Polyurethane Vs Polycrylic

Polyurethane Vs Polycrylic

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Natural wood has a certain depth and glow that is hard to beat with any man-made materials. The wood gives a beautiful finish to your interior. However, heavy usage, heat, and moisture can damage the quality of wood over time. Thankfully, the lifespan of wood can be increased with proper finishing.

There are many types of wood sealers that protect the wood from moisture and heat. Two of the most famous sealers are polyurethane and polycrylic. Most of the time, people mistake them as being the same sealer because of their almost identical names.

However, they are completely different, and we have outlined the difference between polycrylic and polyurethane for you. Can you put polycrylic over polyurethane? You will find this out as you read on.

In this article, we are going to discuss the positive sides and negative sides of both of these sealers. Also, we will discuss which wood sealer should be used in different situations.

Polyurethane Overview

As a protective finish, polyurethane is available in two forms, including water-based form and oil-based form. These forms are also available in two varieties, including satin and glossy finish. Polyurethane is also available in wipe and spray forms. Polyurethane is the best choice if you don’t mind a little yellowing of the surface.

Polyurethane gives a perfect shine to the wood. It is melted plastic, which hardens once dry. It makes the wood scratch-resistant and durable.

Water-Based Polyurethane

The water-based version of polyurethane is popular among woodworkers because it is less toxic and has low odor. It is completely transparent, as compared to oil-based polyurethane. Additionally, it dries quickly.

The water-based polyurethane is perfect for wood items that are not exposed to heat. The protective finish can’t stand against extreme temperatures. Also, it is not a good idea to apply water-based polyurethane to products that will be exposed to water. It can be used for:

  • Canvas frames
  • Room or office tables
  • Drawers
  • Bookcases

Oil-Based Polyurethane

This protective finish is longer-lasting than its water-based counterpart. It can stand against extreme temperatures. It does give a little yellowish color to the wood; however, it doesn’t look bad at all. You can apply both water-based and oil-based versions on latex or acrylic paints.

The oil-based polyurethane cost more than water-based polyurethane. It is long-lasting and completely scratch resistant. The oil-based polyurethane is good for:

  • The wood surface that may get wet
  • Wood flooring
  • Woodwork in kitchen

Pros of Polyurethane

  • Extra shiny surface
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Long-lasting

Cons of Polyurethane

  • Long drying process
  • Flammable
  • Ventilation required
Polyurethane Vs Polycrylic

How to Apply Polyurethane

Before applying any protective finish, you need to make sure that the wood is free of blemish. To initiate the application process, you need to clean the wood and proceed with the following steps.

  • Add some mineral spirit in oil-based polyurethane to dilute it.
  • Apply to the wood surface as evenly as possible.
  • Keep a check and smooth out any drips as soon as possible.
  • The second and third coats should be completed with the undiluted version.
  • Give it 24 hours to dry.
  • Use a razor to cut the drips when the surface is dried perfectly.
  • Apply the final coat 36 hours later than the third coat.

Note: Polyurethane is extremely toxic and flammable. While using it, you need to ensure proper ventilation and take necessary precautions.

Polycrylic Overview

As a water-based protective finish, polycrylic is available in satin and high gloss finish. It is great for interior décor wood items like furniture, cabinets, indoor woodwork, etc. It is completely transparent, which makes it perfect for light-colored wood types like birch, maple, ash, etc.

Polycrylic finish is cheap and easily available everywhere. If the wood surface is used regularly, like a tabletop, this is a perfect protective coat for that surface. It doesn’t add any yellowish color to the surface, and it is very easy to clean in the long run.

When applying polycrylic, you need to make sure that you are applying a thin coat of finish. It always turns out to be a very bad idea to apply a thick polycrylic coat, because it gives a milky finish, ruining the look of the wood. If you don’t want to remove it and do it again, be sure to pay attention during the first application.

Polycrylic shouldn’t be used over matte latex. The chemicals in matte paint do not allow it to dry easily, and, when it does dry, it leaves visible cracks on the surface.

