Minwax vs Varathane – Know the difference between these polyurethane

Minwax and Varathane – both are types of Polyurethane. What is Polyurethane? Polyurethane is a type of plastic that is quite adaptable, and we use it in our day to day lives in different ways and forms. Polyurethane, because of its chemical properties, is quite flexible and can be molded according to the use – which is quite multifaceted – to make our life more comfortable and convenient. It is used everywhere, from the refrigerator and building insulation to something as simple as shoe soles and car parts.

Coming to the question – Understanding the difference between Minwax and polyurethane, you need to know what both polyurethanes are used for.


Minwax is a clear, water-based, and oil-based (Its two types) long-lasting protective finish. It gives durable beauty and protects any interior wooden surface. It is considered one of the most durable coatings for the protection of wood. It is used ideally for wood related work, furnishing work, wooden doors/cabinets/floor. 

Does Minwax make wood water-proof?

No. However, it does make it water-resistant.

How long does Minwax take to dry?

It would help if you never shook Minwax. Use a thin layer of Minwax and apply it using a high quality natural or foam brush. It takes around four to six hours to dry. After it dries, apply a layer of sand with the help of thin sandpaper and seal the adhesion. One advantage of drying quickly is that you can apply up to three coats a day, but you have to clean it quickly in case of a mistake. 

Is minwax polyshades water based?

As stated above, Minwax can be in two forms, oil-based and water-based too. The properties and usage of both types of poly shades are different. Water-based minwax polyshade is durable and best for coatings. 


Like Minwax, Varathene is an oil-based as well as a water-based protective finish too. It provides excellent scratch and stain resistance, which prevents dullness in the wood surface. It is a wood varnish that is available in the form of liquid foam as well. It protects from discoloration as well. Like Minwax, Varathane helps make the wood water-resistant as well and repels water absorption, but is not 100% water-proof. 

How long does Varathane take to dry?

This may depend on the humidity percentage. It normally takes 1-2 hours to dry and can be recoated every 4 hours. It takes seventy-two hours to be “fully cured.”

Should you apply sand between coats?

 Yes, you can apply sand between coats as it provides a better finishing. It may give a whitish-grainy look, but there is no need to worry – it vanishes as the next coat is applied, which is why you should not apply sand on your final coat. You can apply the sand with a 220 or 240 grit sandpaper or an extra-fine steel wool.

Available product types for Minwax and Varathane

Minwax and Varathane have different types, which are Minwax or Varathane (wood paste finishing paste, wood paste finishing wax, Polyshades, Wood stains, putties).

If we strictly talk about the wood finishing aspect, and what type is better for you, continue to the next segment.

Which is the ultimate better option?

Both of them provided a good finish and are widely used. Varathane (Oil-based) requires the application of only a single coating (generally) as it is thicker and has a better quality. 

On the other side, Minwax (Water-based) dries quicker than Varathene (Water-based).

In general, between oil-based and water-based finishing, for both Minwax and Varathene, oil-based coating is more preferable as it provides more gloss/shine compared to the water-base and prevents the wood surface from getting duller. It lasts longer, as well. However, the water-base is easier to clean. Varathane provides more shine and prevents “yellowing.” However, it may peel off easily too. 

Minwax vs. Varathane

To conclude, choosing between Minwax and Varathane is indeed a confusing choice. Not only do you have to choose between the two, but also the base. After reading the article – You be the judge of that. But regardless of what you select, ensure that there are no dust particles or greasy on the surface before applying. Also, keep a cabinet scraper handy, in case some bumps appear while applying on the sand layers. 

One Comment

  1. I used both urethanes when I was refinishing my kitchen table and chairs and found that Varathane was thicker and left a more uneven surface. I sanded the Varathane smooth then used steel wool, cleaned the surfaces and then used Minwax urethane and found it was a bit more smooth flowing and left an almost perfect surface. I still had to polish it up with fine steel wool. I noticed when using the Varathane the brush actually felt like it was sticking to the surface — the Varathane was semi-gloss. With the Minwax urethane the brush strokes where much smother and the surface looked smoother. When I used the Minwax urethane I had switched to the satin finish since I felt the semi-gloss was a bit too glossy. This is just my experience and I don’t do this type of work as a business so there may be many reasons I had one urethane work better for than the other.

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