12 Best Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets [Reviews & Buyer’s Guide]

Kitchen cabinets are some of the most regularly exposed pieces of furniture in our houses. 

Being located in one of the busiest areas of the house, they see regular spills, dings, and cracks, after heavy use. As such, they are prone to deteriorating much faster than other furniture. 

Protecting these cabinets is the next logical step if you want to preserve the color and quality of your furniture. This is done by applying a topcoat layer, which resists any materials that can potentially break down the cabinet. 

What’s more, a topcoat layer can add additional aesthetic charm to your kitchen. But with so many different types and formulas of topcoat layers on the market, how is one to choose the best option? 

Rest assured, we have you covered with our in-depth review of the best clear coats for your kitchen cabinets. With that being said, let’s get into it!

Best Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets

Here is the list of the 12 best clear coats for kitchen cabinets that you can use to give your cabinetry a beautiful and durable finish.

1. Rust-Oleum 327864 – Best for Easy Application

For protective versatility, while working on different surfaces, you can’t go wrong with this Rust-Oleum spray. This excellent spray paint adds a clear, protective layer on whatever surface you may be working with. It has a unique design that helps consumers apply it easily, making it better to work with overall. 

Where this clear coat spray paint shines is in its application procedure. Working with it is incredibly easy with the wide finger pad and multi-angle spray tip. These unique design features make spraying larger areas less tiresome. 

Additionally, the coverage is excellent as the solution is sprayed onto the surface. Once it makes contact, it dries pretty quickly as compared to other finishes. Meaning, you can move on to other work without having to wait for the coating to dry. 

Regardless of what material you need to cover, Rust-oleum can handle it all. Plastic, wood, metal, unglazed ceramic, and more are just a few materials that it can be applied to. Moreover, you can rest easy knowing they are protected from external contaminants. 

One slight caveat that we noticed while using this spray paint was the fumes given off while drying. They are quite strong and persist for a while even after it has dried to the touch. As such, it is recommended to apply and dry the paint in a well-ventilated area. 

Dimensions: 2.63″ x 2.63″ x 7.88″ | Net Weight/Volume: 12fl oz | Finish Type: Gloss | Dry Time: 12 minutes

2. Rust-Oleum 287722 – Best for Vintage Look

Rust-oleum offers another topcoat option in this ultra-matte finish paint. It has little prep work involved, so even a novice can work with it to get a professional-quality output. The paint formula is safe to use which makes it an all-around paint that works well for any project you have. 

Right off the bat, this Rust-oleum topcoat paint has an incredible adhesion to it. One stroke of the brush had it sticking evenly to the surface. This makes it extremely affordable by eliminating the need for multiple coatings. 

Furthermore, it dries quickly within half an hour, so it is even more efficient. When the paint is dried, you can chip it, wear it away for a vintage look, or opt for distressing it. However, if left to dry, it will become matte and clear as a topcoat. 

While the application process is easy, it is low-maintenance and doesn’t take much time to clean up which is always a helpful feature. Simply wiping any accidental applications with soap and water will get them off. 

If you don’t have much experience with working with paint, this is a welcome safety net.

While this paint has a chalky texture that helps it achieve a vintage look, it can also work against it. This particular, chalky consistency makes brush strokes more noticeable, especially on darker surfaces. Using a fine brush can help, but it is still possible to have streaks once the surface dries. 

Dimensions: 4.3″ x 4.3″ x 4.9″ | Net Weight/Volume: 557ml | Finish Type: Matte | Dry Time: 30 minutes

3. Minwax 244444444 – Best for Indoor Wood

Minwax offers a protective finish in this water-based polyacrylic finish. It is designed for interior use that brings a protective layer to your wood projects. With a semi-shiny sheen finish, your wooden furniture pieces have a rejuvenated, modern look. Additionally,  the solution is resistant to multiple factors that can potentially damage your wooden pieces. 

