Painting your kitchen cabinets brings new life to your kitchen, but if you want that stunning look to last, you will have to protect your painted kitchen cabinets from moisture, scratches, and other abuse. Let’s face it; the kitchen is a high-traffic area, so you would want a good clear coat that can stand up to the abuse.
But how do you choose the best clear coat for painted kitchen cabinets with so many brands on the market? Worry not; this guide has shortlisted 10 clear coats that are amazing at offering protection to your painted cabinets. Our list has also considered sheen and a section explaining sheen will be discussed later in the buying guide.
Let’s see the best of the best in clear coats without further ado.
Best Clear Coat For Painted Kitchen Cabinets-top picks
1. Rust-Oleum-varathane-A Well-Rounded Product.
2. General Finishes, Satin-The High-End Option
3. Varathane 200061H Polyurethane-Great Value Overall
4. INSL-X Cabinet Coat-Best for Maximum Durability
5. Watco 63041 Lacquer-Best Versatile Topcoat Option.
6. Minwax 13333 Polycrylic-Best Spar Urethane for Kitchen Cabinets
7. MINWAX Wipe-On Polyurethane-Best Wipe-On Poly
8. Rust-Oleum 287722-Best ultra-matte finish
9. Rust-Oleum 327864-Best Protective Versatility
10. Minwax Helmsman-Best Indoor/Outdoor Urethane
Rust-Oleum-varathane – A Well-Rounded Product
When we examine this item, we see that Rust-Oleum varathane is one of the most reputable paint brands. This gloss is crystal clear, making it ideal for applications that demand the highest level of glossiness and perfect shine. Because of this, it’s a fantastic option for a lovely piece of high-quality wood furniture.
This is a fantastic option for cabinets because the natural beauty of the wood will be enhanced by its crystal-clear nature. However, before applying this clear coat, you should probably stain the wood first. Since it is so transparent, coating it might make it appear plain and unfinished. A light stain and this clear coat together can produce the most beautiful and durable results.
Some people favor oil stains because they will darken the wood and slightly enhance its natural tones. For surfaces like hardwood floors, which are subject to a lot of scuffing, that harder coating will be much better, though. This coating is the least expensive among the top five in terms of cost. This one’s thin consistency, which makes it a little more challenging to apply multiple coats, is the only thing I don’t like about it.
- It has a water-based formula that dries fast and essentially cleans up the water.
- Protects your indoor wood surfaces like cabinets, windows, and furniture.
- Its durable formula is best for outstanding stain and scratch resistance with excellent clarity.
- It can cover 125 square feet at a maximum. and is touch-dry in 30 minutes. After two hours, you can recoat it.
- It has a clear formula suitable for interior projects like cabinets, windows, and furniture.
- This glossy finish will give you a polished and clean look.
- Easy soap and water clean-up.
- It will offer a crystal clear finish that will never be yellow.
- It has a low odor.
- It is the best scratch and stain protection you can ever get on the market.
- Pocket-friendly to suit your needs.
● Rust-Oleum Varathane may be too clear for some of your cabinet applications.
● Due to its thinness, you may find it challenging to apply in some cases.
General Finishes, Satin – The High-End Option
I believe that one quality you need in a clear coat is durability. That is why improve woods recommends this clear coat as the hardest topcoat. If that is not impressive enough, I don’t know what is!
In general, SatinSatin manufactures a full line of woodworking products, such as cabinets, and each one has passed numerous tests conducted by critics and professional and amateur users. That’s why I had to add this clear coat to our list. The water-based polyurethane is intended for interior wood surfaces such as cabinets and doors.
Although it will offer you an exceptional protective layer, this durable finish also contains an ultraviolet (UV) stabilizer, which prevents UV rays from damaging the wood or causing it to change color.
I consider this very rare for an interior finish. As a result, you do not have to be afraid of your cabinets being exposed to direct sunlight all day long, especially for people living in sunnier climates.
You can use a synthetic brush, a pad, or a sprayer to add a second coat of this polyurethane to your kitchen cabinets within an hour or two. You will concur with me that General Finishes Satin Topcoat is among the simplest to apply after reading this.
