Top 6 Best Water Based Polyurethane for Floors of [2023]

Last Updated on January 22, 2023 by Heenan

After installing wooden stairs and floors in your house, it’s time to protect them against scratches and spills during day-to-day use.

Water-based polyurethane coating on wood gives you the perfect protection against all these, in addition to an increase in the durability of the surface.

When you apply a poly coating, you’ll notice all the colors and grains in your wood getting enhanced. But the best water-based polyurethane for floors can do a lot more than that. It will not only make the furnishing look stunning but will also make the wood durable by providing a clear protective coating to its surface.

This article will tell you all you want to know about furnishing your hardwood floors and stairs with the best water-based polyurethane for floors on the market.

Best Water Based Polyurethane for Floors

Best Water Based Polyurethane for Floors

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Ready to shop for the perfect polish that suits your needs? Out of dozens of water-based polyurethane for floor options, we have picked only six to make your task easier. Have a look!

#1. Varathane 200241H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane


  • It boasts a very fast drying time
  • It doesn’t have a strong odor
  • The coating is scratch-resistant
  • It holds its natural color for years
  • Faster than oil-based
  • Easy to apply
  • Superior durability


  • Applicable for the interior purpose only

First up on our list of the top polyurethane for floors is the Varathane finish. The company is well-known among professional woodworkers as one of the market’s most reliable water-based polyurethanes for floors.

This particular item is a quart-sized water-based poly coating that is designed for interior applications only. You’ll notice a beautiful satin finish on your hardwood floors after you coat them with this water-based polyurethane for floors.

Varathane is perfect for all types of woodwork, especially those that face high traffic, since it provides the most rugged finishing. The liquid is not overly thin, so you might want to experiment with it if you have a DIY mindset. However, we’ve found that most people are pretty happy with three coatings of it.

Give your wooden stairs and floors an elegant look with this water-based polyurethane for floors formula. It is also very easy to clean with soapy water and a mop. The finish is also scratch-resistant to a great degree. It will be many years before you see any wear on the finish.

A good thing about water-based polyurethanes for floors is that they dry more quickly than oil-based ones. And this item dries even faster than average water-based finishes.

You’ve got great news if you hate that pungent smell from wood varnishes. The Varathane Ultimate water-based polyurethanes for floors have very little odor since it dries up quickly.

A common complaint we hear from many users of water-based poly is that sometimes they notice the coating fading into a yellowish hue. Varathane guarantees its polish will maintain the natural color of wood for years.


The Varathane water-based polyurethane for floors is an affordable option for any woodworker. Its fast-drying time will allow the user to recoat within two hours only. Besides, its color maintenance and scratch resistance features are very reliable indeed.

#2. Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic Protective Finish


  • Semi-gloss satin provides good clarity and a glossy finish
  • Amplifies the natural look of the wood
  • It doesn’t produce odor and dries quickly
  • It can also be applied to vinyl floors
  • Easy to apply
  • Superior durability


  • Sometimes the finish might take an easily cleanable milkfish color.

When applying any coating on wooden surfaces, we all look for the perfect outlook and clarity. And since we’ll be talking about poly coatings for hardwood floors and stairs, we must look for the best option available.

The Minwax semi-gloss satin polyacrylic finish is one of the less expensive items on our list, with the most value for money. Minwax is well renowned for producing top-quality coats for floors and stairs. So you can easily keep it on your priority list.

This version of water-based polyurethane has a clear semi-gloss finish that gives your wood a shiny glow. Once applied, it won’t overwhelm the color of your floor but will result in a natural wood look.

Moreover, this finish also dries very fast without much residual odor to make you annoyed. This means you don’t need to air the room after applying the coating.

Apart from hardwood floors or wooden stairs, you can apply the Minwax semi-gloss polycrylic on other antique items, previously finished furniture, and even on vinyl floors! It has a protective sealing that can hold up to a lot of wear and tear for a very long time.

This semi-gloss and satin water-based polycrylic finish can easily be cleaned with any essential dishwashing soap and water.


Minwax semi-gloss and satin polycrylic protective finish are inexpensive, easy to apply a coating that gives the perfect touch to your wooden surfaces. Its versatility of application will make the product a must-buy.

#3. Varathane 200261H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane


  • It gives off very little odor while applying
  • The formula dries off quickly for the next coating
  • Scratch, stain, and abrasion-resistant durable coating
  • Easy-clean feature with soapy water
  • Easy to apply


  • The tiny can is only enough for a single room’s floor.

This Varathane poly is almost the same product as the first entry in our list except for the size. Its water-based polyurethane comes in affordable Half Pint packaging. Due to its unique formula, this water-borne poly is perfect for all hardwood floors, stairs, and furniture, whether light or dark.

Characterized by high abrasion, stain, and scratch resistance, the Varathane Ultimate Poly has higher durability than many competitors. It has a water-based formula, meaning it will dry faster than most water-based polyurethane finishes. You can also recoat it within only two hours.