Working with this finish was perfect for wooden surfaces that need a final touch to them. Once dried, it stood up well against the daily wear and tear that a piece of indoor furniture is exposed to. Scratches and spills are two common occurrences that can damage wooden surfaces, so this resistance is definitely beneficial. 

Furthermore, the durability of this topcoat extends beyond everyday exposure. It has a resistance to yellowing and ambering, so the beautiful clear sheen is there to last. Furniture and other pieces will look modern while staying protected. 

Cleaning up the paint is simple and easy, thanks to the water-based formula. This also allows it to dry quickly so you can apply multiple coats in minimal time. 

One drawback we found while using this paint is its susceptibility to forming air bubbles. Minwax recommends you use a high-quality synthetic bristle brush to have the smoothest application possible. However, if you don’t have access to this brush, you may find quite a few air bubbles in your topcoat. 

Dimensions: 3″ x 3″ x 4″ | Net Weight/Volume: 8fl oz | Finish Type: Clear semi-gloss | Dry Time: 24 hours

4. Minwax Wipe-On Poly – Best for Hand-Rubbed Aesthetics

Truly a one-of-a-kind wipe-on topcoat option, Minwax’s formula brings the benefits of polyurethane protection with hand-rubbed aesthetics. Thanks to a straightforward application process, this poly topcoat is easy to work with, even for beginners. The resulting finish is durable and withstands anything a piece of indoor furniture might be exposed to. 

Without a doubt, the most helpful feature of this wipe-on poly is the easy application it has. Simply cleaning the surface and then wiping it on with a clean cloth was enough to get a beautiful finish. There were no more worries about any noticeable brush marks forming as the top coat dried. 

Additionally, the topcoat layer dried relatively quickly and had little smell to it. This made it comfortable and easier to work with, even indoors. Of course, you should always have proper ventilation when working with these formulas. 

Overall, if you need an easy-to-work formula, then this wipe-on poly formula is an excellent fit for masters and novices alike. The durability that it adds to wooden surfaces will have it lasting for years to come. Not to mention the beautiful finishes for a hand-rubbed look. 

While this wipe-on poly topcoat may be water-resistant, it is not fully waterproof. This means any water that is left on the surface will eventually cause water to cloud below the surface of the poly. It is recommended to wipe off any water as soon as it comes into contact with the poly. 

Dimensions: 2.5″ x 2.75″ x 6.75″ | Net Weight/Volume: 1pt | Finish Type: Gloss or satin | Dry Time: N/A

5. General Finishes QTHS – Best for UV Protection

Designed specifically for indoor pieces only, this topcoat from General Finishes is incredibly durable. A UV stabilizer within the formula makes any treated surface less susceptible to damage from sunlight. It can be applied in a number of ways, making it a treat to work with regardless of the project being worked on.

Using this topcoat finish created a beautiful, clear layer above the stain that was smooth to the touch. The colors of the stain especially were brought out by the topcoat while protecting them from damage. 

Working to apply the polyurethane formula was easy thanks to the fast drying times it had. It did need multiple coats to build up, but this was not an issue. Leaving it to dry for an hour or so was enough time to let the coating set. 

As the formula has a water base, clean-up and fumes are kept to a minimum in this topcoat. While it still needs proper ventilation, there are no uncomfortably strong odors released. Additionally, removing any accidental applications is easy with a simple soap and water solution. 

General Finishes recommends that this topcoat not be applied on surfaces with a bright white finish. Doing so can result in the topcoat yellowing the underlying white color. Similarly, bright-colored finishes are also susceptible to this yellowing, so testing it out before applying is a good idea. 

Dimensions: 5″ x 5″ x 5″ | Net Weight/Volume: 946ml | Finish Type: Satin | Dry Time: 1 – 2 hours (between coats)

6. Aqua Coat Pint

Applying a top coat to wood can be challenging if there is not an even surface to work on. This is where the Aqua Coat wood grain filler comes in to give an even surface for your topcoat. It is easy to work with and seals up pores, so the topcoat does not seep into the wood. 

