Not sure which clear coat to use on your project? Check out this comparison between Polyurethane and Polycrylic to help you decide.
If you like to DIY, there’s a good chance that you’ve used Polyurethane or Polycrylic before. If you paint or stain your work and you want it to stay in pristine condition, you’ll want to add a clear coat to it. But how do you know which one to use? Well, you’re in luck because today I’m going to talk about each and explain the difference.
Polyurethane – Oil Based
Here are some of the details taken straight from the Minwax product page on Amazon.com.
- Provides long-lasting beauty and protection to any interior wood surface
- Among the most durable coatings for wood protection
- Ideal for woodworking, furniture, doors, cabinets, and floors
- Can be used on both finished and Unfinished wood
- It provides long-lasting protection and beauty to interior wood surfaces such as furniture, floors, doors, and cabinets
- Its superior durability makes it ideal for use on all your wood surfaces
- Dries fast and offers long-lasting beauty on both finished and unfinished wood surfaces
Do you see a pattern? Every detail mentions wood. That is because that is what polyurethane is for. One of the main reasons being that polyurethane yellows over time, and I don’t mean years. I mean months. On a wood surface, the yellowing isn’t even noticeable, but if you try to coat a painted surface with polyurethane, especially if it’s a light color, you’ll be able to see the yellowing within just a few months.
For wood though, Polyurethane is the best choice. It provides a durable finish that will add years to your piece.
Get Access to The Busy Mom Free Printables Library!
Polyurethane – Water-based
Water-based polyurethane is much easier to use than its oil-based alternative. Since it’s water based, you won’t need a paint thinner like mineral spirits for cleanup. You also won’t need a respirator. While you should be in a well-ventilated area no matter which paint or finish you’re using, water-based finishes are much easier to stand.
Much like the oil based version this finish goes on thick and offers a nice shiny clear coat. It doesn’t yellow like the oil version but it doesn’t offer quite the protection either. It is particularly more susceptible to heat and chemicals that the oil based.
The dry time for water-based polyurethane is similar, probably due to their liquid plastic base. You have to give each coat time to dry before lightly sanding and adding the next, so it could take quite some time to finish your project.
Polycrylic is a water-based clear coat that can be used on almost any surface to add a protective finish. It stays clear without yellowing, making it perfect for painted surfaces. It comes in different finishes ranging from gloss to matte, depending on the look you’re going for. For example, if you paint a piece of furniture with chalk paint and you want to keep that matte finish but you want to be able to use it regularly without your amazing paint job getting ruined, Polycrylic in a matte finish would be a great choice. It will protect your furniture without adding a glossy coating over your matte paint.
Polycrylic is fast drying but it is also thin, so you will need to be particularly careful painting vertical surfaces. Check for runs and wipe them away quickly before the finish has a chance to set. Because of its thin consistency, several coats are needed to obtain a similar durability to water-based polyurethane.
DIY Comparison Between Polyurethane and Polycrylic
I hope this makes it easier for you to decide which option is best for your next project. If it’s unpainted wood, you really can’t beat the finish of oil-based polyurethane, but if it’s painted, Polycrylic might be an easier choice.
Do you have a favorite clear coat? Leave a comment and let me know which you prefer.