Best Brush for Polyurethane (Oil and Water-based)

All of us like dabbling in our little DIY projects from time to time. And when you’re doing any kind of woodworking or paint job, you probably know one thing — applying the finishing coating is extremely important.

It’s pretty much the cherry on top of your DIY cake. However, if you want to do this properly, you are going to need the right tool for the job.

With that in mind, we’re going to take an extensive look into what the best brush for polyurethane is! If you want to make sure that your coating is long-lasting and gives you all the effectiveness that you want; making the right choice here will be important.

As you might assume, there are more than a couple of different brushes available on the market; from various manufacturers, and with widely different degrees of quality. That means only one thing — picking the proper tool for the job won’t be easy.

However, we are not going to allow you to be overwhelmed with the choices in this regard. Instead, we will simply provide you with our top picks among brushes for polyurethane; while also telling you everything you need to know about the factors to keep in mind when making your own choice.

We hope you will learn something new here. So without any further ado, let’s take a look at our top pick among brushes for this sort of work!

Our Pick

Pro Grade Paint Brush Set for water based polyurethane

Pro Grade 5 Ea – Paint Brush Set

The brushes are made even more durable with a ferrule made out of stainless steel. This makes the bristles steady but also accounts for durability in the sense of resistance to any corrosion or rust over extended use.

If you’re looking to buy the best brush for polyurethane, one thing is certain — you want as much diversity as you can get. After all, this is not exactly an everyday purchase; which means that you, ideally, want to obtain brushes for all kinds of surfaces and coatings.

Considering that, the Pro Grade 5 paint brush set is the worthiest choice on this list, for sure. If nothing else, then for the sole fact that you get five different brushes for your coating work.

In fact, you get different brushes for angled and flat applications of polyurethane. There are also different options depending on whether you want flat, detailed, and different sizes of swathes. Good stuff!

What we liked about Pro Grade 5 Ea

Apart from the wide variety of choices provided by these brushes, you should also keep in mind that they were produced from materials of excellent quality; though you won’t have to spend too much money on them, you will find that they’re durable enough to enable repeated use.

Plus, these are multi-purpose brushes; they aren’t only suitable for working with polyurethane coating. Instead, you can also use them to work with paints and stains, enabling you to truly get as much multipurpose work as possible.

People use these brushes for all kinds of household work; from the mending of decks and fences to simple arts and arts DIY projects. Any tricky corner, nook, and cranny will be easily reachable with some of the brushes from this package.

And there’s no need to worry about your hands becoming calloused and bruised after working with these brushes for a while; their handles are designed with impeccably smooth wood that gives you both maximum control and the utmost comfort.

Indeed, you will be able to immerse yourself in the varnishing completely without losing a moment’s notice thinking about what tools you’re using.

These synthetic bristle brushes will save you a ton of time because they’re thick and stiff enough to hold as much paint as you want; giving you all the time you need to complete your DIY projects as fast as possible. Many users have reported being able to create the smoothest possible finish with this product.

If you’re wondering about what you should use to protect and polish antique wooden tables that contain intricate and delicate carvings; know that these brushes can help you out with that as well. Using the thinnest tip variety of angled brushes will prove to be perfect for any detail work or trimming.

The angled ones give you the most control and precision out of all of these, and their inclusion on the list is worthy for sure. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the coating having any visible brush marks once it dries off.

What we didn’t like

While these brushes are definitely a worthwhile purchase, plenty of people who used them for other kinds of work besides polyurethane coating have reported that they tend to shed; however, nothing more than any other ordinary brush, so it’s still an excellent purchase.

How we chose the best brush for polyurethane

Apart from our top pick for the best brush for polyurethane, we’ll present you with a couple of other options as well.

However, if you want to be certain that you’re making the right choice — you need to be equipped with the knowledge on how we decided what the best brush is.

That way, if you find yourself having to choose among other brushes; you will know everything needed to make an informed choice.

Different Kinds of Brushes

Professionals who are after the best brush for polyurethane know that there are a couple of varieties; each to be used in specific circumstances and for different kinds of work.

Generally, there are foam, synthetic, and natural brushes.

Natural Brushes

When you want to apply polyurethane with maximum effectiveness, using natural brushes is always an excellent idea.

Generally, the popular wisdom is that oil-based polys are best used with natural bristles.

If you’re going with a finish that gives off a warmer tone with an oil-based material, know that such a brush will do you good.

Synthetic Brushes

Next up, we’ve got the polar opposite of the natural brush — the synthetic bristle. Logically, these are your smartest choice when it comes to water-based polyurethane.