Pros of Polycrylic

  • Easy to clean
  • Long-lasting
  • Cost-effective

Cons of Polycrylic

  • Difficult to apply
  • Quick to dry

How to Apply Polycrylic

  1. Clear the dust off the surface using a clean cloth
  2. Slowly use a sand grit paper to create an even surface.
  3. Apply a thin layer of the finish with a roller or brush and allow it to dry.
  4. Use the sand grit paper again.
  5. Repeat the process until you complete three coats.

Difference Between Polycrylic and Polyurethane

  • When it comes to the difference between polycrylic and polyurethane, there are the following things to consider.
  • Polycrylic is very affordable, while polyurethane is a bit costly.
  • Oil-based polyurethane has a yellowish shade, while polycrylic is completely transparent.
  • Polycrylic is good for interior wood items that are not exposed to extreme temperatures.
  • Oil-based polyurethane finish can stand against extreme temperatures.
  • Polycrylic is difficult to use as compared to polyurethane.

Which One to Use – Polyurethane or Polycrylic

Most novices often ask which one to use on paint, polycrylic or polyurethane? The answer to this question relies on your requirements. Both of these finishes are great if you apply them in the right manner.

If the wood item will be exposed to liquids and can get wet, you should use oil-based polyurethane. When it comes to surfaces used frequently or exposed to high temperatures, use polyurethane finish. However, if you want the wood to dry quickly, polycrylic is the best option.

Another thing to keep in mind is that oil-based polyurethane adds a yellowish color to the surface. If you want to avoid that, you can use either water-based polyurethane or polycrylic.

Polycrylic is cost-effective and significantly reduces the overall cost of the product. If you are making a low-cost product, you should always go for polycrylic to reduce your spending.

Can you put polyurethane over polycrylic?

There are some cases when you apply a protective finish, and you simply don’t like it. You want to change the protective coat, but you are confused about whether you should apply over it or remove it. It is always a better idea to remove the previous coat before applying a new one.

However, if you don’t have enough time and want to finish it quickly, you can apply another coat over it. You shouldn’t have any issues while applying water-based polyurethane over polycrylic. If you are concerned, sand the surface with sandpaper first.

When it comes to putting oil-based polyurethane over polycrylic, there is an old saying, “Oil and water don’t mix.” If you must do this, get sandpaper and sand the surface slightly before applying the polyurethane.

How to Remove a Protective finish?

A protective finish, regardless of its type, does its job perfectly. If you have applied it correctly, you don’t need to remove it ever. But what if you don’t like the final look of the product? What if you want to repair or refinish it after using it for a long time? Is there a way to remove the protective finish? Yes, there are actually a few ways to remove it.

The first thing you need to do is to remove the previous coat. How do you remove the protective finish? There are three different ways.

  1. Sand the surface
  2. Use a solvent
  3. Use a chemical

Depending on the finish type, you can use any of these methods to remove the topcoat. If your finish type is acrylic, lacquer, paint, or shellac, the best way is to sand the surface. You can either use sandpaper or a sanding machine, depending on how large a surface it is.

If your finish is lacquer or shellac, you can use solvents to remove the protective coat. You can use lacquer thinner or denatured alcohol. It removes the protective coat without harming the wood.

If your finish is polyurethane, paint, or varnish, use chemical strippers. This is an ideal way to remove the topcoat if you are working on a costly wood item. They are very good and don’t harm the wood. However, you need to apply them in a ventilated area because they are flammable and toxic.


The common perception among people is that polyurethane vs polycrylic is the same, which is wrong. They are two completely different finishes, but they serve the same purpose of protecting the wood. Both finishes are great and protect the wood for a long time; however, you need to use the right finish on the wood to get the best results.

When it comes to using Minwax polycrylic vs. polyurethane, it depends on the surface, its future usage, etc. Polyurethane is water-resistant and can bear extreme temperatures. Polycrylic is only applicable to interior wood items that are not exposed to water and extreme temperatures.

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