How to Apply a Clear Coat of Varathane

Written by larry simmons | 13/05/2017
How to Apply a Clear Coat of Varathane
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Varathane is a water-based polyurethane finish made by Rust-Oleum in a brushable form. Applied to a surface, Varathane creates a clear finish that's translucent but hard enough to protect the surface beneath from the scratches and dings of normal wear and tear. Because it can be applied to most arts and craft materials, including wood, Varathane can finish a variety of items, from clay beads to hardwood floors. The water-based finish won't yellow over time like oil-based polyurethanes.

Set up a work area for applying the Varathane finish in a dust-free, well-ventilated area. Place a dust cloth onto a work surface large enough to hold the object that you're clear-coating and place the object in the centre of the dust sheet.

Clean the surface of the object with a sponge and a cleanser formulated for the surface material. Follow the cleaner manufacturer's instructions to avoid causing damage. Rinse the surface off with clean water. Allow the object to dry completely

Stir the Varathane with a paint stick. Apply the Varathane with a synthetic brush to the surface of the object. Brush the finish on in overlapping lines to ensure complete coverage. Don't over-brush, though, or the finish might lose its sheen. The Varathane will go on milky white. Allow it to dry on the surface for two hours. As it dries it turns clear, allowing the surface of the object to show through.

Sand the finish with a 220-grit sanding pad to remove any imperfections in the finish such as brush strokes or runs. Wipe the surface with a tack cloth to remove any sanding residue. Apply three more coats of the finish, sanding between coats to create a smooth surface.


Wear a face mask when applying and sanding the Varathane finish to avoid breathing in fumes or particles.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear a face mask when applying and sanding the Varathane finish to avoid breathing in fumes or particles.

Things you need

  • Dust sheet
  • Cleanser
  • Sponge
  • Paint stir stick
  • Synthetic paintbrush
  • 220-grit sanding pad
  • Tack cloth

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