Review By Dean Bielanowski  Minwax Website -

Minwax Wipe-On Poly
By Dean Bielanowski

As I am engaging in some home renovations of late, my latest project called for filling in some open stairs (i.e. no risers) to enclose the stairs and provide enclosed under-stair storage. Essentially, the project called for 14 x 6" risers to be installed. As the existing stair treads and stringers are made from all types of laminated wood species, finding a good color match was tricky, but I ended up going with a kauri veneered particle board from a good board manufacturer. Kauri has a nice reddish-brown color to it that comes out nicely after a good finish is applied. After cutting 14 risers to size from one full size sheet, I was ready to put a finish on the risers before installing them using pocket hole joinery (which would be invisible on the outside).

I hadn't decided on what type of finish I wanted, but figured it would have to be durable, water-repellant and be able to take some abuse (since I have young kids in the house). A polyurethane finish would do the trick, but I didn't want a thick coat that would make the final product look "plasticy" as polyurethane can sometimes do.

So off to the hardware store I go, and with a particular brand of polyurethane in mind (one that I had used before). Trawling through the aisle with shelves on finishes on it, I look for the regular brand I am used to, and I take a while to find it. I grab the tin and double check it, and have a quick glance to see what else is available in the same price range (thinking I might be adventurous). My eyes come across this tin of Minwax stuff... the label says "Wipe-On Poly". Sounds interesting. I think it also caught my eye because I'm sure this is similar to, or the same stuff I have seen Norm of the New Yankee workshop use on many of his programs. Ok so with a bit of sparked interest, and because the can was a few dollars cheaper than the one I had in my hand, I swapped it and headed to the checkout with a tin of Minwax Wipe-On Poly.

After getting home, I went straight to work putting the first coat on the risers. They veneer was pre-sanded so no extra work needed before applying the first coat! Checking the instructions first (of course), I shake the bottle vigorously, take 3 minutes to get the cap off (grrr! - I think it had been on the shelf too long!) and grab a clean, lint-free cloth to begin application. Yep, its bye-bye to the foam or bristle brush. This is a wipe-on poly. It's thinner than other poly finishes I have used, and hopefully no brush strokes in the final product! It is an oil-based product.

Applying the finish is really easy. Anyone can do it. Easier than painting, and much less technical than spray coating. It's pretty hard to get wrong in fact. Just add a little finish to your cloth and wipe it on in smooth strokes, ensuring you have an even coat. One each riser had its coat I set it aside to dry. Because of the thinner finish, dry times are much quicker. In reasonable weather conditions, i.e. not too cold, you can apply a second coat in 2-3 hours! So 2 hours later (it was pretty warm outside) I had a second coat on (after some light sanding with steel wool in between coats). Now, this particular polyurethane finish gives a thin protective coat. I opted for 3 coats just to make sure I had a reasonable protective layer on the boards. After three coats, the warm rich colors of the Kauri were displayed, but the finish didn't look like plastic or make the wood appear to be "fake". The surface had a semi-gloss finish, but with that hand-rubbed finished look that is difficult to achieve with thicker, brush applied poly finishes. The product is available in both satin or gloss finishes. I chose gloss, but the Kauri doesn't have the smoothest of surfaces (very visible and defined grain) so achieving a full surface overlay coat was difficult with this particular species.

Needless to say, I was quite impressed with the end result. It was my first use of this particular finish, and the results speak for themselves, as evidenced by the positive comments already received from those who have seen the finished product.

Bear in mind though that this particular thin layer protective poly is not suitable for all applications. The tin states it is best used for Furniture, railings and trim, so you might want something a little "thicker" for applications such as woodwork in bathrooms or for something exposed to the elements. But for my project, the Minwax Wipe-On Poly worked quite well. I'll be sure to try it on some "real" furniture projects soon too. I'd be interested to try some other Minwax brand products too now. If I do, I'll be sure to let you know how they go (good or not-so-good)!

One quart tin (946ml) will cover about 125 square feet according to the printed specs. Cleanup is with mineral spirits or paint thinner. Grab a pair of latex gloves too when applying it to avoid getting it on your hands.


Available to Order Online through these companies...
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In the USA

Minwax® Wipe-On Poly
Minwax® Wipe-On Poly

In Australia
I found it at Bunnings...

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