Best Outdoor Wood Sealer & Exterior Stain (2023): Reviews & Comparison 

 February 20, 2023

By  Dale Keese

Wood is a versatile material and is used to make a number of things. Since it’s a natural material, it finds a number of uses outside the confines of the home. While a tree doesn’t require a sealer to remain healthy, once it’s cut down and turned into planks for fences or furniture, the wood needs to be taken care of in order to last a long time.

Wood Sealers are chemicals that either coat or penetrate wood creating a protective barrier against water and other elements such as UV light, mold and mildew.

Outdoor Wood Sealer Reviews

The best outdoor wood sealers will protect decks and furniture from rotting and fading. Paint is a great outdoor wood sealer, but it completely spoils the look. Hence, different types of wood sealers have been developed that provide varying degrees of protection while upholding the aesthetics.

The Top 6 Best Outdoor Wood Sealers for 2022 are:

  • Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane
  • Thompson’s WaterSeal Natural Wood Protector
  • Star Brite Golden Teak Oil Sealer
  • Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer
  • SaverSystems Wood Stain
  • Tall Earth Eco-Safe Wood Treatment

Find out which is best for you in our full in-depth reviews below ...

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Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane

This is a water-based protective clear finish for exterior wood. It protects outdoor furniture, doors, windows, etc. exposed to sunlight, rain, and moisture as well as temperature changes. Wood deteriorates if it’s exposed to direct sunlight or rain for long periods. Your wooden furniture in the backyard or on the wood deck and door and windows exposed to sunlight need that extra bit of protection. The Helmsman Spar Urethane can also be used on wooden furniture inside the house.

Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane



  • It contains UV blockers that protect from natural fading and other harmful effects or direct exposure to sunlight.
  • A protective barrier is formed on wooden surfaces that guard against deterioration due to rain and moisture.
  • It contains special oils that ensure the protective barrier mimics the expansion and contraction due to temperature change and the natural seasonal effect on wood.
  • It has a clear finish, which makes it perfect for light-colored wood.
  • It dries quickly post application.
  • It’s easy to clean with warm water.


  • It’s really easy to apply and it doesn’t take too long either, because it dries quickly.
  • A number of similar products protect wood from sunlight and rain, but this offers the added element of protection from seasonal and temperature changes.
  • It does a good job of preventing fading or graying.


  • Some users have complained about a slight yellowing post application.
  • Even though it’s supposed to be suitable for use indoors, it does produce some fumes so make sure the room is very well ventilated.
  • It’s slightly on the expensive side.

Tall Earth Eco-Safe Wood Treatment

This is a non-toxic wood sealant treatment and stain. It’s an environment-friendly product that has been tested to ensure it doesn’t harm kids and pets at home or negatively impact soil and groundwater. You don’t need to make any special preparations before applying this on bare or clean wood. In case the surface had been treated previously, you will have to sand it in order for the wood treatment to penetrate it. Mix the contents of the pack with 4.5 liters of water and apply it using a brush, sponge or sprayer. It only needs to be applied once.

Tall Earth Eco-Safe Wood Treatment



  • It will protect the surface from moss, mold, and fungus. It will also provide
  •       protection against wet and dry rot.
  • It only needs to be applied once on the wooden structure and doesn’t peel or flake.
  • It penetrates the fibers, which alters the molecular composition
  •      of the wooden structure.
  • It produces a silvery or brown aged finish with a low sheen on the wooden surface, which has the aesthetic effect of artificial aging.
  • This artificial aging characteristic also makes this ideal for application on repaired patches of a wooden surface, as it helps to match the appearance.
  • It doesn’t contain any environmentally harmful residues.
  • There are no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in it.
  • It doesn’t contain any fumes, which means it can be used indoors as well.
  • It dries quickly and can be washed with water.
  • It offers 150-200 square feet of coverage.


