10 Best Exterior Clear Coat for Wood- Reviews & Buyer’s Guide 2021

Image of wood coated with best exterior clear coat for woodWould you like to see your exterior wooden materials rot? I know you wouldn’t want to see them fade or peel away either. This problem commonly happens to softwoods that have high absorbent characteristics. Hardwoods are also susceptible to the wrath of the scorching sunlight that emits dangerous UV rays. With the best exterior clear coat for wood, you can protect your structures from such destructive elements.

These products ensure that all your outdoor projects are ready to face harsh environmental conditions by providing a clear but protective coating. They are also available as either water or oil-based and can easily penetrate deep into the wood pores, limiting algae and mold growth.

Many people still find it hard to choose the right exterior clear coats out there, thanks to the unnumbered options available in the market today. So, in this post, I will discuss the very best exterior clear coat for wood that you can apply to your wooden projects.

Additionally, I’ve includes a comprehensive buyer’s guide with the right factors and aspects of clear coat you need to consider before settling on a product.

Keep reading for more…

Best Exterior Clear Coat for Wood Comparison Table

Best Exterior Clear Coat for Wood Buyers’ Guide

Wooden materials can sometimes be very vulnerable, mainly if used for outdoor applications. However, as seen from the above products and their reviews, you can handle this problem using the best exterior clear coat for wood.

These products come in different compositions, sizes, and quantities. Therefore, I have prepared the guide and significant factors as to why you need to cover your wooden ventures with a clear exterior coat.

Reasons Why You Need a Clear-Coat for Wood 

  • It prevents wood from rotting. These products fully cover the surface of the application, profoundly penetrating each of the open pores. Thus, it prevents any chances of algae and mold growth that causes wood rotting.
  • It retains the woods’ beauty. No compromising of the wood’s natural color since these colorants highlight all the wood grain, exposing the wood’s natural beauty.
  • UV and water resistance. Your wooden materials have assured protection against the dangerous UV rays, moisture, and rainwater that may cause peeling and fading.
  • Wide area coverage. Most of these colorants come in large gallon containers. Therefore, they can cover a large area of application per gallon.
  • Durability. These products offer up to more than ten years of instant protection against environmental hazards, thereby increasing the wood’s life.
  • Easy to clean. You only require a piece of clean cloth and warm water to get a crystal clear surface.
  • Easy to apply. You can effortlessly apply using either a brush, roller, or spray can depending on the products’ preferred application method.

Factors to Consider While BuyingtThe Best Exterior Clear Coat for Wood

  • Application method

You will have to spread the stains or the sealer on the wood surface. Therefore you need to contemplate the application methods. Most of these products are ideal for the application using either a brush or roller. However, some have advanced techniques, such as using a spray can. 

Therefore, you have the mandate of choosing a product depending on your preferable ease of application method.

  • UV inhibitors

As exterior coat products, they will have to face the scorching sunlight every day. For this reason, you should consider merchandise with enhanced UV inhibitors so that they can shield your wooden materials from damaging UV rays.

  • Water and corrosion-resistance

Your outdoor ventures will have to withstand the severe weather conditions, especially humidity, rain, moisture, and mildew. Thus, the products need to be water-resistant. Some environments also experience chemical spills, which might also cause the fading of the wood surfaces.

Therefore, you have to choose a quality product that can resist both water and even corrosives.

  • Drying time

These products have different dry times between the intervals of recoating- This means that you will require a diverse number of coats and the application period. Thus, I recommend choosing a product with less application time to save you some time and increase productivity levels.

Best Exterior Clear Coat for Wood Products Review

Let’s look at the individual products and their distinct features that will allow you to get the very best for your exterior woodworking projects. 

1. DEFY Extreme  Exterior Wood Stain, Crystal Clear

Have you been admiring to have that elegant, transparent stain for your decks, sidings, playsets, outdoor furniture, fences, and more? Well, the DEFY Extreme Exterior Wood Stain has it all. As a water-based colorant, this environmentally friendly product protects your wooden materials from graying. Besides that, it ensures that the material also retains its natural look. 

This commodity has its ingredients fortified with enhanced zinc nano-particle technology- That acts as a sunscreen by reflecting away the dangerous UV radiation. Therefore, protecting your wood against color loss and premature graying.

The DEFY wood stain also guarantees your wooden properties durability, thanks to the incorporated highest grain resins that are darkening and fading-resistant. On top of that, this product poses no difficulties when it comes to maintenance.

 You can efficiently service the material by embellishing the wood with DEFY wood brightener, followed by spreading a single maintenance coat of DEFY extreme wood stain. 

