Best Polyurethane For Table Top in 2021 (TOP 5) & Buying Guide

When you need your wooden table to appear more natural than just staining, do you search for the best polyurethane for your table top? A wooden table can last for years, but it is especially vulnerable to scratching, chipping, and moisture.

Protecting your wood table top from such things is all-important. If you can get the right polyurethane, it will safeguard the functionality and appearance, also provide the most protection to the surface.

It is a crucial choice to select the right finish. Since a table can actually be used every day, so the finish must be durable and safe enough.

Furnishing a table top requires a tough, transparent, and water-resistant coating that emphasizes the beauty of the lumber underneath it.

You also have to take extra precautions to make sure the polyurethane you use is safe for food while the table is used for serving meals.

In no particular order, we selected or reviewed some best products that we think suitable for most kinds of timber used to make a table top, based on their ratings on Amazon.

Hope this will provide you clearer consideration on answer the question of what is the best finish for table tops.

The Top-Rated Polyurethane For Table Top (Recommendation)







What Do You Need To Know Before Applying A Finish To Your Furniture?

1. What Is Polyurethane?

This is a super tough kind of varnish developed that is closely bound to each other by the microscopic chairs of resin molecules as it dries.

The finish using polyurethane is much more resistant to water, solvents, abrasion, and impacts than traditional varnishes.

Oil poly gives a warm amber tone to wood. Using water based poly if you want timber to retain its light color.

Characteristics Oil Based Water Based
Durability Excellent Good to very good
Dry to the touch Several hours 10 to 20 minutes
Odor Substantial Low
Flammable Yes No
Cleanup, Safety Mineral spirits rags may be spontaneously combustible Soap and water rags are safely disposable
Appearance Amber, good chatoyance Clear, sometimes cloudy, gray, or pale
Best applicators Natural bristle brush, nylon abrasive pad, spray gun A synthetic bristle brush, paint pad, spray gun

Table: The Differences Between Oil Based And Water Based Polyurethane

 2. Factors That Affect The Decision Of Selecting The Best Clear Finish For Your Projects:

Project type:

A project for heavy use, such as a table top, needs more safety than a project which will be minimized to tear and wear.

Make sure that your projects are right on a distinct protective finishing.

Sun and moisture exposure:

Doors, windows, wardrobes, kitchens, and furniture for outdoors may all be exposed to sunshine, an adjustment in temperature and humidity.

You need to protect a finish with UV absorbers and special oils that expand and contract with temperature changes for certain conditions.

Crystal clear or amber tone:

Some clear finishes contribute a deep, warm amber tone, others remain crystal clear.

You can pick whatever look you want.

However, it is better to secure the project with a finish that stays crystal whether stained or unfinished wood.

Ease of application:

Some clear finish can be cleaned easily by a fabric, drops, or brush marks is not a concern.

Others dry up really fast and can be washed up with water and soap, while some need mineral spirits.

3. How To Apply Polyurethane: Brush, Wipe, Spray

Each type has its favorite applicator, a brush, or a cloth usually.

Some polys are also available in spray aerosol containers.

Brush on polys:

This type performs best on flat surfaces where a durable film is important.

The brushes can hold a lot of polish, so each time you load them up, you can cover a large area.

Wipe on polys:

This type is best for curved surfaces, where brushing can lead to drops.

Wipe-on is lighter than brush-on, so use them if wearing is not a matter of concern.

Spray poly:

This is used for hard surfaces that are difficult to reach.

Aerosol sprays need good procedures to minimize the chance of drips, and additional planning periods to prevent unnecessary spraying on surfaces.

They are not as tough as you are brushing on their thin films. Some experts suggest that this is the best method to apply polyurethane for table top.

The primary drawback of wipe-on and spray is that they only result in thin coats.

You probably need more coats for a decent covering coating, can up to 5 or 6 coats, rather than 2 or 3 coats of the standard brush-on method.