Plus, the synthetic brushes of today are generally more durable and less prone to shedding than natural brushes. And besides the consistency of your application — you can also find them at incredibly cheap prices.

We could argue that, when it comes to painting or woodworking, synthetic brushes are the most commonly used type of brush these days; not in the least because they’re the most widely applicable of them all.

While natural brushes may be of higher quality, synthetic brushes can provide you with a smoother finish because they’ve got a perfectly even texture; all of the “hairs” found in the brush are nearly identical.

Apart from that, it’s worth knowing that synthetic brushes aren’t just used for polyurethane finishes and coating; they’re also an excellent pick if you’re going to be working with latex-based colors in general.

Foam Brush

Last but not least, we’ve got the most budget-friendly choice of this brush trio — a foam brush. If you’re not a big DIY person and you just need a brush for a tiny polyurethane application; this is definitely what you’ll get.

After all, if you just need to finish a drawer pull or varnish a children’s birdhouse, you don’t exactly need to think about equipment all too much.

In fact, foam brushes are affordable enough for you to simply toss them out after only a single use; you don’t have to worry about cleaning them up or safeguarding them for later.

And cheapness is not their only strong asset; foam brushes are generally known to be flexible enough to allow you to reach unique nooks that you might not be able to approach with other kinds of brushes.

When it comes to the type of application you’ll be able to create here, we’d have to compare it to the varnishing you’d achieve using a rag; it’s something of a wiping technique compared to the other brushes.

Things to keep in mind while buying brushes

Before we move onto the other brushes that we’ve selected as top picks for the best brush for polyurethane, we have to take a look at something else that’s important — and that’s the process of the coating itself.

Apart from the choice of the brush that you’re going to use for the job; you also need to pick the type of polyurethane material that you’ll be applying to the surface. Don’t worry — we can help you out with that as well.

Water Polys

While the most commonly used polyurethanes have an oil base, there are a couple of more rarely applied variants that are based on water. So, when should you use these?

If you don’t want a stark and glowy wood tone and want to prevent it from appearing too dark and glossy — these are definitely the kinds of polyurethanes that you want to use.

In previous eras, the glossy look of wood finishes was almost always the desired effect. However, these days plenty of interior designers opt for a softer, more subdued, and muted appearance.

That’s why water-based polyurethanes are there to provide the much-needed subtlety and discretion to your wood texture.

Oil Polys

On the other hand, there are the oil-based polyurethanes — the more widely used and traditional option among the two. As you might have already realized if you’ve browsed polyurethanes, this is by far the more often used kind of poly.

This is due to the fact that its effect on the wood that you’re applying it to is far more profound. You’ll find this sort of poly providing your wood grain with a glossier, higher-contrast, and more pronounced look.

Plus, these oil-based polys are far more affordable, ensuring that someone who doesn’t want to invest too much in their project can finish it without breaking the bank.

Wooster Q3211-2 Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush

Wooster Brush Angle Sash Paintbrush for Polyurethane

The Shergrip brush handle is long enough to provide you more than enough control while coating delicate spaces. On the other hand, the handle is still short enough for the width of the brush head, making sure that you achieve an even and smooth coverage.

If you’re willing to invest in a premium-quality product, you will definitely get your money’s worth from the Wooster Angle Sash Paintbrush.

While it may seem counter-productive to spend more money on a higher-quality brush if you don’t intend to do a lot of woodworking in the future; you never know when you’re going to need a great brush again.

And this Wooster product is certainly going to get you a lot of bang for your bucks!

What we liked about Wooster Q3211

First of all, it’s worth noting that the Wooster Company has a lot of industry renown due to their highly innovative production and design; they often come up with amazing painting tools and brushes.

The company dates all the way back to the 19th century, ensuring that you’re using a product provided by a company with enough tradition and experience to come up with something worthwhile.

The reason why this brush has its place on our list is that when it comes to working with any kind of polyurethane finish; you won’t find a better design and style!

As we’ve mentioned already, the Shergrip handle is quite rubbery and soft — due to the fact that it was manufactured using specialized elastomeric materials.

This grip will allow you to be comfortable and controlling while applying your polyurethane. It doesn’t matter if you’ll be using this brush in humid or hot climates — the grip is still there to make sure you don’t slip up while performing detail work and spoil anything.

Thus, you’ll be getting a brush that provides you with guaranteed assistance against peeling, cracking, and wrapping. Remember, polyurethane can contain powerful solvents that can have a harsh effect on a lesser-quality brush, but that’s something you don’t have to worry about with this model.

