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What are the Different Types of Clear Sealant?

By Jami Yontz
Updated May 17, 2024
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Clear sealant is a type of liquid used to protect a surface against damage from weather conditions, chemicals, traffic, and other elements that can damage a surface. There are clear sealants for concrete and indoor and outdoor wood products. Sealants are also available to protect tile and grout work, metal, and masonry. Clear sealant types include acrylic urethane, polyurethane, silicone, lacquers, butyl, and varnishes. Sealants can be water or oil based, color can be added to some of the products, and many of these products are available as matte, semi-gloss, or glossy to produce the type of finish desired.

Acrylic urethane can be brushed on or it comes in a spray bottle. It can be used on a variety of products, including wood, and it is one of the less durable sealants available. Lacquer is another wood sealant that comes in a clear formula. Many commercial furniture companies use lacquer to seal the piece and create a shiny finish. Lacquer dries very quickly and numerous coats can be applied within a short period of time.

Varnish is also a quality clear sealant that made from resin and mixed with oil products or acrylics. It is a slow-drying sealant so there is risk of dust or particles build-up during the curing process. It is easily applied and a common choice for those with little experience in finishing wood.

Polyurethane is a popular sealant that is used on a variety of products, including roof and gutters. It is very resistant to scratches and other corrosion, but the product’s odor is strong after applied and can be detected even months after application. It can be sprayed, brushed on, or applied with a caulk gun. Polyurethane is a flexible material, and it is commonly used to seal joints because of its elasticity.

Silicone is a flexible material that is water-resistant, can withstand extreme temperatures, and is ultraviolet (UV) light resistant, making it a preferred product for boats and engines. It is best to use silicone on glass, porcelain, epoxy, rubber, vinyl, and ceramic products. Unlike acrylic, silicone cannot be painted over.

Another type of clear sealant is butyl. Butyl is a water-resistant adhesive that is very sticky, causing it to be hard to work with. It is commonly used as a clear sealant for concrete, masonry, and metal roofs because of its durability, longevity, and its ability to adhere to many different types of material.

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Discussion Comments
By kylee07drg — On Jan 14, 2013

I remember my dad applying clear waterproof sealant to the gaps in some boards when he was building his shop. He had to wait until the weather forecast called for several dry days in a row, because you're not supposed to get the sealant wet. He also had to wait until the temperature got above 40 degrees.

The sealant had a strong odor, and I couldn't stay in the building while he was using it. For hours after he applied it, the building stank. I'm glad he didn't need to use it in the house, because I would have had to stay somewhere else for the night!

By DylanB — On Jan 13, 2013

I suppose the clear top coat that I apply to my polished fingernails once they have dried could qualify as a clear sealant. It really does protect against chipping and fading.

I believe it even makes my polish stand up to dish water. I wash dishes a couple of times a day, and when I don't use a top coat, the water starts to wear away the color.

By cloudel — On Jan 12, 2013

@StarJo - I use a clear acrylic sealant on my paintings on canvas and on wooden plaques. I always work with acrylic paint, so I need an acrylic sealant to finish things off.

I have the kind that you dilute with water and then paint on with a brush. It contains dangerous chemicals, so I have to wear gloves and keep it up high where my pets can't get into it.

I paint on one thin coat and let it dry for three hours. Then, I apply a second coat and let it dry for 24 hours.

This sealant keeps my art safe from scratches and UV damage. I use a glossy sealant, because I like the high shine, but it's also available in semi-gloss and matte.

By StarJo — On Jan 12, 2013

I'm a second year art student, and I was amazed to learn from my professor that you can use cheap hairspray as a sealant on artwork made with charcoal or pastel pencils. She told me it works just as well as the more expensive clear spray sealant.

So far, I've only worked with drawings. I have no experience with painting yet, and I'm wondering what type of sealant artists use on their finished canvases.

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