Minwax VS Varathane

comparing minwax and varathane

Minwax Vs Varathane in Wood Work

Are you wondering what to choose when it comes to Minwax vs Varathane? Well, choosing between these two water-based spar urethrane can be tough. However, I’ll ease things up for you.

I’ll discuss on how a Minwax finish compares to a Varathane finish. I’ll then dive into their use, durability, and the pros and cons of both.

As a side note, check these woodworking designs and projects that I recommend by clicking here.

I’ll also explain the following:

  • Minwax and Varathane wood Paste finishing wax
  • Minwax and Varathane Polyshades
  • Minwax and Varathane Wood Stains
  • Minwax and Varathane wood fillers and putties.

There is also a general observation on penetration, durability, duration for drying, smell, water or oil based properties, their water proof properties, number of coats required and materials that Minwax and Varathane products can be used on.

Finishing Wax

Minwax Paste Finishing Wax

It is used on already finished wood. You can also opt for Minwax polyurethane or Minwax polycrylic to work on the finishing.

The paste finishing wax works to protect and add luster to wooden surfaces, whether cabinets, furniture, doors or antiques.

It gives a smooth texture to your finished piece.

It also leaves an overly shiny appearance which may work to your advantage or disadvantage depending on your liking, but despite the glow, it looks natural rather than laminated.

Minwax paste finishing wax also highlights and maintains the integrity of your wood.

However, it take very long to dry it works best on natural wood.

Minwax polyurethane can be used as finishing wax. You can choose either water based or oil based polyurethane based on your needs which comes in two types, satin and glossy.

Oil based poly is darker as compared to the water based one which is clear. Oil based poly darkens over time while water based remains clear throughout.

Water based poly dries more quickly than the oil based poly. Polyurethane is scratch proof as it penetrates deep into the wood and durable.

It takes very long to dry and the oil based poly tends to show a yellowish layer when used on light colored surfaces.

The oil based polyurethane requires at least 3 coats and for the first coat, it is necessary to mix it with mineral spirits. This is a major drawback.

Minwax polycrylic has a fast drying coat which is protective and water based.

Since it lacks tint, it works best on lightwood surfaces such as birch, ash and maple.

It is also ideal for woods stains that are water based. Its water based nature makes it is easy to clean and gives it a clear finish.

Varathane Finishing

For finishing, Varathane offers a variety of products; Varathane paste finishing wax and Varathane polyurethane.

Varathane paste finishing wax is used as a seal to protect wooden surfaces and to make them shiny in appearance.

It dries very fast and is waterproof hence protects your wooden surface from damage by water.

It, however, has a shallow penetration hence it peels off easily.

Varathane polyurethane comes in two forms; water based and oil based. It is scratch resistant and has a low odor.

It gives a glossy finish and is non- yellowing when used on light colored surfaces.

The oil based poly driest fastest as compared to other polyurethanes and does not show any brush strokes.

The water base polyurethane is easier to clean and designed to be stain resistant.


Minwax Polyshade

Minwax polyshades is oil based and works to enhance the appearance of the wood grain, and protect the polyurethane’s color.

To change color, you can use the polyshades over the wooden surface without necessarily having to remove the older finishing.

To achieve the desired color shade, two coats of the polyshades are required.

It is best in the interiors on surfaces such as furniture and door but can work on any type of wood.

The major problem with Minwax polyshades is that it takes long to dry. If you fail to wipe off excess layers of polyshades, it may cause a mess and you might have to scrap off the whole surface and start over.

Minwax polyshades also tend to be smelly.

Varathane Polyshades

Verathane polyshades is a combination of polyurethane and wood stain.

The polyshades produce a smoother and deeper colored finish and a protective coating to your wood as it is waterproof.

The best thing about Verathane polyshades is that you only require one coat to achieve desired color.

It also leaves a shiny and glossy natural appearance and also takes a shorter period to dry. The main disadvantage is that it dries unevenly.

Due to the thick coating, some parts take longer time to dry than others. It also has shallow penetration thus easily scrapped off.

Wood Stains

Minwax Wood Stain

Minwax wood stains enhances the appearance of the wood giving it a nice decorative appearance.

Minwax wood stains are available in two varieties; water based and oil based and come in two types; gel wood stains and water based wood stains.

Gel wood stains are oil based and work to add an authentic touch to your wood and highlight the wood’s natural aspect.

These require around two coats to achieve the desired color and take longer than the water based wood stains to dry.

The water based wood stains come in 28 different color shades, mostly brown, orange, black, red, yellow, purple, grey, clear, white and off white and can be used on any wooden surfaces.

It penetrates deep into the wooden surface therefore scratch resistant and enhances the natural aspect of the wood. It however works only under low humidity areas and takes a long time to dry.

To achieve the desired color, you require at least two or three coats of Minwax wood stains.