More specially, check out this video to know how to apply poly finish on a wood table: 

4. How To Care For Your Urethane-Coated Tables?

A poly finished table on which you are working or dining must be cleaned daily to keep it sanitary and look nice.

It is really easy to take care of your coated table.

Your main responsibility would be to clean and secure the surfaces.

Step 1: Dip your cloth into the warm, sudsy water and use it to clean the table.

Step 2: Periodically wash the table with white vinegar. White vinegar is a soft and effective deodorizer, moderate disinfectant, and cleaner.

Step 3: Use microfiber cloths to dust the top.

Do not use oil or brushed furniture that can fade the finish of polyurethane.

Step 4: Place your table in a room with a moderate temperature and free of humidity.

Step 5: Do not let the direct sunlight reach your top, which can cause damages and fades your coating.

Best Polyurethane For Table Top Shortlist (Updated List)

Product imagesProduct namesEditor's ratingPrice

*Please note that the picks are chosen by the editor, the ratings and reviews on Amazon may be changed over time.

The Best Polyurethane For Table Top


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Key features

  • Easy to apply
  • Water, household chemicals, food stains, and wear resistance
  • Available in gloss or satin
  • Dry time: 2 to 3 hours
  • Coating needs: 3 is recommended
  • Application method: Free lint cloth

A professional finish such as pre-catalyzed lacquer is always the best choice for transparent coating, but that means you have a spray booth with top-quality equipment.

However, with this wipe on product, you still also achieve goof-proof simplicity, speed, and ease.

This product is used for carved, embossed, or profiled surfaces which the brush may leave drips or brush marks. It is useful even in previously polished timber for covering superficial scratches.

Its thin-film provides mild abrasion safety.

It is available in gloss or satin sheens, and oil based or water based formulations.

You can apply it with a lint-free cloth, this is the perfect oil based for furniture, interior doors, trim and other woodwork.

Another specification of this kind is its fast dryness.

It only takes 2 to 3 hours to dry between each time of applying a coating.  

It is super simple to apply, goes on smoothly and you will not have to think about bubbles or brush streaks.


  • Fast: You can coat a project in less than half the time it takes to use the brush.
  • Easy: Unlike brushes, it does not require skills or expensive tools to wipe on a flawless poly coat.
  • Dust resistance: Because the coating is thin and easy to dry out, airborne dust causes “nubs” are much less possible. It is perfect for finishing on site.
  • No need to clean up: Just simply dispose of the clothes, can, and gloves, no need to clean the brush.


  • Expensive: Overall, wipe on poly is double the price of the brush on types.
  • Slow build: In general, three coats are required to balance the accumulation you get from one brush on a poly coat. These extra coats also make up the pace of the wipe on the application.
  • It can be dull after cured.


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Key features

  • Easy to apply
  • Heavy bodied
  • Dry time: 6 to 12 hours
  • Coating needs: Normally 1 to 2
  • Application method: wipe on, foam brush, natural bristle brush of free lint cloth.

General Finishes Gel Stains can be the simplest to use and create a hand rubbed effect without the whole task. Applying with a foam brush or free lint cloth is easy.

The hard-bodied gel formulation helps the liquid to run uniformly, avoiding inconsistent penetration for uniform color control, without drops or runs.

With no sanding between the coats (it is your choice to sand or not) and a fast re-coating time, less work and improved results can be obtained earlier than ever before.

General Finishes Gel Stains is also the stain that gives the most ‘finishing feel’ of all the General Finishes’ products.

However, sometimes it leaves a yellowish tint.

It may work in some cases but if you work on white color surfaces, you should not use this product.

Some customers got surprised because of the ability to cover large staining projects.

One-quarter of a container could go a lot.

It was able to use in various applications.

This is one of the best polyurethane finish for pine table top and other hardwood table tops like poplar, walnut, etc.