Summary of the key features

  • This product contains the highest quality resins that result in a semi-transparent deck stain that can last a season or two. 
  • The water-based nature of this stain renders it environment friendly while maintaining the customized look of your wood.
  • Its ingredients contain zinc nano-particles that reflect the damaging UV rays—thus acting as a sunscreen to the material.
  • This commodity also prevents the sanding or stripping away of the surface when you want to do some maintenance.

Pros DEFY Extreme 1 Gallon Exterior Wood Stain, Crystal Clear

  • It’s durable.
  • Fading and darkening-resistant.
  • Elementary to maintain.
  • It prevents premature graying and loss of color.
  • Ideal for most of the outdoor wooden materials.


  • This product lasts for only a season or two.
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2. TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish, High Gloss, and Matte Finish for Wood

TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish, High Gloss, and Matte Finish for Wood have all that you can boast for the best exterior clear coat for wood. The Marine grade varnish accredits this by highlighting the wood grain with a rich, clear amber tone- That results in a durable, fade-free, and UV-resistant finish.

You can also use this stain on interior and exterior applications like boats and other outdoor furniture. This product dries quickly, therefore allowing for the rapid application of multiple coats in a single day without sanding between coats.

However, it is advisable to lightly sand before applying the final coat, which you can do after one day. The TotalBoat lust marine varnish also has a premium, oil-based formula that prevents the wood from peeling or cracking due to diverse temperature variations.

Summary of the key features

  • This stain has an oil-based formula that renders it appropriate for all marine and household woods.
  • The colorant provides a rich, clear amber tone that protects the wood while maintaining its elegant look and enhancing the rain.
  • You can either choose between the high gloss or matte finish, where high gloss requires up to 6-8 coats of lust gloss while the lust matte is suitable for finish coats.
  • This varnish also has a comprehensive coverage ranging between 360-400 square feet per gallon.

ProsTotalBoat-486490 Lust Marine Varnish, High Gloss and Matte Finish for Wood, Boats, Outdoor Furniture (High Gloss, Gallon)

  • It’s available in both high gloss or matte.
  • You can apply by using either a brush, roller, or spraying can(xylene).
  • This stain Guaranteed a smooth satin finish.
  • Fast-drying.
  • Suitable for both interior and exterior wood.
  • It’s UV, water, and fade-resistant.


  • The varnish can only cover between 360 to 400 sq. ft./gallon.
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3. Ready Seal 500 Clear, Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer

There is no doubt that Ready Seal 500 Clear, Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer has all that a professional requires in wood stains. The product comes in a five-gallon container, thereby assuring you complete area coverage.

Additionally, this stain leaves no laps, runs, or even streaks. Instead, it blocks the wood from the damaging UV rays, water, and mildew, thus, ensuring that your wood has a durable finish. With all these positivities, you can use this stain for various applications- This includes decks, exterior shakes and shingles, fences, gazebos, log homes, patio covers, and siding.

The Ready seal 500 clear does not limit you on the application methods since you can either use a sprayer, a roller, or even a brush. Furthermore, this colorant does not require priming, back brushing, or wet-line application, as seen in common stains.

Summary of the key features

  • You can apply this product under any temperature range since it can withstand both contraction and expansion effects.
  • The stain comes in various colors, giving you the mandate to pick on the one that suits your project.
  • It also has an oil-based element that leaves a semi-transparent finish exposing the beauty of the wood.
  • This product provides three-in-one protection from mildew, UV rays, and water.

ProsReady Seal 100 Clear, 1-Gallon Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer, 1 gallon (Packaging may vary)

  • Ease of application by either brush, spray can, or roller.
  • Professional grade sealant.
  • It’s ideal for all exterior wood ventures.
  • This commodity minimizes the need for maintenance.
  • It requires no priming.


  • The product is not suitable for interior wood projects.
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4. Roxil Wood Protection Cream Instant Waterproofing Clear Treatment

With this silicone wood protection cream, you have a ten-year guarantee of weatherproofing for weathered hardwoods and softwoods. Moreover, this product has a single cream emulsion formula that you can effortlessly apply to unpainted softwood timber using either a roller or a brush in a single coat. 

This cream also enables you to quickly and accurately apply with no chances of any splashback or runoff on horizontal or vertical surfaces. However, to get the best results, ensure that you clean the treatment surfaces with biocidal wood cleaner. Whereas, for particularly vulnerable surfaces, apply a suitable wood rot treatment. 

You will require a wood stain that prevents the growth of mold and algae, that’s why this product creates a transparent waterproof barrier that diminishes the moisture ingress- This mainly helps protect the softwoods known for their porous nature.

Summary of the key features

  • This stain forms a waterproof coat in a single coat application, thus prolonging the woods’ life, especially for softwood materials.
  • The product also facilitates easy and accurate application with limited chances of splashing or dripping.
  • As an oil-based stain, it prevents cracking and warping on woods by withstanding extreme temperatures.
  • It also features enhancing pigments that protect the wooden materials by reducing the growth of mold and algae.