  • The Tall Earth wood treatment and stain creates the effect of artificial aging on the wooden surface or weathers the wood, which looks beautiful.
  • It penetrates and alters the wood at a molecular level and protects it from all possible issues outdoor wooden structures face.
  • It provides lifetime protection with just one application.
  • If you are conscious of the environmental footprints left behind by your actions, then this is perfect for you.
  • It’s also ideal for wooden garden beds (raised or otherwise) because it doesn’t release any harmful residues in the soil or groundwater.
  • It’s safe to use around kids and pets and doesn’t release fumes, so it can be used indoors as well.


  • It might darken a little more than expected. So, if that’s something you want to avoid, then this isn’t the right product for you. In any case, you should test it in a small corner before applying.
  • It’s not ready to use. You will need to mix it before applying and then you will need a proper airtight container to store any leftover mixture.

Thompson’s WaterSeal Natural Wood Protector

Thompson's have been around for nearly a century and is a well-regarded company in the industry. As the name suggests, Thompson's WaterSeal is a waterproofing product, specifically formulated for wood. It also protects wooden surfaces against UV damage and prevents the formation of mold, mildew, and fungus.

Along with protecting wood, it doesn’t change its appearance and maintains the wood's natural color. It’s ideal for use on wooden decks, outdoor furniture, fences and any other wooden object that’s exposed to sunlight and rain for long periods. Water will bead up on the surface after the application of WaterSeal and then naturally evaporate.

Thompson’s WaterSeal Natural Wood Protector



  • It prevents the formation of mildew and protects from damage due to exposure to UV rays from sunlight.
  • The natural color of wood is retained.
  • Only one coat needs to be applied.
  • Wood needs to be cleaned properly before applying the coat.
  • It can be applied on both damp and dry wood.
  • WaterSeal can be applied to newly pressure-treated lumber.
  • It’s available in five different stain colors, including acorn brown, woodland cedar, harvest gold,
  •      maple brown, and Sequoia red.
  • It’s water based and can be cleaned with soap and water.
  • The 1-gallon container will provide coverage of up to 200 square feet.
  • It needs to be applied with a brush for even coating.


  • The waterproofing ability of Thompson's WaterSeal is top notch.
  • It offers long-lasting protection against water and UV damage with just one coat.
  • The natural color of the deck or outdoor furniture will not get darkened after applying this, as is the case with some of the other exterior wood sealers.
  • It’s available in different stain colors, so you can highlight the aesthetics of exterior wood surfaces by selecting the right color.


  • It forms a film or layer on top of the wooden surface, so there’s a chance of peeling or flaking after a point.
  • It’s quite an expensive sealer.

Star Brite Golden Teak Oil Sealer

This is a premium-quality sealer for marine teak and other types of fine woods. It also acts as a wood sealant and preserver and provides an excellent natural finish. This natural-oil based wood sealer protects wood from exposure to salt water as well as harsh weather conditions, which makes it ideally suitable for use on outdoor furniture, decks, etc.

You need to first clean the wood thoroughly and it should be dry at the time of applying the oil. It can be applied with a brush, sponge or even a clean white cloth, but make sure you rub it in the direction of the grain. This will ensure the oil is absorbed by the wood. Let the oil rest for at least 5 minutes and then wipe off any excess oil with a clean cloth.

Star Brite Golden Teak Oil Sealer



  • It’s made with natural oils that have been ultra-refined, while high molecular weight polymers are formed through chemical modification. This enables it to protect from extreme weather conditions.
  • Additives blended in the oil also allow it to protect wood from damage such as fading and graying caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight and its UV rays.
  • It contains advanced tung oil polymers that give wood a warm golden tinge that looks natural and lasts a long time.
  • It can be used on boats and any wooden elements in the pool area as well.
  • It’s easy to apply and dries quite fast.


  • This is specifically designed for teak and other fine woods and tackles all issues that teak wood structures outdoor need to contend with.
  • It enhances the natural look of teak and also adds a warm golden glow to it.
  • It helps teak withstand exposure to saltwater.
  • It also protects from UV damage.