If the weather is suitable, your cabinets will cure completely in three weeks and be ready for light use in seven days.
However, I advise you not to apply this clear topcoat over bright white paint, as I have noticed that yellowing occurs when the substrate reacts. Some customers have also reported light-colored paints experiencing yellowing after applying topcoats, although they have noted that it is less noticeable.
- Dries quickly in a period of 1 to 2 hours.
- It features a UV stabilizer that protects it from breaking down if you live in a sunny area and protects the underlying stains from fading.
- It is the hardest and most durable consumer polyurethane top coat you can find on the market today.
- General Finishes Satin contains all the consumer-friendly features of a polyacrylic blend.
- Apart from using this topcoat on cabinets, its pure polyurethane durability will enable you to use it on floors.
- Compared to the competition, it is slightly expensive.
Varathane 200061H Polyurethane – Great Value Overall
As a DIYer, I know you’re always disappointed with lies. For instance, when the can says a coat is clear, you expect it to be clear. Unfortunately, not many clear coats stay true to their name, but this one does.
I picked Varathane 200061H Polyurethane in our top picks because of its highly durable protective coating for painted kitchen cabinets. It prevents moisture, scratches, and stains.
When applied, you can see the grain pattern of your flawlessly finished cabinets because it dries crystal clear.
This clear coat dries quickly, as you would anticipate from a water-based finish. Within 30 minutes, it is touch-dry, and two hours later, you can apply a second coat. But for maximum protection, continue until you’ve applied at least four coats.
Your cabinets will be suitable for light use in just 24 hours after the final coat, three times quicker than most other water-based polys.
But hold on! This clear polyurethane can coat painted, unfinished, or stained wood surfaces. Before committing, you should test it on kitchen cabinets that are painted white. It might be yellow in some situations.
It is available in different sheen options such as semi-gloss finish, matte, satin, and gloss.
Already feeling anxious? You shouldn’t because this polyurethane and all water-based polyurethane have this issue. Some users, though, have successfully used this clear coat without discoloring their work.
- It is the best water-based finish for kitchen cabinets.
- It has a low order.
- It dries crystal clear.
- It is inexpensive yet high quality for your kitchen cabinets.
- You don’t have to apply sand between coats.
- It dries quickly.
- You will need four coats when applying it.
- In some instances, it causes yellowing when applied to white paint.
INSL-X Cabinet Coat – Best for Maximum Durability
For your painted kitchen cabinets, I am sure this clear coat will be the best for durability you will ever use. This enamel paint from INSL-X is perfect for your painted kitchen cabinets because it was made with interior pieces. The coat can adhere to it without priming, whether the surface is made of wood, metal, or poly laminate. A feature that greatly aids in the painting process efficiency.
I particularly liked the finish of this paint after using it on the cabinet doors. The paint had a silky, smooth texture after it had dried, resembling a factory finish. The painted furniture had a fresh appearance and a slight sheen, making the space feel larger.
Wait! The story is not over yet. The adaptability of compatible materials facilitates the application process. Another useful aspect that made working with the paint simple was the elimination of priming. Sanding between coats was easy because the paint dried quickly after being applied to the surface.
The INSL-X paint’s self-leveling was another feature I adored while using it. Naturally, when using a paintbrush, this characteristic stands out the most. The paint’s thick viscosity allowed it to settle for a smooth application.
Impressed by this product already? I have something for you that I think could have been done better. Even though this INSL-X Cabinet Coat has a thick viscosity and doesn’t need a primer, some materials might require multiple coats for it to stick to them. The number of coats needed can vary depending on the structure and type of wood or painted material.
- The INSL-X Cabinet Coat offers a durable and ultra-smooth finish.
- It adheres excellently to hard-to-coat surfaces without necessarily applying primer.
- Its durable satin cabinet finish protects your kitchen cabinet from food stains, scuffing, chipping, water, and grease.
- A gallon of this cabinet coat covers 350-450 square feet.
- strong adhesion features.
- You may need to apply multiple coats.
