How to Use Clear Coat to Seal Stained Wood Furniture?

A lot of woodworking tips have been given on wood bleaching, sanding, and also on staining painted wood, pressure-treated wood, MDF, and the like. Perhaps you have followed all these tips, directions, and recommendations and your woodworking projects exude good staining results. However, do you still need more information and directions on how to seal stained wood? You have done a close search on google, but didn’t get the information you are looking for?

How to Seal Wood After Staining?

Wood is a porous surface and should be sealed after staining it. Apply shellac or polyurethane clear coat to seal the stained wood surface, allow to dry, and repeat a few times. This can effectively prevent the stain from discoloring over time and prevent the wood surface from being scratched.

This article will provide some woodworking tips on how to seal your wood, the best sealant to use for your wooden furniture or flooring, benefits of sealing your wood, among others.

Keep reading.

Can You Seal the Wood after Staining?

Yes, you can. Sealing wood furniture after staining is an easy process. It is almost the same process as staining wood. All you require is a brush for the application. The only difference is that while a stain penetrates the wood grain to give beauty, a sealer typically covers the wood to make it safe.

Should You Seal Wood after Staining?

Yes, you should. Applying a sealant on your wooden furniture be it indoors or outdoors is necessary for protection. However, you need to be careful of the type of sealant you go for. The type of wood stain you use in staining is an important determinant in choosing a sealant to seal your wood.

What Happens if You Don’t Seal Stained Wood?

When you don’t seal stained wood, if it is outdoor furniture, you give it exposure to sunlight and other atmospheric conditions which can change its stain color. For your indoor wood table, you give it exposure to water, oil, alcohol, etc. All of these can cause damage to your staining project in a short time.

Does Sealer Darken Wood?

When you finish wood with a sealer, your wood does not get darkened. It just adds a shade of color to the stain on your wood. This is also dependent on the type of sealant you use.

Benefits of Sealing Wood

Sealing is more important than staining wood for bare wood or natural wood. Staining wood is just a means of adding different hues of colors to it, but sealing stained wood gives it maximum protection. Also, you don’t get to enjoy your stained furniture, table, or flooring without a good wood finishing.

The benefits of sealing stained wood are protection from sharp objects, water damage, sun exposure, dust, food droppings like oil, change in color, cracks, etc. If you are contemplating if you should seal your stained wood deck, just get to it. Sealing stained wood offers a lot of benefits than disadvantages.

Disadvantages of Sealing Wood

It is a common saying that anything that has advantages always has disadvantages. Wood sealing also has its disadvantages. There are different wood finishing products, some of which are shellac, wax, polyurethane, lacquer, and some oil stains. As a result, each wood finishing products have its disadvantages. Some of these disbenefits are long drying time, yellow changes in color over time, less durability, lower heat and water resistance, and difficulty to clean up, amongst others. Do not be taken aback by all these negativities, if you follow the guidelines that will be given as you read further, you will learn how to seal stained wood without a problem.

Best Clear Coat for Sealing Wood after Staining

Oil-based Polyurethane

Polyurethane is many polymer substances that are used to seal wood projects after staining. It works just like plastic to coat the surface of your wooden furniture. It can also be found in paint, adhesive, etc. It gives a hard coat and can be applied using a brush or a paint sprayer. It is moisture-resistant, scratch-resistant hence used as a flooring sealant.

Also, it gives a clear coat that does not overshadow the underlying paint or oil-based stain. One of its major pros is that it spread evenly on the wood surface thereby, preventing blotches and it gives a nice shine. However, the cons are it takes many hours to get dried. Room conditions such as high humidity might add to the drying time. Also, it gives off an offensive odor until the finish dries.

Water-based Polyurethane

The water-based polyurethane solves the problem of the pungent odor of its oil-based counterpart because the solvent is a natural substance and not an organic solvent. This also gives a hard protective clear coat to your stained wood. The pros are it dries quickly hence, several coats can be applied, it does not make your stained wood darker, very clear, it is easier to apply & clean up and most importantly, it does not produce an offensive odor. The cons are you need to apply many layers of coats before it produces a hard protective shell. Many times, woodworkers prefer the oil-based poly for their wood finishing because they believe it is more durable. However, water-based poly is now upgraded to be as durable as oil-based poly.

