Best Clear Coat for Kitchen Cabinets in 2021

What is the best clear coat for kitchen cabinets? We’ll get into our top 10 products a little further down the article, but first, let’s discuss exactly what is a clear coat, and why you might want to use one.

Best Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets – Introduction

When it comes to the kitchen, our eyes will first look for kitchen cabinets. And what if they look amazingly attractive due to its finishing! Yes, though it is easy to think about building kitchen cabinets but to give it a stunning finishing requires a great deal of research.

From choosing to the design of the cabinet to the final style, color and quality, it takes much time to think.

Most importantly, the concern is about the finish look of the cabinet. And it is easy to get confused about the choices of clear coat for kitchen cabinets.

For that this article will give you the reviews of best clear coats for the kitchen cabinets that will give the best finish look to your kitchen cabinets.

Best Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets
Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets

What is a ‘Clear Coat’?

“Clear coat simply” refers to the ‘varnish’ or the final finish that we give to the kitchen cabinets by applying it like a paint. This not only provides a clear and attractive finish to the cabinets but it is also durable from corrosion or heat.

Different Types of Clear Coats

Though there are hundreds of options to buy the varnish, it is better to know about the types of clear coats. There are basically two types of clear coats: water-based clear coats and oil-based clear coats.

Oil-Based Clear Coats versus Water-Based Clear Coats

Clear coats work as a hard and resistant surface for the kitchen cabinets. While oil-based clear coats are much more durable than the water-based clear coats, Water-based clear coats dries much earlier than oil-based clear coats. Also, water-based clear coats odors less than the other one.

The 10 Best Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets Are:

S.No Top Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets Product Link
1 General Finishes Topcoat Buy Now
2 Rust-Oleum Polyurethane Buy Now
3 Minwax Polycrylic Buy Now
4 Minwax Helsman Buy Now
5 Minwax Wipe- On- Poly Buy Now
6 Watco Lacquer Clear Wood Finish Buy Now
7 Deft Interior Clear Wood Finish Buy Now
8 Minwax Brushing Lacquer Buy Now
9 Deft Interior Waterborne Clear Wood Finish Buy Now
10 Deft Interior Exterior Water-Based Polyurethane Buy Now

Detailed Reviews of the Best Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets

General Finishes Topcoat

General Finishes is known for its best finish and is one of the well- known brands. This has diverse sheens from satin, gloss to semi-gloss which can be used as per desire. The best thing about it is that it contains a UV stabilizer which keeps away the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Any side which is in contact with sun rays will get protected from its UV effect. Apart from this, it is very durable and gives a high-grade finish to the cabinets without making scratches for a very long time. Since it is a water-based clear coat, it dries instantly within around 2 hours.

general finishes topcoat

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Pros Cons
  • Water-Based Clear Coat
  • Gives Best Finish
  • A Well- Known and most trusted brand
  • Available in diverse Sheens
  • UV Stabilizer
  • Dries Faster
  • Very Durable
  • Resistant to Scratches
  • A little expensive



Rust-Oleum is a big name in paint and clear coat and is one of the most trusted brands. It is a water-based clear coat and thus dries faster and harder. Its crystal clear gloss layer brings the natural beauty of the wood, but it should be applied after staining the wood. For the best result, combine it with the light stain that obtains its maximum beauty.

rust oleum clear coats

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Pros Cons
  • Water-Based Clear Coat
  • Dries Faster and Harder
  • Very Durable
  • Inexpensive
  • Gives Crystal Clear Gloss Finish
  • Very Thin

Minwax Polycrylic

It is a very well known brand and the most recommended one for professionals. Many are familiar with this product due to its long usage history. This is another water-based clear coat with fast-drying formula and dries faster. Within few hours it dries. It has a very low odor and most importantly, it is available in several versions. Since it is a bit thin, more than one coat of it is needed to make the surface harder.  All these properties make it a very desirable product.

minwax polycrylic protective finish for kitchen cabinets

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Pros Cons
  • Trusted Brand with a long history
  • Water-Based Clear Coat
  • Fast Drying Formula
  • Available in various versions
  • Has a very Low Odor
  • A Bit Thin
  • Needs to do more than a single coat

Minwax Helmsman

If you are looking for a clear coat with maximum durability, then it is the best designed for longer durability. Since it has a UV stabilizer, it is best for outdoor use but it can also be used in indoors. It stays away the harmful sun rays to break polyurethane. Not only this Helmsman product is cheaper than the General Finishes, but it is more durable than the latter one. It resistant to all kinds of weather conditions without damaging the varnish and wood. It is most suitable

for the area that experiences very hot or very cold weather conditions. Thus, this clear coat gives a great finish as well as durability.

minwax helmsman varnish for kitchen cabinets

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Pros Cons
  • Maximum Durability
  • UV Stabilizer
  • Cheaper than other products
  • Flex with wood perfectly
  • Resist to harsh weather conditions
  • Best for outdoors only
  • Emphasis only on durability

Minwax Wipe-On- Poly

It is not used as to simply paint with a brush but meant to be wiped on with a cloth. This makes the final look a bit different. This product is liked mostly because it is available in either full gloss or a clear satin. Due to this reason, it gives many variations to the textures of your finish so that you have more than one choice.

People who like the hand-rubbed finish will only come from this wipe on the product. The only issue with this is that it is not as thick as paint while applying. But it is suitable where you want a thin finish.

