Product Recommendations

As a company, Waterlox has been around for over 100 years and has developed an extensive list of products for any and all wood projects. Selecting the right finish for your project can seem daunting, but we’re here to help.

The Waterlox Products

Waterlox offers a range of product families that aim to address different needs.

The ORIGINAL products are what put Waterlox on the map and are the finishes that are sometimes imitated, but have never been duplicated. These are resin-modified tung oil finishes that have been made the same way for over 100 years. They provide a unique warmth and beauty to any project.

Keywords: solvent-based, warm/amber, countertops, flooring, woodworking, interior, film-forming, sprayable.

One of our newest lines of products, the H2OLOX line utilizes the same tung oil and resin system that have made our ORIGINAL product line a hit for decades, but delivered in a much more user and environmentally-friendly package. A much lower VOC and lower odor product line that still yields the same beauty and protection.

Keywords: water-based, warm/amber, countertops, flooring, interior, film-forming.

The Waterlox MARINE Finishes are our version of a conventional spar varnish made from tung oil and are intended solely for exterior projects. The MARINE products are designed for exterior, sun-exposed surfaces as the finishes will resist cracking, chipping and peeling when applied and maintained properly. The MARINE products maintain excellent flexibility to deal with wood in a non-climate controlled environment that expands and contracts as the seasons change. They are NOT a more waterproof version of our other finishes. Some of the most popular uses are exterior doors, patio furniture and bright work on boats.

Keywords: exterior, outdoor, warm/amber, spar, film-forming, UV exposure, solvent-based, sprayable.

Our crystal clear URETHANE line has been around for decades and is still one of the highest quality urethanes on the market. Urethanes provided excellent protection and durability. Our crystal clear urethanes are oil-modified with soya oil, so they will bring out the richness of the wood without the yellowing/amber effect of other oil-modified urethanes that are traditionally made with linseed oil. Urethanes are ideal for commercial settings as they tend to stand up better to more frequent and harsher cleaning regimens and are relatively fast drying. They tend to not wear as well as our tung oil-based products and will require abrasion/sanding before recoating.

Keywords: clear/neutral, solvent-based, interior, commercial, film-forming, flooring, countertops.

The TRUETONE family of products adds a line of color-infused tung oils to provide another dimension to our product line and it also consists of ultra low gloss finish option with the TRUETONE Buff-In Tung Oil Finish. The TRUETONE Color-Infused Tung Oils can be used under any of our finishes to customize your final coating. The Buff-In Tung Oil Finish will provide excellent protection without the look of any actual film on the surface of your project. The tung oil and resin blend will saturate the wood surface leaving it very natural and unfinished looking while still providing excellent water and stain resistance.

Keywords: matte finish, unfinished look, colors, stain, buff-in, not film-forming.

UNIVERSAL Tung Oil Sealer
The UNIVERSAL Tung Oil Sealer is a very versatile and easy to use product that makes most projects much easier to complete. It is a special blend of our traditional tung oil and resin system in a high solids formulation applied by hand rubbing or buffing into your project. This formulation is much lower in VOCs (<100 g/L) and higher in solids, so a little goes a long way and there is very little odor. Due to the application method, roughness, bubbles and debris are virtually eliminated and sanding is not required after application. This yields a smoother overall final finish with the same beauty as a traditionally finished project. It is the first coat in your final coating system and it does require an additional finish be applied to fully waterproof your project.

Keywords: low VOC, sealer, flooring, countertops, not film-forming, warm/amber.

PURE Tung Oil
Waterlox also offers PURE Tung Oil. All of our finishes (except the URETHANE line) utilize pure tung oil as the main ingredient in the final coating (not counting solvents) because it is simply the best natural product for waterproofing wood. PURE tung oil can be used on its own by skilled wood workers and DIYers alike with some basic information. It will not be as durable or chemical/stain resistant as our other finishes, but it will provide good protection with easy maintenance. Note*: PURE tung oil is usually used by blending with solvents for easier application and better penetration. Adding solvent will increase the VOCs.

Keywords: low VOC, tung oil, flooring, countertops, cutting boards, woodworking, warm/amber, not film-forming.

Find Your Finishing System Tool

At, the Find Your Finishing System is a helpful decision-making tool that will help you to select the ideal products for your project and your design aesthetic. By answering a few questions, it helps to both select the ideal finishes as well as specify application instructions based on where you are in the project as well as the size/scope of your project.

Question 1: Has your wood been previously finished?
This question helps to establish the proper preparation steps for your custom application guide. Unfinished is the ideal scenario as it allows the use of all Waterlox products with minimal preparation or concerns about compatibility. Oiled finish (boiled linseed oil, tung oil, Danish oil, etc.) can still work with many Waterlox products, but not so well with others. Based on the outcome of the guide, you may be able to coat over what you have or you may need to completely strip the wood. Film-forming and wax finishes typically need to be completely removed although for different reasons that are covered in your application guide.

Question 2: What is the size of your project?
This has nothing to do with which products are recommended, but it will help to pin down the appropriate application tools and procedures.

Question 3: Where will your finished wood be used?
Coatings are formulated to meet certain demands for the environment that they will spend their time. Interior coatings and exterior coatings are formulated differently to achieve the best performance in their specific environments. Waterlox interior and exterior products are all designed to achieve excellent water protection and one is not more waterproof than the other. However, interior products are more designed for durability on working surfaces (floors, countertops, trim, furniture, etc.) where the main source of attack is from physical use/contact. Exterior coatings are designed to withstand the elements and need to resist damage from UV exposure, standing rain/snow and still maintain flexibility as wood expands and contracts as the seasons change. You should NOT use exterior products on interior projects because you think they may be more durable or more waterproof, they are simply formulated to withstand different environments.