This wood grain filler has an incredibly thick viscosity which is ideal for filling in the gaps in the wood. By permeating the wooden surface, there are no air bubbles or empty spaces left of the topcoat. This allowed us to save extra coatings while applying the topcoat layers. 

Additionally, a thick viscosity makes for easier vertical applications. Applying this to cabinets and shelves is easy as it adheres well and holds its shape. Furthermore, mixing in a bit of sawdust allowed the wood grain filler to be molded into 3-D shapes and then sanded down. 

Using a wood grain filler allows for a clean result in the wood piece where there has been previous damage or splitting and cracking. Sanding and painting the wood filler after it has been dried is a great way to have a cohesive, clean finish to any wood piece. 

Where the Aqua Coat wood grain filler struggles with is wood having a high grain count. These intricate designs are not so easily replicated on the filler. Any restorations or repairs done on such wood can stand out and are more obvious. 

Dimensions: 3.55″ x 3.55″ x 4.2″ | Net Weight/Volume: 1qt | Finish Type: Gloss | Dry Time: Allow 45 – 60 minutes


Designed specifically for interior pieces, this enamel paint from INSL-X is great for any furniture you may have. Whether it is wood, metal, or poly laminate, the paint is able to adhere to the surface without the use of priming. A feature that is incredibly helpful in expediting the painting process. 

After using this paint on the cabinet doors, we especially liked the finish that it had. Once dried, the paint had a smooth, silky texture that was close to a factory finish. The painted pieces looked brand new and had a slight sheen to them that brightened the room. 

Additionally, the application process is made easier because of the versatility of compatible materials. The elimination of priming is another helpful feature that made working with the paint a straightforward process. Once applied to the surface, the paint dried quickly, so sanding between coats was possible in minimal time. 

Another useful feature that we found while working with this INSL-X paint was the self-leveling that it had. Of course, this feature is most apparent when using a paintbrush. The thick viscosity of the paint allowed it to settle itself for a smooth application. 

Although this INSL-X paint has a thick viscosity and does not require a primer, it may need to have multiple coatings to adhere to some materials. Depending on the structure and type of wood or material being painted, the number of coatings required can vary. 

Dimensions: 8.75″ x 8.75″ x 9.13″ | Net Weight/Volume: 128fl oz | Finish Type: Satin | Dry Time: 6 hours (recoats)

8. Rust-Oleum 200041H

Varathane’s water-based polyurethane is designed to work with indoor wooden surfaces, so its durability is without question. As it is a water-based formula, you can expect minimal drying times, low fumes, and easy clean-up. All these are features that are perfect for an indoor restoration project. 

Water-based formulas are incredibly useful in their efficiency and drying times involved. The Varathane paint formula is no exception to this. It could be worked on with little discomfort, and the fumes while drying were not too bad.

Furthermore, the finish was ready for multiple coats within two hours of painting. These multiple coats added up to form a durable, protective layer on top of the wood. Stains and scratches, as well as slight moisture, could be wiped off the treated surface with ease. 

As for the finish of this paint, it dried with no yellowing or brush strokes. So long as you follow the included instructions, you should be able to have a clean result and wooden pieces that look brand new.

If you are looking for paint that can be used on surfaces that come into regular contact with food, then this may not be the right choice for you. While it has not been rated to be food-safe once dry, it can still withstand food-related spills and stains well. 

Dimensions: 4″ x 4″ x 5″ | Net Weight/Volume: 32fl oz | Finish Type: Clear gloss | Dry Time: 30 minutes

9. Minwax ‎152000000

This spray from Minwax is a unique type of lacquer to coat interior wood or metal surfaces. It has an oil-based formula that allows it to stick well to the surface without requiring sanding for adhesion. Thanks to the one-of-a-kind application design, it is easy to use even for novices. 

Being able to spray on lacquer made for an easy application process. There were no repetitive back-and-forth strokes or searching for any missed spots. Using the spray allowed for even coverage throughout the surface of the material. 

