Polyurethane is a popular finish for wood, because it’s strong and durable. But not all polyurethanes are created equal- some are more prone to yellowing than others.

So if you’re looking for a non-yellowing polyurethane, what should you look for? In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about finding the best non-yellowing polyurethane for your project.

We’ll also share our top picks for the best polyurethane that doesn’t yellow on the market today.

So whether you’re finishing a piece of furniture or coating a floor, these products will help you achieve a beautiful, long-lasting finish that won’t yellow over time.

Our Top Picks

Best Non Yellowing Polyurethane

  1. Bona Traffic HD Commercial Extra MatteBest clear coat for wood
  2. StreetShoe Water-based FinishBest non yellowing polyurethane for floors
  3. Pallmann Pall-X 96 MatteBest non-yellowing exterior polyurethane
  4. Loba WS 2K Supra – SatinNon-yellowing clear coat for the painted wood
  5. Bona Finish – Mega HD Clear SatinNon-yellowing topcoat for white paint

First Things First: Why Does Polyurethane Turn Yellow? 

Polyurethane yellowing is a natural phenomenon that is more common with oil-based polyurethane varieties. The process occurs due to exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, polymer degradation, or oily deposits.

Exposure of these wood surfaces to the sun’s UV rays causes chemical reactions in the polyurethane coatings. These reactions lead to chemical changes in the topcoat, leading to a color change from clear to yellowish.

The chemical reactions responsible for the yellowing of polyurethane coatings happen naturally due to interaction with reactive particles like oxygen in the air.

However, UV radiation acts as a catalyst that accelerates these reactions and the subsequent yellowing. The longer the exposure to ultraviolet radiation, the deeper the color change.

Using wood species that are naturally yellow like pine also contributes to the yellowing. These wood species become yellower over time due to UV exposure.

The combination of yellowing wood and poly can make the color appear more pronounced. However, scuffing the polyurethane coating with fine-grit sandpaper should help lighten the color since the reactions happen from the top. 

The Best Polyurethane that Doesn’t Yellow Reviews

Polyurethane types that are much clearer and lighter tend to yellow the least. With minimal exposure to the sun’s UV radiation, the yellowing may remain negligible and imperceptible to the eye.

We have also noticed that cheaper water-based polyurethanes also tend to yellow more than the premium types. So if you are looking for a non-yellowing poly, you may want to spend slightly more money for the desired outcome.

Based on our research, here are the best non yellowing clear coats.

1. Best clear coat for wood – Bona Traffic HD Commercial Extra Matte

While Bona Traffic HD is relatively more expensive than most of its water-based peers, it is by far the best non-yellowing option. The coat stays clear and preserves the natural look of your wood, especially where the sun exposure is minimal. 

The poly is made of top-quality polymers, making it the most durable option we have found on the market. This durability will go a long way in saving you money in the long run. 

We especially love Bona Traffic HD for its low VOCs profile. VOCs are the volatile organic compounds added to paints and other wood finishes. They give these products a pungent smell and can produce toxic fumes when used in large quantities. 

Inhaling the fumes from a product high in VOCs can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, and a few other unpleasant symptoms.

The fumes can also trigger allergic reactions for people with allergies. This is why low-VOC cabinet clear coats are always preferred, and Bona Traffic HD has perhaps the lowest VOC levels.

What We Liked Most

  • This non yellowing clear coat is fast drying, saving you application time.  
  • Bona Traffic HD is a commercial-grade product, so it holds up well to foot traffic and is ideal for busy restaurants and other commercial establishments. 
  • The polyurethane has a water-based formulation that is as durable as oil-based poly.   
  • It stays clear with time, preserving the color of your finished hardwood floors.
  • It forms a hard coat that holds up to pets and other activities responsible for wear and tear. This quality means it saves you money in the long run. 
  • Bona Traffic HD is available in various sheen levels, including matte, satin, and glossy finishes, so you can choose your most preferred shine. 

