How to Varnish Wooden Furniture

Updated November 21, 2016

Varnishing wooden furniture not only gives your furniture the protection it needs against the elements, but it also gives the wood a glossy look. Varnish is particularly useful when trying to keep the natural wood look while protecting the wood's surface from spills, scratches or other types of damage. The varnishing process is moderately easy but can be time consuming, if nothing else.

Begin by preparing the furniture to be varnished. If there are rough edges on the wood, use the sandpaper to smooth them out. It's probably a good idea to sand the furniture down anyway to ensure that there are no rough edges. This also helps the varnish stick to the wood more easily.

Put old clothes on before starting the project. As with painting, varnish can get on your clothes and ruin them. Also, it's a good idea to wear protective eyewear, just in case varnish gets on your face. Keep an old rag handy to clean up any spills that might occur before they have time to set.

Shake the can of varnish a few times before you begin varnishing the furniture. Once this is done, remove the lid of the varnish can. You can either pour the varnish into a paint pan or you can use it directly from the can. Most of the time, it's easier to use it directly from the can.

Dip your paintbrush into the varnish and remove excess varnish from the brush by gently rubbing the brush on the inside rim of the can. Use the brush to apply the varnish to the wood furniture in even, long strokes. Continue this method until the entire piece of furniture is covered with varnish.

Allow the varnish to dry when you have finished coating the furniture. This could take a day or two to completely dry, depending on weather conditions. If it is warm outside, place the furniture outdoors to dry, but make sure it's not windy, as debris and dirt can easily stick to freshly varnished surfaces. Inspect the furniture after the first coat has dried. You may find the need to apply a second coat.


Choose your paintbrush carefully. Though a wide brush will cover an area more quickly, a slimmer brush might be able to get into the nooks and crannies a wide brush can't. Work in a well-ventilated area when applying varnish.

Things You'll Need

  • Paintbrush
  • Varnish
  • Old clothing
  • Protective eyewear
  • Sandpaper
  • Old rags
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