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How To Seal White Washed Wood

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After you brushed on the whitewash, you learned that you need to protect and preserve the distressed wood. Now, you are looking for how to do the process. Thus, we researched ways to help you seal the whitewashed wood. Here they are!

You can seal a whitewashed wood by either using polyurethane, polyacrylic, wax, varnish, shellac or glaze. It can be oil- or water-based. Adding sealant or top coat to stained wood serves as a layer of protection. Thus, to get an aesthetic whitewashed wood that is long-lasting, follow these simple steps. 

  1. Dry and clean the surface.
  2. Sand to smoothen the surface. 
  3. Stir the sealant before and during use.
  4. Brush on a thin coat of sealant.
  5. Apply two to three coats.
  6. Air-dry the sealed wood for a day.

We all love whitewashed wood and sealing will make it durable. So, keep on reading to find out more about the types of sealants and ways to apply them. We will also answer other questions in your mind. Let's get started!

Wooden boards, brown paint and paintbrush, horizontal, How To Seal White Washed Wood

How To Apply A Sealant

Below is the list of materials, procedures, helpful tips, and a few reminders while working on this project.

Materials You'll Need

Prepare the following items before starting this project:

  • Gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Surface protector
  • Natural brush or lint-free rag
  • Sandpaper or power sander 
  • Sealant


Close up of carpenter applying varnish with a brush on a piece of wood in a workshop.

Except for  wax, follow the step-by-step process to apply the top coat over whitewashed wood:

  1. Ensure the wood surface is dry and clean. There should be a minimum of 24- to 72-hour intervals since the whitewash application. 
  2. Sand using 400-grit sandpaper to obtain a smooth uniform surface. Remove all dust with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits.
  3. Stir the sealant before and during use to evenly disperse the settlement on the bottom of the can. 
  4. Brush on the wood with a thin layer of sealant.
  5. Repeat Step 3 upon application. Then recoat one to two layers with interval.
  6. Before using the wood, air-dry the sealed wood for at least 24 hours.

Important Tips

  • If you use an oil-based stain, the surface must be completely dry first before applying a water-based topcoat.
  • With the gel stains, you can use a water-based or oil-based sealant.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions for your type of project.
  • Put more top coats on large surfaces of your wood, increasing its durability.

Safety Reminders with Sealants

For safety, you must observe these reminders while working with sealants:

  • Avoid touching your face or eyes. 
  • Wear gloves and safety glasses.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Do not shake the container.
  • Keep aerosol cans away from flame or extreme heat.
  • Follow the manufacturer's recommendations, such as product disposal.

White Wax Technique

Apply the wax to the surface using a brush or microfiber rag. After 10 minutes or so, buff the wax on the surface until the finish becomes tack free. The curation time for wax lasts between 5 to 21 days depending on the brand, temperature, and humidity. 

Types Of Sealants (Top Coats)

Here are the widely used top coats for your whitewashed wood.


Polyurethane, a resinous polymer coating, has two types: oil-based and water-based. Aside from being a sealant, people use this in cushioning and mattresses. It has a great variety of properties. These include high tensile strength, insolubility, and abrasion and degradation resistance. Similarly, it will add glossiness to the wood surface.

Drying And Curing Time

When applied, it requires several hours to dry. The drying time for oil-based polyurethane will last between 24 to 48 hours whereas the water-based one will evaporate after 6 to 24 hours.

Afterward, the curing occurs. This will make the finish hard and durable and create full adhesion to the wood surface. The curing process can take up to 4 weeks or so.

This varies depending on environmental conditions such as humidity in the area, film thickness, and the number of coats of polyurethane. For a good rule of thumb, as long as you smell the strong odor emitted by the sealed wood, it is still curing.

What Polyurethane Is Recommended?

Here are some of the best brands for polyurethane available in the market.

  • The Minwax clear oil-based finish is a popular choice for its durability. While it protects the natural beauty of the wood, it offers a long-lasting, sleek sheen for a modern look.

Check out this semi-gloss polyurethane on Amazon.

  • The Varathane water-based finish has a classic satin. Its see-through look will not turn yellow.

Check out this satin polyurethane on Amazon.

  • Rust-Oleum offers a water-based acrylic formula that dries fast, allowing you to recoat after 2 hours. It has a matte finish that reduces the appearance of fingerprints and smudges. Its durable coating feels softer to the touch than a traditional Polyurethane.

Check out this matte polyurethane on Amazon.

To gain more insight about polyurethane, read this post: Can You Sleep In House After Polyurethane?


