Most homeowners prefer Cedar wood for exterior use due to its natural beauty and unmatched ability to withstand the growth of bacteria and fungus.

However, no matter the cedar’s divine power to resist insects, it still needs a protective film. Linseed oil is the best clear cedar finish for outdoors because it is durable and dries quickly.

Most clear stains that dry quickly contain linseed oil as the main component. However, other oil-based stains and solid wood stains work excellently on outdoor projects.

We are DIY enthusiasts who took hours researching clear finish for outdoors and compiled this guide to help you pick the best cedar finish.

Our Top Picks

Best Clear Cedar Finish for Outdoors

  1. Minwax Helmsman Indoor/OutdoorBest Clear Stain for Cedar Wood
  2. Ready Seal 112 1-Gallon CedarBest Clear Stain for Clear Wood Grain
  3. THOMPSONS WATERSEAL 21802Best Clear Finish for Cedar Siding
  4. Cabot 140.0003400.005 Australian Timber OilBest Oil Finish for Cedar
  5. #1 Deck Premium Semi-TransparentBest Clear Finish for Cedar Decks
  6. 1 gal Rust-Oleum Brands 250231 Clear VarathaneBest Multipurpose Poly
  7. RUST-OLEUM WATCO 67741 ExteriorBest Clear Finish for Cedar Surfaces
  8. General Finishes Exterior TopcoatMost Popular Clear Finish for Exterior Use
  9. DEFY Extreme 1 Gallon Exterior Wood StainBest Crystal Clear Coating
  10. Howard CS0014 Citrus Shield Paste WaxBest for Untreated Wood
  11. Seal-Once Marine – PenetratingBest Clear Finish for Marine Environment

Best Clear Cedar Finish for Outdoors Reviews

1. Best Clear Stain for Cedar Wood – Minwax Helmsman Indoor/Outdoor Spar Urethane, Quart

Minwax Helmsman Indoor/Outdoor Spar Urethane, Quart, Semi-Gloss
  • PROTECTIVE CLEAR FINISH – Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane is specially formulated as a protective varnish for wood for interior and exterior projects. It contains special UV blockers that reduce the sun’s graying and fading effects.
  • EFFECTIVE YEAR ROUND – This wood varnish forms a protective barrier against rain and moisture to protect your projects and keep them looking their best. Special oils allow the finish to expand & contract with the wood as seasons and temperatures change.
  • VERSATILE – Ideal for use on doors, windows, trim, bathroom cabinets, bar tops, kitchen countertops, outdoor furniture and more.
  • SEMI-GLOSS FINISH – Give your wood projects a sleek finish with this semi-gloss varnish. It protects the natural beauty of the wood and offers a long-lasting, semi-shiny sheen for a modern look.
  • A BRAND YOU CAN TRUST – Minwax is America’s leading brand of wood finishing and wood care products. Since 1904, we have been inspiring consumers to Keep on Finishing. We offer consumers a complete line of products to meet every wood finishing need.

Protecting a cedar surface is paramount to keep it looking at its best, regardless of the seasons. This exterior finish is one of the best products you can use to protect cedar wood from moisture and UV rays.

It contains unique oils that enable the finish to stretch and shrink with the wood. The stain is specially formulated for both indoor and outdoor use.

It contains particular UV inhibitors that minimize the aging and fading effects of the sun. It is the best stain for outdoor cedar furniture because it gives you a lot of flexibility.

You can use it on doors, windows, kitchen countertops trim, bathroom cabinets, bar tops, Cedar siding, outdoor furniture, and other surfaces. It gives surfaces a semi-gloss finish to make them smooth.

It preserves the natural beauty of the wood, hence making the wood stylish and durable. You can use it on light-colored wood and over previously stained surfaces.

It dries crystal clear, letting the wood grain shine through. For great results, mix the stain thoroughly before using it. Stir it continuously for five minutes, and scrape the bottom and the sides.

Stir it often during use to stop the shine from rising to the surface. If you fail to stir it extensively, you’ll have a high shine when you start, and as you get closer to the bottom, it will almost be matte/ flat.