Watco 63041 Lacquer – Best Versatile Topcoat Option
The versatility of the topcoat option is what you’ll love most about this Watco lacquer. It permeates the wood itself, doing away with the need for wood fillers, thanks to its thick viscosity. Additionally, it has a clear finish that dries quickly and is superior to polyurethane formulas in terms of finish.
It is a wonderful product, even though I cannot attest that this lacquer is a better alternative to polyurethane. The lacquer’s ability to penetrate is one of its most useful qualities. The kitchen cabinet was filled, even going so far as to seal the pores and remove air bubbles.
The thick viscosity of the lacquer was another great feature I liked. This aids in both permeating the subject matter and self-leveling the formula. No matter how experienced you are with lacquer, this combination of two features creates a lacquer that is simple to use and apply.
You have not read the best part yet about this topcoat. This is it! Whether it is used on materials that are light or dark in color, there is no discoloration in the underlying material. The lacquer topcoat preserved the colors and shielded the surface from damage.
Watco uses an oil-based formula in their lacquer, like many other lacquers. This indicates that it has a potent odor that is unpleasant to work with for extended periods. As always, ventilation is essential when working with this lacquer.
- Ideal for applying on cabinets, paneling, doors, and furniture.
- It has a higher clarity formula compared to polyurethane.
- A gallon covers up to 290 square feet and dries to the touch in an hour.
- When applied, you will not need wood filler, and it will protect your painted kitchen cabinets from scratches.
- It dries to a crystal-clear gloss with excellent durability.
- It does not require sanding between coats.
- It is a durable wood seal, perfect for your painted kitchen cabinets.
- It cannot be applied to floors and other exterior surfaces.
- It has a strong odor.
Minwax 13333 Polycrylic – Best Spar Urethane for Kitchen Cabinets
If you are looking for the best spar urethane for your kitchen cabinets with a wide range of sizes, then don’t look any further. This option is simple to determine the ideal quantity for your project. The buckets come in half-pint to gallon sizes. There is also an aerosol can for quick touch-ups, as if that weren’t enough.
However, I discovered that this clear coat for kitchen cabinets has the broadest sheen, which stands out. This cabinet paint protector is available in clear matte, clear SatinSatin, clear semi-gloss, clear glass, and clear ultra-flat finishes.
Here is something you will like more about this urethane. Apart from this substance’s aesthetic appeal, this polyacrylic dries crystal clear, so it protects the natural beauty of the wooden kitchen cabinets.
I also noticed that this clear coat dries quickly, and you are ready to apply the second coat in two hours. Most impressively, this won’t be yellow when applied to kitchen cabinets that are painted white.
You may find it rare for any type of polyurethane as it requires a fair bit of patience. However, of all the polyurethanes I have reviewed, this one has the fastest drying time.
Still undecided? Like the others, you can apply a second coat in two hours, but it will take one day and three hours for your kitchen cabinets to be ready for regular and light use.
The only thing about this nearly perfect clear coat for kitchen cabinets that I didn’t like is that it doesn’t add any personality. But this won’t be a problem if your paint does its job.
- It offers a durable, crystal-clear finish for your painted kitchen cabinets.
- It is a fast-drying clear coat that enables you to recoat after 2 hours, thus letting you fasten your projects.
- This product allows for easy water and soap clean-up.
- You can use this product over bare wood.
- It can be used over both oil-based and water-based stains.
- It has a low odor.
- This clear satin varnish gives your wood projects a sleek finish.
- It protects your painted kitchen cabinets against dirt, scratches, and spills.
- Minwax Polycrylic is not recommended on floors.
- You can only use a brush or the aerosol to apply it.
MINWAX Wipe-On Polyurethane – Best Wipe-On Poly
Since it is intended to be wiped on rather than painted with a brush, this clear coat differs from the products I have reviewed thus far and those I will review soon. The final product’s appearance is slightly altered as a result. This coat’s availability in full gloss or clear SatinSatin is one feature I appreciate. This implies that you have several options if you want to vary the textures of your finish.
