How to Seal Paint on Wood

November 20, 2021

Sealing the painted wood furniture with clear sealer.

Not so long ago, one of my main concerns when painting wood furniture was how to seal them. So, I got to learn it by heart. It is indeed frustrating when, after having spent several hours refinishing your furniture, its finished surface quickly got ruined by a drinking glass or spilled juice. Had you provided the furniture surface with a clear coat, you could have preserved the flawless finish for years to come. 

Well, sealing painted wood, of course, allows the wood to have an essential protective layer that could help it preserve its flawless surface despite the rough daily usage it gets. This protective seal helps keep the paint from peeling or chipping. Moreover, it makes the cleaning process of spills and dirt a lot easier.

Sealing Painted Wood: Simple Steps on How to Do It

When buying a sealant, you will find that it comes with specific instructions provided by the manufacturer. It will help read the instructions before applying a sealant to ensure that you do the application correctly. Below are the generalized steps on applying polyurethane or polyacrylic sealants:

Step 1: Before applying the sealant, you should ensure that the paint’s final coat is entirely dry. Once it is completely dry, lightly sand it (220 to 320-grit sandpaper). Apply enough pressure to smoothen the rough spots. Then, clean the dust off the surface using a tack cloth.

Step 2: You can use a clean paintbrush to apply the sealant. But first, use the clean brush to stir the sealant slowly. Don’t over stir or shake the can, for bubbles may appear. Then, tap off the brush to remove the excess sealant. 

Step 3: Once done with the stirring, you can apply the sealant to the painted surface. Brush from one edge to another. Apply even pressure and move in one direction. In this way, you can create a smooth finish once the sealant coat dries. If there are any drips or bubbles, you can smoothen them out using the brush edge. Do this while the coating is wet. Then, let the sealant dry for two hours.

Step 4: Afterward, you can gently sand the coat once it has dried. You can utilize sandpaper with 22-320 grit. Later, you can wipe the surface using a tack cloth. 

Step 5: You can apply another coat of sealant to provide excellent protection to the painted surface. Allow the coat to dry and reapply the sealant several times up to three coats. Once done with the final coat, let it dry without sanding afterward. Let it dry overnight before you use the furniture.

Types of Sealants That are Most Suitable for Painted Wood

You might be taken aback by the sheer number of sealant products in the market today. But if you want to zero in on the ideal sealant for painted wood, it will be best to know the following sealant types you can buy in the market today:

Polyurethane Sealant

Many sealant products are polyurethane, which is a synthetic material. A polyurethane sealant is an oil-based varnish that offers high durability and protection on bare and painted wood surfaces. You can buy it in liquid form. Moreover, you can apply it using a spray can or brush. 

As a caveat, you should apply this sealant outdoor, for it emits a foul odor due to its volatile organic contents that are toxic when ingested or inhaled. It is easy to clean using mineral spirits or paint thinner. You can remove it by stripping it.


You can use the decoupage medium if you have a small wood project. Moreover, it is perfect for sealing painted plaques, trinket boxes, and picture frames. You can apply it using a one-inch brush. Apply up to three coats of this sealant to provide the painted wood with the needed protection. 

Let the wood surface dry well after each coat. You don’t need to sand between coats. Once you’ve applied the final coat, let it dry for a day.

Combination of Paint and Sealer

You can also find products that combine paint and sealer. Using these products, you will not need an additional sealer to seal the wood surface. You can use these products to paint your furniture in white or lighter colors. These products do not turn yellow over time like those of polyurethane.


Polycrylic is another excellent coat for painted wood. It is a water-based sealant that you can apply using a brush. It emits a bit of odor since it is water-based, and you can clean it with ease. It can provide your painted wood with a durable finish but not as durable as polyurethane. 

Many sealant users prefer this one over the other options, especially when sealing furniture used by children. It comes with low VOC content. Besides, it turns clear when it dries but appears milky or white when wet.

Paste Wax

This sealant is made of dissolved wax in a solvent. The wax may be natural such as those of carnauba and beeswax. Moreover, you can apply this sealant using a rag or brush. Once the wax has dried, you must buff it to make it shine. This finish might be colored or clear. The result is an antique-looking finish. Besides, it is best when applied over milk paint or chalk paint. 