Polycrylic Protective Finish

Do you need a water-based fast-drying wood finish for your wood project, then you might want to consider buying a prolycrylic protective finish. It is designed for indoor use on doors, cabinets, furniture, etc. It gives lesser protection compared to polyurethane finishes, this is because it is less water and heat resistant. Some of its pros are it is water-based hence, it is a safer sealer coat. it has no odor and does not give off toxic fumes. It doesn’t produce yellow discoloration. Also, you can get different wood sealing results ranging from clear, satin, ultra-flat, matte to glossy coats. The cons are, that it is only meant for an interior wood surface. Also, it is not suitable for use in high traffic areas with lots of wear and tears impact like floors.


Lacquer is a solvent-based sealer coat. It is a modern sealant but very durable. It is waterproof and also has a fast drying time. It is known to give a shine to the wood surface and gives a beautiful outlook with different sheen levels.

Also, it enhances the look of natural wood and does not cover the wood grain. Its pros are lacquer finishes dry fast, hence they save time. It takes about 16 minutes for the first coat to dry. It is produced in such a way that it doesn’t require thinning and can be easily sprayed. It is tough and long-lasting. It leaves no brush marks, and with a lacquer thinner, you can clean it off easily. Some cons are they are made up of flammable and toxic substances. Hence, you need to adequately give yourself the necessary protection before using them.

How Long to Let the Stain Dry Before Sealing it?

Different wood stains have varying drying times. A water-based stain might dry faster than an oil-based stain. Other wood stains like lacquer stains and gel-based stains also have their drying time. While a lacquer stain could take 10-15 minutes to dry up, a gel stain might take more than 10 hours to dry. Also, a water-based stain can completely dry between 2 to 3 hours, but an oil-based stain surely takes more than that, let’s say more than 20 hours. However, the drying time of your wood stain depends on environmental conditions like lack of ventilation, high humidity, and the number of coats.

When Should You Use a Wood Sealer?

Sealing wood after staining wood is what is recommended. That is, the time to use a sealant is after applying your wood stain. It is also important to note that wood sealing is not only for staining wood. Sealants are also used in wood painting. Especially when the location of the painted wood surface is outdoor. Such painted wood can be sealed with varnishes to protect it from sunlight, ultraviolet rays, dust, etc. Therefore, you should use a topcoat sealer when the stain or paint on your wood is dried to protect it. Nevertheless, if the location of your stained wood is in a place where sun, water, oil, etc will not get to it, you might not bother about extra protection for the furniture.

How Many Coats of Sealer Should You Use on Stained Wood?

Moving forward, while some wood stain sealants might require just one coat or two coats others might need many layers of coats before giving a visible coating effect. However, the number of coats of sealer required depends on the type of sealant used and the aesthetic effect the woodworker wants. For instance, when using a water-based sealant, you might need 2-3 coats before you get the polished look you want. Also, if a sealant is designated to give a glossy finish and it is not giving such a glossy look on the first coat, you simply apply more coats.

How to Seal Wood after Staining

It is good to point out that different wood stain sealants have specific application techniques. But the basic process will be discussed shortly. If this basic process is not followed, you might have to clean up and apply the sealer repeatedly. To seal your wood without problems, some woodworking tips and procedures, have been explained below to guide you. However, quickly check the tools and materials you will need.

Tools You Need

Tack cloth, soft-bristle brush or foam brush, paint sprayer, clean rag, drop cloth, hand gloves, sandpaper, face mask, and some other protective gear

Step by Step to Seal Stained Wood

Some wood stains are formulated with sealants. In this case, applying such wood stains and maybe varnishes or oil polishing might be all that your wood need. However, if it is only a wood stain you applied on your table, after getting rid of the excess stain and leaving it to dry and cure completely, you should follow the steps below to seal stained wood.