What Could Be Improved

  • The high initial cost of this non yellowing clear coat for wood may be a bummer for some buyers



2. Best non-yellowing polyurethane for floors – StreetShoe Water-based Wood Floor Finish Satin

Basic Coatings STREETSHOE Waterbased Wood Floor Finish Satin 1 Gallon
60 Reviews
Basic Coatings STREETSHOE Waterbased Wood Floor Finish Satin 1 Gallon
  • Also available in Semi-Gloss, and Gloss.
  • Fastest cure available; 90% cured in 24 hours.
  • Low VOC and low odor.
  • No waste; can be recatalyzed.
  • Superior scratch and scuff resistant.

If you have wooden floors that you wish to keep from getting amber over time, Basic Coatings’ StreetShoe is your best bet. 

This water-borne poly is second only to Bona Traffic HD in terms of durability for most users. It offers superior resistance to scuffing and scratching, which keeps the surface looking impeccable for years. 

Its strength comes in handy when used on hardwood floors in high-traffic areas. You can count on the poly to save you money in the long run. 

It is available in various sheen levels, including semi-gloss and high-gloss. This allows you the option to choose a different sheen level other than the satin if you prefer a shinier floor. 

StreetShoe poly boasts the fastest cure time ever, getting up to 90 percent cured in just 24 hours. This quality helps save you time by speeding up your project.

This non yellowing top coat is also has low VOC and low odor, making it safe for people and pets and conducive for persons with allergies.

What We Liked Most

  • This polyurethane is eco-friendly since it can be catalyzed to eliminate waste.
  • It forms a highly durable coat that protects wooden floors and lasts longer than most of its water-borne peers. 
  • It is low maintenance due to its high scratch and scuff resistance levels. 

What Could Be Improved

  • Some users claim the satin option is glossier than they prefer 
  • Some users also find the surface less resistant to pet stains 



3. Best non-yellowing exterior polyurethane – Pallmann Pall-X 96 Matte

Pallmann Pall-X 96 Matte
8 Reviews
Pallmann Pall-X 96 Matte
  • Exceptional flow and leveling – Extremely forgiving
  • Not UV sensitive – Will not amber over time
  • Fast drying – Accepts light foot traffic in 4 hours
  • Low odor – Non offensive on jobsite
  • Four sheens- Matte, Satin, Semi-gloss, and Gloss

This relatively new water-based polyurethane is highly durable and well-suited to outdoor environments. You can use it on commercial projects and residential exterior surfaces with great success due to its resilience and proven resistance to wear and tear.

Its high resistance to the sun’s ultraviolet rays makes it an ideal fit for coating exterior wood surfaces. Since Pallmann Pall-X 96 is low-odor, thanks to its water-based formulation.

This exterior poly also contains negligible levels of volatile organic compounds, making it safe for use in living areas with pets and people.

This quality also makes it safe to apply without necessarily wearing a respirator or safety mask. It is a fast-drying polyurethane, ideal for time-sensitive projects.

What We Liked Most

  • The product has a durable water-based formula. 
  • It dries completely clear, doing an excellent job in preserving your wood’s natural color. 
  • The Pall-X 96 has a short dry time, so you can apply multiple coats within a short time and complete your entire project within a day. 
  • The finish has no gloss, which is perfect for those who prefer a true matte look

What Could Be Improved

  • This product is still new on the market, leaving much room for further testing to get a more conclusive picture of its strengths and limitations. 



4. Non-yellowing clear coat for the painted wood – Loba WS 2K Supra – Satin

LOBA WS 2K Supra - Satin
10 Reviews
LOBA WS 2K Supra - Satin
  • Lobadur
  • Environmentally friendly two-component waterborne finish
  • Easy to use: application with T-Bar, brush, lambswool or roller
  • Non yellowing

Loba WS 2K is another durable polyurethane that remains clear despite exposure to UV radiation and other weather elements responsible for yellowing.

Its superior durability means it can protect your painted wood for many years, preserving the good looks of your finished wood. 

It rarely gets anything less than a five-star review, especially due to its superior coverage. Just a small amount of the product will get your project sufficiently coated. 

It is also easy to apply. You will not need a professional to do the job for you. All you need is a T-Bar, paintbrush, paint roller, or lambswool for a DIY application. These tools will do an excellent job applying polyurethane to your project.  

The product comes with clear and precise user instructions that simplify your work. One customer described them as “spot on.”

