11 Best Clear Coats Over Latex Paint

Latex paint is one of the most dependable paints for painting wood. It’s water-based, easy to use, dries quickly, and is inexpensive. It also almost always comes in a wide range of colors.

Another benefit of latex paint is it’s relatively durable. However, it’s certainly not as resilient as other paints such as oil-based paint. That being said, for maximum protection, consider using a top coat over your latex-painted piece. 

But with so many clear coats to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow down the selection.

In this post, we’ll cover the best clear coats for latex paint.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Both water-based and oil-based sealants work with latex paint. Here are the 11 best clear coats over latex paint:

  • Minwax Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish
  • Rust-Oleum Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane
  • Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane
  • Minwax Helmsman Spar Aerosol Spray
  • Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane Protective Wood Finish
  • General Finishes High-Performance Topcoat
  • General Finishes Flat Out Flat Topcoat
  • Rust-Oleum Ultimate Polyurethane
  • Benjamin Moore Stays Clear
  • Minwax Wipe-On Poly Water-Based Polyurethane
  • Rust-Oleum Lacquer Spray

Best Clear Coat Products For Latex Paint

Minwax Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish

Minwax’s polycrylic finish is one of the most popular clear coats over latex paint. As a water-based finish, it’s great at retaining its clarity over time and isn’t prone to yellowing like many oil-based top coats. It has impressive coverage, being able to cover a wide area (a quart can cover up to 600 square feet).

Better yet, this product offers five different sheens: ultra-flat, matte, semi-gloss, gloss, and satin. 

It dries fast (you can recoat within two hours), so you can easily apply multiple coats in one day with a bit of planning. It comes in can and spray form.

If you’re looking for a long-lasting clear finish that doesn’t yellow over time and with great coverage, this product is an excellent choice.

Available here on Amazon

Rust-Oleum Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane

If you want a highly durable top coat, polyurethane is an excellent choice. Rust-Oleum Varathane is a water-based polyurethane that offers excellent scratch and stain protection. And thanks to its versatility, it can work on a wide range of surfaces such as doors, cabinets, painted trims, and other wood products.

But that’s not its only selling point. This product dries relatively quickly! It’s touch-dry within 1-2 hours and can be recoated after 2 hours.

Rust-Oleum Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane is best used on interior surfaces. Note that as a water-based solution, it’s easy to clean up with soap and water if it spills on the hardwood floor, or carpet.

Available here on Amazon

Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane

For outdoor projects, Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane is one of the best clear coats to use. It has great resistance against UV radiation and water damage. That said, it’s great for protecting your painted surface from the elements and won’t yellow over time from exposure to sunlight. 

However, while it’s great for exterior use, it can also be used for interior surfaces too. Since the formulate is so great at protecting surfaces from water and high humidity, it’s a great top coat for cabinets, tables, and other surfaces in kitchens, bathrooms and other high-humidity areas of the house.

Available here on Amazon

Minwax Helmsman Spar Aerosol Spray

If you’re looking for a clear coat that you can apply quickly and efficiently, Minwax Helmsman Spar Aerosol Spray is a great choice. It has the same fortified alkyd resin formula as its liquid, brush-on counterpart. 

Spray-on products can be applied much more efficiently than liquid top coats that must be manually brushed on. And as long as you have a steady hand it’s easy to get an even finish with spray-on solutions. 

Just like its brush-on counterpart, it’s a sealant that can be used both indoors and outdoors. It has the same great resistance to UV light.

Available here on Amazon

Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane Protective Wood Finish

If you’re looking for a product that has the durability of oil-based polyurethane and the quick-dry quality of water-based polyurethane, Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane is a great choice. It is an oil-based polyurethane that has a long-lasting finish that can protect all types of wood surfaces from scuffing and moisture. It even works well on unfinished wood.

It can be used on doors, cabinets, countertops, tables, and even floors. However, note that you need to be careful when applying this product since it’s high in VOCs and releases a strong smell. Be sure to work in a well-ventilated space, and wear a respirator mask to be extra safe.

Available here on Amazon

General Finishes High-Performance Topcoat

This product is one of the toughest water-based polyurethane finishes available. In fact, General Finishes claims this is “the hardest, most durable consumer polyurethane top coat on the market today”. It can easily withstand scratches, stains, and dings. Suffice it to say that this is a great solution if you want to preserve the quality and look of your painted surface for a very long time. 

It dries fast, being able to recoat within 1-2 hours after application. It’s low VOC and odorless, making it a great product to use indoors.

The downside is this polyurethane is prone to ambering on light-colored paints even though it’s water-based. That said, if you want to apply polyurethane to white paint without yellowing, opt for another solution. 

Available here on Amazon

General Finishes Flat Out Flat Topcoat

General Finishes Flat Out Flat Topcoat is a clear wax commonly used for chalk-painted furniture. Since chalk paint (and other furniture paints like milk paint) have soft matte finishes, it’s best to use a ultra-flat finish that compliments the finish of the chalk paint. Hence, wax finishes like this one are perfect if you’re thinking about chalk-painting furniture.  

However, it’s important to note that while wax finishes look nice, they aren’t as resilient as their polyurethane and polycrylic alternatives. Additionally, wax needs to be applied to chalk paint every few months to maintain it. That said, it’s probably best not to use wax unless you’re working with chalk paint or similar matte furniture paint.

Available here on Amazon

Rust-Oleum Ultimate Polyurethane

This water-based polyurethane product has a unique soft-touch feature. Not only can this finish protect your painted surface from scratches, but it can also protect it from smudges and fingerprints. This feature also makes the top coat feel softer than traditional polyurethane products.

It has a durable finish, able to protect your latex-painted surface for a very long time. It’s easy to apply and as a water-based top coat, it dries quickly and releases low amounts of VOCs.

Available here on Amazon

Benjamin Moore Stays Clear

This acrylic polyurethane produces a durable and clear finish that dries quickly and is resilient to wear and tear. It comes in three sheens: flat, high gloss, and low luster.

Benjamin Moore is best known for their paints. Nevertheless, the brand also has an excellent collection of stains. However, one of the biggest downsides of Benjamin Moore is you can’t purchase the products at large home improvement stores like Home Depot, or Lowes. Rather, the company has select retail stores where you can purchase its products. 

Available here on Benjamin Moore

Minwax Wipe-On Poly Water-Based Polyurethane

Minwax Wipe-On Poly is a popular polyurethane product for its easy application. You can simply dampen a cloth in the product and wipe it onto your furniture. This way you don’t need to worry about getting brush marks on your furniture or the unevenness that comes with brushing. You can seamlessly wipe on as many layers as you want. 

Available here on Amazon

Rust-Oleum Lacquer Spray

If you don’t mind working with lacquer, then this clear coat product will serve you well. Lacquer is essentially dissolved shellac that dries and forms a super hard protective coating. Laquer-treated surfaces tend to last a very long time. 

It’s a great product to use both indoors and outdoors.

It has the fastest drying time of all the products mentioned in this post. It dries in just 20 minutes, so you don’t have to wait for too long to apply a new coat.

Available here on Amazon

 

Sources:

https://www.thespruce.com/water-based-polyurethane-wood-finishes-5101497

https://www.thinkingcloset.com/2014/07/06/10-tips-for-painting-furniture-with-latex-paint

https://housekeepingbay.com/what-is-the-best-clear-coat-to-use-over-latex-paint

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