Skip to Content

How to Seal Painted Furniture for Long-Term Protection

If you’re wondering how to seal painted furniture properly, you’re in the right place.

Finishing your furniture with a durable topcoat is like giving it a suit of armor, protecting it from scratches, spills, and all the other mishaps that come with daily use.

Below, we will cover everything you need to know about sealer, including the best brands, the application process, and how you can obtain a flawless finish.

You’ll be a sealing expert by the end of this post, ready to tackle your next DIY project with confidence.

So without further ado, let’s show you how to seal painted furniture, so it shines for years to come.

Using a paintbrush for how to seal painted furniture

Why is Sealing Important?

You might be wondering, can I get away without sealing painted furniture? Unless you want all your hard work to go to waste, the answer is a definite no.

Sealing painted furniture gives it a protective shield. Without it, the surface is vulnerable to stains, scratches, and all sorts of mischief.

Applying a good top coat to your painted furniture can make it repel liquids, resist damage, and keep it looking nice and spiffy for years to come.

If you’re redoing a high-traffic furniture item, like a dining table or desk, you’ll especially want to seal the surface properly. This way, if you spill your drink or drop cutlery, your furniture will still look good as new.

It’s also imperative to seal any outdoor furniture to withstand the elements while still looking its best. You can’t expect your patio table or chair to last a whole season without rain or wind damage if you don’t seal it beforehand.

Best Sealers for Painted Furniture

Choosing the right sealer may seem daunting with all the endless options available, but once you know the best top coat for your specific project, you can nail down an option easily.

Choosing the Right Sealer for Your Furniture

Before you shell out your cash for a sealer, consider the material and finish of your painted furniture.

A polyurethane sealer is your best bet if you’re using wood. It provides a durable, clear coating that protects against scratches, water damage, and sun exposure while giving the surface a glossy finish.

You can choose either an oil-based or water-based polyurethane sealer. The former leaves a lovely amber flow, but it takes longer to dry and has a pungent odor. If you’re looking for the best oil-based polyurethane sealer, the Minwax finish is hard to beat.

Water-based polyurethane sealer will cost a little bit more, but it dries faster and goes on clear. The Varathane polyurethane is an ideal option for a water-based formula.

Furniture wax offers a natural alternative to chemical-based top coats. However, it’s more taxing to apply and isn’t as strong as polyurethane. The Jolie Finishing Wax is an ideal non-toxic protective top coat that creates a durable matte finish.

Applying sealant to a painted table

Polycrylic is another great sealing option for wood since it dries fast, offers good protection, and has an affordable price tag. It’s thinner than polyurethane, so you may need to apply multiple coats to get the job done.

Since it has a runny consistency, you may find it hard to use on vertical projects like bookcases or doors. It’s also not recommended for outdoor projects since it’s not as durable. The Minwax Polycrylic is a great choice if you’re looking for this type of top coat.

If you’re painting metal furniture, you’ll need to find the right sealer that works with this material. Find an option that prevents rust and is weather resistant, like the Rust-Oleum spray paint sealer.

Preparing Your Furniture for Sealing

Now, let’s show you how to seal painted furniture! Before you start, it’s important to prep your surface for the top coat.

At this point, you either just finished re-painting your furniture or you’re just giving a touch-up to a pre-painted surface. If it’s the latter, you can skip this step.

If you just gave your furniture a fresh coat of color, waiting until the surface is completely dry before sealing is imperative. Depending on the paint type, the drying process may take as little as an hour or up to 24 hours.

Once your paint is completely dry, it’s time to clean the surface. Use a rag to wipe any dust or dirt off your furniture. You can slightly dampen the rag to help your efforts, but keep the moisture levels as minimal as possible so you don’t ruin your fresh paint job.

Applying the Sealer

It’s showtime! Here’s how to seal painted furniture using four different types of top coats.


When using polyurethane for sealing painted furniture, it is important to stir the can instead of shaking it since jostling the can may cause air bubbles to form, creating bumps on the sealed surface.

If the polyurethane appears too thick during stirring, you can thin it out with mineral spirits.

A paintbrush and can of polyurethane

Start by finding a bristled brush, then apply the first coat in long, broad strokes. Keep the application as thin as possible to avoid pooling or dropping.

After coating the entire surface, leave it to dry completely for around 4-6 hours. Once dry, the second coat can be applied in the same manner as the first, ensuring even coverage and complete drying.

Polycrylic Sealer

When you open a can of polycrylic sealer, the first thing you may notice is the milky white color. Don’t worry; after sealing painted furniture, it will dry to a crystal clear finish.

Start by stirring the polycrylic. Like polyurethane, don’t shake the can to avoid introducing air bubbles.

Using a synthetic bristle brush, apply long strokes in one direction in thin, even layers. Brush out any drips that may form.

Polycrylic typically dries within two hours and is ready for another coat after three hours. However, it should dry for at least 24 hours before normal use to prevent scratches or dents.

Wax Sealer

Applying furniture wax might be more taxing than other methods of sealing painted furniture, but it’s not complicated.

Start by finding a paper plate. Scoop out a blob of wax and spread it out on the plate so it’s easier to pick it up with the brush.

Find a stiff-bristled brush and dab it vertically into the wax. Pick up a quarter-sized amount- less is more when it comes to a wax sealer.

Use your brush to massage the wax into one portion of the surface. Paint loose circular motions to help distribute the sealer in a thin layer. Continue spreading the wax around until the brush gets dry.

Grab a clean, lint-free cloth, then give the waxed surface a few steady sweeps to remove excess sealer.

Keep repeating these steps until your project is coated in the top coat. Let it dry for at least 24 hours before applying another layer. If you’re dealing with a high-traffic surface, consider applying 2-3 additional coats for the best protection.

applying wax to a chalk painted table

Wax takes around a month to be fully cured, so avoid using your furniture until it’s completely dry. This method might take the longest, but it offers a non-toxic alternative to sealing painted furniture.

Sealing Metal

When painting metal furniture, allow even more time for the paint to dry before applying a sealer- around 1-2 days should be plenty. If you seal too soon, you can risk damaging the paint.

Depending on the sealer you use, you can spray, brush, or roll it on. Use the same techniques as above by applying a thin, even coat and letting it dry completely before use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know how to seal painted furniture, let’s answer some of your most frequently asked questions about the subject.

How many coats of sealer should I apply?

Are you wondering how many coats of top coat to apply when sealing painted furniture? Consider the type of furniture you’re working on. If it’s a high-traffic furniture item like a table or desk, you’ll ideally want to use 3-4 coats of sealer for optimal protection.

The same goes for outdoor furniture- a few layers of protective coating will go a long way to ensure longevity and durability.

If you’re sealing painted furniture that serves more for decoration than function, you can probably get away with only using a single coat of sealer.

How long does it take for the sealer to dry?

There are two different dryness levels when it comes to sealing painted furniture: touch-dry and fully cured. When your project is touch-dry, you can apply another coat of sealer or move it around. However, you shouldn’t use your furniture until it’s fully cured.

Most sealers will be touch-dry after 4 hours and fully cured between 24-48 hours.

Wax is the only exception to this rule, taking 24 hours to be touch dry and a whole month to be fully cured.

Piece of vintage furniture refinished with teal paint

How to Seal Painted Furniture: Summed Up

No matter which sealing route you go down; the key takeaway is that it’s imperative to give your painted furniture a protective top coat to keep it looking sharp for years to come.

Now you know how to seal painted furniture, check out our Painting page for more helpful DIY guides.