Varathane Finish Vs. Minwax [Pros & Cons] – Which To Choose For Your Floors?

Minwax and Varathane are two of the most well-known polyurethane brands, thanks to their extensive product lines. You might have difficulty choosing between these two, so reviewing their pros and cons can be helpful. After much research, we've put together a guide to compare Varathane versus Minwax. 

Varathane Pros:

Varathane polyurethane wood stain in quart sized cans on a store shelf

  • Numerous options for wood finishes
  • Superior in quality and durability
  • Found in various sizes and finishes
  • Dries quickly
  • Consists of polyurethane scratch-repair pen
  • It covers up to 150 square feet per quart

Varathane Cons:

  • Toxic
  • Turns yellow over time
  • Doesn't have a wipe on poly product

Minwax Pros:

A can of 946ml of Minwax water based polycrylic protective finish

  • Varieties for beginner through expert use
  • Superior in quality and longevity
  • Wide variety of sizes and finishes
  • Produced by an exceptionally seasoned manufacturer
  • It can cover up to 137.5 square feet per quart

Minwax Cons:

  • Toxic
  • There's no polyurethane scratch pen

Let's take an even closer look at how Varathane and Minwax are similar and also different. Please, keep reading to learn more information as we dig deeper into the topic.

Varathane Vs. Minwax

A comparison between Varathane Finish and Minwax Finish, Varathane Finish Vs. Minwax [Pros & Cons] - Which To Choose For Your Floors?

Choosing polyurethane for your floors enhances their longevity, appearance, and durability. So, you'll want the best finishing material for the job.

Varathane and Minwax are both excellent brands. Although, the brand name shouldn't be your deciding factor. Here's a closer look at the general qualities of polyurethane and how each of these fair when compared.


Polyurethane isn't the best clear coat option because it's not the most aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly, or eco-friendly. Nonetheless, its durability distinguishes it from other wood finishes.

Note that if you properly apply polyurethane, it can protect bare wood for up to ten years. And this applies to all polyurethanes, not just some.

There is no clear winner in this category when comparing Varathane and Minwax. Although there are advocates for each brand, no hard data shows that one is superior to the other in durability.

Product Range

For over ten years, polyurethane has seen tremendous advancements in almost every industry that uses it. It began as an oil-based material, followed by water-based, and the latest is a water-based oil-modified material.

Its uses are numerous, including indoor and outdoor applications. In addition, you can apply it by spraying, brushing, wiping, and more. Up to five different finishes and fast-drying polyurethanes are also available.

When comparing polyurethane brands, no one else comes close to offering the same breadth of products as Varathane and Minwax.

Varathane doesn't have a wipe-on poly product. However, it would be best not to worry about it because it's simple to DIY a wipe-on poly, and it'll save you a ton of money compared to Minwax, which has one. Note that wipe-on poly is only a regular polyurethane diluted with mineral spirits

Also, Varathane has a polyurethane pen that can fix scratches. Naturally, it does the exact purpose as the wipe-on poly, although not that fast.

Furthermore, Minwax has the advantage because it offers a water-based oil-modified feature, which Varathane nor any of its competitors offer. After all, with a half-century head start, it stands to reason that Minwax would offer a wider variety of finishing options.

Click here to check out this Minwax wipe-on poly on Amazon.


With so many steps involved in applying polyurethane, tools that speed up the process are much appreciated. Versatility is a factor consumers seek for any polyurethane product. Good thing that Varathane and Minwax manufacturers succeeded in pulling out all the stops to earn this factor.

One example is that you no longer need to sand between layers of water-based polyurethane. Another versatile feature is quickly correcting your work using Minwax's wipe-on poly or Varathane's scratch repair pen. 

Click here to check out these Varathane scratch repair markers on Amazon.

When applying these products from the two brands, you'll notice that they are superior to others since you can apply them without needing a bucket, brush, or sprayer. All you need to do is wipe the product out of its can nicely.

It is true, especially if you purchase the Minwax wipe-on poly or create your own wipe-on Varathane product.

The stain+poly product from Varathane is a prime example of simplicity. It's a combination of wood stain and polyurethane. So, within minutes you can apply color and protection to your surface for a beautiful finish.

On the other hand, Minwax's PolyShades could be the product you've been looking for.


Aside from the old feature of polyurethanes, where they will take long hours to dry, another thing all users find irritating is the toxicity of the product. It is because polyurethanes have high VOCs that can make a person sick with too much exposure.