What it means: If you select 'Outdoor,' you’ll be directed to our MARINE Finishes as these are the only coatings with UV resistance and they are formulated to be used in non-climate controlled environments.

Note*: There are a few special cases where other Waterlox products can be used outdoors. See the Special Cases guide for more information.

Question 4: What is the desired look of your wood?
There are generally two types of finishes for wood projects, film-forming and penetrating. One of the main differences is the final appearance of the wood. Penetrating finishes will not leave any real film on the surface and instead will saturate the top layer of the wood substrate. This leaves the wood with an “unfinished look”. Film-forming finishes will leave an actual layer on the surface of the wood that provides a higher level of protection. Film-forming finishes can still be quite different as some will leave thinner, more natural looking films (H2OLOX and ORIGINAL, for example) while others may leave smoother, more glass like films (some urethanes and pour over epoxies, for example). Either way, there tends to be a more “finished look” to them as they tend to look a little smoother and more polished than a raw wood surface.

What it means: If 'Unfinished Look' is selected, you’ll be directed to our TRUETONE line of products as these will not form an actual finish on the wood. Also, further questions are no longer needed as they only relate to the film-forming finishes.

Question 5: Do you want to stain your wood?
Staining is a very personal preference and can be done for many reasons. We have a very comprehensive Stain and Waterlox guide that goes into great detail about staining should you have any further questions.

What it means: 'No Stain' will yield clear sealers and/or topcoats. 'Waterlox Stain' will select TRUETONE Color-Infused Tung Oil as the first step. 'Other Stain' will add some additional information about using third party stains with your final selections.

Question 6: Residential or Commercial
Residential and Commercial finishes tend to have different demands due to different levels of use and ability to undergo maintenance. For Waterlox, residential will recommend finishes that wear nicely and have infrequent, but easier maintenance. They may scratch a little easier, but they hide the scratches better and maintain a high level of protection even when worn. Commercial working surfaces (floors, tables, etc.) may get washed daily or even hourly with a variety of chemicals. The amount of use that these surfaces see is generally much higher than the standard home. Waterlox recommendations for commercial settings have a bit more chemical resistance, dry a little faster (less downtime), and provide a little more scratch resistance. The tradeoff is that they will require more preparation for recoating and they tend not to hide scratches and wear as well. When the coating is compromised it tends to show it.

What it means: If 'Commercial' is selected, the tool will recommend our URETHANE products as a top coat to add that extra durability and lower downtime. Sanding/abrading is needed for future recoating, so usually a professional is needed. The URETHANE will hold up better to more frequent (and often improper) cleaning, however once it scratches significantly it tends to look more worn and protection is reduced. Other base coats can still be used underneath the urethane to get the warm amber tones or one of our stains.

Question 7: What final gloss level is desired?
Gloss is also typically a very personal decision based on personal aesthetic or perhaps where it is in the building. Most of our finishes are offered in multiple gloss levels, so this is simply a personal choice for your project. The same product families and instructions can be used to achieve any of the gloss levels.

What it means: The selected gloss will identify which specific finish is used, it does not impact which product family is chosen.

Question 8: Do you prefer a Clear/Neutral or Warm/Amber Tone to your finish?
When using a film-forming finish, you are essentially applying a thin layer over the wood surface. You can think of this as a very thin piece of glass. Depending on your overall project, you may want to highlight some of the warmer tones or you may want to keep the project as neutral (grayscale) as possible. This may be very subtle in the case of darker woods or stain colors (like walnut and clay), or more pronounced on lighter woods or stains (like maple or pickled white).

What it means: If 'Clear/Neutral' is selected, the URETHANE products will be chosen. Because the URETHANE products are soya modified, instead of tung or (more commonly) linseed oil modified, they do not have the same amber cast, nor will they yellow over time. The resin-modified tung oil products (ORIGINAL and H2OLOX) will warm the colors of the substrate due to the amber color of both the tung oil and the resins used. Think of it as very pale yellow stained glass being put over your wood. This does wonders for most species of wood and really highlights its character, however this can be undesirable on some projects. The performance and durability of all the resulting products is very comparable with some minor differences in maintenance and application. Typically, the final aesthetic will outweigh those small differences. For example, you may think the ORIGINAL is a little easier to maintain on your maple countertops, but you may not want them to be amber compared to your all white/black kitchen.

Question 9: Do you prefer solvent or water-based products?
If you selected 'Warm/Amber' in the previous question both ORIGINAL and H2OLOX products are still viable options. Some people prefer to stick with the traditional solvent-based products because it is what they are familiar and comfortable with. Water-based products have been gaining in popularity due to their lower odor, lower VOC and easier cleanup.

What it means: Selecting the 'Solvent' option will result in the ORIGINAL product line which are our truly original line of wood finishes. They are tried and true and have been around for over 100 years. The 'Water' option will result in the H2OLOX product line. The H2OLOX products use the same tung oil and resin blend as the ORIGINAL products, but deliver it in water. The final result is the same level of beauty and protection with much lower odor and soap/water cleanup. Both versions will utilize the same first coat, but the finish coats will be different.

Note*: There are a few instances when solvent products will be easier to use than our H2OLOX products. See Special Cases for more information, but because the H2OLOX is rather watery, it may not be as easy for smaller intricate pieces or for hand rubbing. It is also not suitable for spraying due to its consistency.

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