Top 5 Best Paint Brushes For Polyurethane (2020 Review)

Are you looking for the best paint brushes for polyurethane? You've come to the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner Review, you'll discover:

  • What are the different kinds of paintbrushes for polyurethane
  • What to look for when buying a paintbrush for painting with polyurethane
  • Our top polyurethane paintbrush picks!

And much more!

Top 5 Best Paint Brushes For Polyurethane (2020 Review)
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Wooster Silver Tip 2 1/2″ Angle Sash
  • Soft formulation
  • Rust-resistant ferrule
  • Angle sash
  • Soft formulation
  • Rust-resistant ferrule
  • Angle sash
View on Amazon

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Wooster Foam King 1 1/2″ Foam Brush
  • Inexpensive
  • Many sizes
  • Built-in stiffener blade
  • Inexpensive
  • Many sizes
  • Built-in stiffener blade
View on Amazon

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Purdy XL Series 3 1/2″ Pip Enamel / Wall Brush
  • Use with any paint or stain
  • Hardwood handle
  • Beavertail style
  • Use with any paint or stain
  • Hardwood handle
  • Beavertail style
View on Amazon

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Wooster Brush 4″ Painter’s Choice Polyester
  • Great value
  • Tin-plated ferrule
  • Solid plastic handle
  • Great value
  • Tin-plated ferrule
  • Solid plastic handle
View on Amazon

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Purdy 2″ Ox Hair Series Ox-O Angular Trim Brush
  • Resilient blended brush
  • Angular trim shape
  • Flat rattail handle
  • Resilient blended brush
  • Angular trim shape
  • Flat rattail handle
View on Amazon

Our Overall #1 Rated Pick

(updated 8/4/2020)

The Silver Tip 2 1/2" Angle Sash brush by Wooster is an excellent choice for polyurethane.

It's able to apply such a flawless finish when applying varnish or polyurethane because of its ultra-thin filament brush design.

The fully stainless steel ferrule makes for an easy clean up and long-lasting reliability.

Read on to discover the other various brushes that made our top-five and see if you might want to select one or more of these that speak to you particularly.

As you may already know, polyurethane is commonly used as a sealant over an already prepared wooden surface. 

This finish that you get with a poly coating gives your furniture, cabinetry, or handrails a luster and sheen while also providing protection against dings, dents, and weather. 

This guide will help you select the best paintbrush for applying a polyurethane coating.

Here are some guidelines from the US Government agency OSHA regarding health and safety guidelines when using spray-painted mediums, including polyurethanes, many of which are sprayable. 

Similar considerations apply when using a brush, so take heed!

Top 5 Best Paint Brushes For Polyurethane

In a hurry? Check out our top 5 paint brushes! Keep reading to discover more about our top picks.

  1. Wooster Silver Tip 2 1/2" Angle Sash
  2. Wooster Foam King 1 1/2" Foam Brush
  3. Purdy XL Series 3 1/2" Pip Enamel / Wall Brush
  4. Wooster Brush 4" Painter's Choice Polyester
  5. Purdy 2" Ox Hair Series Ox-O Angular Trim Brush

What Are The Different Types of Polyurethane Paint Brushes?

Brushes that are used for professional polyurethane application come in a few different varieties, including natural bristle, synthetic, and foam. 

Natural bristle

Like the Purdy Ox-hair brush that we recommend in this review, natural bristle brushes are excellent for applying polyurethane. 

These natural bristle brushes are best for applying oil-based polys. Use these for that warm tone poly finish that oil-based materials will provide.

Synthetic bristle

Excellent for a water-based poly, today's synthetic bristle brushes combine excellent long-lasting longevity, paired with consistent application and an affordable price.

As for any woodworking or painting project where brushes are used, a synthetic bristle brush is now the most common form of brush, and arguably the most versatile type as well.

These ensure a smooth finish because of their even brush texture. 

