Varathane Vs Minwax Polyurethane: What To Choose For Woodworking?

Varathane and Minwax are two indispensable products used to finish wooden surfaces and improve abrasion and scratch resistance. However, for those who are newbies, it seems that picking Varathane or Minwax may be a hard choice. 

The article provides basic knowledge of polyurethane in general and goes deeply into Varathane vs Minwax polyurethane products. What’s more, some characteristics between the two brands are also discussed to help you choose them. 

What Is Varathane? 

Regardless of your occupations and expertise, as long as you are a wood lover and maker, you can not miss Varathane. This product gained a reputation for providing expert finish and extreme durability for the wood’s beauty. In addition, the brand Varathane seeks to make wood resist smears, stains, scratches, and especially water. 

Many fresh users have mistaken Varathane to provide 100% waterproof. However, it is not the case. Professional engineers utilize and expand the use of Varathane for furnishing work, wooden doors, floors, chairs, and many other wood-making products appearing in houses. 


What Is Minwax? 

Since its debut, Minwax has always been among the top manufacturers of wood finishing, poly shade, and avoiding stains. This results from the effort Minwax spends to deliver excellent protection and a satisfying customer experience. 


Simply speaking, Minwax is defined as a clear, water-based, or oil-based wood-related product that can maintain the beauty of a wooden surface. Therefore, it can be said that Varathane and Minwax move in tandem when paying attention to the market of wood supporting products, primarily to provide protection and maintain it. 

Varathane Vs Minwax Polyurethane Comparison 


  1. Origin: 

As you may know, both Varathane and Minwax are kinds of Polyurethane, a plastic that appears so much in our daily lives that people don’t even notice. Due to its outstanding features and characteristics, Polyurethane is widely used in various industries such as printing, paper-producing, fabric weaving, dyeing, etc. Hence, from small goods (shoe soles, books) to huge ones (wardrobe, building insulation) witnessed the existence of Polyurethane. 

  1. Features and uses: 

As mentioned before, the two top brands focus on wood supporting products markets and provide a wide range of items for different users’ purposes. Overall, three main core products contribute remarkably to the revenue of Varathane and Minwax, including Finishing Wax, Polyshades, and Wood Stains. 

However, when looking profoundly and analyzing these offerings, there are significant differences between Varathane and Minwax, which will be discussed in the following parts.


When considering Varathane vs Minwax polyurethane, one must carefully look for their conflicts to make better wooden products. Remarkable differences would be: 

  1. Characteristics of Polyshades and Wood Stains: 

Finishing Wax:

  • Minwax Paste Finishing Wax: This is the best product many users recommend for freshers because of its outstanding features. Minwax Paste Finishing Wax does its best when used to shine and protect wooden products.


  • Varathane Finishing: Some products are offered by Varathane in this niche. The best well-known offering would be the paste finishing wax that can protect the wood from humidity. 


  • Minwax Polyshade: In most cases, Minwax Polyshade is recommended when maintaining the color of polyurethane is a considerable problem. Minwax offered it in oil-based form.
  • Varathane Polyshades: This product applies the perfect formula of polyurethane and wood stains that can make wood waterproof. However, many users don’t appreciate Varathane Polyshades because they leave the surface unevenly. 

Wood Stains:

  • Minwax Wood Stains: Seemed to be the core product of Minwax, its Wood Stains are made available both in water-based and oil-based form. What’s more, Minwax even expands the varieties of the water-based version up to thirty shades that can satisfy any customers’ preferences. 
  • Varathane Wood Stains: Varathane seems to pay more attention to equipping products with waterproof features. Besides, users can achieve the desired color without much effort. 

You can learn how to apply Varathane Wood Stains here.

  1. The time it takes to dry: 
  • Varathane: A standard layer of Varathane will dry after 1 or 2 hours, depending on the weather and humidity percentage of the day. If it is sunny and hot, an hour is enough, or else, the Varathane layer may need 2 hours. However, you may know that a single layer is not preferable for wooden products. It needs to be recoated every 4 hours, ideally. Hence, you may spend 72 hours getting your work done. 
  • Minwax: Four to six hours is required to dry a layer. Therefore, if you are working effectively, you can apply up to 3 coats a day. Some small tips are recommended when using Minwax products are:
    • Do not shake Minwax
    • Seal the adhesion adding sand by using thin sandpaper
  1. Preferable number of Coats: 

Like other kinds of paints, wooden finishes often require several layers to reach their beauty. So, when purchasing and using them, the number of coats must be taken into consideration. Remember that in the competitive market with various offerings, each has recommended layers according to manufacturers. 

If you ignore the problem, overdoing or undergoing it would quickly become your case, preventing you from achieving a perfect outcome. Minwax producers ask users to apply at least two or three coats to reach the desired color. Otherwise, Varathane successfully creates its competitive advantage when a single layer can attain rich and thick results. 