Additionally, the elimination of sanding between coats helped expedite the painting process. We didn’t need to stop after every layer to sand it down so the following coat could stick well. Simply leaving the lacquer to dry and then applying the next coating was enough to create the topcoat. 

Once the lacquer dried, it created a clear, glossy finish that brought out the underlying colors of the material well. Whether it is bare or stained wood, the lacquer adhered well and allowed the natural grains of the wood to shine through. 

Minwax has used an oil-based formula for this lacquer, which entails a higher concentration of fumes. These fumes are strong and persist even while the piece is drying. As such, it is always recommended to have proper ventilation in your workspace, especially when working with such oil-based formulas. 

Dimensions: 3″ x 3″ x 8″ | Net Weight/Volume: 12.25fl oz | Finish Type: Clear gloss | Dry Time: 30 minutes

10. Watco

Designed to be used on interior wooden pieces, this lacquer from Watco is a versatile topcoat option. Thanks to a thick viscosity, it eliminates the need for wood fillers by permeating the wood itself. What’s more, it has a clear finish that dries in no time at all, a superior finish to polyurethane formulas. 

While we can not testify to this lacquer being a superior option to polyurethane, it is a great product to work with. One of the most helpful features is the permeating ability the lacquer has. It filled up the nooks and crannies of the wood, going so far as to seal the pores and eliminate air bubbles. 

Another helpful feature we liked was the thick viscosity of the lacquer. This helps not only to permeate the material but also self-level the formula. Combining these two features makes for a lacquer that is easy to apply and use, no matter your proficiency with lacquer. 

Clarity on this Watco lacquer does not leave much to be desired. There was no discoloration in the underlying material, whether it is applied to bright or darker shades of materials. Colors were preserved, and the surface was protected thanks to the lacquer topcoat. 

As is the case with many other lacquers, Watco has used an oil-based formula in their lacquer. This means that it has a strong odor that makes it uncomfortable to work with for long periods. Ventilation is crucial, as always, when working with this lacquer. 

Dimensions: 4.15″ x 4.15″ x 4.9″ | Net Weight/Volume: 946ml | Finish Type: Clear gloss | Dry Time: 30 minutes

11. Minwax ‎63200444

A specially formulated finish from Minwax, this spar urethane has many useful features. It has outstanding durability and resistance to contaminants that make it ideal for indoor and outdoor use. Be it sun or rain, hot or cold, this finish will be able to preserve the underlying wood well. 

Durability seems to be the key feature of this spar urethane finish. This is made evident in its performance while holding up against multiple factors like rain and heat. Changes in the size and shape of wood due to temperature is a factor that this finish accommodates and adapts to. 

Furthermore, regular everyday exposure to UV rays is not an issue. Even pieces that are indoors and see regular exposure did not yellow or crack due to UV damage. This a feature that will come in handy if you plan on using it on outdoor pieces. 

Minwax has not included complete water resistance in the list of features; however, the finish is able to bead water. This is attainable through multiple coats and layers but is a helpful feature if pulled off correctly. 

There are many different substances in this finish that allow it to be as durable as it is. This is why cleaning and removing accidental applications is such a hassle. A combination of spirits and paint thinner is necessary to clean up this finish which can be a hassle. 

Dimensions: 4.25″ x 4.25″ x 4.89″ | Net Weight/Volume: 1qt | Finish Type: Clear gloss | Dry Time: 24 hours

12. Deft DFT010

Deft offers an outstanding clear wood finish that is efficient and easy to use for indoor wooden pieces. This brushing lacquer dries in no time at all so you can move on with the project, saving you time and energy. It spreads easily and smoothly, so preserving your wood is that much easier. 

Clear wood finishes that do not require repeated sanding between coats make for an easy application process. Deft understands this by combining it with a thick viscosity finish that adheres to the wooden surface easily. 

This thick clear wood finish has a self-leveling feature, so spreading it across the surface of the wood is easy. We did not have to go for multiple passes to have an even coating; as it was thick the paint almost spread itself. 