While a synthetic bristle brush is great with the various polyurethane wood finishes that you may encounter, they're also a common and fine choice for applying latex-based paints as well. 

Foam brush

Your most budget option, a foam brush is generally a great idea for a small poly application project such as varnishing a birdhouse or some drawer pulls. 

They're cheap enough to simply throw out after each use so that you'll save even more time that'd otherwise be spent with clean up.

Besides, a foam brush has the flexibility that allows it to get into unique places that other brushes likely wouldn't be able to fit. 

Using this sort of applicator, it will be more of a wipe-on technique, similar to what it's like to apply varnish with a rag. 

The polyurethane finish will usually even itself out on the first coat as it dries, to where no brush strokes can be seen; that's an effect of a foam brush's even shape. 

Read More >> How Do You Paint Without Leaving Brush Strokes?

Did you know: While more brushes are being made with synthetic hair, paint brushes can be made from ox, goat, and even sable hairs!

What To Consider When Buying A Paint Brush For Polyurethane

There are two levels of decisions to make when it comes to getting going painting a polyurethane coating. 

First, you're selecting the type of polyurethane material. That part we're helping you with right here.

Next, you'll get to the second part. 

This is where you'll select the actual brush that you'll be using.

Water-Based Polyurethanes

These are the more obscure variants of polyurethanes that have a water base rather than oil.

They're best for keeping your wood tone from popping and becoming very stark, high-contrast, and glossy. 

Traditionally, this gloss appearance was desired, but for a more muted, softer look, these water-based polys keep your wood grain more discrete and subtle.

Oil-Based Polyurethanes

Your traditional medium for polyurethane-based sealants for wood are these, your oil-based polys.

These are known for the effect they have on wood where they cause the wood grain to become very pronounced, high-contrast, and glossy. 

Very affordable, it's the go-to choice for most who attack a staining or sealing project with poly. 

Read More >> What Are The Top Paint Brush Cleaner?

Our Reviews Of The Best Paint Brushes For Polyurethane

While this Wooster Silver Tip is absolutely an excellent all-around brush, it's also an easy choice when choosing the perfect polyurethane painting brush. 

Absolutely, you can use it to apply other materials including mineral spirits, varnish, and water-based latex paints. 

The fine quality of the bristles ensures that they rarely if ever leave any mark that a brush had once been there.

You're sure to achieve an attractive, smooth polyurethane finish using this one particular brush of which so many who are painters speak so highly.

Pros

  • Soft formulation
  • Rust-resistant ferrule
  • Angle sash

Cons

  • Occasional bristle shedding
  • Stiff bristles

Sometimes you're just looking to slap a quick coat of stain on a birdhouse or some drawer pulls.

That's where a simple foam brush like this Foam King from Wooster comes into play. 

You're getting a decent-sized foam brush that can absolutely get into those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies in any intricately-carved wood ornament.

Your grip comes in the way of a white, plastic brush handle with a built-in stiffener blade that produces consistent and neat results.

The price point puts it in the right range for those who like to use a brush and throw it right out after.

Get a little lint on it and paint thinner won't get it clean? 

Try gently rubbing it with a paper towel first, but if that doesn't work, just throw it out and grab a fresh one. They're that cheap!

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Many different sizes
  • Built-in stiffener blade

Cons

  • Single-use
  • DIY grade

You want to become a better painter faster? 

Buy a better brush (and better paint).

There's no easier way to immediately attain better results than to upgrade your brush.

This XL Series Pip brush is about as pro-level as the market will provide. 

Absolutely great for polyurethane finishes, this one keeps brush marks to a minimum.

Its large size as well will help you get more product on per coat of finish applied.

Pros

  • Use with any paint or stain
  • Hardwood handle
  • Beavertail style

Cons

  • Skinny handle
  • Premium price point

Polyurethane is about as fast-drying a compound you can work with as a DIY enthusiast or as a professional home improvement tradesperson. 

That said, you'll get that job done even faster with this giant Painter's Choice brush from Wooster.