ProsRoxil Wood Protection Cream Instant Waterproofing Clear Treatment, Weatherproofs: Fences, Decking, Furniture, Sheds (1 Quart)

  • Weather Proofs instantly for 10+ years.
  • It covers approximately 130 to 200 square feet per gallon.
  • The product features a no-drip formulation.
  • It also offers breathable, colorless protection.


  • You cannot apply using a spray can.
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5. Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane, Clear Semi-Gloss

For reduced sun graying and fading effects, choose Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane, Clear Semi-Gloss, which contains the UV blockers. This product also contains unique oil pigments that offer protection against rain and moisture while expanding and contracting with the wood under different temperatures.

Minwax Helmsman ensures that you get a crystal clear finish on doors, trims, bathroom cabinets, windows, kitchen countertops, bar tops, and other outdoor furniture. You can also use it on light-colored stains and woods since it can quickly dry and clean with warm water. Generally, you can use this product for all your indoors and outdoors wood applications.

Summary of the key features

  • The stain contains special oils that enable it to contract and expand with the wood under different temperature variations preventing cracking and peeling.
  • This commodity does not take a lot of time to dry, and it’s also elementary to clean using warm water.
  • It forms an invisible protective layer that shields the wood from UV rays, rain, moisture, and mildew.
  • You can effortlessly apply this product using a paintbrush, roller, or spray can.

ProsMinwax 710510000 Water Based Helmsman Spar Urethane, gallon, Semi-Gloss

  • It’s water and UV resistant.
  • This stain reduces sun graying fading effects.
  • Suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications.
  • It has an oil-based element.
  • The colorant comes in a semi-gloss color.
  • It covers a broad application area.


  • The product only features a semi-gloss color.
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6. TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish, Gloss, and Satin Polyurethane Finish for Wood

This merchandise contains remarkable characteristics that render it one of the best exterior clear coats for wood. For instance, the product features a self-leveling varnish that enables it to dry quickly- Therefore, allowing for recoating in as little as 1-hour under a temperature of at least 72-degrees Fahrenheit.

The TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish also offers saltwater resistance and protection against UV rays. As a result, it prevents the wood from turning yellow after prolonged use. You can also use either a brush, roller, or spray-can to apply to all your interior and exterior ventures.

This product comes in different categories, including pint, quart, gloss, satin, and various gallon sizes. You can also elementary apply up to three coats in a single day without the need to sand between coats.

Summary of the key features

  • It incorporates enhanced gleam varnish formulas that offer more advanced overcoating and cure times for quick varnishings.
  • This product also eliminates the need to sand if you overcoat within a period of 48-hours. However, after this period, you can sand using 32-grit sandpaper before applying the final coat or overcoating.
  • It requires only 4 to 6 coats to provide a better finish and depth since the more the skins, the better the finish.

ProsTotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish, Gloss and Satin Polyurethane Finish for Wood, Boats and Outdoor Furniture (Clear Gloss Gallon)

  • It contains potent UV inhibitors.
  • The product extends the beauty and durability of the wood.
  • Suitable for both interior and exterior applications.
  • It has unparalleled depth and clarity.
  • This stain dries faster.


  • It requires the application of several coats for the best results.
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7.THOMPSONS WATERSEAL 21802 VOC Wood Protector

You get an extra credit of a bonus container if you live in a VOC(Volatile Organic Compounds) restricted area- This gives you enough reasons for choosing THOMPSONS WATERSEAL 21802 VOC Wood Protector.

It comes in a 1.2-gallon container that can cover up to 300 to 400 sq.ft./gallon for woods such as cedar, redwood, and oak. However, for all other woods like plywood, pine, pressure treated, and many more, it covers 200-300 sq. ft./gal.

The 21802 water seal also has numerous application formulas, including a roller, brush, sprayer, and dipping. But I recommend the garden pump-up style since it’s the simplest among the other methods. This product takes only up to 48-hours to dry. However, the period varies depending on the temperature, humidity, and substrate.

Summary of the key features

  • The resulting coating resists both humidity and the damaging UV rays while relinquishing the woods natural beauty.
  • It has up to four application methods with the best being the garden pump-up sprayer style as it saves on time.
  • This stain takes only 48-hours to dry completely.
  • It’s ideal for any type of wood, either soft or hard, and the coverage area also depends on the wood material.

ProsTHOMPSONS WATERSEAL 21802 VOC Wood Protector, 1.2-Gallon

  • Bonus container for clients from VOC restricted areas.
  • The stain has a vast application area.
  • It is appropriate for a variety of outdoor wood projects.
  • Waterproofing wood protector.
  • Maintains the wood’s natural color.