Step 1: Preparations

Open your sealant and stir, you can use a long handle tool to stir. Do not shake or else you might cause the sealant to bubble as you apply it. Before you continue, remember to work in a well-ventilated room. Protect yourself with the needed tools and do some wood prep by sanding lightly and wiping the surface of the stained wood with a clean rag or a lint-free cloth.

Step 2: Applying coat

Apply the first coat of the sealant with a bristle or foam brush. If you notice some bubbles as you apply, use your brush to wipe over the bubbles. If you observe any form of drippings, wipe them off with your brush and use a clean cloth to get rid of excess sealants. Also do not forget to apply sealant on the edges of your stained wood. Remember to use a compatible wood sealer.

Step 3: Applying more coats

As mentioned earlier, a sealant might require more layers of coat compared to another. Hence, before you apply another layer of finishing coat, ensure, that the first one is fully dry. However, if you want a sealant that will produce a glossy effect with just a few coats, an oil-based poly or polycrylic finish is the best bet.

Step 4: Sanding in between coats

This is an optional step, it is not mandatory. However, if you observe there are blotches on your first finishing coat, use sandpaper to do the trick. Pick a high grit number sandpaper, eg 220-grit then lightly sand the entire surface to remove little imperfections. Remove sanding residues with a tack cloth. Then you apply the next coat

Step 5: Drying

Please, if you will be sanding in between coats, allow each coat to get dried before sanding. Also, when you apply your last coat, leave it to dry completely before using it. If the weather condition is poor, use artificial means of hastening the drying time like dehumidifiers, exhaust fans, air purifiers, air conditioners, etc.

Apply Polyurethane after Staining Wood

Perhaps you have been hearing that the two urethane sealants are very good and worth using. Hence, you are planning to use it on your next woodworking project. But, you are still a little bit skeptical about the urethane sealants. Read below to dissolve your doubt and make up your mind.

Is Polyurethane A Wood Sealer?

The term polyurethane is commonly assigned as a sealant. Anytime the word is mentioned, your mind goes to a wood sealant. However, it is good to know that there is also a urethane stain. So, back to the question, is polyurethane a wood sealer. Yes, it is. And there are two types of urethane sealants, the oil and water variant.

Do You Need to Apply Polyurethane After Staining?

If you are working with the poly sealant, you will need to apply it after staining. Any form of sealant whatsoever is designed to be applied after staining and not before. This is because that way, the staining effect, and the color is coated to prevent too much impact that can bring about fading and discoloration. A urethane sealant just seals everything in and gives adequate protection. However, if the surface you stained will not be exposed to constant use as a wooden picture frame, you might not need to use urethane after staining.

Will Polyurethane Lighten Stain?

No. No polyurethane will lighten your stain color. Although both urethanes (water and oil-based poly) have a specific polish look they give to wood. Hence, you choose them based on the color tone you want your wood to have at the end of your project. The water-based poly is known to have a milky-white color. Hence, you might think it will lighten the color tone of stained wood. No, after applying it, it becomes clear, enhancing the stain color and the natural look of your wood. On the other hand, the oil poly might want to give a little color upbeat to the stain color due to the amber tone it produces.

How Long to Apply Polyurethane after Staining?

The length of time you leave a polyurethane finish on a stained surface is determined by a lot of conditions. It depends on which type of urethane finish you are working with, weather conditions, the number of coats being applied, etc. The water poly dries faster than oil poly, it takes about 2 hours for a coat to dry. While the oil poly could take virtually a whole day to fully dry. Therefore, you can leave a coat of oil poly on wood after staining for as long as 24 hours until it dries. Mind you, if you will be applying 2-3 coats, it means you will apply poly for a longer period.

How to Apply Polyurethane on Wood after Staining?

When sealing stained wood, it is better to seal it immediately after staining. That is, start protecting your wood immediately after staining it. Applying urethane wood sealant is quite very easy. After your stain is dried, you might want to give it a light sanding using hand sandpaper. Then you remove the sanding dust using a tack cloth. Using a brush, apply a thin coat of the sealant. Allow it to dry. If you wish to sand lightly in between coats, go ahead and sand before you apply another coat. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired result.

