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

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Best Clear Coat for Kitchen Cabinets

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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 Coat for Kitchen Cabinets

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IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
Our Top PickOur Top PickArchilb-table__imageRust-Oleum 327864
  • Covers 12 square feet 
  • Wide finger pad 
  • Any angle spray tip 
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Archilb-table__imageRust-Oleum 287722
  • Can be used on wood, metal, ceramic, and canvas
  • Covers up to 150 square feet
  • One-coat coverage 
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Archilb-table__imageMinwax 244444444
  • Protects against scratches, spills, dirt, and more
  • Can be recoated after two hours
  • Water-based formula
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Archilb-table__imageMinwax Wipe-On Poly 40910000
  • Resistant to water, household chemicals, food stains, and wear
  • High-quality oil-based polyurethane formula
  • Can be sanded between coats
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Archilb-table__imageGeneral Finishes QTHS
  • One to two-hour dry-time between coats
  • UV-stabilizer protects from sunlight damage 
  • Protects stains from fading 
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Archilb-table__imageAqua Coat Aqua Coat Pint
  • Fills grain and seals pores for a smooth finish
  • Can be mixed with other water-soluble dyes
  • Works before or after staining wood 
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Archilb-table__imageINSL-X ‎CC550109A-01
  • Covers 350-450 square feet per gallon
  • Resists chipping, food stains, grease, water, and scuffing
  • Does not require primer for adhesion
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Archilb-table__imageRust-Oleum 200041H
  • Covers up to 125 square feet 
  • Ready for recoats after two hours
  • Water-based scratch and stain-resistant formula
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Archilb-table__imageMinwax ‎152000000
  • Designed for interior wood and metal surfaces
  • No sanding required between coats
  • Unique spray bottle application
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Archilb-table__imageWatco 63041
  • Formulated for higher clarity finish than polyurethane
  • Covers up to 290 square feet
  • Eliminates wood filler and sanding between coats
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Best clear coat for kitchen cabinets

  1. Rust-Oleum 327864

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. 

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Rust-Oleum 327864 American Accents Spray Paint, 12 Ounce (Pack of 1),...
  • Ideal for interior/exterior use on virtually any...
  • Provides long lasting protection with any-angle...

Why Did We Like It? 

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. 

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What Could’ve Been Better?

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. 

Pros
  • Versatile surface compatibility
  • Easy application
  • Dries in 20 minutes
  • Glossy finish
Cons
  • Fumes take time to disperse
  1. Rust-Oleum 287722

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. 

Rust-Oleum 287722 Ultra Matte Interior Chalked Paint, 30 oz, Matte...
  • Use on a variety of interior surfaces like wood,...
  • Low-odor/VOC formula allows for easy clean up with...

Why Did We Like It? 

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 it off. 

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

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What Could’ve Been Better? 

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. 

Pros
  • Low odor/VOC formula
  • Dries in 30 minutes
  • Minimal preparation needed
  • Ultra-matte, velvet finish
Cons
  • Chalky paint can leave brush strokes
  1. Minwax 244444444

Minwax offers a protective finish in this water-based polycrylic 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. 

1/2 pt Minwax 24444 Clear Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish...
  • PROTECT WOOD SURFACES – Minwax Polycrylic...
  • CRYSTAL CLEAR FINISH THAT LASTS – The crystal...

Why Did We Like It? 

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. 

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What Could’ve Been Better? 

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. 

Pros
  • Semi-gloss, clear finish
  • Easy clean-up
  • Non-yellowing formula
  • Low odor
Cons
  • Prone to forming air bubbles
  1. Minwax Wipe-On Poly

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. 

Minwax 40910000 Wipe-On Poly, 1 Pint, Satin
  • Easy to apply - no drips or brush marks
  • Protects wood against water, household chemicals,...

Why Did We Like It? 

Without a doubt, the most helpful feature of this wipe-on poly is the easy application it has. Simply cleaning the surface 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. 

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What Could’ve Been Better? 

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 clouding below the surface of the poly. It is recommended to wipe off any water as soon as it comes into contact with the poly. 