What We Liked Most

  • Super easy to use
  • You can use it on different surfaces
  • Durable

What Could Be Improved

  • It may yellow specific projects



2. Best Clear Stain for Clear Wood Grain – Ready Seal 112 1-Gallon Can Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood

Sale
1 gal Ready Seal 112 Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer For Wood
7,150 Reviews
1 gal Ready Seal 112 Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer For Wood
  • Requires no primer. Ready Seal is darkest when first applied. It reaches its true color in approximately 14 days. Do not apply Ready Seal over painted or newly stained surfaces. Sealed surfaces inhibit penetration.
  • May be applied using sprayer, roller or brush onto the woods surface.
  • Requires no back brushing and will nerver leave runs, laps, or streaks.
  • Requires no wet-line application, the product will blend itself and can be applied in any temperature range for proper application.
  • Requires no diluting or thinning prior to spray applications.

If you need the simplest stain to use on exterior wood, your search ends with this product. It is the most straightforward product for outdoor furniture and cedar decks.

It does not need a primer. So, you can use it right out of the can. Also, no wet lining and back brushing or wet-lining application is necessary.

However, please do not apply to previously stained surfaces because the product will be rendered ineffective because it will not be able to permeate the wood.

Another aspect that makes this product easy to work with is that you don’t have to thin it to your desired consistency. The manufacturer has already taken the trouble of thinning it off your shoulders.

It is a ready-to-use formula, and there’s no need for thinning it whether you will apply it with a sprayer, a roller, or a brush. When you apply it initially, the ready seal will be dark and will reach its authentic color after two weeks.

So, give it as much time to avoid judging it prematurely. It is the best clear cedar finish for any exterior project.  Surface preparation is crucial for professional results.

Be keen to remove the previous coating before applying this wood stain and keenly follow the instructions on the can for excellent outcomes. It doubles up as a primer and a sealer eliminating additional costs and saving considerable time during time.

What We Liked Most

  • Ease of use
  • Self-priming product
  • Durable 
  • It is mildew resistant

What Could Be Improved

  • Pricey but worth every penny



3. Best Clear Finish for Cedar Siding – THOMPSONS WATERSEAL 21802 VOC Wood Protector

THOMPSONS WATERSEAL 21802 VOC Wood Protector, 1.2-Gallon, Clear
899 Reviews
THOMPSONS WATERSEAL 21802 VOC Wood Protector, 1.2-Gallon, Clear
  • Item Weight: 9.65 lb
  • Country of Origin: China
  • Brand name: Thompson's Water Seal
  • Item Dimensions: 4.1"L x 6.6"W x 11.0"H

Suppose you need to prolong the natural beauty of outdoor cedar with a clear exterior finish without breaking your bank. In that case, this is the product to go for.

Use it on cedar fences, outdoor cedar furniture, and other outdoor fixtures, and you will not be disappointed with the results. 

Before using this product, ensure the furniture surface is free of dirt, dust, grime, and anything else that can significantly affect the results. Allow the damp wood to dry for two days undisturbed.

If you require more than one can, combine the contents of all containers to get a uniform finish. Apply the paint with a sprayer, brush, roller, or a painting pad. Apply thin coats instead of one thick coat for maximum absorption.

If you apply many thick coats, the paint might crack, rendering all your efforts fruitless. Also, it will delay the dry time, making your project take longer than expected.

Wipe away any excess finish before it completely dries, or distribute it to the untreated parts of the wood. We consider it one of the best clear stains for natural cedar because just one coat is enough to give you professional results.

Nonetheless, you can do a second coat if you need a darker tone. Patience pays all the time. Wait for two hours for the first coat to dry, and give the second coat four hours to dry before recoating if you need to.

Clean-up is a breeze with this product as you do not need mineral spirits. Just use warm water and soap, and you’ll be good to go.

What We Liked Most

  • Ease of use
  • Simple water and soap clean up
  • Just one coat is enough to get the desired effects

What Could Be Improved

  • It heavily relies on temperature to dry up quickly



4. Best Oil Finish for Cedar – Cabot 140.0003400.005 Australian Timber Oil

Sale
Cabot 140.0003400.005 Australian Timber Oil, Quart, Natural, 31 Fl Oz
  • This item is a Cabot Australian Timber Oil Penetrating Oil Formula Natural 1 Qt
  • Purpose of use for Painting Supplies, household-wood-stains
  • This product is manufactured in United States

The best clear cedar finish should contain penetrating oils to give your outdoor fixtures a protective barrier against the elements. This is it if you need a wood sealer for patio furniture and other outdoor cedar that’s a bar above the rest.

Cabot Australian timber oil is tested and tried wood with a track record of excelling on any exterior project. If you have spent considerable time searching for an oil-based stain to use on cedar surfaces, this could be the answer to your prayers.

It goes on well and makes outdoor cedar furniture look new even if you’ve had it for ages. Use it on your cedar deck, western red cedar siding, and any other cedar surface, and you’ll be glad that you chose this product.

It works as marketed without cutting corners.  The natural color of the wood will determine the final color you get after applying this product, as with most stains.

For phenomenal results, surface preparation is critical. Ensure the wood’s surface is free of grime and dirt before using this product. This stain makes exterior projects mildew resistant and gives them a protective film against UV rays.

In short, it provides a cedar surface with maximum UV protection. Note that you may need more than one coat to get the effects you need.

What We Liked Most

  • Works as marketed
  • durable
  • You can use it on different surfaces
  • Gives outdoor fixtures optimal UV protection

What Could Be Improved

  • Pricey, but the quality is worth it



5. Best Clear Finish for Cedar Decks – #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks

#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks, Fences, & Siding - 1 Gallon (Cedar)
780 Reviews
#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks, Fences, & Siding - 1 Gallon (Cedar)
  • PROTECTS AGAINST COLOR FADE AND PREVENTS GRAYING - #1 Deck Protects Wood From Damage Caused By Exposure to the Elements. Can Be Used On Pressure Treated Pine, Cedar, Fir, Redwood, or Most Other Softwoods. Hardwoods Will Require More Frequent Maintenance Coats.
  • BOTH A DECK STAIN & DECK SEALANT IN ONE - #1 Deck Stain Is a Dual-Purpose Stain & Sealer. It Adds Color to Your Wood and Seals it, Preventing Damage Caused by Water Penetration.
  • ALLOWS THE WOOD GRAIN TO SHOW THROUGH - Available in 5 Beautiful, Semi-Transparent Deck Stain Colors That Dry to Flat, Natural Looking Finishes That Will Enhance the Beauty of Your Exterior Wood.
  • BETTER FOR THE PLANET, EASY SOAP & WATER CLEANUP - With Less Than 50 g/L VOC Content, #1 Deck Sealer Is a Better Choice For Our Planet. Clean Up is Super Easy - Just Use Soap and Water.
  • WORKS ON DAMP WOOD, MINIMIZING THE WAIT TIME BETWEEN CLEANING AND STAINING - Once Your Wood Deck Is Visibly Dry, It's Ready to Stain.

Deck premium is a two-in-one semi-transparent deck stain ideal for Pressure-treated pine, redwood, western red cedar, pine, and virtually all softwoods. It keeps exterior wooden surfaces from fading and moisture, extending their life.

Furthermore, it protects the wood while amplifying its natural beauty. It is one of the best transparent stains you can ever invest in as it is a low VOC ( volatile organic compounds).

It emits no strong odors when used and is therefore safe for pets, humans, and kids. Cleaning up this stain will not necessitate the use of mineral spirits.

You only use ordinary soap and water because it does not stain your hands and comes off surfaces without much trouble. One of the most beautiful things about this product is it saves you loads of time between cleaning and staining.

After cleaning the wood in preparation for staining, you do not have to wait for it to dry completely for days or hours before staining, as it even works on damp wood. 

Apply this stain with a quality brush rather than a roller because it can get into pretty small crannies and cracks. Since it is semi-transparent, it lets the wood grain shine through and is available in five stunning colors, so you can easily find one that will match your project.

What We Liked Most

  • Simple soap and water cleanup
  • It works even on dump wood
  • Easy to work with a roller or a brush 
  • It offers an excellent uniform finish
  • It dries up pretty fast

What Could Be Improved

  • It is specially formulated for softwoods



6. Best Multipurpose Poly – 1 gal Rust-Oleum Brands 250231 Clear Varathane

1 gal Rust-Oleum Brands 250231 Clear Varathane, Diamond Water-Based Spar Urethane, Satin
  • The product is Gallon Out CLR Sat Finish
  • Elegant design and Smooth finish
  • The product is manufactured in United States
  • Varathane Gallon Outdoor Crystal Clear Satin Finish
  • Packed with UV absorbers and offering unbeatable protection against the elements

Cleaning up after using oil-based poly is not a joke, and maybe you’ve had a fair share of dramas. If you need a clear water-based polyurethane that exceeds your expectations in performance, this is your product.