And several of the side effects of exposing yourself to high-VOC products are:

  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • asthmatic attacks or respiratory issues
  • nausea
  • nasal cavities irritation
  • cancer in the worst cases

Minwax products have a VOC of 37 ounces per gallon as their maximum. On the other hand, Varathane is more remarkable since it has a maximum of 33 ounces per gallon in its products. Although the difference is not that big, you can still tell who wins this category.

Ease Of Use Or Application

Applying clear polyurethane to hardwood floor

Polyurethane is a hassle to apply to wood because of the grain. It's a lengthy procedure that takes multiple days. And you'll surely need to clean the surface afterward.

It is the main reason manufacturers try their best to produce a product with improved ease of application. Good thing they have found a way to create single-coat and fast-drying water-based polyurethane.

Varathane and Minwax offer a feature where you can use an aerosol to apply them. It is tough to choose a victor when pitting two water-based polyurethanes like Varathane and Minwax against one another.

Drying Time

You may think that Minwax would be an easy choice for a winner when it comes to drying time because of its products' names, such as "fast-," "super fast-," and "ultra fast-drying polyurethane." 

Although Varathane polyurethane doesn't bring these kinds of names, it doesn't imply that this brand is inferior to Minwax. Varathane has become famous for developing the industry's quickest-drying polyurethanes. They made all their bets on a single, quick-drying product rather than diversifying their offerings.

So, just like the ultra "fast-drying" Minwax alternatives, you can re-apply the Varathane Ultimate water-based poly in just two hours. On the other hand, compared to the "ultra fast-drying" option of Minwax, the oil-based Varathane takes about four hours to dry, wherein they are just the same.

Click here to check out this Varathane Ultimate water-based poly on Amazon.

Application Outcome

Wet polyurethane on new hardwood floor with window reflection

You can use polyurethanes in any wood flooring to protect them and extend their lifespan. However, you might not like some of their outcomes.

  • One example is when you use an oil-based poly on a wooden floor with a light color, it will produce an amber shade.
  • Another example is utilizing water-based polyurethane on white wood surfaces. In this case, it can make the wood yellowish. 

Many companies, including Minwax, expressly advise against doing this. The only exception is Varathane. You'll notice no yellowish stains on the surface if you use Varathane water-based polyurethane. 

Number Of Coats

Multiple applications of Varathane are typically necessary to achieve optimal results. After the initial coat has dried, the drying time for subsequent coats increases. Because of this, working with Varathane can be time-consuming. 

Alternatively, many Minwax products look great after just one layer. The drying time for a single coat is longer, but after that, it's all over!

If you want a professional look, you don't have to spend hours applying new coats and waiting for them to dry. The longer drying time of Minwax is justified by the fact that it often requires less time to apply.

Is It Okay To Put Minwax Over Varathane Finish?

If you have used Varathane wood stain for your project and wish to apply Minwax topcoats over it, you are free to do so. However, you must first ensure that the Varathane stain has completely dried. 

Since Minwax and Varathane are competitors, Minwax will insist that you use only their products, even if you don't have to. On the other hand, you can also use Varathane topcoats over Minwax wood dyes.

Can You Mix Minwax And Varathane Wood Stains

The carpenter is wearing a polyurethane on a teak floor

Yes, you can mix Varathane and Minwax wood stains. However, if you wish to achieve an excellent outcome, there are things you must consider before doing such a thing, and they are the following:

  1. Always ensure you only combine like-type stains, such as water-based to water-based or oil-based to oil-based stains.
  2. They should have the same undertones or hues.
  3. It would be best to consider the wood texture.
  4. It is highly advisable to try to do some stain mixture samples first.

Can You Use Indoor Polyurethane Outdoors?

If you are working on wooden structures outside, the answer is no. It is positively advisable only to use polyurethane intended for outdoor applications. It is because polyurethane made for indoor applications dries quite hard and lacks UV ray blockers. In other words, it won't stand the elements. 

Wrapping Up All Things

When using polyurethane for wood flooring, it would be best to be extra careful to achieve a nice finish. And before you start applying, it would greatly help to test it on a small spot first. Our research has determined that, overall, Minwax is the better option.

We hope you find this post helpful. If you still have questions, ask us through the comments, and we'll get back to you. If you wish to continue reading, you can check these related posts out!

Can You Sleep In House After Polyurethane?

15 Great Gray Wood Flooring Ideas [With Pictures!]

11 Wood Floor Paint Color Ideas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *