How to Seal Unfinished Wood Furniture

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Things You'll Need

  • Cotton gloves

  • Sander or sandpaper

  • Clean cloth

  • Paintbrush or air sprayer

  • Sealer — lacquer, polyurethane or tung oil


Lacquer is the most difficult sealer to use, but it gives the wood a beautiful finish. Shake the lacquer well before applying. Use a fine finish air sprayer for best results (see Reference 1). Fill the sprayer with lacquer and apply with long, even strokes. Let dry. It is possible to apply lacquer with a brush, but there is a tendency for brush strokes to be left behind.

Polyurethane provides a high level of protection to the wood, dries quickly and is easy to use. Apply using even brush strokes over a small area at a time, overlapping each stroke. Brush from a wet area to a dry area, keeping strokes to a minimum number. Let dry.

Use tung oil for an easy-to-apply finish. While the protection is limited, it is easy to rub away scratches with another coat of oil (see Reference 2). Tung oil has an amber color that will change or deepen the wood’s natural color. Use a soft cloth to apply the oil over the entire piece of furniture. Leave on the surface for 20 to 30 minutes. Rub off the excess oil. Let dry. After 24 hours, additional coats will provide additional protection and a richer finish.

Disposable foam brushes work well with polyurethane.


Lacquers and vapors are extremely flammable.

Sealing unfinished wood furniture is the best way to keep a natural look while preserving and protecting the wood. Simple to do, sealing wood furniture guards from a variety of wood-damaging scenarios, but the sealer you choose will ultimately determine which danger you are protecting against. The sealer also enhances the grain of the wood, bringing richness to the beauty of the piece. With three simple steps, you will soon have a beautiful item of wood furniture, shielded from many common mishaps.


Step 1

Prepare the surface of the wood to accept the sealer. Carefully sand the wood in the same direction as the grain. Use an orbital sander, or if your piece has many details, sand by hand with sandpaper, avoiding the risk of smoothing pointed corners or other decorative accents.

Step 2

Wipe down the wood with a soft, clean cloth to remove the sawdust and create a clean work surface. Check for imperfections in the wood, which will be highlighted with the sealer. Fix any imperfections before moving to the next step.

Step 3

Seal the wood with your choice of sealer.


references & resources

Kathryn Christ

Kathryn Christ is a business consultant and copywriter in Jacksonville, Fla. Christ has been a writer for 20 years with work appearing in publications such as SMPS' "Marketer," the "Business Journal of Jacksonville," the "Florida Times-Union" and numerous corporate magazines. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Siena College.