Plus, the ferrule is made from brass-plated steel, making sure that you can look forward to a lot of reusability and durability.

Generally, brushes are supposed to be used for either oil or water-based polyurethane products. However, the bristles found on this brush were created using an interesting combination of white nylon and gold polyester.

Thus, this blend has a simultaneous thickness and softness that you aren’t likely to find in many brushes. This product can hold a lot of polyurethane compared to other price peers, enabling you to make an even layer on any kind of surface.

As a result, you will save yourself a lot of stress and time by achieving a smoother job more quickly.

As we’ve mentioned, this product has a large brush head and a small handle — a neat combination allowing you to perform the smoothest possible application.

What we didn’t like

First of all, one of the best traits of this product is also one of its most significant downsides. You should remember that this brush can hold quite a bit of polyurethane.

If you use this product for exterior work outside, and the climate is colder than average — you will find the brush retaining more polyurethane than you’d want.

Plus, in colder weather, cleaning it can be an issue; still, a solution of warm water and soap ought to do the trick. You just need to remember to clean it properly after each use, if you want to make good on its promised longevity.

Purdy 140853100 XL

Purdy 140853100 XL Brush

The handle made out of Alderwood hardwood is excellent and more than comfortable enough; allowing you to complete your varnishing or paint job without feeling tired after a while.

Next up, we’ve got our penultimate pick — a selection of three different brushes from Purdy! This is quite a neat package, containing three different brushes that vary according to length.

Their bristles are created from a unique blend, allowing you to be more efficient by holding a bigger amount of polyurethane compared to most other brushes.

Thus, you won’t have to take too many trips to your paint container in order to complete the DIY project that you’re working on.

What we liked about Purdy 140853100

As you take a look at this versatile brush set, you will realize that you’ve got your hands on a trio of brushes capable of helping you with all kinds of varnish and paint jobs.

And all of the included brushes are quite durable and they don’t lose their figure easily; thanks to their copper ferrule, you won’t find the bristles being disfigured after a couple of projects.

Of course, one of the main advantages of this product is its versatility. There aren’t a lot of brush packages out there that provide more versatility for this kind of money.

With the different styles and sizes of the brushes found within, you can complete all kinds of varnishing and paint jobs. Furthermore, you won’t have any issues with detail work, trim, and intricate carvings. You may also dabble in stains and primers if need be; all with a single set of brushes!

It’s not heavy, though it is durable; the handle is resistant to any kind of moisture, meaning that sweaty palms will not be an issue even on the most humid of days. And its non-slip properties are only an additional boon.

The strategic placement of the internal chisel gives you the ability to apply polyurethane as evenly as you’d want; with even, smooth strokes devoid of any brush marks. You won’t find any bubbles forming with this brush.

What we didn’t like

The biggest downside of this brush set is that it doesn’t provide you with enough variety in brushes, seeing as you only get three per each set.

With that in mind, you need to be careful not to damage any one of them, as you’ll be significantly lessening the variety of jobs you can do with just this brush set.

Presa Premium Paint Brushes Set

Presa Premium Paint Brushes Set

The filaments found in this brush are solid round tapered — meaning that their industrial design was created with polyurethane specifically in mind.

There are plenty of people that don’t necessarily know a lot about applying polyurethane to woodwork. However, that makes the process of selecting the best brush for polyurethane application even more crucial.

And our final pick on this list is the Presa Premium Brush Set — a set of paint brushes that can allow anyone to do wood finishes like an expert!

What we liked about Presa Premium

First and foremost, while this isn’t the first pick on our list — you shouldn’t think that it’s not premium-quality brushes that we’re talking about.

In fact, apart from the first choice that stands out — the rest of the brushes we’ve displayed here are all worthy of your time; separated only by the slightest nuances.

Considering this, we should mention that these brushes are capable of sustaining a holding capacity that’s bigger than its peers by 30%!

That allows you to be far more productive when it comes to any DIY projects; giving you just enough time to savor your project while also quickly enabling you to finish the gruntwork.

The tiny bristle tips are smaller and more narrow than those of other competing brushes. And their diameter widens as we go down and reach the ferrule; making them one of the best choices for any kind of varnishing or painting work.

Most people look for an even finish when purchasing the best brush for polyurethane — and we have to mention that these brushes definitely won’t disappoint you.

The SRT design that we’ve already mentioned allows you to achieve an even stroke on absolutely any kind of surface. With this in mind, know that any polyurethane you apply with this will be released smoothly. You will have the accuracy and control that you need to perform your finish admirably.

