Polycrylic – The New Polyurethane

When I redid my crappy $5 table late last year I finished it with polyurethane. I wanted a solid finish that would hold up to kids and water rings, and that’s just what you use, right? Well, about a week after I finished it started to turn yellow. Now four months later the table looks terrible….it seriously looks like my toddler didn’t drink water for a week and then peed all over it. That’s a nasty description, I know, but that’s what I thought everytime I walked by.


I sanded off the finish, but the yellow seemed to have seeped into the paint. This stuff doesn’t mess around. So I slapped on a quick coat of white, redistressed, and then pulled out a can of my new favorite thing.

Ladies and Gentleman, meet polycrylic. Polycrylic and polyurethane are like twin brothers…they pretty much look the same, but somehow one of them is always hotter.

 Polycrylic is definitely the hot twin. It holds up well, doesn’t turn yellow, and goes on smooth. I’ll still use polyurethane on the certain stuff (like our dining table), but for everything else I’m totally converted.

Ahh, so much better!

Anyone else have any new favorite products or tips and tricks to make DIYing a little easier? Do tell!

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  1. I looove polycrylic :-) We just redid our dining table white and, with three coats of it, that sucker better withstand every bump and knick from the kids.

    (Love the new digs!)

  2. Hello! I’m visiting from the Ultimate Blog Party. It’s great to visit your blog – I love the look of it!! I’m excited to look around more. I’m now following you on BlogLovin’, Fb, Twitter, and Pinterest.

    This is a great post. It’s nice to learn from others’ mistakes. Your table looks so lovely now!! Great job!

  3. Congrats on your “creative bloggers got talent” win. You totally deserve it, because of that contest I found your blog and I love it! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. I had to comment because my kitchen cabinets were sealed with polyurethane by our painter and I always say it looks like a cat peed all over them!! LOL! So glad you were able to save your table – my cabinets are on hold for now… boo!
    Rhonda recently posted..Hydrangea SuccessMy Profile

  5. We were just going to polyurethane my desk tonight, but I wasn’t crazy about the finish on the test wood. So glad I found this site for an alternative! Thanks!!

  6. I used polycrylic on my brand new faux granite counter top that it took a lot of work and time to do with paint and it still turned yellow. Now minwax polyurethane says “if you require a gloss finish without ambering use polycrylic, so I went and got the polycrylic, I had a beautiful beige and mocha and white granite finish it looked really nice and very realistic when I was done, I was so happy with the results, until I put the polycrylic on it and it turned yellowish. I am wondering if that’s maybe just the minwax brand? Are there others which are better? I still wanted to do my kitchen counters but not if they will turn out yellowish too. BTW wonderful job on your table :)

    • I’m so sorry they turned yellow! So frustrating when you spend forever on a project and the last step ruins it. I’ve used polycrylic on quite a few things now and it has never yellowed, so I haven’t tried any other brands. Minwax is just a cheap/non-professional brand, so I’m sure a high quality brand would be better to you…though unfortunately I have no idea what that is. There is a store here in San Antonio called Woodcraft that sells stuff like that and could help, you might want see if there is one in your area.

      • I know this is four years in the future from this post but I’m sure there will be others like myself using polycrylic for the first time and I wanted to share my story about yellowing. I’ve been working on a side table project and because of unforeseen events I was forced to paint it white instead of using a stain like I wanted too. With that said I did a ton of research into sealing and protecting the finish. Like many of us I came across polycrylic because it doesn’t turn yellow. However on the can it does say that it may turn yellow. I’ve read many articles and blog posts about polycrylic and many people have had great success without the yellowing.