What We Liked Most

  • The poly is environmentally friendly 
  • It is non-yellowing
  • It is highly durable, with the best customer ratings of all products in its range. 
  • Loba is low VOC, so it is safe to apply without requiring a respirator. This means you don’t have to incur additional costs to use it for your project. 

What Could Be Improved

  • The product is still relatively new in the market. 



5. Non-yellowing topcoat for white paint – Bona Finish – Mega HD Clear Satin

This is a relatively new entrant in the Bona product line, and it is already making waves in the market. This polyurethane dries clear and retains the clarity for the long haul.

Since it is non-yellowing, you can apply it directly onto bare, sanded wood, and it will do an excellent job preserving that wood’s dolor. The product holds up pretty well in inclement weather.

If you live in a place that is notorious for snowy winters and wet springs, Mega HD may be your best bet. The terrible weather conditions will not make it flinch. 

It is also highly durable and will keep your wood protected for ages in any weather. This water-borne poly is less durable than Bona Traffic but holds up well to foot traffic, making it a good value. 

It is also less expensive than Bona Traffic and lasts for many years on wood surfaces without refinishing.

What We Liked Most

  • This product is incredibly easy to apply.
  • It dries quickly, speeding up your project time. You can apply multiple coats within the same day. 
  • This polyurethane is cost-effective 

What Could Be Improved

  • The Bona mega HD is less durable than Bona Traffic HD and premium oil-based options.



Best Non Yellowing Polyurethane Comparison Table

Education: Type of Polyurethane that Won’t Yellow 

High-quality water-based polyurethane is the only type that does not yellow. For instance, Minwax’s Polycrylic is non-yellowing and goes on clear, forming a durable coat on your project.

Additionally, water-based polyurethane is generally easy to use and dries pretty quickly—so you can apply multiple coats within a 24-hour window. The dry polyurethane coat will remain clear even after exposure to the elements over time.

Does water-based polyurethane yellow?

Water-borne poly generally does not yellow over time. However, lower-quality water-based polyurethanes form a noticeably amber tint as they age. They react more to the sun’s ultraviolet rays and other weather elements, forming a slightly yellow tint.

So it is always best to buy a high-quality water-based product if you want the coat to remain clear without forming a yellow tint over time.

Does Minwax polyurethane yellow

No, Minwax polyurethane does not yellow over time. It is among the best non-yellowing water-based polyurethanes on the market. It is easy to apply, dries quickly within a few hours, and allows you to apply multiple coats within a 24-hour period.

Is there a non-yellowing oil-based polyurethane

No, every oil-based polyurethane will eventually turn amber over time. The yellowing is due to UV exposure that causes and accelerates polymer degradation. Oily deposits are also responsible for the yellowing, which happens gradually with time. 

When you use oil-based poly on hardwood floors, the coat will turn yellowish, giving the floor an amber tint. This color change often continues, making the coated wood darker and darker over time. 

Does wipe on polyurethane yellow?

Yes, wipe-on poly is oil-based and therefore develops a yellowish tint over time. When used outdoors, prolonged sun exposure typically causes the clear coat to turn brown or yellowish. The absorbent qualities of the solvent can also cause the wipe on poly to turn yellowish. 

How to Fix Yellowing Polyurethane 

While most polyurethanes will yellow with time and continue to darken as time goes by, you can always fix the color and make it clearer. However, lightening a yellowing polyurethane coat requires a bit of patience and some elbow grease. 

Additionally, the solution will depend on the nature of the color change. If the undercoat is affected, it may require slightly more work to lighten than when the coat yellows from the top. In any case, here is how to fix a yellowing polyurethane coat. 

Method 1: Sanding the yellow topcoat 

If the polyurethane color has darkened due to UV radiation, the chances are that it is only yellow from the outside. Sanding the outer layer will likely remove the yellowing and lighten the color. 

So, use fine 220-grit sandpaper to scuff up the tinted coat of polyurethane. The chances are that you will not remove all the tint, but the sanding will lighten the color by removing the most affected part. 

You don’t want to use coarse sandpaper of sand too deep because you do not want to remove the entire coat of polyurethane. 

Method 2: Using mineral spirits 

You can also remove much of the tint by scrubbing the surface with a soft sponge saturated with mineral spirits. This method is most suitable for oil-based polyurethane. 