This is your option if you prefer that hand-rubbed look and appearance. One minor drawback is that a wipe-on poly will never be applied quite as thickly as a paint-on finish. However, there are times when a thin finish is just what you need.
You will be astounded by how superior it is to other application techniques because it doesn’t leave any brush or streak marks. Even though Minwax Wipe-On Poly is very simple to use, it is included on this list because of how well it seals painted cabinets.
Starting to enjoy this result already? This polyurethane is, in my experience, perfect for cabinets, porches, and railings. You sometimes want to keep the wood’s natural grain visible. To provide a good grip, a handrail next to the stairs, for instance, needs to have a good texture. A completely smooth stair railing would be useless because it would be challenging to gain the necessary traction.
The speed with which it dries is another impressive quality. It is just as quick as water-based polyurethanes because the next coat can be applied after two to three hours.
It is an oil-based coating that makes me pick it and love it more than any other product on our list. A coating made of oil will result in a slightly softer surface. This makes it perfect for surfaces that will frequently be gripped, like the handles on kitchen cabinets. This would unquestionably be the best option for safety applications. Of course, there is yet another aspect of an oil-based clear coat.
But check out this! When applied, an oil-based clear coat will slightly darken the wood. In addition to serving as protection, this item also almost stains. Most of the items on this list are transparent and water-based. This will be a great option for your kitchen cabinets if you have a surface that could use a little darkening.
- It is very easy to apply as you will only need to wipe on your painted kitchen cabinets.
- It is fast to dry, and it takes 2 to 3 hours to dry.
- It offers durable protection.
- It is perfect for applications that need traction.
- It may take a long time to dry.
- Some surfaces may not work well on softer surfaces.
Rust-Oleum 287722 – Best ultra-matte finish
In my well thought and tested list, I offer you another Rust-oleum topcoat option in this ultra-matte finish paint. It requires little setup work, so even a beginner can use it to produce work of a professional caliber. Because the paint’s formula is safe to use, it is a versatile paint that can be used for any project you have.
The topcoat paint from Rust-Oleum has outstanding adhesion, which is the best part. It adhered to the surface evenly with just one brushstroke. Removing the need for additional coatings makes it very affordable.
In my opinion, it is even more effective because it dries in just 30 minutes. After the paint has dried, you have three options: chip it, wear it away for a vintage appearance, or choose distressing. It will turn matte and clear as a topcoat if allowed to dry fully.
While you will find the application process easy, it is low-maintenance and does not take much time to clean up, which is always helpful. Simply wiping any accidental applications with soap and water will get it off.
This is a helpful safety net if you don’t have much experience working with paint. Although the chalky texture of this paint aids in giving it a vintage appearance, it can also be detrimental to it. Brush strokes are more obvious with this specific chalky consistency, especially on darker surfaces. Streaks may still appear after the surface dries, despite using a fine brush.
- It has a low odor.
- It has a VOC formula that allows easy clean-up with water and soap.
- It is easy to apply with minimal preparation but with excellent adhesion.
- In just 30 minutes, it dries up to the touch with extensive coverage of up to 150 square feet.
- Its protective topcoat dries to an ultra-matte, velvety, and smooth finish.
- It is chalked and can leave brush strokes.
Rust-Oleum 327864 – Best Protective Versatility
If all you need is defensive versatility while working on your kitchen cabinets, Rust-Oleum spray comes in handy as your solution. This top-notch spray paint adds a transparent layer of protection to any surface you work with. Its distinctive design makes it simple for users to apply, improving its usability.
This clear coat spray paint’s application process caught my attention in particular. Its wide finger pad and multi-angle spray tip make using it incredibly simple. Spraying larger areas becomes less taxing, thanks to these innovative design elements.
You will also appreciate its superb coverage as you apply the solution to the surface. Compared to other finishes, it dries fairly quickly once it comes into contact. In other words, you won’t have to wait for the coating to dry before starting new tasks.
Whatever you need to cover, Rust-oleum is capable of handling it. Among the materials, it can be used are plastic, wood, metal, unglazed ceramic, and more. Additionally, you can relax knowing that they are shielded from outside contaminants.