  • The surface needs to be cleaned, scrubbed, rinsed and dried first, which all adds up to a significant amount of prep time before the sealer can actually be applied.
  • It’s a premium product and the price is premium too.

Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer

This is an oil-based stain that’s semi-transparent and does a great job of sealing and protecting outdoor wood. It preserves and enhances the natural look of wood. One of the best things about this sealer is that the natural texture of the surface stays visible and so does the grain of the wood.

A number of sealers form thick layers on top of the wooden surface and completely hide the wood underneath. You’ve selected a particular type of wood for its natural beauty and you don’t want it to be hidden in the process of sealing the wood.

Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer



  • It’s an oil-based, semi-transparent sealer that waterproofs exterior wood.
  • It penetrates in order to preserve it, and at the same time, prevents the formation of mold and mildew.
  • It also protects from damaging UV rays.
  • The natural texture and wood grain remain visible.
  • It promises a "Goof Proof" application, which essentially means that there are no visible laps, runs or streaks on the wood after the sealer is applied.
  • There are no signs of back brushing either.
  • It can be applied at any temperature.
  • Note that in California, Connecticut, and Vermont a PaintCare recycling fee will be included with the price of the sealer.


  • It’s available in 9 different colors, including burnt hickory, dark walnut, golden pine, light oak, mahogany, natural cedar, pecan, redwood, and mission brown. This allows you to treat and seal all types of wood.
  • It does an excellent job of waterproofing and preventing mold and mildew.
  • The fact that it prevents runs and streaks, as well as back brushing, helps enhance the look of the wood.


  • It has low coverage as compared some of the other sealers, which means you might end up spending more.
  • If you’re in California, Connecticut or Vermont then you will have to pay a higher price.

SaverSystems Wood Stain

This is a water-based, semi-transparent wood stain that’s absorbed into the pores and forms a protective barrier. It not only protects from water or moisture but also prevents damage due to exposure to UV rays from sunlight. It also increases the lifespan of the wood.

This is specifically suited for softwood types such as cedar, pine, fir, redwood, etc. that have been pressure treated. This makes it excellent for sealing decks, gazebos, outdoor furniture and siding as well as fences.

SaverSystems Wood Stain



  • It performs the dual functions of a stain and sealer.
  • It provides a flat, natural-looking finish after it dries.
  • It waterproofs and protects it from UV damage.
  • FIt’s water based and contains a very low count of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Less than 50 gm per liter.
  • It provides 100 square feet of coverage with 1 gallon of wood stain.
  • It can be cleaned with soap and water.
  • It’s available in 4 different finishes, including natural, light walnut, dark walnut, and cedar.


  • It provides a natural finish.
  • You can select from four different colored finishes to match the wood you’re sealing.
  • Its waterproofing quality is good.
  • It releases very low odor, which makes it safe to use around the house and there won’t be an irritating smell lingering around for days either.


  • It’s good for all types of weathered soft wood, but not for other types.
  • It offers very low coverage at 100 square feet per gallon.

What Type of Protection Does Outdoor Wood Need?

Wood is used in a number of places outside the inner sanctum of the home. Decks come to mind right away, along with wooden outdoor furniture. You might also have a gazebo, wooden sidings, wooden fence, etc. So, what kind of protection do these require?

Guitarist playing against wooden wall

Rain and sunlight are the two main natural elements that wood needs protection from. Continued exposure to rain and moisture can lead to rotting of the wood, besides formation of mold, mildew, and fungus, which are both bad for the wood and bad for your health. Prolonged exposure to sunlight, ultraviolet (UV) rays in the sunlight to be precise, leads to fading and graying of the wood. It spoils the look of the wood.

Types of Wood Sealers and Stains

There are broadly three types of wood sealers and stains. The primary distinguisher between the three is the type of finish each provides. There’s a solid or opaque finish, semi-transparent finish, and clear finish. Wood stains that provide opaque finishes typically last longer, but these also tend to be a bit slippery. Semi-transparent a clear finishes preserve the natural look of the wood.