One of the things that we’ve mentioned about other brushes on this list is that they can be a chore to clean and maintain. And that’s where these brushes shine as well; you’ll find the cleaning and maintenance of SRT bristles to be as easy as possible.

If you’re looking to perform varnishing or painting on rough surfaces, finding the right brushes for the job can be daunting. \However, even polyurethane application on the harshest of surfaces is rendered an easy job when you use these brushes. You won’t believe the kind of smoothness your finish can achieve on a rugged surface.

What we didn’t like

While the SRT bristles are a joy to use and a marvel to maintain; know that this part of the brush is not as durable as on other types of brushes that we’ve taken a look at here.

This means that the bristles are more likely to come off, making you go through the painstaking process of selecting new brushes and replacing old ones sooner than you’d like.

Buyers’ Guide

We’ve already established that picking the best brush for polyurethane is certainly an important aspect of completing your woodworking perfectly.

However, the market is flooded with all kinds of models and brands of brushes; plenty of which can offer wild varieties of quality. With that in mind, you may find it challenging to find something that suits your project perfectly.

Don’t worry, though — we can provide you with all of the information you might need to decide which brush will allow for your perfect finish! We will take a look at some of the things to keep in mind in great detail below.

Bristle Varieties

When you are near the end of your woodworking and need to apply a finish coating of polyurethane, you will find that the sort of bristle that you use as a part of your brush can make a world of difference.

Generally, as we’ve mentioned, we differentiate between two main types of bristles — these are synthetic and natural ones.

What we haven’t discussed is how these are made — the natural bristles, as you might have guessed, come from animal hair that is gathered and strewn together. If you’re applying some kind of oil-based finish, we most certainly recommend going with a natural bristle.

Conversely, synthetic bristles usually stem from nylon polymers. We firmly believe that these kinds of brushes are best used with water-based polyurethanes and on more rugged surfaces.

Style and Width

Next up, we’ve got the proportions of your polyurethane brush. If you don’t decide what kind of style and width you’re looking for on time, you may find it difficult to apply the brush to your given situation.

With that in mind, we recommend making this one of your top priorities when purchasing brushes for this kind of work. And that means planning out your project in detail beforehand and thinking things through.

For instance — if you have to apply your finishing coating on a large surface, you can definitely benefit from a wider brush. Such size will allow you to perform the work in far less time – and with fewer strokes.

Plus, with wide brushes and large surfaces, you don’t exactly have a lot of precision work to deal with; so the devil is not in the details for sure.

On the other hand, smaller projects with less even surfaces can draw great benefits from narrow brushes. You’d be amazed at what you can achieve with an angled brush that’s got two inches in diameter.

There are no details that you will leave behind, and your wooden surface will appear majestic and glossy once you’re done.

Handle Types

There are other parts of a brush that you need to be mindful of. And among these, your handle may very well be one of the most important ones.

As an amateur painter that’s just starting to learn the ropes, you may not put much heed into your brushes’ handles. However, more experienced handymen will be able to tell you that handles are incredibly vital to the success of your project.

In reality, most types of handles have been created with a specific task in mind. For instance, a dense and short handle has a center of gravity and precise grip that makes it perfect for detailed tasks.

But if you’re looking at larger surfaces, a larger handle with a steady contour will do the job better because it gives you more comfort as you work.


While all of the other parts of a brush that we’ve mentioned are certainly important — we have to ensure that you know what you’re picking when it comes to a brush’s ferrule.

Bear in mind, even if every other part of a brush is sturdy and only this fails to deliver — the entire product will be pretty much useless.

With that in mind, we recommend that you make yourself certain regarding this metal band; it is the only thing keeping your brush bristles securely and firmly in place. If you get the chance to hold the brush that you’ll be buying before making a purchase; give the bristles a gentle tug and see how the ferrule behaves.

If it doesn’t budge, you can be sure that the brush is durable enough to last you a while. But if you see the ferrule bending even at the store, this will definitely present a problem soon enough. That’s a sure sign that you’re dealing with a subpar product.

Overall Quality

We’ve examined all of the individual parts that make up something you could declare the best brush for polyurethane.

However, not losing sight of the big picture is equally important. At the end of the day, you are likely to be able to spot a shoddy brush just by shortly examining it in your hand.

Many people actually make the mistake of knowingly buying cheaper brushes. They think that they’ll only have to use them once, and then they’ll be able to throw them out. After all, who knows when you’ll do your next project, right?

But in reality, people reuse brushes more than they think. And if a brush fails you mid-project, it can create damage that may be hard to undo. So, either buy lower-quality brushes for each subsequent project or invest in a better set that will last you a long while.