The mineral spirits will dissolve and remove the grease or oily deposits responsible for the yellowing color.

Method 3: Chemical stripper 

When the color change results from the polyurethane sucking up the tinting stains from the wood beneath, sanding or scrubbing the top will likely not help. This is because the undercoat will be affected. 

The best way to fix this issue is to strip down the polyurethane finish using a chemical paint stripper. Then apply a stain-blocking primer to seal the material before applying a fresh coat of non-yellowing sealant.

How to Keep Polyurethane from Yellowing?  

The surest way to keep the finish from yellowing is to use a high-grade UV protection finish from the get-go.

Polyurethanes labeled as non-yellowing are usually formulated to resist UV radiation, hence keeping them from reacting and yellowing. 

You may also reduce the UV rays entering your home by investing in UV-blocking window treatments or window films.

Best Non Yellowing Clear Coat for Wood – Poly Alternatives

Aside from non-yellowing polyurethane, you could treat your wood with a clear coat for wood that won’t yellow to preserve its natural look. Here are the leading options to consider for your next project. 

Shellac

Rust-Oleum Zinsser 854 1-Quart Bulls Eye Sealcoat Universal Sanding Sealer, 32 Fl Oz
704 Reviews
Rust-Oleum Zinsser 854 1-Quart Bulls Eye Sealcoat Universal Sanding Sealer, 32 Fl Oz
  • This product adds a great value
  • 1 quart
  • 400-600 sq. Feet per gallon
  • Compatible with all clear wood finishes
  • Great for sealing all interior wood, including floors

Shellac is often available in various shades. While it is not always entirely clear-colored, once you apply the finish, the color remains the same without tinting over time. So you can choose your preferred shade and be rest assured that it will remain the same. 

Our editor’s choice of shellac is Rust-Oleum Zinsser 854 1-Quart Bulls Eye Sealcoat Universal Sanding Sealer. 

It is high-coverage, with one gallon covering 400 to 600 square feet. This means great value for the money. 

You will be happy to know that it is compatible with all clear wood finishes, so you can use it alongside any finish or primer that you prefer. 

This shellac is formulated to suit all interior wood sealing projects, including floors. Perhaps its most outstanding quality is the lightning-fast drying that helps save you time. You can sand and recoat it in minutes and complete the entire project within hours. 

If you are looking for a non-yellowing finish, this shellac may be your best bet.




Wax

Daddy Van's All Natural Unscented Beeswax Furniture Polish Non-Toxic Odorless Wood Wax Nourishes Furniture Antiques Cabinets and Butcher Block
1,621 Reviews
Daddy Van's All Natural Unscented Beeswax Furniture Polish Non-Toxic Odorless Wood Wax Nourishes Furniture Antiques Cabinets and Butcher Block
  • MAKE ALL THE WOOD IN YOUR HOME BEAUTIFUL AGAIN – Natural beeswax wood conditioner renews, nourishes, and brings out the beauty in all wood types. Imparts a rich, deep glow to finished and unfinished wood.
  • FOOD SAFE AND BABY SAFE – Our non-toxic ingredients are safe to use on items that come into contact with food, and to keep wooden toys and baby’s crib looking great.
  • BEAUTIFUL CHALK AND MILK PAINT FINISHING WAX - Odorless, non-hazardous, and water-resistant sealing wax is easy to apply and creates a durable matte finish.
  • NATURALLY NON-TOXIC AND FREE FROM HARMFUL CHEMICALS – Zero odor, zero VOC. Daddy Van’s is a USDA Certified 100% Biobased Furniture Polish.
  • A LITTLE DADDY VAN'S GOES A LONG WAY! To Use: With a soft cloth, rub a small amount of wax onto surface in a circular motion. Buff with a clean, dry cotton cloth and you will be rewarded with the healthy glow of the wood, shining as if from within. MADE WITH LOVE IN ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA U.S.A.

If you are finishing a painted wood, waxes are among your best options. They create a water-resistant layer over the paint and add an extra layer of protection. 

Waxes are, however, not recommended for bare wood because they do not form a strong film, so they will not sufficiently protect the surface on their own.