However, the fumes released during the spray paint’s drying process were a minor drawback that I discovered while using it. They are quite strong and continue after it has dried to the touch for a while. Therefore, applying the paint and allowing it to dry in a well-ventilated space is advised.
- This glossy finish offers fresh shine to painted kitchen cabinets.
- Its excellent durability comes in handy with full coverage and smooth and vivid color.
- It becomes touchable after twenty minutes.
- It covers up to 12 square feet for quick completion of your kitchen cabinet project.
- It offers lasting protection with a tip that can spray at any angle at your comfort and reduces finger fatigue.
- Using this product, you can reach hard-to-paint places.
- The fumes may take time to disperse.
Minwax Helmsman – Best Indoor/Outdoor Urethane
Want a coat that is thicker than those made of water? Here it is: the solution is Minwax Helmsman. I advise using an excellent natural-bristle brush to apply this product.
Although it has a greater tendency to glob, you might find it challenging to apply evenly. If you’re a beginner, you can still use this, but I suggest having some mineral spirits on hand if you need to fix any mistakes. You cannot remove this clear coat with soap and water like you can with water-based products.
It provides less physical protection than other polyurethanes because the oil formula penetrates the wood more quickly than water-based products. The surface will still slightly harden and offer some protection against dings and scratches.
The best waterproofing properties are frequently built into the formulation of spare urethane. You can rely on this product to protect your cabinets from spills and steam in your kitchen because it binds tightly with wood above and below the surface.
Your cabinets won’t fade and will continue to look brand-new for longer, thanks to the UV protection they offer. This is a great option for kitchens with a lot of natural light.
Select from SatinSatin, semi-gloss, or gloss options to choose the degree of naturalness or shine your cabinets exhibit. Each of them leaves behind an incredibly clear finish and looks very polished.
This urethane is an example of how oil-based products can discolor white surfaces more easily than water-based ones. We discourage applying this over white cabinets because you’ll probably notice yellowing quickly. Additionally, it will slightly darken the appearance of raw wood, so keep that in mind if you want your kitchen to have a rustic feel.
Due to the oil base, it dries much more slowly, so you should plan to wait 24 hours before adding another coat. If you have a busy schedule, this will significantly lengthen the time it takes to complete your project.
It’s available in 1-quart and 1-gallon cans, so you can use this to cover big or small areas. It is relatively expensive, so it may be cost-prohibitive for full kitchens.
Since it has a higher concentration of VOCs than many alternative options, you should apply it in a well-ventilated space and use the appropriate safety measures before and while using it.
- It forms a protective barrier against moisture to protect your painted kitchen cabinets and maintain their best look.
- It has protective varnish formula for wood.
- It features special UV blockers that reduce the sun’s graying and fading effects.
- It offers a sleek finish to your painted kitchen cabinets.
- It preserves the wood’s inherent beauty and gives it a sleek, shiny sheen for a contemporary appearance.
- It may be a bit challenging to apply.
- Once you make application mistakes, cleaning up may not be easy.
What to look for when Buying Clear Coat For Painted Kitchen Cabinets
Making the best clear coat choice for your kitchen cabinets is a complex process. Selecting one solution can be challenging if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for.
Before deciding on a specific painting, consider these elements that may affect your overall experience and outcome. Utilize these elements to determine whether a particular paint is right for you and your kitchen.
Choosing a clear coat for any surface is one of the biggest and most frequent considerations. Certain clear coats interact differently with materials, one of which is yellowing.
Yellowing occurs when the clear coat’s base material develops a yellowish hue. This might be caused by the type of wood we use, the dye we apply to the topcoat’s application technique or moisture content.
Check to see if a particular paint will work with your kitchen cabinets’ material. You can look for compatible paint once you know what kind of material you are working with.
Additionally, those with white or another bright color cabinets should take extra precautions to prevent yellowing over time. Compared to darker wood types, where yellowing is less obvious, these lighter woods are more prone to showing signs of the condition.
Due to its adaptability and ease of maintenance, wood is one of the materials we use most frequently in kitchen cabinets. You should select a suitable clear coat option based on your cabinets’ type of finish.