Waiting on the finish to dry was not an issue either and it was ready within one hour of applying it. Moreover, any spots or touch-ups needed were evident sooner, boosting efficiency overall. And, once dry, the finish held up just as well as any other clear glossy finish; there was no compromise on quality over drying time. 

Although this finish has a thick viscosity, it may not be the best for vertical surfaces. We found it to be lacking in structural integrity, meaning it was unable to hold its shape against gravity. Using it on a vertical surface resulted in the finish dripping and running; not the best look for a top coat. 

Dimensions: 4.25″ x 4.25″ x 4.88″ | Net Weight/Volume: 1qt | Finish Type: Gloss | Dry Time: 2 hours

Best Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets Comparison Table

Product Dimensions Net Weight/Volume Finish Type Dry Time
Rust-Oleum 327864 2.63″ x 2.63″ x 7.88″ ‎12fl oz Gloss 12 minutes
Rust-Oleum 287722 ‎4.3″ x 4.3″ x 4.9″ 557ml Matte 30 minutes
Minwax 244444444 ‎3″ x 3″ x 4″ 8fl oz Clear semi-gloss 24 hours
Minwax Wipe-On Poly ‎2.5″ x 2.75″ x 6.75″ 1pt Gloss or satin N/A
General Finishes QTHS ‎5″ x 5″ x 5″ 946ml Satin 1 – 2 hours (between coats)
Aqua Coat Aqua Coat Pint ‎3.55″ x 3.55″ x 4.2″ 1qt ‎Gloss Allow 45 – 60 minutes
INSL-X ‎8.75″ x 8.75″ x 9.13″ 128fl oz Satin 6 hours (recoats)
Rust-Oleum 200041H 4″ x 4″ x 5″ 32fl oz ‎Clear gloss 30 minutes
Minwax ‎152000000 ‎3″ x 3″ x 8″ 12.25fl oz ‎Clear gloss 30 minutes
Watco ‎4.15″ x 4.15″ x 4.9″ 946ml ‎Clear gloss 30 minutes
Minwax ‎63200444 ‎4.25″ x 4.25″ x 4.89″ 1qt ‎Clear gloss 24 hours
Deft Inc. ‎4.25″ x 4.25″ x 4.88″ 1qt ‎Gloss 2 hours

Buying Guide for the Best Clear Coat for Kitchen Cabinets

Selecting the right clear coat for your kitchen cabinets is a decision with many facets. Unless you know specifically what you are looking for, it can prove to be difficult to settle on one solution. 

Before making up your mind on a particular paint, keep in mind these factors that can influence your overall experience and result. Use these factors to gauge how suitable a specific paint is for you and your kitchen.


This is one of the largest and most common factors that come up when deciding on a clear coat for any surface. Certain clear coats interact with materials in different ways, one of them being yellowing

Yellowing is when the underlying material of the clear coat takes on a yellowish hue. This could be due to the type of wood, the dye used, as well as the moisture or application method of the topcoat. 

Determine whether or not a certain paint is suitable for the material that your kitchen cupboards are made out of. Once you have established what material you are working with, you can look for compatible paint. 

Additionally, those with white or other bright-colored cabinets should take the extra precautions of yellowing over time. These colored woods are more susceptible to showing signs of yellowing as compared to darker wood types, where it is less obvious.

Finish Variety

Clear coats have varying degrees of sheen that are classified into three types-satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. Each of these types of finishes has its own unique features that add different textures to the treated material. 

Satin finishes lie on one end of the spectrum of finishes and have more texture to them. They are a tad bit more challenging to clean once dried due to this textured surface. 

Semi-gloss finishes lie between satin and glossy finishes. A finish with a semi-gloss is not as reflective and smooth as a glossy finish but still reflects more than the satin. 

A glossy, clear finish is commonly used for its crystal-clear smoothness. Pieces with a gloss finish are usually the easiest to clean, making them a favorite in kitchen and furniture pieces. Maintaining a glossy finished piece is infinitely more accessible than any other finish. 