Pros
  • No drips or brush marks
  • Gloss or satin finishes are available
  • Easy application
  • No smell
Cons
  • Easily forms water clouding
  1. General Finishes QTHS

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.

General Finishes High Performance Water Based Topcoat, 1 Quart, Satin
  • Do not apply clear topcoats over bright white...
  • The hardest, most durable consumer polyurethane...

Why Did We Like It? 

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. 

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What Could’ve Been Better? 

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. 

Pros
  • Water-based formula
  • Can be rolled, sprayed, or brushed on
  • Satin finish
  • Durable
Cons
  • Can cause yellowing on brighter paint
  1. Aqua Coat 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. 

Aqua Coat, Best Wood Grain Filler. Clear Gel, Water Based, Low odor,...
  • DESIGNED WITH EVERYONE IN MIND: From the DIYer to...
  • WATERBORNE AND ECO- FRIENDLY: Our entire line of...

Why Did We Like It? 

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. 

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What Could’ve Been Better?

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. 

Pros
  • Low odor and VOC
  • Easy application
  • Minimizes absorption of topcoat
  • Dries in 45-60 minutes
Cons
  • Not as effective on extremely grainy wood
  1. INSL-X

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. 

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INSL-X CC550109A-01 Cabinet Coat Enamel, Satin Sheen Paint, 1 Gallon,...
  • The ultimate acrylic cabinet paint for a...
  • Delivers an ultra smooth, durable finish.

Why Did We Like It? 

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. 

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What Could’ve Been Better?

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. 

Pros
  • Ultra-smooth, durable satin finish
  • Enamel paint formula
  • Strong adhesion
  • Self-leveling paint
Cons
  • May require multiple coats
  1. 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. 

Varathane 200041H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Quart, Gloss...
  • Protects indoor wood surfaces such as furniture,...
  • Water based formula dries fast and cleans up with...

Why Did We Like It?

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.

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What Could’ve Been Better? 

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. 

Pros
  • Dries within 30-minutes
  • Glossy finish
  • Cleans up easily
  • Minimal smell
Cons
  • Not food safe
  1. 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. 

Minwax 15200 Gloss Brushing Lacquer Spray, Clear, 12.25-Ounce
  • This product adds a great value
  • Ideal for interior wood surfaces

Why Did We Like It? 

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 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. 

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What Could’ve Been Better? 

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. 

Pros
  • Dries within 30-minutes
  • Clear finish
  • Oil-based formula
  • Easy to use
Cons
  • Heavy fumes while working and drying
  1. 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 than polyurethane formulas. 

Watco 63041 Lacquer Clear Wood Finish, Quart, Clear Gloss
  • Ideal for use on furniture, doors, cabinets and...
  • Formulated for a higher clarity finish than...

Why Did We Like It? 

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. 

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What Could’ve Been Better?

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. 

Pros
  • Dries within one hour
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Crystal-clear gloss finish
  • Self-leveling
Cons
  • Strong odor
  1. 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. 

Minwax, Gloss 63200444 Helmsman Spar Urethane, quart, 1
  • Recommended Uses: furniture, woodwork, molding,...
  • Application Tool: natural bristle brush

Why Did We Like It?

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. 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. 

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What Could’ve Been Better? 

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 are necessary to clean up this finish which can be a hassle. 

Pros
  • Dries within 24 hours of use
  • Resistant to temperature and moisture damage
  • Can be used on exterior or interior pieces
  • Clear, glossy finish
Cons
  • Needs paint thinner or spirits for clean-up
  1. Deft Inc.

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. 

Why Did We Like It? 

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 which 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. 

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What Could’ve Been Better?

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. 

Not ideal for vertical application

Pros
  • Dries within 30-minutes
  • Non-yellowing formula
  • Easy application
  • Self-leveling
Cons
  • Runs easily

Full equipped western kitchen in modern home

Clear Coat for Kitchen Cabinets Buying Guide

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. 

  1. Yellowing

This is one of the largest and most common of 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 a 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

  1. Durability

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 in 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. 

Best clear coat for kitchen cabinets

Verdict 

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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