Oil finishes can impact the adhesion and protection of a clear topcoat. If the wood in your cabinets is unfinished, look for a topcoat with an oil-based sealer. This purifies the wood and penetrates it to offer the best possible defense.
If you decide against using an oil-based sealer, stain the wood before applying the final topcoat. Any other paint or coatings won’t be able to adhere to the wood after you apply that final layer.
The Method of Application
The technique used to apply the coating is something else to consider. Applying incredibly thin coatings with a brush can present a small challenge. This is because they frequently drip from the surface while you are trying to apply the coat and run off the brush. This compels the user to apply thin coats, which prompts the user to apply more coats. In essence, it entails a great deal more time and work.
However, when applying the clear coats recommended in our list, you don’t have to use a brush to get good results. You can also use spray guns, abrasives, or rags, and the results will be perfect. For example, you can apply a wipe-on finish such as Minwax Wipe-On Polyurethane and oil-based polyurethane; you can sand a brushed finish level and cover the sanding scratches with wiping varnish or gel varnish, or you can sand a brushed finish level and rub it to the sheen you want using fine abrasives.
But I find spray guns more advantageous than brushing or wiping when using most clear coats on my list. The most obvious difference is the application speed; applying a finish with a spray gun is much faster than wiping or brushing, although some products require only wiping or brushing.
The three types of clear coats—Satin, semi-gloss, and gloss—have varying degrees of sheen. Each of these finishes has distinctive qualities that give the treated material a variety of textures.
At one end of the finish spectrum, there are satin finishes, which have more texture. Once dried, their textured surfaces make cleaning them slightly more difficult.
Between SatinSatin and glossy finishes are semi-gloss finishes. Semi-gloss finishes are smoother and less reflective than glossy finishes, but they still reflect more light than satin finishes.
Because of its crystal-clear smoothness, a glossy, clear finish is commonly used. Glossy finishes are typically the easiest to clean, making them popular in kitchen and furniture pieces. Maintaining a polished finished piece is infinitely easier than maintaining any other finish.
Don’t forget how crucial it is to consider the texture (sheen). The three most popular options have varying degrees of smoothness: gloss, semi-gloss, and SatinSatin. In general, rougher textures are preferable for surfaces where hands or feet frequently come into contact. A hardwood floor shouldn’t be given a full gloss treatment because doing so will make it simpler for someone to slip and fall. As we’ve already mentioned, for maximum safety, handrails and all other objects meant to be grasped require a rougher surface.
The topcoat can last longer than standard paints, thanks to superior durability and resistance to certain factors in a paint. It is best to focus on two characteristics in particular when buying kitchen cabinets: scratch and UV resistance.
The cabinets are one of the most used kitchen appliances and are a hub of activity all day long. Therefore, it is not surprising that they frequently encounter dings and dents. Although scratch resistance can’t completely protect your cabinets from these flaws, it does help to lessen their frequency.
Besides this, UV resistance is a good idea if your kitchen area has windows to maintain the structural integrity of the cabinets. Additionally, it keeps the wood’s color for a longer period. Wood is more prone to warping and color changes when exposed to UV rays.
Kitchens can heat up quickly, especially those that are smaller in size. The wood cabinets might eventually warp as a result of this fluctuation in temperature. You can also look for paint with some degree of heat resistance as an additional layer of defense.
best clear coat for painted kitchen cabinets – Summary
Now that you know more about the options available, you should know what to look for in topcoats for kitchen cabinets.
Choosing the best coat combines and matches features to meet your requirements. For instance, the Rust-oleum 327864’s multi-angle tip makes for a simple application.
Furthermore, the Minwax 13333 Polycrylic has an excellent Polycrylic protective finish that is both long-lasting and simple to apply, thanks to its water-based formula. However, the Rust-Oleum 287722 model is our overall performance pick due to its durability and ease of use.
Whatever clear coat finish you choose, you will not be sorry to have the extra protection on your cabinets. They will not only last longer, but they will also enhance the appearance of your kitchen.