At four whopping inches wide, this polyester brush holds poly, paint, shellac, lacquer, or likely whatever else you could think to dip it in.

Definitely select a natural fiber brush like this any time you're painting an oil-based paint or stain, just for speed as natural bristles suck up oil-based material effortlessly. 

Pros

  • Great value
  • Tin-plated ferrule
  • Solid plastic handle

Cons

  • Budget quality materials
  • Best for touchups

When searching for a brush made from natural bristles, Purdy has an excellent option. 

It doesn't get much more natural than ox hair.

Not surprisingly, this makes for an amazing polyurethane application brush.

Unlike other brushes that leave behind some frustrating bubbles, an ox hair brush busts them right up. 

An ox-hair brush is also the perfect choice for applying any solvent-based paint. 

That said, the Ox Hair Series is not the choice for applying latex paint. In fact, if you try it, you'll destroy the ox hair fibers. 

Another fun fact about Purdy brushes is that they're all hand-made, in exactly the same way they were over 85 years ago.

Properly cared for, this ox hair brush from Purdy will endure with you potentially for decades.

Pros

  • Resilient blended brush
  • Angular trim shape
  • Flat rattail handle

Cons

  • Sheds a bit
  • A bit expensive

The Wooster Silver Tip 2 1/2" Angle Sash takes our overall top pick for the best paintbrush for polyurethane. 

Its incredible versatility earned it our overall top pick in the past for both edging in trim and baseboards

It just happens to be a great choice for painting polyurethane as well.

If you followed our advice on one of these aforementioned reviews and added this Wooster to your collection, then go ahead and dust it off and get ready to start laying down poly.

Check out the lowest price now on Amazon!

Final Thoughts on The Best Paint Brushes For Polyurethane

When you're preparing to finish a wooden surface with polyurethane, make sure that you're ok with the more warm tone that this coating will cause. 

If you'd prefer your wood to remain a lighter tone, use a water-based polyurethane sealer, rather than one containing oils.

If you find even the foam brush challenging to fit into the tighter, detailed contours in your wooden refinishing project, consider trying a rag in the place of a brush.

Doing this will apply thin coats compared to brushing, but it does get into the small, hard-to-reach places quite well. 

Using Polyurethane as Top Coat Over Existing Paint

While poly sealants are usually used as protective and aesthetic topcoats overexposed natural wood fibers, there are other uses for these inexpensive sealants.

Have a look at this DIY YouTuber whose video walks you through the details on how to use polyurethane as a sealant over a chalk styled matte painted wood armoire.

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

RJ Parker

RJ Parker

My first job as a painter’s assistant at the ripe young age of 13 charted a path ahead in my life that would gravitate around painting. Now as a freelance handyman and writer, I paint both with the brush and with words. If I’m not edging-in trim or rolling on a top-coat, you might find me out in the fields tending to a flock of goats. Literally. No lie. Or, perhaps you may catch me engaged in my other favorite pastime, eating. It’s fair to say that I’ve painted outside the lines, so to speak, prior to finding my natural stroke. Now, these misadventures and mishaps that I’ve experienced don’t have to happen to you. My mission at ProPaintCorner is to continue painting remotely through the advice, inspiration, and confidence that I give to my readers.

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RJ Parker

RJ Parker

My first job as a painter’s assistant at the ripe young age of 13 charted a path ahead in my life that would gravitate around painting. Now as a freelance handyman and writer, I paint both with the brush and with words. If I’m not edging-in trim or rolling on a top-coat, you might find me out in the fields tending to a flock of goats. Literally. No lie. Or, perhaps you may catch me engaged in my other favorite pastime, eating. It’s fair to say that I’ve painted outside the lines, so to speak, prior to finding my natural stroke. Now, these misadventures and mishaps that I’ve experienced don’t have to happen to you. My mission at ProPaintCorner is to continue painting remotely through the advice, inspiration, and confidence that I give to my readers.

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