You’ll be pleased with how easy it s to apply and clean up without creating messes. It goes on a bit thinner than the oil-based polyurethane with a paintbrush.

The results you get will pleasantly surprise you. It outperforms ordinary polys as it won’t yellow or crack when you use it outdoors. It has a foamy texture but dries clear.

You need to apply to three goats to get the results you deserve. Prepare the surfaces you are working on thoroughly before using this finish. This product is water-based.

It contains low volatile organic compounds; therefore, we consider it pet safe. It also poses no danger to the user and the environment. It takes a reasonable time to dry, letting you finish your paint project earlier than expected.

When used, it produces no upsetting odors, and you will not inhale paint smell for weeks or months after use. For professional results, keenly follow the instructions on the can.

What We Liked Most

  • Very simple to use
  • Odorless
  • Dries fast
  • Long-lasting results

What Could Be Improved

  • It’s not that clear



7. Best Clear Finish for Cedar Surfaces – RUST-OLEUM WATCO 67741 Exterior Wood Finish

Here is your product if you are looking for a clear cedar finish that hardens inside the wood and not on the wood surface to safeguard the wood from inside. 

This deep-penetrating oil formula penetrates the cells of the wood fibers providing superior protection, therefore, extending the life span of your wood.

There will be no deformation or swelling as the weather conditions changes. On top of that, it makes the wood resist moisture damage. Additionally, the product shields the cedar surfaces from the fading effects of UV rays.

It is a high-quality mildew-resistant formula, so it prevents the growth of this mildew which causes the wood to rot. Please be sure not to use this product on previously painted surfaces.

Apply on a dry day when the temperature range is between 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Surface preparation determines the results you get.

For best results, you need to go the extra mile and remove all the contaminants such as dirt, sanding dust, and grease from the wood’s surface. For smooth surfaces, sand the areas. Be keen to stir the contents to mix them properly extensively.

Check whether you’ll love the results by applying the product on a scrap board or a concealed part of the wood. If you are satisfied with the results, use the product on your project.

Apply a generous first coat and give it thirty minutes to soak into the wood. Apply a second coat and come back after fifteen minutes and see the progress. Be sure to wipe excess stain before applying another layer with a clean cloth. 

What We Liked Most

  • Gorgeous colors
  • Durable
  • Clear instructions
  • You can use it on different exterior surfaces

What Could Be Improved

  • You’ve to work under specific weather conditions



8. Most Popular Clear Finish for Exterior Use – General Finishes Exterior 450 Water Based Topcoat

General Finishes Exterior 450 Water Based Topcoat, 1 Quart, Satin
  • Do not apply clear topcoats over bright white paint, as yellowing may occur due to a reaction to the substrate. Light color paints may also experience yellowing due to topcoat application, but it will less noticeable
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat is fortified with UV absorbers to stabilize and protect the integrity of the finish but will not prevent the wood from changing color from sunlight
  • This topcoat also contains built-in properties to protect against mold and mildew
  • Water based formula can be brushed, sprayed or rolled; soap and water cleanup

There’s something beautiful about buying something from a brand. Since the brand has a name to protect, it manufactures high-quality products. Its customer services are always top-notch.

For decades, general finishes have been a trusted brand for producing paints and finishes. This is the brand’s best clear cedar finish for outdoor fixtures such as cedar fences, patio furniture, cedar sidings, and entrance doors.

This incredible finish is made of a Urethane/Acrylic Blend, which you may be familiar with. It is also equipped with a UV absorber, most urethane finishes, to guard against destructive UV rays.

It also has a good dose of mildewicide to prevent the growth of mold and mildew on outdoor surfaces. In a nutshell, this finish can protect your exterior wood from any enemy.

One of the things we love most about this product is that it is tintable and gives a low VOC finish that won’t alter the natural color of the wood.

Furthermore, the finish is easily cleaned with soapy water, so you do not have to incur an additional cost of buying mineral spirits. For exceptional results, apply two to four coats.