You can also use this finish over polyurethane finish to enhance the appearance of the finish. This finish isn’t as durable as the other options. So, it will help reapply the paste wax once a year. Moreover, you should keep the furniture with this finish away from direct sunlight or heat, for the wax might melt in the process.

Mod Podge

Mod podge is another option if you’re looking for additional protection for painted wood. It is an excellent protective material for painting. It can provide extra protection against damages to artwork. You can also use it as glue that adheres to the fabric. It holds the paint (acrylic) firmly as it seals the painted surface. 

You can spray a light coat on your painting. Moreover, it will help if you seal the painting using a matte acrylic sealer. Mod Podge is water-resistant and offers excellent durability.

Sealing Outdoor Painted Wood

When sealing a painted wood, you need to adequately prepare the wood surface to prevent the peeling of the paint over time. Moisture and UV light are two of the main culprits behind the changing of color of your paint. Hence, you need to seal the painted wood to make the finish last longer. 

Chipping and peeling might be due to inadequate preparation of the wood before painting. So, you need to prepare the wood before painting to add years to your paint. 

Polycrylic will offer a glossiness that you would love, but wax-based sealants will provide you with a flatter finish. Water-based polycrylic glues will be very versatile. However, if you would use wax-based, it will be best to use a soft cloth to polish the wood’s surface. 

You can dip the brush you will use into the sealant can and apply a thin layer of sealant onto the wood. The paint should be dry when applying the sealant. Then, let the sealant dry after every coat. In this way, you can provide your painted wood with full protection while extending its durability. 

The application and the drying process might take time, so you need to have enough patience to do the necessary steps when applying the sealant on painted wood. Allow the wood to rest for fifteen to twenty days after you apply the paint and the sealant.

Sealing Chalk Paint

Most of us know how to use wax as a coating on chalk paint, and it provides a waterproof surface for your chalk paint. However, when applying wax, you should undergo the learning curve of using wax correctly. If you don’t do it right, the wax will get easily penetrated by water, ruining your chalk paint. 

You must reapply wax twice a year so that it can effectively protect the paint. Aside from wax, you can also apply a clear coat to seal the chalk paint. With the clear coat, you provide the chalk paint with more durable protection than the wax coat. It’s also a less expensive alternative compared to wax.

Frequently Asked Questions

Aside from knowing the simple steps on sealing painted wood, you can also learn much from the following FAQs about sealing painted wood:

Can I Apply Wood Sealer Over the Painted Wood?

Yes, you can apply a wood sealer over painted wood, primarily if you use it on outdoor painted wood. In this way, you can provide the painted wood with additional protection against harsh external factors. 

Which Clear Exterior Coat is Best for Painted Wood?

The spar varnish is the best exterior coat you can use for painted wood. Spar varnish is a clear coat most recommended for outdoor woods because of its flexibility. For this reason, it can work well with the wood over time despite the vicissitudes of weather. Spar varnish comes with UV blockers that offer additional protection against UV light.

Can I Apply Sealer Over Acrylic Paint?

Yes, you can apply a sealer over acrylic paint. The procedure for applying a sealer over acrylic paint is simple. Moreover, with the use of a sealer, you can ensure that your painted wood will get ably protected over time.

Does Acrylic Paint Last on Wood Surface? 

The acrylic paint remains or stays in the wood. You can rely on acrylic wood paint for longevity and durability. Yet, if you want extra protection for your painted wood, you can also seal the wood.


Wood pieces, even if they got painted, are also susceptible to chipping and peeling of paint. So, it will be best to provide your painted wood with the best seal coat. In this way, you can prolong the lifespan of the finish while keeping the wood intact and protected. If the painted wood is a piece of outdoor furniture often used, you should protect it from potential damages and spills. 

Sealing painted wood is like buying an insurance policy against possible damages. Repainting, of course, is a backbreaking task, while maintaining your painted wood with a quality sealant is less tiring. Moreover, sealing can assure you that the painted wood will get optimum protection from the harsh elements of nature.

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