        Needless to say I bought a quart of Minwax polycrylic and put it on the table top and the legs (with kids and pets you never know what they can destroy). The legs turned out great, but the table top yellowed. I was mad but it was a small problem and a small table, nothing to lose my temper over. I sanded it down and repainted it. I then put another coat of poly on it and yet again it yellowed. My frustration was building but I wasn’t going to let an inanimate object get the better of me. I sanded and painted but before I put on another coat I turned to my computer. I researched again, and I found some people say it never yellows, but many others aren’t sure why it did because they’ve never had it happen. This isn’t helpful for those of us who have a yellow finish on our hard work.

        I stopped and thought about it again. I asked myself, “why are the legs perfect the table top yellows?” I reflected on the two previous attempts on the table and realized my errors. The first time I dripped on a spot that was tacky already and tried to clean it up and instead I over brushed it. It was hot that day and the thin coat began drying faster than normal. To tell if you’re over brushing it for those of you that don’t, the brush stops gliding along the surface.

        My second attempt I realized was too thick and it became a patchy yellow in the heavier spots. The way I determine if I had too much, if I couldn’t see the brush strokes it was too thick. Don’t worry on the third coat the brush strokes disappear with all the sanding and settling of the polycrylic.

        I just finished my second coat on the third attempt and it looks great. I’ve found the first coat has the least amount of forgiveness when it comes to being applied. In conclusion, I have found if you put it on too thick or over brush it, the yellow will show it’s unwanted face.

        I hope this helps someone else that’s having the same issues I had.

  7. Thank you so much for your kind reply. I am in CT. We only have Home Depot. We used to have Lowes but they kept closing their stores until the last one was gone. I was raised in Chicago, we had plenty of home improvement stores there and art and craft stores, I loved it there, since I am very crafty, then I had to fall in love with a guy in CT, lol. They have only one arts and crafts store here in CT and it’s half the size of the many in Chicago. Home depot on the other hand is almost in every single shopping plaza, lol.

    I am thinking maybe of ordering a different brand on amazon, but I don’t want to be disappointed again and waste money, that’s why I asked. I don’t want to make another mistake and get another crappy brand, because I didn’t know. I do thank you :)

  8. I used polycrylic on my kitchen cabinets and the wood trim around the countertops when we redid our kitchen several years ago. I also used it on the door and window casings throughout the house. We had so much wood to finish that the shorter drying time was a big bonus. The cabinets are…ok. The wood looks flat–no depth to the grain & no shine, but that’s not a big deal. The finish on the trim around the countertops didn’t hold up well at all. It was tacky and dull within a year. The door and window trim still looks good everywhere except in the one bathroom where I used the polycrylic and the window sills. It doesn’t hold up to the sun, moisture, and heavy use that the oil-based does. If I were to do it again I would still use the polycrylic, but probably just on the door & window trim (except in the bathroom). I was really pretty disappointed in Minwax for claiming that it holds up the same as polyurethane. So…that’s my two cents. Do with it what you will!
    Michele recently posted..It Just Looks Like I Live Deep In The SouthMy Profile

    • Hmmm, good to know. Everything I’ve used Polycrilic on is holding up well so far, but I have been using Polyurathane on stuff that I know will be getting a lot of abuse (and it doens’t matter if it yellows), like our farmhouse table Adam built. Polyurathane does seem like it would hold up better just because it’s thicker…which is also why it’s a pain to apply.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Hello! I am literally in the process of redoing my kitchen cabinets. I have applied the polycrylic to a couple of drawers and it looks awful. Can you tell me how you applied your polycrylic? I’ve tried an expensive synthetic brush, a foam brush and in desperation I tried applying it with a cloth as you would when applying a stain. I cannot seem to get a smooth look. Any suggestions?

    • Hmmm, I have no idea why it is looking bad. I’ve only ever applied the polycrylic to furniture and craft projects and usually I use a cloth simply because I hate washing brushes. I have used a brush though and it turned out great. I use the satin poly, perhaps that makes a difference. I don’t know! I’m sorry it’s turning out terrible…I know how frustrating that can be! You know, when we painted our kitchen cabinets we didn’t put any finish on them at all…perhaps you could just skip the entire process?