The half-pint item can also cover an area of 31.25 square feet, which is enough for a single room’s floor. It has a satin finish that beautifies the natural look of the wood and makes it more attractive.

If you are worried about the yellowing of the coating, then be assured that it will provide a crystal-clear finish that will never fade into yellow. Its rugged and reliable finish will give any wooden project an elegant design that you can appreciate highly.

It is a great option for first-time DIYers to do some experiments since the formula is thin enough for applying multiple coatings.


The Varathane 200261H half-pint poly with a satin finish is an excellent option if you’re a DIY person. This option is cheaper and more user-friendly. Besides, you can experiment with it by applying multiple layers within a short time too.

#4. Minwax Water Based/Oil-based Polyurethane


  • Protects against scratches, UV-ray, chemical damage, etc.
  • Nonflammable finish and protection against all weather
  • Dries up fast for applying the subsequent coating
  • The combined advantage of both oil and water-based poly


  • It may affect people with breathing problems while applying.

This second item from Minwax has a crystal-clear finish that protects the natural appearance of the floor and stairs. Minwax is the best oil-based polyurethane, combining the warm look and durability of traditional oil-based poly and the odorless, fast-drying convenience of a waterborne finish.

We highly recommend this product since it protects the wooden surface from scratch, wear and tear, chemical damage, and UV rays. Besides, this finish is non-flammable and will protect against most weather conditions.

Also, this oil-based polyurethane has some volatile components that help the coating dry very quickly. You can recoat the next batch only two hours after the first coat.

However, the final coating should be left for at least 24 hours before using it lightly. And for perfect durability, we suggest you use it after at least 72 hours of application.

This Oil-based Polyurethane should be applied with proper caution for people with breathing problems since it emits gas. Work in a well-ventilated area for added safety.


Suppose you want beauty and clarity on your furniture, cabinets, floor, and stairs. In that case, this Minwax finish is an excellent choice since it has the advantages of oil- and water-based polyurethane.

#5. Bona Mega Waterborne Wood Floor Finish


  • The coating has the easiest application
  • Made with an oxygen-crosslinking formula
  • Most budget-friendly satin finish
  • Perfectly safe and environmentally friendly


  • You May have to apply more than three layers to get an extraordinary result.

This water-based finish is one of the budget-friendly options in our list of best water-based polyurethane for wood floors. Proven to perform great even in high-traffic areas, the Bona Mega poly is the perfect overall poly you can get.

This 1-gallon pack of waterborne wood floor finish has the highest coverage among its competitors. With this item, you can easily coat an area of at least 600 square feet. It doesn’t matter if the floor is 50 years old; a three-coat application of this finish will make it shine bright like a brand-new floor.

The Bona Mega formula emits close to no odor during application and is low in VOC gas. So, your pet is perfectly safe, even on a freshly coated floor. Besides, if you have any breathing problems, you can still apply it without difficulty.

Another specialty of this water-based polyurethane finish is its oxygen-crosslinking formula, which uses oxygen in the atmosphere. As a result, you get extraordinary performance out of each of its coatings.

It is available in satin, which shows you the beauty of your wooden floor by enhancing its natural color. Give your floor an amazing finish with this water-based best polyurethane.

According to our research, you’ll get the perfect result when you put three coats of it with sanding in between.


The quality, safety, and budget-friendliness of any finish matter a lot when refurbishing a home’s floors. This Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish ticks all the points in this respect. So, if you want to cover all the floors in your house at medium-range pricing, this is the one you should pick.

#6. RUST-OLEUM 230231 Satin Water Floor Finish


  • Dries quickly with almost no odor
  • It works great on stained and dented surfaces too
  • Its UV absorption ability gives unbeatable protection
  • High-traffic formula leaves wood in its original state


  • Covers less space per gallon than competitors

Last but not least, this Rust-Oleum is also a Varathane product. We can easily crown this one as our best brand of water-based polyurethane for floor picks. Not only us, but even professionals also advise this finish for most people.

The Rust-Oleum 230231 is highly resistant to scratches, stains, abrasions, and chemicals. Nothing will take its shine away, no matter which cleaning chemical you use on its finish.

This water-based satin finish can also be applied to wooden stairs, furniture, doors, or dented floors to repair stained or dented floors. Its high-traffic formula will restore anything to its original state with a glowing finish.

If you want to make your wooden floor shine with all its natural wooden color, there is no better alternative than the Rust-Oleum floor finish. Its satin coating will provide a superior finish to any wood surface.

This water-based polyurethane is also highly durable with scuff resistance ability. Besides, it emits a very low odor, so it is easy for people with breathing problems to apply it. It also cleans quite easily with just water and soap.