Considerations for Applying Clear Coat to Stained Wood

The first thing to consider when applying a clear coat to a stained wooden surface is sealer compatibility. There are a lot of wood sealers ranging from lacquer, polycrylic, the two polyurethanes, shellac, varnish, etc. Therefore, out of all these varieties, knowing the right one to pick for your project is a necessity. For an oil-based stain, it is preferable to use an oil-based sealer. Similarly, a water-based wood sealer should be used on a water-based stain. For other types of stain like gel stain, lacquer stain, lacquer finishes are suitable.

Another important thing to consider is the location of your stained object. If it will be used outdoors, it is advisable not to use a polycyclic or lacquer finish. They are not suitable to be used under sunlight.

Furthermore, the type of project you are doing also should be considered before sealing stained wood For instance, if you are working on a small DIY wood project, you can decide to try out a suitable sealer. However, for large projects, a sealant that is fast drying and can be easily sprayed should be selected to save time. Lastly, consider the constant use your wood will be subjected to. Polycrylic withstands less heavy usage compared to polyurethane.

Tips and Tricks for Applying a Sealer Over Stained Wood.

There are always one or two woodworking tips that can give you smooth woodwork if you adhere to them. One of these is, always cleaning the surface of your stained wood to remove dust, dirt, and the like before applying a clear coat. Let the applied stain dry properly before adding a top coat.

Also, avoid applying thick layers of coats to save time. Instead, apply your sealer in multiple coats of thin layers. Thin layers get dried quickly and have little imperfections such as blotches. If you do not have the luxury of time, you should choose a fast-drying sealant like lacquer.

Also, fast-drying sealants are better sprayed. This is to avoid one part getting dried and another part still being brushed with the sealer. When you spray it, you can give the edges and surfaces a quick uniform coat. Finally, for the best sealer coat result, try to brush along or spray along the wood grain in the same direction you used when applying stain.


Do you have to apply a clear coat over the stained wood?

Yes and no. If your stained object will be placed or used in a place free from touching, sun rays, water, UV rays, food spills, heat marks, etc., you might choose not to apply a clear coat. However for the purpose of wood protection, not looking at the wood usage aspect, you have to apply a clear coat.

Should you seal both sides of the wood?

In as much as every part of the wood was stained. Why not? There is no part of wood furniture that is less useful than the other, therefore, you should seal every side. Also, you will reduce the beauty of your wood when you seal one side, leaving the other. Unseen or not, protect every side with a seal.

What is the best way to seal stained wood?

The best way to seal stained wood is to use a quality bristle brush, roller, or foam brush to apply multiple thin coats uniformly on the surface of the stained object without forgetting the edges and fulfilling the recommended drying time. Also, wipe off the excess drip of coats on the surface with a lint-free cloth.

Should You Seal Pressure-Treated Wood?

Yes. The chemicals in pressure-treated wood mainly protect them from insect infestation, wood decay, and sometimes fire. It does not protect them from water which could lead to cracks. Therefore to further protect them you still have to seal them with a water-resistant sealant.

Can You Seal Wood Without Stain?

Of course, you can seal a bare piece of your wooden furniture. The major work of wood stains is giving colors to wood surfaces. Although they offer little protection. Hence, if you are okay with the natural color of your wood, you can simply go-ahead to seal it without staining it.

Does Minwax Have a Sealer?

Yes, it does, but the type it does have is a sanding sealer. Haven’t heard of sanding sealer? Well, it is a sealer recommended for use on a bare piece of wood that you do not want to stain. You can also use it on already stained surfaces, but you might have to sand in between sealer coats.

Final Words: Do You Have to Seal after Staining?

Are you tired because you have been working a lot on staining your DIY wood project? You remember you have not sealed it but, you do not have the capacity right now. Well, it’s okay. You do not have to seal that stained woodwork right away. But, you will have to seal it anyways either now or later to give maximum protection. In the meantime, take some days off and allow the applied wood stain on your wood to cure before applying a topcoat.

Ordinarily, sealing should not be done immediately after staining. You have to wait for the wood stain to cure before you seal.

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