Do not worry; each coat takes hours to dry and five days to cure completely.  Apply the finish with a roller, brush, foam brush, or pad applicator. You can easily find a color that will compliment your home decor since it is available in various sheens.

What We Liked Most

  • Availability in different colors
  • Dries quickly
  • Low VOCs

What Could Be Improved

  • You may need to apply multiple coats



9. Best Crystal Clear Coating – DEFY Extreme 1 Gallon Exterior Wood Stain, Crystal Clear

Sale
DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain, Crystal Clear 1 Gallon
  • Water-Based Semi-Transparent Wood Stain – This water-based deck stain allows the wood grain to show through with a beautiful semi-transparent, natural matte finish. It's great for staining wood decks, fences, siding, playsets, outdoor patio furniture, and more.
  • Fortified With Zinc Nano-Particle Technology – It’s like sunscreen for your wood. Tiny zinc particles dispersed throughout the stain reflect damaging UV rays, preventing premature graying and color loss.
  • Durable Quality That Lasts – DEFY Extreme wood stains are made with the highest quality resins available that have better resistance to fading and darkening.
  • Easy to Maintain - DEFY is easy to apply and maintain by applying a single maintenance coat of DEFY Extreme Wood Stain when the wood starts to show signs of wear.
  • 250 VOC Compliant - Water based and VOC compliant everywhere except California.

The Defy extreme is a semi-transparent stain that brings out the natural beauty of wood by allowing the wood grains to show through.

Use it on siding, cedar decks, cedar fences, and outdoor patio furniture to keep them looking great for decades and shield them from unforgiving elements. 

This semi-transparent stain shields exterior cedarwood from harmful UV rays, such as cedar siding and fences, thus stopping premature aging.

When you use this product, you’ll have tremendous peace of mind because you know that your expensive wood will be in good hands. For professional results, apply on cloudy days.

And, once you’ve started staining, keep going until you’ve covered the entire length of the wood to avoid ugly brush marks. Please note that this stain might appear lighter than you would expect when applying it initially.

Be patient with it, as it’ll darken over time to provide you with the desired color. Depending on where you live, you may not need more than one coat. In short, just one coat is what you need to get your dream results.

If you have to apply a second coat, do it within the first twenty minutes of finishing the first coat. Avoid working under direct sunlight as it’ll make the stain dry faster than recommended and interfere with the results.

The stain lasts a season or two longer than some oil-based products. It is effortless to maintain because you do not have to strip the cedar surface again when applying a maintenance coat.

What We Liked Most

  • It lasts a season longer than other competitive products
  • It is friendly to the environment
  • Simple water and soap cleanup

What Could Be Improved

  • You’ve to keep an eye on the weather and apply only on cloudy days



10. Best for Untreated Wood – Howard CS0014 Citrus Shield Paste Wax, 11-Ounces Neutral

Howard CS0014 Citrus Shield Paste Wax, 11-Ounces Neutral
911 Reviews
Howard CS0014 Citrus Shield Paste Wax, 11-Ounces Neutral
  • Citrus shield paste wax cleans with the power of real Orange oil, and protects with a strong, hard protective coating of carnauba wax
  • Use citrus shield to polish your furniture to a brilliant long-lasting shine
  • Manufactured in United States
  • Premium Paste Wax, Neutral
  • Use as a final finish, reconditioner, furniture wax or floor wax

If you need a clear Cedar finish, wax is always one of the best options. Howard Citrus Shield Paste Wax amplifies the natural beauty of finished or unfinished wood.

It does not affect the color and even restores the cedar’s integrity during the conditioning phase. This top-quality product contains legit carnauba wax, which repels water, safeguards the finish color, and reduces the effects of sun fading.

This product takes considerable pride in having a durable shine. Use it on cedar furniture, concrete, marble, painted surfaces, and metal. The product is toluene-free and specially formulated as a topcoat ( final finish or a dependable conditioner.

You can even use it on newly reclaimed wood furniture. It applies easily and with the contents of this can, you can place a couple of coats on three huge credenzas.

The aroma is terrific. All your pieces will have a pleasantly smooth finish that resists scuffs and water rings. The oils in this product might darken your wood a little bit, but it will enhance its beauty by a significant margin.