Our best choice of wax is Daddy Van’s All Natural Unscented Beeswax Furniture Polish. It is non-toxic and odorless, so you can apply it without wearing any protection, such as a respirator or face mask. 

The wax is also easy to apply and requires only one coat. This means you can complete the project in minutes. 

Daddy Van’s is chemical-free, which makes it eco-friendly and totally recyclable. You can also use it on a wide range of surfaces, including furniture, butcher block, cabinets, antiques, and any other wood type. 

If you want something that will restore your wood, this wax may be your best choice.




Epoxy Resin

TotalBoat Table Top Epoxy Resin 1 Gallon Kit - Crystal Clear Coating and Casting Resin for Bar Tops, Table Tops, Wood, Concrete, Epoxy Art & Crafts
4,228 Reviews
TotalBoat Table Top Epoxy Resin 1 Gallon Kit - Crystal Clear Coating and Casting Resin for Bar Tops, Table Tops, Wood, Concrete, Epoxy Art & Crafts
  • SUPER CLEAR EPOXY RESIN for a clear, high gloss finish on bar tops, table tops & countertops; add pigments, tints or encapsulations to make your piece truly unique; versatile craft resin is also great for coating tumblers and casting coasters & jewelry
  • EPOXY RESISTS SCRATCHES, STAINS AND YELLOWING: Self-leveling formula cures to a finish as smooth as glass; use this versatile DIY resin on wood, concrete, ceramic, stainless steel and more; 100% waterproof upon cure
  • 2 PART EPOXY IS EASY TO USE: Just mix 1 part resin to 1 part hardener, stir thoroughly, and pour on your prepared surface; the epoxy will level on its own and cure at room temperature; maximum pour depth per layer is 1/8" - 1/4"
  • NO VOCs, LOW ODOR, BPA-FREE: No harsh fumes - ideal for indoor or shop use with adequate ventilation and proper PPE; all ingredients in this food safe epoxy resin are on the USDA approved list for contact with food, once cured; 100% made in the USA
  • 1 GALLON EPOXY KIT includes 1/2 gallon of resin & 1/2 gallon of hardener; application temperature: 70-80°F; working time: 20 min. @ 70°F; recoat time: 4-8 hrs; cure time: 16-20 hrs @ 70°F; coverage: 12.8 sq ft at 1/8" thick; store at 60-90°F

Epoxies are two-part finishes, meaning they come as two products that must be mixed to form the final product. Some are mixed on the surface, while others are designed to mix inside a tube before reaching the project.

Epoxy resins are thick by nature. Therefore they work best for flat surfaces such as artwork or a tabletop. If you are looking for a hard-drying, non-yellowing tabletop wood finish, an epoxy resin may be the best option for you. 

Our editor’s choice is TotalBoat Table Top Epoxy Resin 1 Gallon Kit. It is incredibly durable, is totally clear-colored when dry, and retains its clarity over time without yellowing.

The product dries hard, forming a scratch-resistant coat on your wood. It also resists stains, making it pretty easy to maintain. The self-leveling formula cures to a smooth, glass-like finish that can bring out the beauty of your wood. 

This epoxy resin is for you if you want the most versatile, incredibly durable finish that does not yellow over time. 




Oil

Sale
UltraPro Food Grade Mineral Oil, 1 Gallon (128oz), for Lubricating and Protecting Cutting Board, Butcher Block, Stainless Steel, Knife, Tool, Machine and Equipment, NSF Approved
8,754 Reviews
UltraPro Food Grade Mineral Oil, 1 Gallon (128oz), for Lubricating and Protecting Cutting Board, Butcher Block, Stainless Steel, Knife, Tool, Machine and Equipment, NSF Approved
  • MINERAL OIL FOR EVERYTHING: White oil is used in food, automotive, beauty, construction and many more industries.
  • FOOD GRADE & MADE IN THE USA: Our mineral oil is food grade and great for use as a food safe lubricant for an industrial slicer, knife, blade, tool, and machine. Proudly made in the USA!
  • RESTORE WOODEN CUTTING BOARDS: Treat and protect wooden butcher blocks, cutting boards, bamboo and more.
  • STAINLESS STEEL: Protect and polish stainless steel surfaces.
  • UNSCENTED: UltraPro food grade mineral oil is unscented, and NSF approved

Oils are generally non-film forming but do an excellent job restoring the color of the wood. They can keep a piece of wood looking fresh and colorful for years, as long as you reapply them within the recommended intervals. 

