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Minwax vs Varathane: In-depth Comparison

Last Updated: 06 July 2021

The Minwax vs Varathane has been an age-long debate. While shopping for water-based spar urethane, these two are the first products that come to mind. Although you might find both of these products similar at first, they are not. Therefore, we have brought you a comprehensive guide to help you make the right decision.

Home Maker Guide created for informational purposes only. Thus, we neither endorse you in any way to buy specific products in our reviews, nor making you act like it’s written in our guides. We are reserving the rights for you to make your personal decision.



Editor-in-Chief of the Home Maker Guide
Minwax vs Varathane

Different Types of Wood Finishes

Upon analyzing the Minwax vs Varathane reviews, we have come across the most common wood finishes.


They come from a wide range of animal, vegetable, and mineral sources. Also, they go in solid stick, paste, and liquid forms. You can find them in amber, clear, white, and various other wood tones. However, they offer little protection against wear and scratches. Wax will not enhance its appearance much.



A satin wood finish would provide the wood surface with a high shine. The completed look offers a reflective appearance that will undoubtedly draw your attention right away. Satin finishes can have a pearl touch to them. However, in terms of the Minwax vs Varathane stain, most people opt for Minwax as they are cheaper.

Water-based Polyurethane

It is durable, less smelly, has a lower content of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and dries much faster. Minwax polyurethane works with all types of hardwood floors. This wood finish can hold up to pets, heavy traffic, and more.

Oil-based Polyurethane

It will provide you with a more yellow and slightly darker look compared to the water-based one. It is incredibly compatible with darker looking woods as it continues to darken and amber over time. They might have a pungent smell.

Tools Used For Wood Treatment

When you are filling your furniture, you must know the difference between putty and filler.

Wood Putty

The primary ingredients for most putties are calcium carbonate, a universal colorant, and boiled linseed oil. You can only apply the putty after varnishing or staining as the chemicals inside it can damage the raw wood. However, it takes a long drying time.

Wood Filler

It is made by combining multiple materials like polyurethane, clay, lacquer, and epoxy. Most of them are neutral. It is a comparatively better option if you have to fill large cracks and holes on your workpiece. They are mostly water-based.



Arthur B. Harrison initially founded the company in 1904. The first Minwax products kept the moisture out of buildings and homes. By 1916, they expanded across New York. It is an environment-friendly company that even provides wood finishing products to Rolls Royce.

Minwax Wood Finish Products

They have multiple products available in the market. It includes Minwax pre stain, Minwax water based polyurethane, wax, and more. Unlike most companies, Minwax products can be applied to the surface like bare, unfinished, and finished wood.


  • Cost-effective
  • Penetrates deep inside for a richer look
  • They do not have a chemical smell


  • Due to the thicker coating, the product dries unevenly.

Oil-Based Stains

The Minwax natural stain is available in thirty-six amazing colors that can be used on floors, molding, trim, doors, cabinets, and other wood furniture. Although the stain can only take two hours to dry, it might take a day to set correctly.

Water-Based Wood Finish

The water-based wood stain and semi-transparent color stain by Minwax will glorify your unfinished wood surface. It is available in forty different colors, along with four designer-style color palettes. They are fast drying and can be easily clean with soap water.


Oil-Based Stains

Rust-Oleum is the mother company of Varathane. Robert Fergusson founded the brand in 1921, who initially used whale oil to manufacture the products. Now, they use resins that make their products more durable and provide them with outstanding clarity and expert finish.

Varathane Wood Finish Products

They offer a plethora of products that include Varathane stain, Varathane polyurethane, satin gel, etc. Compared to Minwax, they are more products and tools that can work for both DIY and professional purposes.


  • Ideal for exterior structures, floors, doors, and furniture
  • Available in both quart and half-pint sizes
  • Requires mineral spirits for cleaning


  • Takes up to four hours to dry completely

Oil-Based Stains

The oil-based stains can be easily applied with a brush. They provide an even, smooth protective finish on the surface of the wood. Although it helps the wood to appear rich and deep in color, you need to sand the bare wood properly to get the desired results.

Water-Based Wood Finish

Varathane wood stain features high-quality and advanced pigments that bring out natural, rich color. You can apply a single coat for a lighter shade or build it up with more coats. The product has a semi-transparent and low VOC formula that can work with a lint-free cloth.

Comparative Table of Minwax and Varathane

The comparison Minwax vs Varathane table would further help you to choose better.

Company Minwax Varathane
Durability Less Durable More Durable
Penetration Deeper Penetration Less Penetration
Smell Antic Smell Oily Smell
Layers of Coating Layers of Coating Single Coat
Duration for Drying 2-24 hours 4-8 hours
Prices $7.98-$17 $10-$47

Other Brands to Consider

If you are still confused about the Varathane vs Minwax battle, other brands like Rust-Oleum, Bona Mega, and General Finishes can try out.


Can I Stain Without Sanding?

If you are staining old wooden structures, then you have to use the best sander to get the required results. It minimizes the efforts that you have to put in.

Can You Mix Varathane Stains?

Can You Mix Varathane Stains

You can easily mix Varathane wood stain to create your custom look. Just combine your desired color shade in a 1:1 ratio to get your favorite look. You can even use a paint sprayer to apply the stain on the object.

Verdict and Our Recommendation

In the Minwax vs Varathane battle, we recommend Varathane as it is more efficient and durable when it comes to interior wooden jobs. However, if you are searching for a cost-effective product that can work on any type of surface, then Minwax is your perfect match.

Nevertheless, identify your unique requirements from beforehand to understand perfectly which brand would work the best for you.

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