How to Finish Wood With Water-Based Polyurethane Varnish

Written by ehow hobbies, games & toys editor
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Email

Water-based polyurethane varnish has some advantages over traditional varnish. It dries quickly and it can be cleaned up with water. Finish wood with water-based polyurethane varnish by brushing it on, letting it dry and sanding it down. Repeat this process until you get a shiny and smooth finish on the wood.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Water-based polyurethane varnish
  • Synthetic bristle paintbrush
  • Sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Alternate container

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Purchase water-based polyurethane varnish. Like paint it comes in high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin, matte or flat. Gloss is shiny and a little tougher. Matte is more subdued.

  2. 2

    Choose a location to paint that is well-ventilated and free of dust.

  3. 3

    Make sure the wood you are going to finish is sanded, clean and free of dust. Clean it with a tack cloth.

  4. 4

    Stir the water-based polyurethane varnish well and pour some from the can into an alternate container. You will use the varnish in the alternate container.

  5. 5

    Paint the water-based polyurethane varnish onto the wood using smooth, even strokes along the direction of the wood grain. Hold the brush as vertical as possible while painting.

  6. 6

    Allow the water-based polyurethane varnish to dry completely. This can take as little as an hour, depending on the temperature and humidity. It should be dry to the touch.

  7. 7

    Sand the varnish with 220 or finer sandpaper then remove any dust with a tack cloth. Repeat this process of painting, drying and sanding until you achieve the desired look.

  8. 8

    Wait one week and then rub the surface with "0000" steel wool, clean it with a tack cloth and apply paste wax to get the best looking surface.

Tips and warnings

  • It's best to varnish wood if it's horizontal to avoid drips. Place the wood you are varnishing on a flat surface, such as a table or counter.
  • Be sure to use a new, clean synthetic bristle paintbrush. Watch for drips and brush them out as they occur.
  • Do not dip your brush into the original can of water-based varnish to avoid contaminating the original varnish with dust and debris.

Don't Miss

  • All types
  • Articles
  • Slideshows
  • Videos
  • Most relevant
  • Most popular
  • Most recent

No articles available

No slideshows available

No videos available

By using the site, you consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie policy.