Rust-Oleum is a good choice if you want to meet all your expectations with a water-based polyurethane finish. Since any volatile substance is absent, the finish is also very safe to apply. The no-odor, fast-drying, and high-traffic formula make Rust-Oleum an all-rounder poly finish.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

#1. What is the best water-based polyurethane for wood floors?

Answer: After going through our reviews, you must know by now that the best brand of water-based polyurethane for feet is none other than Varathane. We have picked not one but three of its products for our top six picks.

#2. Is water-based polyurethane good for floors?

Answer: Wooden floors are susceptible to wear and tear all year round. You need some protection to save the floor from being permanently damaged. The best polyurethane coating does wonder when it comes to protecting wooden surfaces.

Since there are two types of poly finish, you’ll want to choose the better one. Although oil-based poly has been used for most of the polishing history, water-based one is currently gaining momentum.

This is because its coating is extremely easy to clean up and doesn’t take as much time to dry. Besides, water-based polyurethane gives a truly clear finish that highlights the natural color of the wood.

As for durability, modern, high-quality products with improved chemical formulations have made water-based poly as durable as oil-based ones. Besides, this poly has significantly less odor than the oil-based one.

#3. How long does it take for water-based polyurethane to dry on hardwood floors?

Answer: One of the main differences between water-based and oil-based polyurethane is the drying time after application. Here, water-based poly has the advantage, while oil-based poly takes a long time to apply and cure.

You can apply only a single coating of this finish in 24 hours. They also take up to 3 to 4 days to cure completely.

On the other hand, water-based polyurethane takes significantly less time to apply and cure. You can use several coats, sometimes as many as 4, on a single day!

You can even walk on a water-based poly-coated surface only 4 hours after finishing. But for an oil-based one, you can’t even dream of doing that before at least 24 hours.

#4. Should I use a brush or a roller to apply the coat on my floor?

Answer: Most people prefer to use paintbrushes to apply polyurethane coating on wooden surfaces. While it works great on most wooden works, there are some projects where you’d better use a roller to make life easier.

Brushes are handy for applying a coating on a small surface, but you can’t do that with a roller. Roller only works on bigger, larger, and plain wooden surfaces. It’s good news we’re talking about wooden floors; otherwise, rollers are a no-go.

The good thing about using a roller to apply coating on a floor is that you get smooth and uniform strokes. It also saves you a lot of time.

#5. How often should I refinish my wood floors?

Answer: Even with proper care, all hardwood floors will eventually wear and age. Every solid wooden plank will likely need at least four top-six finishes in its lifetime. Commonly people refinish their wooden floors between 7 to 10 years.

However, it depends on individual situations. Several factors play a role in deciding whether you’ll need to refinish the floor. They include the type of wood, natural wear, discoloration, water damage, foot traffic, polyurethane, etc.

Oil-based polyurethane, in normal circumstances, might last up to 10 years before showing signs of excessive wear. Although water-based poly doesn’t last as much, it will be at your service for at least five years. But the modern improved chemical formulation of water-based poly might also last up to 10 years.

#6. How many coats of water-based polyurethane do you need on hardwood floors?

Answer: If you want to protect your hardwood floor with a polyurethane coating, why not do it perfectly? The more coating you give, the more secure your wood becomes.

The number of the coating depends upon the type and quality of poly, as well as the wood. For oil-based polyurethane, two coatings are enough to make it through a decade. Since the liquid is thick, you won’t need too many coatings.

Water-based poly is thin, so it needs more coating to secure the wood from external influences. If you ask a professional woodworker, he recommends 3 to 4 coats of water-based poly.

#7. Do you have to sand between coats of water-based polyurethane?

Answer: We’d suggest you sand the wood before every coat of water-based polyurethane to make the wood perfectly smooth. It will also prepare the texture and give it a little traction. This will help the next layer of the coat to bond better. But don’t sand after the final coat.

#8. What is the best applicator for polyurethane?

Answer: First, you might want to read the manufacturer’s instructions to see if they recommend some applicator or application method. If there are no instructions available, then you could choose any one of the applicators like T-bar, lambswool, brush, trim pads, or rollers.

For hardwood floors, a roller could be the perfect applicator. A brush also works great for stairs.

Final Words

Water-based coating provides a lighter and clearer finish on wooden floors, enhancing the natural look.

They also smell less and dry faster than their oil-based cotemporaries.

But the best water-based polyurethane for floors is sometimes more durable than oil-borne polys.

We hope this article has been able to suggest a perfect poly suitable for your needs.

Besides, our buyer’s guide will also help you navigate the best products should you need to make a more informed decision.

Meet the Authors

Heenan, Cannon, Mack, and Theodore are four outdoor enthusiasts. Each of them is a handyman and off-road adventurers. Dealing with different tools, automotive accessories, products related to home like sealers are some of their day-to-day tasks. They run this website to share their thoughts on various items they think are good or bad for others. Learn how they started as The Handyman Guru, and why they decided to start this blog..

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