What We Liked Most

  • It is suitable for both finished and untreated wood
  • Capability to restore and enhance the natural beauty of wood
  • Provides maximum UV protection
  • Ensures a brilliant and durable shine

What Could Be Improved

  • It may darken the wood slightly, but it’s for a good course



11. Best Clear Finish for Marine Environment – Seal-Once Marine – 1 Gallon Penetrating Wood Sealer

Seal-Once Marine Premium Wood Sealer - Waterproof Sealant - Wood Stain and Sealer in One - 1 Gallon & Clear
832 Reviews
Seal-Once Marine Premium Wood Sealer - Waterproof Sealant - Wood Stain and Sealer in One - 1 Gallon & Clear
  • MARINE SEALANT: Our liquid formula creates a UV-stable coating for protection against the elements, saltwater spray, and water damage. Marine is a great protector for outdoor furniture, thermally modified wood, and boat docks.
  • DECK STAIN: It's water-based, ultra-low VOC, great for enhancing the extended life of your flooring, siding, and porch. The paint forms a water-resistant shield around wood fibers at the cellular level to help preserve the natural color.
  • WATERPROOF WOOD SEALER: The wood used on boat docks, decks, and retaining walls near rivers, lakes, oceans, and ponds is subjected to constant moisture. We crafted a sealer, remove stain, and finish all in one, specifically for these installations.
  • WOOD SEALANT: Our fast-drying protector penetrates wood below the surface, coating the wood fibers at the cellular level, which creates a long-lasting, flexible, breathable barrier. It provides a no-fuss, easy clean-up with soap and water.
  • SEAL-ONCE: Our user-friendly wood sealers and stains are an effective way to protect your lumber or concrete against water damage. When you use Seal-Once, you have the satisfaction of knowing our products will not harm pets, plants, or people.

Seal-Once Marine Penetrating Wood Sealer is a waterproof cedar preservative that can provide natural aesthetics and protection against severe outdoor conditions, especially in marine settings.

This product is assured to protect outdoor wood surfaces for a decade. It steps up to its name and offers unrivaled relief to those who live in coastal areas.

The use of nanotechnology is the most appealing aspect of this finish. Wood is more vulnerable to mildew growth, rotting, and water and sun damage in high-moisture regions.

To provide superb protection against all of these conditions, it employs an exclusive nanotechnology formula. It deeply penetrates the wood and protects it from within, right down to the cellular level.

Thanks to nanotechnology, water vapor can also escape rather than be trapped beneath the surface. When the weather conditions change, the breathable barrier it creates allows the wood to swell and shrink.

Because it does not form a film and enables the wood to age usually, the sealer for cedar wood brings out the natural beauty of the wood. It is safe for the environment and does not hurt marine life, pets, or plants.

As a result, you can use this product in and around fresh and saltwater. There are 11 color shades available, so this also functions as a stain.

You can add any wood stains to the clear finish to grant your exterior wooden fixtures and furniture a bump up. The tinted formula shields the surfaces from fading and harmful UV rays effects.

What We Liked Most

  • Durable
  • It is mildew resistant and protects the surfaces from premature aging
  • Applicable on various surfaces

What Could Be Improved

  • Wood glue might not work well with this coating in place



Best Clear Cedar Finish for Outdoors Comparison Table

Advantages of Using Clear Finish On Outdoor Cedar Furniture

A clear finish is an ideal choice for exterior cedar furniture. Why is so? Let’s why the clear finish is the best stain for exterior wood.

Enhances the beauty of natural cedar 

Cedar wood is beautiful even without being stained. It has natural oils that allow it to survive the harshness of being exposed to elements such as snow, rain, UV rays, mold, mildew, etc.

However, it can only fight for so long unaided. With time the elements wear out, and cedarwood starts to fade and rot. 

When you use clear stains, you bring out the natural beauty of cedar and fortify its defense against the elements simultaneously.

So, if you value your expensive wood, it is only fair that you give it a fresh lick of transparent stain and keep applying a maintenance coat as needed. 

Prolongs the life of wood

Outdoor cedar remains outside regardless of weather conditions. It is prone to insects, mold, and mildew attacks which causes the wood to decay.

Clear stains contain mildewcide and penetrating oils that protect the wood from insects, UV rays, and water damage, therefore, prolonging the lifespan of cedar.

Staining a cedar wood surface also makes the areas much easy to clean. Every coin has two sides, and everything on this planet is. 