      • Jennifer says:

        Thanks so much! Think I will try the satin finish and pray that it turns out the way I want. :)

  10. Jennifer says:

    Also, do you think the “finish” of the polycrylic could make a difference in the “streakiness”? Wondering if the “high-gloss” may show the streaks and brush marks more.

  11. I love Varathane’s water-based polyurethane, but the oil-based one is not my favorite due to yellowing. I wonder if this is a water-based vs. oil based issue. I’ve only been refinishing for a year, and I always love a good recommendation. I’ve posted all my water-based polyurethane projects on my site and none has yellowed yet…crossing fingers.

  12. Polycrylic comes in Flat, Satin, Low Gloss and High Gloss. Your results will be radically different depending on the selection. Also, you can base coat with other chemically compatible finishes to heighten the grain and then use the poly.

  13. wow my adblock blocked 17 ads on this page.. geez girl

    • Okay, I have to admit something…this comment has been bugging me all night. I’ve worked pretty hard to make my site look clean and have the ads not be too in your face while still allowing myself to make an income…but heck, maybe I’m just blind because I’m used to them. Did you look at it without the ad blocker? I can’t seem to come up with 17 no matter how I count.

  14. I am in the process of painting my bathroom cabinets and I plan on putting Polycrylic on to finish. I was wondering, how many coats did you apply? I’ve read several blogs that list anywhere from 1 – 3 coats and I’m so confused!

    • Do 2-3 coats, one isn’t enough. I would apply two coats with a foam brush, sand lightly with sandpaper (150-200 grit) and then apply the final coat. This will seal it really well and the end product will be silky smooth!

      • I was definitely going to do 2 but was leaning towards 3. Now I think I’ll definitely do 3. Thanks for the reply, I love your blog!

  15. I have another question, can I touch up areas on my cabinet if needed after polycrylic has been applied? If so, what steps would I take? Thanks!!

    • Touch it up with paint? Not really, though your shouldn’t need to. If you get some wear and need to touch up with paint I would sand off the poly, paint, and reapply poly. Though if you get wear it probably means the poly has worn off and you won’t have to sand much at all.

      • The reason I ask is I just finised painting my bathroom cabinet. I didn’t notice until after polycrylic coats were done that some areas on the doors and drawers, around the edges, didn’t have very good paint coverage. I may just leave well enough alone :-(

        • I totally understand. I know it’s probably driving you nuts right now, but give it a few weeks and you won’t even remember that the cabinets aren’t perfect.

          • Your right, it IS driving me nuts right now! This was my 1st big painting project and I made a lot of mistakes! What should have only taken a few days ended up taking me 2 1/2 weeks, but you live and learn :-) I just keep telling myself, it’s a distressed look, LOL! Your right, in a few weeks I probably won’t even care. Thanks for all the info!

  16. About 10 years ago I finished all of the raised panel Oak kitchen cabinets with at least 3 coats of Minwax Polycrylic. My husband spent months building these to my specs.
    As they became dark around handles, I used Krud Kutter to clean them. It appears that the Krud Kutter damaged the finish and surface has been sticky ever since. The “permanently” coated Brass handles also have become sticky. What I want to know is what will remove the normal Kitchen grease and grime without damaging the finish. I’m preparing to re-coat the doors and drawer fronts that have been damaged and don’t want to repeat the error of using something too strong BUT do want to be able to clean them without damage. The Minwax company rep suggested warm water with a bit of DAWN and some Ammonia, but no measurements. This just made the bad spots worse and doesn’t get the real GRIME off. THANKS for any help you can give.
    Judy recently posted..Sliding Door Media CenterMy Profile

  17. Why would you use polyurethane vs polycrystalline on a dining table? I used pilycrylic on a coffee table – 3 coats – and a few weeks later a cold water bottle left a ring on it…just wondering if polyurethane would prevent this from happening??


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