Some oils require reapplication every year, while others can take as long as two years. There are some less durable varieties that will require more frequent reapplication to retain their protection for the wood. 

Our best choice of oil is UltraPro Food Grade Mineral Oil. It is NSF-approved, meaning that it meets the strict standards for public health protection. 

This oil is completely non-toxic and safe. It is entirely food-safe, so you can use it for lubricating and protecting chopping boards, kitchen counters, and butcher blocks.

You can also use it to lubricate stainless steel products, including knives, tools, plus other machines and equipment. You will be happy to know that UltraPro oil is unscented, so it will not influence the taste or aroma of your foods. 




Yellowing Wood Finishes To Avoid

Suppose you prefer a topcoat that will remain clear over time. In that case, you may want to steer clear of these wood finishes notorious for their yellowing tendency:

Watco’s Danish Oil, Waterlox, Arm-R-Seal, Tung Oil, Seal-A-Cell, and any oil-based polyurethane, including Varathane and Minwax. Instead, go for their water-based products.

FAQs

What sealer will not yellow?

The best sealer that will not turn yellow is Minwax’s Polycrylic. It dries quickly within a few hours, is easy to apply, and can be recoated multiple times within a day. This sealer dries completely clear and stays that way without yellowing over time.

Does lacquer yellow

Lacquer finishes typically do not yellow with age. They require very little maintenance and offer good protection against liquids and moisture damage. You need to use a sprayer instead of a brush, roller, or hand-rubbed cloth like varnishes and urethanes to apply them.

How long does it take polyurethane to yellow?

Polyurethanes typically take 3 years or longer to yellow. This happens as a result of the polyurethane pulling or absorbing oils, stains, and tannins from the wood, causing it to turn yellow. Poly will also react to UV rays and molecules like oxygen in the air, leading to a systematic color change.

Will polyurethane turn white vinyl yellow?

Polyurethane will not turn white vinyl yellow because poly is a clear coat and, as such, does not contain pigments responsible for changing the substrate color from white to yellow.

Does polycrylic yellow

No, polycrylic is a water-based product, and so it does not yellow. Water-borne clear coats typically do not yellow over time, except for some cheap water-based products. But even these options only develop a slight tint.

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Does varnish yellow

Varnish does have a yellow tint and gives this tint to the wood it coats. The product is generally applied to raw wood furniture to bring out the wood grain and accentuate its mellow color.

Does polyurethane yellow over time

Yes. Oil-based polyurethanes tend to turn yellow over time. This is usually a result of chemical reactions within the poly. UV radiation and oily deposits on the topcoat also cause it to turn yellow or amber over time.

Does urethane yellow

Many types of urethane will yellow over time due to polymer degradation, oily deposits forming on the surface, and reaction with the sun’s UV rays.

Does minwax polycrylic yellow

Water-borne Minwax Polycrylic does not yellow because of its water-based formula. Most water-based wood finishes remain clear without turning yellow over time as oil-based formulas do.

Does shellac yellow

No, Shellac doesn’t yellow. Shellac’s natural UV resistance property allows the finish to retain its original hue for many years. This makes Shellac an ideal finish for furniture and other household items that you want to keep looking new.

Shellac is also highly resistant to scratches and other damage, so it can help to protect your belongings from everyday wear and tear. If you’re looking for a finish that will keep your home looking its best, shellac is a great option.

Will water-based oil-modified polyurethane yellow?

Oil-modified polyurethanes tend to yellow only slightly because they are a mix of oil and water-based poly. For instance, Minwax water-based oil-modified polyurethane yellowing results from the chemical degradation of the oil-based poly in the mixture.

Final Thoughts on Clear Coats that Won’t Yellow

If you want a clear topcoat that will remain that way for the long haul, you need to use the best non yellowing polyurethane.

In such a case, high-quality water-based polyurethanes will be your best bet as their oil-based cousins tend to yellow significantly over time.

We hope this review and user guide help you find the best poly for your next wood finishing project. Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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