Varathane wood stains highlight the natural appearance of the wood and deliver the desired color in a single coat as compared to the Minwax wood stains.

They provide a thick coating and a shiny and glossy appearance. They tend to dry more quickly and are durable.

They are advantageous as they come in two coats of the same color; giving either thicker or thinner coating according to preference.

The thicker one comes in a yellow tin while the thinner one comes in a white tin.

Varathane Wood Stain

Varathane wood stains are of good quality as they provide an even coating and waterproof to protect the wood from damage by water.

They, however, tend to dry unevenly especially when thicker layers are applied.

They also have shallow penetration and easily peel off and non- resistant to scratch.

Besides finishing wax, polyshades and stains, there are a variety of other products related to wood work;

Minwax wood filler and wood putty are designed to fill small holes and spaces on the wood and ensure an even wooden surface.

You have three options; water- based wood filler, epoxy or solvent- based wood filler. It has a four color range; brown, clear, off- white and white.

They are permanent and bond well with the wood and are also easy to use; therefore you can do it by yourself.

They can be used on any type of stains; oil based or water based. They also do not crack when dry hence stain can be applied on them.

However, they take a long time to dry and this depends on amount of used filler or putty.

Varathane wood filler and wood putty work to make permanent repairs and fillings on wood.

They are water based and dry quickly and do not crack when dry. They can also be stained or painted on.

Their water based properties make it easy to clean the repaired areas and they also blend well with stain colors.

Varathane wood fillers and wood putties can work on any wooden surfaces and when completely dry, can be nailed, drilled or screwed into as they are durable.

General Overview

In comparing Varathane and Minwax products, you will notice the many differences that appear in terms of;

Material of Use

Varathane products work best on finished interior wooden objects such as doors, cabinets and furniture while Minwax products can be used on all surfaces, finished, unfinished or bare wooden surfaces.


This refers to how long the wooden object remains in good shape and appearance when covered in stain, finishing wax or polyshades.

Varathane products are more durable since most of them are oil- based.

This property enables the particles to stick together as they can handle high temperatures while the water based products cannot.


This refers to how deep these products go into the wooden surface.

The Minwax products; Minwax paste finishing wax, wood stains and polyshades have a deeper penetration into the wood as compared to the Varathane products.

This property makes them non- resistant to scratch, therefore, they do not peel off easily.

The Minwax paste finishing wax penetrates seals and stains.


Most of the Varathane products smell oily while most of the Minwax products have some sort of antic smell when used on wood.

However, the polyurethane has quite a bad smell.

When using these products, adequate ventilation is requires, especially if staining is being done indoors.

If possible, it is necessary to take out the newly stained object at daytime.

You can also fill a few tins with baking soda to place them near the origin of the smell, or the freshly stained wooden object. This helps to absorb the stain smell.

Oil or Water Based

Oil based refers to a product having oil as the main component, the same for water based, which refers to a product with the main ingredient as water.

Each of the two has both oil based and water based products.

For instance; Minwax polyurethane is available in both forms of oil based and water based while Minwax polyshades are oil based.

At the same time, Varathane polyurethane is available in oil based and water based forms.

It is necessary to learn the advantages and disadvantages of the two and considering your needs and preferences before deciding to choose between them.


When an item is waterproof, it has the ability to prevent water from going through it.

Varathane products are waterproof hence protecting your wooden surfaces from damage by water which could cause rotting.

Layers of coating

To achieve the desired color, Varathane products only require a single coating, since they are thick and of good quality.

On the other hand, Minwax products require one to apply several layers of coating to get the color required.

This quality makes the Varathane products more effective and time saving.

Duration for drying

Varathane products use very little time to dry as compared to the Minwax products which take longer.

The fact that Minwax require several layers of coating causes the end result to be uneven drying and uneven layering of coats.

Texture of finishing

To get smoother material, it is advisable to get the Varathane products as they have a smooth finishing.

They also produce neat coats without the brush strokes.


Varathane products tend to be more expensive than the Minwax products. For instance, Varathane wood stain ranges between $10.30- $16.30, while a can of Minwax costs $7.98.

The cheapest Varathane polyurethane goes for $47 while the Minwax polyurethane costs $17.

The Minwax wood finishing wax costs around $8 while the Varathane wood finishing wax costs $10.

The Minwax products are much cheaper as compared to the Varathane products.


It is undeniable from the above comparison that the Varathane products are better than the Minwax products paying most attention to the issue of time taken to dry and coats required to achieve the desirable shade of color.

I can, therefore, conclude that I would choose Varathane over Minwax finishing because it is effective and efficient for most of my woodwork projects.

However, it is also important to note that the disadvantages could work to someone else’s advantage; for instance, you can opt to go for the Minwax products because of their thinner coating which may be your preference.

It is, therefore, crucial to identify your particular need when choosing woodwork products.

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