The only disadvantage of clear stains is that they do not hold up as long as a solid. 

How to Finish Cedar Wood for Outdoors

You finish exterior cedar wood the same way you would finish interior wood. The only difference is to know the type of finish you are using is a water-based stain or oil-based stain.

You do not need to be too cautious with water-based stains because most are low VOCs and won’t emit pungent odors, and are safe for pets, kids, and the environment.

However, you need to be careful with an oil-based stain. If you use an oil-based stain, always wear protective equipment and work in well-ventilated spaces. 

The most important question to ask when treating cedar is, “How much of the actual wood grain do you need to conceal ?” Do you prefer the natural, weathered appearance of cedar? Or do you like a uniform but unnatural appearance?

A semi-transparent stain lets the wood grain shine through and gives the wood the much-needed protection. Solid color stains cover the color of cedar but let some grain shine through.

Here’s a step-by-step process for finishing cedar wood for exterior use.

Requirements

  • Your preferred Wood Finish
  • Cleaners/Stain Removers
  • Sandpaper
  • Brush/Roller/Pad
  • Procedure

Step 1: Sand the wood

Sand the surface and clean the wood to remove sanding dust, debris, and dirt. Avoid using a pressure washer as it may damage the wood. Wipe the wood with a clean cloth or sponge.

Step 2: Remove the previous coating

If the wood was previously stained or it has some scratches grab fine-grit sandpaper and sand it down. Use a stain remover to remove paint finishes and stains.

step 3: Apply the finish

Apply your favorite stain with a sponge, clean rag, pad, or roller, depending on the surface you are working on. Hold it at 45 degrees and run the soft bristles across the surface uniformly and gently if you are using a brush.

Step 4: Allow the finish to dry

Let the finish dry according to the time the manufacturer stipulates and wipe away the excess finish. Sand the wood with fine-grit sandpaper before applying a second coat. Reapply the coats as needed and let the wood cure.

Related Post: Best Cedar Finish for Indoors

FAQs

Can you clear coat cedar?

Yes, you can clear coat cedar, but you need to know a few basics beforehand. Clear coats work exceptionally indoors because they are not exposed to elements responsible for wood degradation, such as rain, algae, mold, insects, snow, and intense UV rays.

They’ll still offer considerable protection against these elements even when used outdoors. Still, they will break down faster than solid stains or paint finishes. Clear coats let the color and the wood grain shine through, therefore amplifying cedar’s natural beauty but wear out with time.

On the other hand, solid transparent stains cover the color of cedar but allow the grain to shine through and are more durable than clear stains. A paint will obscure the grain and the color of wood but painted surfaces last longer. You choose what to go with based on your needs and styles.

How do you seal outdoor cedarwood?

You seal Outdoor cedar as you would interior cedar. Just pay attention to the type of finish you are using and follow relevant safety instructions. Sealing outdoor cedar is straightforward. Sand the surface and wash it to remove dirt and debris. Apply the first coat and let it dry. Lightly sand between the coats with fine-grit sandpaper. Let the final coat cure before using the project.

Can cedar be clear coated?

Yes. You can coat cedar just like other dense wood with clear stains, paints, or shellac or use a solid stain. You need to know the pros and cons of each coating and make an informed decision based on your preferences and needs.

Should cedar be sealed for outdoor use?

Cedar is a dependable option for exterior and interior building projects because it is durable. It has natural properties such as natural oils that enable it to resist insects and rot, and decay. So, staining it is optional. It is advisable to seal it to fortify its defense against the elements. However, leave it unsealed if you need to enjoy the sweet aroma of cedar variants such as Incense-cedar and Western Red Cedar.

What is the best clear stain for cedar?

Linseed oil is the best clear Cedar finish for outdoors. Linseed oil is the main component of some oil finish that dries clear. Other clear water-based finishes exist, but they will not last as long as a Linseed oil-based stain.

Conclusion

We highly recommend finishing exterior cedar with clear stains because they allow the natural beauty of wood and color to show through.

A clear cedar finish also strengthens cedar’s natural defense against mold, mildew, moisture, and UV rays. The best clear cedar finish for outdoors should last for a while before necessitating maintenance coat application. 

Our top pick is Minwax Helmsman Indoor/Outdoor Spar Urethane. It is effortless to use, long-lasting and works as advertised.