored paints, so it’s best used on lighter colors.

On the other hand, polyurethane provides excellent coverage and protection from scratches, staining and fading over time. It also creates a beautiful shine on colored paints, making it ideal for larger projects such as kitchen cabinets or outdoor furniture. The downside is that this type of finish takes longer to dry than polycrylic and requires more elbow grease during application due to its thickness. With proper care however, your project will be well protected from the elements!

Types Of Polyurethane

Polyurethane is an oil-based product that provides a harder finish than polycrylic and is best used on light woods and outdoor furniture. It has a thicker consistency than polycrylic, which can provide better coverage over large projects. The downside to using polyurethane is that it can give off a yellowish tint when applied to white paint or mahogany stain, and its milky appearance can make it difficult to apply evenly on latex paint. However, its ability to protect against scratches, fading and staining over time makes it ideal for larger projects like kitchen cabinets or outdoor furniture. All in all, the type of finish you choose will depend on the project itself and your desired outcome.

Uses Of Polycrylic And Polyurethane

Both polycrylic and polyurethane are popular options for protecting wood surfaces. Polycrylic is a water-based product that can be used over paint, so it is a great option for interior projects. It has a thinner consistency than polyurethane, so it dries quickly and requires fewer coats. Paint thinner can be used to make the application of the product smoother and easier. A foam brush is the best tool for applying the product for even coverage with fewer strokes. On the other hand, polyurethane is an oil-based finish that is better suited to dark woods and exterior projects. Its thicker consistency provides better coverage than polycrylic, but it may require an additional coat or two to get the desired protection. Subsequent coats should be applied after allowing each coat to dry fully in order to ensure optimal protection over time. With these two products, you’ll have all your bases covered when it comes to finding the right product for your woodworking project in a shorter time frame.

Alternatives To Polycrylic And Polyurethane

When it comes to protecting and finishing wood surfaces, varnishes, lacquers, oils, waxes, acrylics, shellacs, latex, alkyds, urethanes, polyesters, moisture-cured urethanes, epoxies, polyamides, polyacrylates, and silicones can all be used as alternatives to polycrylic and polyurethane. Varnishes are great for outdoor use, while oils provide a natural-looking finish. Waxes are great for furniture and can also be used for buffing. Acrylics provide a strong, durable finish – plus, they’re easy to apply! Shellacs are great for staining and sealing wood. Latex and alkyds are great for interior wood finishes. Urethanes, polyesters, and moisture-cured urethanes provide a glossy finish. Lastly, epoxies, polyamides, polyacrylates, and silicones are all great for a waterproof finish.


When it comes to hardwood flooring, you may want to consider alternatives to polycrylic and polyurethane. These two varnishes are great for protecting the wood’s surface and for creating a glossy finish but there are other options out there too. One of them is shellac. Shellac is a type of varnish that can be applied in layers, making it ideal for darker woods as it gives them a milky finish. It is also well suited for creating darker finishes on furniture or pure-white painted finishes as it can give them a nice satin finish. Additionally, shellac is perfect for indoor projects like furniture pieces and cabinet doors because it will protect the wood from scratches and can provide a variety of different finishes. Acrylic paint can also be used instead of varnish as its protective properties make it suitable for small indoor projects.


If you’re looking for something to protect a lighter wood, lacquers are an excellent choice. With the proper application, they can create a beautiful finish and protect the wooden piece from any possible damages. Lacquers are especially great for larger surfaces as it is an affordable option that can create a stunning end result without breaking the bank. The downside to using lacquer is that if it isn’t properly applied, water can damage the underlying wood and cause a cloudy appearance. That said, when applied correctly, lacquer is an ideal way to give your wooden surface a glossy finish that will last for years to come.


Moving on from lacquers, another great option for protecting wooden surfaces is oil. Oils provide an easy and convenient way to protect your lighter woods, as they don’t require a lot of elbow grease to apply. They also offer a natural look that allows the wood’s grain to show through while still providing a glossy finish. However, one downside to using oils is that they can create a sticky finish if not applied correctly. But if you take the time to make sure it’s applied properly, it’ll give you beautiful results without having to worry about water damage. Plus, when you’re done with the project all you have to do is wipe off any excess oil and let it cure on its own.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Polycrylic Or Polyurethane Do I Need For My Project?

When deciding how much polycrylic or polyurethane you need for your project, it’s important to consider the size and scope of the task. Whether you’re coating a small chair or a sprawling surface, make sure to measure the area accurately. This will help you to avoid running out of material in the middle of the job, or having too much left over at the end. To ensure precise measurements for your project, use a measuring tape and mark out all surfaces before beginning. Additionally, factor in an extra 10-20% when buying supplies in order to cover any mishaps that may occur while coating.

Are Polycrylic And Polyurethane Safe To Use Around Children And Pets?

Safety is always a top priority when it comes to using products around children and pets. When considering polycrylic and polyurethane, both are generally considered safe to use with proper ventilation. However, it’s best to ensure that the room is well-ventilated while applying and after application. Additionally, keeping children and pets away from the area until the product has fully dried is recommended.

Is There A Difference Between Water-Based And Oil-Based Polycrylic And Polyurethane?

Are you confused about the difference between water-based and oil-based polycrylic and polyurethane? We get it, they all sound pretty similar. But don’t let that fool ya – there’s actually a big difference between these two coatings. Water-based versions tend to be less durable and have shorter drying times than their oil-based counterparts, but they are much more eco-friendly and easier to clean up after use. On the other hand, oil-based products offer better durability, longer lasting protection, and higher levels of shine. So if you’re looking for something that’ll last a long time without sacrificing environmental friendliness, opt for the water-based option!

Are Polycrylic And Polyurethane Easy To Use?

Using a finish on your woodworking projects can be an intimidating process, but it doesn’t have to be. Both polycrylic and polyurethane are easy to use, as long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. They both come in water-based and oil-based formulas, so finding one that suits your needs should be a breeze. Both options will give you a durable finish that will last for years, but choose wisely based on the type of project you are doing.

How Do I Know Which Type Of Polycrylic Or Polyurethane To Use For My Project?

Choosing the right type of polycrylic or polyurethane for your project can be tough; it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack! But with the right knowledge, you can make sure that you get exactly what you need. The key is to consider the surface that you will be applying the product onto, as well as the desired finish. For instance, if you’re looking for an extra durable finish on wood furniture, then a polyurethane would be your best bet. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a protective coat on an already finished surface such as cabinets, then a polycrylic would work better.


In conclusion, both polycrylic and polyurethane are great sealants for a variety of projects. It’s important to research which type is best-suited for the job. I recommend understanding the difference between water-based and oil-based products so you can make an informed decision about which one is right for your project. It’s also important to consider safety when using either of these products near children or pets. With some research and careful application, you’ll be sure to get the perfect finish on your project!