This product is apt for cabinets as it preserves the natural beauty of the wood. It is an oil-based clear coat and takes a bit longer time to dry. Hence, one needs to wait longer to apply another coat if one wants. However, this oil-based clear coat will form a softer surface and gives a good grip ideally for kitchen cabinets.

The one thing that needs to be considered is also that since it is a oil-based clear coat, it will darken the tone of the wood when it is applied. Hence, if one needs a darker shade then it is the best product but if not then this product needs to be replaced with any water-based clear coat.

wipe on poly best clear coat

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Pros Cons
  • Oil-Based Clear Coat
  • Darken the tone of the wood
  • Easy to Use
  • Form a Softer surface
  • Takes much longer time to dry
  • Softer surface may not be ideal for some surfaces
  • Better for thin finishes

Watco Lacquer Clear Wood Finish

This product is known for its high-quality lacquer. Though it is a bit more expensive than the other clear coats, it has some amazing qualities. The most excellent feature of this product is that it can be used to fill the little gaps and cracks that are present in the kitchen cabinets.

It also gives the best finish with no color when properly applied to the cabinets. Another great property of it is that it has a self- leveling formula which prevents the brush strokes to form and hence suitable for visible pieces of wood in cabinets. It has a crystal clear gloss layer gives the hard finish, and thus protects from any kind of wear and tear.

watco lacquer clear wood finish

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Pros Cons
  • High-Quality Lacquer
  • Fill gaps and cracks
  • Gives no color
  • Self- Leveling formula
  • Crystal clear gloss layer
  • Resist any kind of wear and tear
  • A bit expensive
  • Need to be thinner if using a spray gun
  • No UV resistance
  • No water resistance

Deft Interior Clear Wood Finish

It is another type of lacquer but has different qualities. It is made up from 100% of nitrocellulose. It gives the wood a very glossy finish and so it is appropriate for those who want shiny and glossy kitchen cabinets.  This product dries very quickly, approx in 30 minutes.

It is very resistant to any kind of scratching. Every coat of it gives great finish without wasting any time. However, it is highly flammable and its chemical composition is not very much environment-friendly. Also, it smells bad until it dries and it does not suitable for the spray gun.

deft interior clear wood finish

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Pros Cons
  • Crystal clear gloss finish
  • Dries very quickly
  • Very resistant to any kind of scratching
  • Does not require sanding
  • Highly Flammable
  • Some Chemical components are not environmentally friendly
  • Cannot be used in spray gun
  • Smells bad until it dries

Minwax Brushing Lacquer

This product’s features are similar to the Deft Interior one. It is another example of nitrocellulose lacquer. It can only be used with a brush and not as a spray gun until it is mixed with water or alcohol to make it thinner. It is highly flammable due to its toxic chemical composition.

Also, it dries within 30 minutes but one needs to wait for approximately 2 hours before applying another coat. Nitrocellulose lacquers has filler and a solvent. With the help of these two, it blends seamlessly and creates a crystal- clear gloss finish. The cons of this product is that it is a bit expensive than the other products mentioned in the list. Also, it smells badly until it dries.

minwax clear aerosol lacquer

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Pros Cons
  • Dries very faster, within 30 minutes and cures within two hours
  • Gives crystal clear gloss finish
  • Layers blend together and hence sanding is not needed
  • Much more expensive than other products in this list
  • Can only used with brush
  • Smells bad until it dries
  • Highly flammable and toxic

Deft Interior Waterborne Clear Wood Finish

This is a water-based clear coat which means that it has more pros than cons. It does not smell bad; it is neither flammable nor toxic. It is a semi-gloss clear coat that gives great shine and gloss to the cabinets without creating a glare.

It is suitable for the darker shades of wood, thus does not needs a high level of sheen. It also dries very quickly and used can be with both spray gun and a brush. The only problem is that since it is a water-based clear coat, it requires a light sanding before applying the next coat. It is also not suitable for outdoor use and is perhaps the most expensive clear coat on the list.

deft clear wood satin finish for kitchen cabinets

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Pros Cons
  • Water-based clear coat
  • Non-Flammable and non-toxic
  • Does not smell bad
  • Suitable for darker shades
  • Dries quickly
  • Thin consistency
  • Requires sanding between coats
  • Not suitable for outdoor use
  • Most expensive paint on this list

Deft Interior Exterior Water-Based Polyurethane

This product is perhaps the best option for use in kitchen cabinets due to its multifunctional qualities. Though it is a bit expensive, it is very durable and can be used for different purposes. Be it indoor, outdoor or marine, it is widely used for its great quality.

It is resisting to extreme weather conditions such as warm or cold atmosphere. It also resists the UV rays of sun from damaging the wood or its layer. It is not an entirely water-based clear coat, it has some amount of oil base and thus gives the qualities of both water and oil base clear coat.

The oil base present in the product gives a very good finishing to the kitchen cabinets.

deft interior water based polyurethane

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Pros Cons
  • Can be used for indoor and outdoor
  • UV resistance
  • Blend of water and oil base, mostly water
  • Gives good finish
  • A bit expensive
  • Does not blend layers

Best Clear Coat for Kitchen Cabinets – Conclusion

We hope you’ve enjoyed our article about the best clear coats for kitchen cabinets! Whether you’re just touching up the finishing to your cabinets, or completely redoing your entire kitchen, we hope you’ve been able to find the right product to give you the finish you want.

Here are some other articles that may interest you:

Best 10 Finishes for Wood Kitchen Table

Best Epoxy Resin For Wood

Outdoor Wood Sealers