  1. Duration:  

Another particular concern of painters would be how long the layer can stay and maintain its color. Of course, you always want your product to be beautiful and in good shape as long as possible. To achieve this, offerings must provide long-term protection against environmental afflictions such as humidity, harsh temperatures, scratches, and so on. 

In terms of durability, experts agree that Varathane performs better than Minwax mainly because Varathane offers more oil-based products. 

  1. Scent:

Besides these above main features, many customers who are sensitive to smell would spend the first position when making a purchase decision for this feature. What’s more, people with nose diseases such as acute sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, asthma, chronic rhinitis, etc., will be more careful with the problem of scent.

It is stated that while Varathane smells oily, Minwax has an antic smell. However, they are both terrible. Many tricks and hacks have been raised to solve the case. The most there essential tips would be:

  • You must have adequate ventilation to circulate bad smells around the objects. 
  • If possible, it is necessary to take out the newly stained thing in the daytime. 
  • Pour baking soda into several tins and place them near your objects so that baking soda will absorb the smell.

Click here for more information about dealing with Wood Stain smells. 

Varathane Vs Minwax: Which One Is Better? 

From the above-detailed comparison, hopefully, you can make your decision depending on your concerns. 

For example, if you prefer an effective and efficient woodwork process, Varathane would be the optimal choice because you can attain a perfect color shade with a single layer. What’s more, the duration of Varathane is also longer, which keeps your products’ beauty last. 


However, many choose Minwax for reasons. Minwax products usually provide thin coating, which is a competitive feature in the market of wood supporting products. Besides, due to its thin layer, the time required for drying is also much shorter than Varathane. 

In general, for both Minwax and Varathane, the oil-based form is preferable by experts because it brings shine to completed projects and avoids “yellowing.” 

Frequently Asked Questions

When using Varathane or Minwax products or starting your own path of decorating wooden projects, here are the top three considerations raised by fresh wood makers: 

  1. What temperature is too cold for Polyurethane?

As many experts state, ideal conditions would be 70 (°F) and 50 % to 70 % humidity. However, don’t worry if it can not reach 70 ° F. Fluctuation of 5 degrees below or above 70 °F is still acceptable. Out of this boundary, it will become a considerable problem, and below 55 ° F is too cold.  

In case it’s cold, you can still apply Polyurethane. However, the phenomenon you might face and solve is that the drying process will last longer, which is a highly undesirable circumstance for effective and efficient wood makers. Thus, it is better to choose fast-drying products coming from the Minwax brand.  

  1. What precautions do you need to take while dealing with stains?

Most of the time, dealing with stains is the most major problem when producing wooden projects. One does not want to witness the appearance of any stains or spots on their dedicating products because even the slightest mark can negatively destroy their beauty. 

However, if you are not professional enough, you should pay much attention to safety when dealing with stains, regardless of what types of Polyurethane you choose. Several precautions you must consider are:

  • Read safety precautions provided by the manufacturer: This step must be taken before using the product, especially with chemical stains dyes. They require greater cautionary measures because their components reach sensitive parts of the human body like eyes, skin, mouth, etc., and cause severe diseases. 


  • Wear protective gear: When using Varathane, Minwax, or any Polyurethane, you should wear gloves, boots, splash-proof goggles, and face masks to prevent directly touching the chemical mixture.  
  • If possible, use products in a spacious area:  Doing this will remarkably help you protect your health. Long-term interaction with Polyurethane will affect your health when it goes into your body through the nose. Hence, a closed room keeps the smell of Polyurethane in the same area that enhances the possibility of inhaling it.  
  1. What are the purposes of wood decoration?
  • Enhance durability: Wood with high quality can be used for a long time. However, its price is so high that its breakdown is still significant with wood owners even after an extended period. On the other hand, low-quality wood will quickly be destroyed. Therefore, wood decoration and the use of Varathane or Minwax can improve the lifespan of wood considerably. 
  • Allow Modifiability: In case you have bought wooden furniture. Then it turns out not to be suitable with your house decoration, you can sand down or use Varathane, Minwax products to adjust the color of wooden furniture. 
  • Provide uniqueness: Preparing wooden projects yourself allows you to create one-of-a-kind products that satisfy your interest and preference. 

Refer to this video if you want to find out more about wood decoration ideas:

Wood decoration ideas – DIY wood projects room decor 


Wrapping Up 

Although both brands serve the same market of wood-supporting products, there are significant differences between Varathane vs Minwax polyurethane. Moreover, each of them has its pros and cons, depending on the manufacturers’ purpose, aim, and strategy. Hence, customers should carefully do research or ask for advice from experts to choose which one is better suited to their use.