Combining polyacrylates and polyurethane forms a water-based protective coat. Polycrylic is the brand name for this protective coating. It is a transparent film that resists water. For this reason, it is commonly applied over wood and non-wood items for water and solvent protection. 

Drying Time

Unlike polyurethane, Polycrylic dries quickly. It does not bring a strong odor and shine to the wood surface. You can recoat after the 2-hour drying time and clean up easily with soap and water when spilled. Likewise, it is ideal for both oil-based and water-based stains.

What Polycrylic Is Recommended?

Minwax manufactures Polycrylic. You can choose between the two forms of Polycrylic. The spray-on or aerosol Polycrylic is easy and quick to use when applying a thin layer, specifically on small projects.

Check out this Polycrylic spray on Amazon.

In contrast, the roll-on Polycrylic is available in large cans similar to paints, which is a good option for larger projects. Compared to the spray-on, the roll-on leaves noticeable brush strokes.

Check out this Polycrylic protective finish on Amazon.


Dubbed the oldest way of sealing the wood, varnish became a generic term for all wood finishes. It is a mixture of resins, oils, and solvents. Despite being less durable, it is more flexible and resistant to UV damage than polyurethane. Thus, it is suitable for outdoor furniture and softwoods.

Because of its thin consistency, you need to apply more layers of varnish. Its drying time is up to 6 hours. When not applied or dried properly, it is prone to bubbling and peeling.

Check out this clear gloss varnish on Amazon.

We shared a detailed discussion about this. So, browse this article: How Long Does Varnish Smell Last?


Brush for covering wood in a jar on a wooden surface. Protecting wood from water, varnishing floors, furniture, carpentry.

The glaze is designed to perfect any paintwork, adding more depth and richness to your wood. It beautifies the surface by blurring minor scratches and swirls.

In the past, glaze and sealants are two different coatings. These days, manufacturers have formulated 2-in-1 products, combining these two. With this, you can achieve optimal results.

Check out this clear glaze on Amazon.


Secreted by the lac bug, shellac covers the wood from water and sun damage. Similarly, it leaves a high gloss finish. While it intensifies the natural wood grain, it smoothens the wood surface without fading or yellowing over time.

Check out this clear shellac on Amazon.


Painting and wood maintenance oil-wax

Finishing wax is odorless, non-hazardous, and water-resistant. A whitewashed wood sealed with wax has a softer, vintage look. This wax is commonly used to seal chalk or milk paint. Among the top coats, it has the longest curing time.

Check out this clear wax on Amazon.

Why Do You Need To Seal Whitewash?

Whitewashed Shiplap Wall

Although sealing your whitewashed wood may take several hours or even days, it is a necessary step to protect it against damage. The following are the benefits of a sealed whitewashed wood:

  • Covers holes and cracks.
  • Hinders water or moisture and extreme temperature problems.
  • Prevents fading and losing its freshness.
  • Adds finish variation (matte, satin, or semi-gloss).
  • Preserves quality and durability.

What Are Self-Sealing Stains?

Self-sealing stains are semi-transparent coatings with a water-based formula. Because they are self-sealing, there is no need for additional polyurethane or other sealants.

You can select from a wide selection of colors made by DecoArt. They are a good alternative for both indoor and outdoor wood furniture.

Although most distressing wood stains are not self-sealing, this primer both acts as a multi-surface sealer and stain blocker. It also features excellent adhesion, mildew resistance, and a very mild odor.

Check out this all-purpose latex primer on Amazon.

How To Choose The Right Sheen Finish?

The sheen determines glossiness or how much light the surface will reflect. The level of glossiness affects the visibility of imperfections within the surface. However, it does not change the durability that sealants give. 

Protective clear finishes are available in gloss, semi-gloss, matte, and satin sheens. Although selecting a sheen is a personal preference, you must also consider some factors:

  • Foot traffic
  • Susceptibility to wear and tear 
  • Functions of the wood item
  • Surface's texture 

To know the difference between the finishes, explore this guide: 10 Types Of Paint Finishes For Walls.

Green Fiddle Fig Leaf on Whitewashed Wood

Final Thoughts

Sealing a whitewash is the next step after the weathered stain. Without it, the surface will not be protected. However long it takes, don't skip sealing your whitewashed wood. Apply and dry the top coat properly to fully maximize its benefits. Unless it’s a self-sealing stain, then the sealant is not necessary. 

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, check out these articles:

What's The Best And Most Durable Finish For Hardwood Floors?

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