  • Easy to apply
  • Easy to clean up using mineral spirits
  • Do not penetrate as deeply into the timber as liquid oil based stains do
  • Give the lustrous finish on the final result
  • Give a more even stunning looking on hardwoods such as aspen or pine


  • The actual color may be darker than you expect (based on the reviews on Amazon)
  • Tends to drip
  • The stain will chip off over time
  • Be careful when using light color stains since it can leave brush strokes.


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Key features

  • One of the most durable protective coatings for wood
  • Can be used for both finished and unfinished lumber
  • Dry fast and offer long-lasting beauty
  • Easy to apply
  • Drying time: 4 to 6 hours
  • Coating needs: 2 to 3

Minwax Fast Drying Polyurethane is one of the best clear finish for table tops because of its sturdy ability to cover wooden furnishings.

This substance is certainly one of the hardest defensive layers you expect in wood.

It has a realistic package that makes it more versatile.

The formula is great since on completed and unfinished surfaces it is possible to use on.

However, be careful to apply in as dust-free area as possible to get a slick attractive finish.

Moreover, it has a quicker drying time and once heals, it gives one of the most enduring elegant beauties for your different types of timber.

The durability brought by Minwax Fast Drying product also enhances the beauty of your table top.


  • Easy to apply
  • Fast drying time
  • Give a hard protective layer
  • A versatile product
  • Give gloss finish


  • Sometimes you may face dark spots and bubbles after application
  • Require extra coats
  • Higher rate of defects from thinner paint
  • Need sanding between coats


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Key features

  • Safe for food contact
  • Fast drying
  • No brushing
  • Water and alcohol resistance
  • Specified for maple tops
  • Drying time: At least 4 hours between coats

This Good Stuff product is easy to use finish gel for raw or unfinished surfaces.

Formulated with fast-drying synthetic oil, this product provides exceptional protection, immune to moisture, color, and most solvents, which is designed to improve the natural beauty of the top.

It is great for completion or refilling of butcher block islands and countertops, cabinetry even wood cooking utensils, etc.

Considered as the best oil based finish for table top, the finish is moisture, flecks, and certain solvents resistant after applying.

Also, this substance is safe for food touch, which means you can use on the kitchen without worrying.

Moreover, the product is specified for maple tops.

Of course, you can use it for other kinds of timber, however, it works as one of the best polyurethane on maple table tops.


  • Safe for food and kitchen uses
  • Highly resistant to water, moisture, alcohol
  • Perfect for maple boards


  • Overapplying causes the not good statin finish (looks as shiny as gloss).
  • Leave brush marks
  • Hard finish and easy to be scratched off.


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Key features

  • A perfect selection for exterior uses above the waterline.
  • Oil based formula provides excellent resistance to weather conditions
  • Drying time: 2 hours
  • Gloss finish
  • Twice as durable as traditional wood finishes

If you are finding a product focus on longevity, this is your ultimate answer.

The Rust-Oleum Marine Spar Varnish saves your tabletop from any burden you may have.

It dries in a crystal clear finish, which improves the natural charm of the natural grain in your lumber.

This formula takes just 2 hours to dry to touch and is one of today’s fastest drying polyurethane.

A region of 150 square feet can be covered with just a can of this product.

It also has the specification to resist UV light, salt, mildew as well, which makes it the best for the outdoor suit.

Depending on the conditions of the current atmosphere, this oil-based substance will contract and grow to make the solution of an all-season defensive coat.

Although it has the term “spar” on its name, this product still can be used in multiple areas, not just on sailing boats.

For example, you can use it for barriers, trims, furniture, etc. on external timber surfaces, such as on top of waterline vessels.


  • Beautiful crystal clear gloss finish
  • UV, water, mildew resistance
  • Best for outdoor tops
  • Oil based formula for deep penetration


  • Some reviews said it takes longer to dry
  • Flammable
  • Bad odor

Things To Keep In Mind When Finding The Best Finish For Your Table Top

1. Water based or oil based urethane?

While all have strengths and weaknesses, when it comes to choosing the right type for table top, oil based type is preferable.