  • The drying period depends on weather conditions.
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8. RUST-OLEUM 250231 Outdoor Clear Satin Finish

Will I be wrong when I say that this product resists scratches? Of course, no. The 

RUST-OLEUM 250231 Outdoor Clear Satin Finish has a high concentration of useful colorants- This provides a non-yellowish scratch-resistant finish that dries in a short time.

Additionally, this product integrates very efficient UV absorbers that offer incompatible protection against damaging rays. It also has a low odor and gives you an effortless cleaning time by only using a soft, clean cloth and warm water.

The 250231 outdoor satin finish allows you to apply up to three coats a whole day long. This product further guarantees you elegant designs and a smooth finish across all wood types since it features a water-based enamel.

Summary of the key features

  • The merchandise characterizes a non-yellow finish that maintains the woods’ beauty.
  • It also has UV absorbers that offer protection against scorching sun rays.
  • The stain has a short drying time while offering a water-resistant coating that prolongs the woods’ life.
  • This product incorporates the varathane gallon outdoor crystal clear satin finish that offers protection to the wood

Pros1 gal Rust-Oleum Brands 250231 Clear Varathane, Diamond Water-Based Spar Urethane, Satin Pack of 1

  • Scratch-resistant.
  • It dries quickly.
  • The product leaves a smooth and elegant finish.
  • It offers unbeatable protection.
  • You can apply up to 3-coats in a day.
  • Low odor.
  • Easy to clean.


  • It requires up to 3-coats in a day for a perfect finish.
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9. Rainguard International CU- 0101 Seal Acrylic Urethane Coating High Gloss, Clear Coat Sealant

The Rainguard International CU- 0101 Seal Acrylic Urethane Coating High Gloss, Clear Coat Sealant, swank with its water-based nature. This product also features non-cancer-causing ingredients with a low VOC, thus ideal for most home furniture.

The commodity can also resist hot tire pickup rendering it ideal for warehouses, automotive, residential, and commercial ventures. Additionally, the sealer stipulates severe and long-lasting transparent protection to tackle heavy vehicular, pedestrian traffic, and impacts. 

This product also ensures that all your outdoor wood projects get ample protection from the damaging UV rays, all thanks go to its non-yellow formula. You will also have your assignments done in the shortest time possible since the sealer allows for a quick 1-hour recoating time.

Summary of the key features

  • This clear seal comes in both a low and a high gloss sheen, reckoning on the final look’s desire for enhanced visual appearance.
  • You can also apply this product either as an independent sealer or a shielding topcoat over a previously painted wood surface.
  • The product can resist bases, acids, stains, gasoline, oil(vegetable or motor), and alcohol.
  • It has a brief drying period between the intervals of recoating.

ProsRain Guard Water Sealers International CU- 0101 Clear Seal Acrylic Urethane Coating High Gloss 1 gal (Ready to Use), Clear Coat Sealant

  • Resistant to hot tire pickup.
  • Superior for outdoor performance.
  • It offers more than 10-years of satisfaction.
  • The product can survive any weather conditions.
  • This sealer has a water-based and non-toxic nature.
  • Corrosion-resistant.


  • It takes up to 1-hour till the next coating.
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10. Rust-Oleum Clear 902 Wolman Classic Wood Preservative

Rust-Oleum Clear 902 Wolman Classic Wood Preservative is a versatile product ideal for above ground use only on pressure-treated or untreated exterior wood surfaces. This commodity ensures that your project has ample protection against mildew, molds, and other fungal attacks that may cause rot and decay.

Additionally, the product has useful pigments that repel water and corrosions. It also prevents the wood from moisture damages, including swelling, dimensional changes, shrinking, and warping. The colorant also has an extensive area coverage with a clear coating that allows it to gray naturally.

Summary of the key features

  • The product resists water damages like swelling, warping, and end-checking.
  • This merchandise has registration from EPA. Thus, it contains fungicidal preservatives that protect the wood surface against mildew, rot, mold, and decay.
  • You have to pre-treat the dip method before installation to gain the best results.
  • It comes in different sizes, including 1-gallon and quart.

ProsRust-Oleum Clear 902 Wolman Classic Wood Preservative-Above Ground, Quart

  • Wide area coverage.
  • Ideal for above-ground use.
  • 100%-clear formula.
  • It’s water and UV resistant.
  • The product grays naturally.


  • The product requires pre-treatment for the best results.
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Exterior wood coating products have many advantages in indoor and outdoor wood applications- This includes protection against UV rays, water, moisture, corrosions, and even scratches.

These commodities come as either water or oil-based, with each having its distinguishing factor. However, among the above products, I choose the DEFY Extreme  Exterior Wood Stain, Crystal Clear. With its water-based nature, you can easily clean the wood surface. Besides that, the product also prevents color loss and premature graying.

You can always refer to this article when choosing the best exterior clear coat for wood.

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.