Wood Finish

Wood is one of the most common materials used in kitchen cabinets for its versatility and maintenance. Depending on the type of finish that your cabinets have, you should choose a suitable clear coat option. 

Oil finishes can affect how effective a clear topcoat will be in terms of adhesion and protection. Look for a topcoat with an oil-based sealer if your cabinets are made of unfinished wood. This cleans up the wood and seeps into it to provide optimal protection. 

On the other hand, if an oil-based sealer is not for you, make sure you stain the wood before applying the final topcoat. Once that last layer is applied, any further paint or coatings will not be able to adhere to the wood.


Special durability and resistance to specific factors in a paint can allow the topcoat to last longer than standard paints. In the case of kitchen cabinets, it is best to look for two factors particular-scratch and UV resistance. 

Kitchens are a hub of activity throughout the day, with the cabinets being one of the most used appliances. It is no surprise then that they see multiple dings and dents on a daily basis. Scratch resistance may not be able to make your cabinets utterly immune to these imperfections, but it does help cut down on them. 

Additionally, if you have a window in your kitchen area, a UV resistance is a good idea to maintain the structural integrity of the cabinets. Furthermore, it preserves the color of the wood for longer. Wood that is exposed to UV rays is more susceptible to warping and changing hues. 

Kitchens can get hot quickly, especially in smaller-sized kitchens. This shift in heating and cooling can eventually cause the wood cabinets to warp. As an added layer of protection, you can look for paint that has some degree of heat resistance as well. This can come in handy for those who have a cabinet positioned close to the stove or oven.

Why is it important to apply a clear coat to kitchen cabinets?

A clear coat helps to protect the cabinets from moisture, heat, and other types of damage.

It also prevents the wood from fading or yellowing over time.

What are the best types of clear coats for kitchen cabinets?

Some of the best types of clear coats for kitchen cabinets include polyurethane, acrylic, and lacquer.

Each type has its pros and cons, so it’s important to choose the one that best meets your needs.

What is the between polyurethane and lacquer?

Polyurethane is a synthetic coating that is more durable and resistant to moisture than lacquer.

Lacquer, on the other hand, is a thinner and more traditional coating that is easier to apply and dries faster.

Do I need to sand my kitchen cabinets before applying a clear coat?

Yes, sanding your kitchen cabinets before applying a clear coat is important to ensure that the surface is smooth and even. This will help the clear coat adhere better and last longer.

How many coats of clear coat should I apply to my kitchen cabinets?

Typically, two to three coats of clear coat are recommended for kitchen cabinets.

However, this may vary depending on the brand of clear coat you are using and the condition of your cabinets.

How long does it take for a clear coat to dry on kitchen cabinets?

It depends on the type of clear coat you are using and the environmental conditions in your kitchen.

Generally, it takes 24 to 48 hours for a clear coat to dry completely.

How can I maintain my clear-coated kitchen cabinets?

To maintain your clear-coated kitchen cabinets, you should avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners.

Instead, use a mild soap and water solution to clean them and use a soft cloth to dry them off.

You should also avoid placing hot pots or pans directly on the surface of the cabinets to prevent damage.

Can I apply a clear coat to the painted kitchen cabinets?

Yes, you can. In fact, applying a clear coat to painted kitchen cabinets can help protect the paint and make it more durable.


Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what options you have to choose from and what to look for in topcoats for kitchen cabinets. 

Deciding on the most suitable coat for you is a matter of mixing and matching features to suit your needs. For instance, the Rust-oleum 327864 has an easy application thanks to its multi-angle tip. 

Additionally, the Minwax 244444444 has an excellent polycrylic protective finish that is durable and easy to use, thanks to its water-based formula. However, our all-around performance choice has to go to the Rust-Oleum 287722 model for its durability and ease of use. 

Regardless of what clear coat finish you decide to go with, you will not regret having the added protection on your cabinets. Not only will they last longer, but your kitchen will also look beautiful. 

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