Brush Designs

Apart from the other factors for your brushes that we’ve talked about — there is also the design of the brush to think about. For instance, the square-cut brush is almost always used to cover wider and broader areas and surfaces.

We’re talking about ceilings, walls, and doors. If you’re going to use the brush for the painting instead of varnishing, know that a roller might be better suited for your needs; once again, depending on the surface that you’ll be using this on.

Next up, we’ve got the angle sash. These are brushes pretty much specifically designed for window painting. In other words, their dimension and shape perfectly fit inside a window’s frame, while also allowing you to go up and down.

These brushes have shorter handles, but they’re supposed to because it gives the user the ability to maneuver in a tight space. People use these to paint or varnish rounded corners, panels, and edges.

Finally, there’s the round sash. And this particular type of brush is most frequently known as the smallest one; because it’s used for furniture or decorative painting. Its bristles are arranged in an interesting circular form.

What are the different finishes that you can use?

Generally, any piece of furniture can be damaged over time if you don’t coat it with the right finish. This final finish can be created using a manner of different products, including shellac, lacquer, polyurethane that we’ve mostly talked about here, and varnish.

However know that these products can’t be used together, and they’re far from interchangeable.

Shellac is the most natural out of all the finishes here. It is created by combining solvents like alcohol with the secretion of a very specific bug. Once these two are combined, hardened, and dried — the finish is perfectly safe for human usage and it can provide immense protection for wooden objects.

Not only will it give your wood a protective coating, but it will also alter its color to a warmer kind of amber. It doesn’t provide ample protection against heat — for instance, a hot plate placed on a shellac surface will still leave white rings.

Also, certain kinds of chemicals may ruin this finish, so we don’t recommend using it on your kitchen table. This kind of finish is most often used for fine furniture pieces. Also, this type of coating is applied using cotton rags or natural brushes.

Next up, we’ve got the eponymous polyurethane. If you’re wondering what’s behind such a wordy name, we’ll tell you right away; essentially, it’s a kind of liquid plastic that gives your wooden surfaces protection when it completely dries off.

Unlike some other finishes, there are products in this niche both based on oil and water; providing different levels of gloss to your wooden areas.

The water-based variety of polyurethane is known to be less toxic and it emits fewer odors. While the oil types tend to add or alter the color of the wooden object, water-based polys will pretty much leave it aesthetically unaltered.

Also, this type of polyurethane is known to dry off far more quickly. However, it simply doesn’t provide enough protection against chemicals and heat; at least not compared with oil polys. Generally, you want to use the water varieties on picture frames, smaller tables, desks, bookshelves, etc.

As we’ve mentioned just now, oil-based polys are able to withstand more damage from heat and cleaning chemicals. So, this is what you want to use if you’re going to varnish your kitchen table. While it will darken the color palette of the wood, it will also bring out its richness.

However, we should mention that oil-based products of this kind can be more toxic and produce more fumes than when you’re working with water-based ones. This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker, though.

All you need to do is to make sure that you’re completing your work in an area with sufficient ventilation. This is another kind of poly that requires the use of a natural brush with animal hair bristles. Alternatively, a high-quality rag may be able to do a decent job as well.

Bear in mind that this kind of finish will take a heck of a long time to dry off compared to other options in the same vein; make sure that you’ve planned out the timeline of your DIY project correctly. Also, check out any instructions provided by the manufacturer of any specific oil poly.

Know that both varieties of polyurethane may be used as a finish on acrylic and latex paint. However, that also means bearing in mind how it can alter the color of the paint.

Oil-based polys will give your surface an amber or yellowish hue, depending on the color underneath. If you want a similar level of durability without color alterations, the water-based polyurethane will do the trick.

What we haven’t mentioned so far is that you can also find canned polyurethane. This makes for easy application, though it is certainly not as precise. Many carpenters use it for truly humongous projects, however.

Woodworkers that use wipe-on polys do so in order to achieve perfection and leave their own hand-rubbed mark on projects that they cherish.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, picking the best brush for polyurethane has its share of challenges. Primarily in the fact that you need to know a lot about the basics of woodworking before you can be sure that you’ve made the right pick.

Also, you need to plan out your project in detail before buying the right brush. However, once you take all of these factors into account — you’re sure to make an excellent choice in the end!

We hope that this article was of use to you, that you have learned something new on what makes the best brush for polyurethane, and that you feel more confident about making the purchase.

Make sure you are staying safe in these times we are all going through and have a good one, guys!