It is a little more tolerant in terms of use because as it dries it forms a hard, impenetrable surface that protects the timber from moisture and food stains (best polyurethane for coffee table top).

However, you should use the water based one if the table is made of light-colored oak, as it brings a crystal clear finish, rather than having a light amber tint.

2. Durability

Durability is critical since you finish a kitchen table, which is extensively used every day.

After all, every day you will actually eat on the table, you need to wipe it down daily.

You can also place your keys, bags, or make food on it, or use it as arts and crafts for decoration.

All of these activities remind you it is a smart idea to pick the most enduring finish to get the most out of for your buck.

The poly finishes are the most durable, which means the best choice.

Moreover, in general, stay away from shellac because it can be tough and tends to take on a yellow color as time goes by.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Best Polyurethane For Table Top

1.What Is The Best Finish For Outdoor Table Top?

Outdoor works require maintenance and protection from moisture and UV light to prevent being rot and color bleached out.

Often, products with the term ‘Spar’ in the name are suitable for external uses.

The term originates with its use as a coating for spars on sailing ships, to guard against humidity and UV radiation.

Spar polyurethane should be applied in many coats using a natural bristle brush for the maximum protection and a deep lustrous finish.

2. Are Your Sealers Added To Light Wood Table Top Such As Maple, Or White Or Other Color Painted On Wood?

You should avoid oil based polyurethane.

When it dries, it can leave a yellow tint.

3. Is Polyurethane Really Good For Table Tops?

Not to mention the polyurethane, coating a protective layer always be a must to help your table tops last longer and look better too.

Nothing can beat polyurethane for a combination of usability and durability for your furniture.

Oil based type that dries more slowly than the water type is suitable for beginners because it allows more working time.

In addition, water based finish will remain crystal clear.

4. What Is The Best Way To Apply Polyurethane For Kitchen Table?

The easiest way to apply poly finish on a kitchen table top is to spray it so far.

But it is better to use a foam brush to avoid streaking if you are sensitive to VOCs and committed to brushing.

Sanding is an important preparation step.

Sand the top with sandpaper grits up to a smooth and scratch-free to prevent returning to sand again that may create fragile yet noticeable blemishes.

At least three finishing coats are required to produce the best results, but maybe, even more, is required sometimes.

5. What Is The Best Finish For Cedar Table Top?

With a soft and easily dented timber like cedar, you will need a flexible finish.

An oil and varnish mixture could be used with 4 to 5 applying coats or, better still, use a flexible product like marine spar varnish.

These kinds of varnish are formulated to be versatile to allow quick movement of boards due to regular moisture changes.

This function allows dents without them causing the finish to crack.


We hope thanks to our reviews, you now can choose what is the best polyurethane finish for your table top, also other wooden projects.

The finish you chose is critical when you refurbish the furniture.

You will achieve a perfect result by research and pick carefully the products that are appropriate for your experience and kind of project.

We recommend using the MINWAX FAST DRYING POLYURETHANE for the most flawless gloss, semi-gloss, or satin finish. It also brings the best protection effect to your board.

Moreover, the fast dryness means that you will not have to wait long to see your stunning results.

For the outdoor table, the best decision is RUST-OLEUM MARINE SPAR VANISH  since it is specially formulated for external purposes.

It protects the table from water, moisture, mildew, and also UV rays.

We have listed some of the best polyurethane products you can find on the market today. We hope every product on our list is value for your money. Enjoy your shopping!

Further Reading:

Tags: wood surfaces, type of finish, wood grain, dries faster, long time

4.5/5 - (2 votes)

1 Comment

  1. Wonderful goods from you, man. I have take into account your stuff previous to and you are just extremely wonderful. Maxine Wyatt Britt

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