Treating a wooden fence

One thing that you need to keep in mind is, if you’re buying a stain that’s going to be applied on an already stained wood surface, the existing stain will dictate your choice to a certain extent. For example, if the existing stain is solid, then you can’t apply a semi-transparent or clear finish on top of that. The solid stain has already blocked or filled the pores in the wood and will prevent the new stain from soaking in. On the other hand, you can use a solid stain over any type of existing coat. However, they don't necessarily make solid stains the best outdoor wood sealers.

Solid or Opaque Exterior Wood Sealers

A good quality solid or opaque wood sealer will last about 3 to 5 years on decks and possibly a little longer on outdoor furniture. The natural look of the wood is completely hidden and the protective layer on top can be very sleek or slippery. Think of solid or opaque stains as paint. It covers the natural grain of the wood, which diminishes the natural aesthetics of the wood. The other issue is that just like paint, after a point, solid stains can start flaking and peeling off. This particularly happens when multiple layers of the stain have been applied over a period of time.

a stained wood floor

Wood doesn’t come cheap. We select wood both for its quality and look. Then why cover it up completely. So, while opaque finishes might be the best outdoor wood sealer for gazebos, sidings, and fences, they aren’t ideal for decks and outdoor furniture. In terms of the type of wood, you can opt to seal decks made of pressure-treated pine wood with a solid stain, but high-quality hardwood furniture doesn’t deserve to be spoiled in this manner.

Semi-Transparent Outdoor Wood Sealer

Unlike solid stains, semi-transparent ones allow the wood to hold onto its natural look to a certain extent. While the grain of the wood is colored it’s not completely hidden under the stain. However, this comes at a price. These sealers do not last as long as solid stains. So, after 2-3 years you will have to reapply the stain, which means more work on your part.

Clear Wood Sealants

Clear finish sealers are the champion the wood. They're the best wood sealers in terms of allowing the natural appearance of the wood to shine through while providing a certain degree of protection from the natural elements. There’s no doubt that in terms of the level of protection, a clear finish is at the bottom of the list.

Plus, you will have to reapply the stain every year to ensure that the wooden structures remain protected. However, you need to be aware that there are three types of clear finishes that provide increasing levels of protection against damage due to rain, moisture, and sunlight.

Wooden porch outdoor setting
  • Exterior Oil: This is easiest to apply and provides the least amount of protection. It lasts for about a year, following which you need to reapply it. Most people refer to this type as a clear finish and do not mention or are not aware of the other types.
  • Urethane: This is a varnish and provides a superior level of protection against moisture and damage caused due to UV rays. However, applying it is a more protracted process. The standard practice is to apply 8 thin coats of this stain for best results. After each coat, let it dry up and harden, then sand it before applying the next coat. The film formed at the end is more flexible than regular varnish, which means it doesn’t easily crack due to seasonal expansion and contraction of wood or temperature changes. It will last at least 2-3 years after which you will have to apply a new coat.
  • Epoxy: Epoxy clear finish sealers with an added topcoat of exterior varnish is the most durable type of clear finish. It will last many years, but it’s not suitable for a do-it-yourself project. It will take time and a lot of effort. If you can hire a professional to do it for you, then go for this type of clear finish. It will cost more, but you will end up saving money in the long run. Plus, you will not have to worry about reapplying it every couple of years or so.

Wood Age and Wood Sealants to Use

New Wood

You need to ensure that the wood is completely dry before you apply wood sealers. Generally, pressure-treated wood needs more time to dry, because these have preservatives in them. If the wood isn’t dried properly, the moisture might get trapped inside and rot the wood.

girl walking up wooden stairs

Weathered Wood

You will have to sand and pressure wash weathered wood before applying wood sealers. In some cases, you might have to both sand and pressure wash it. However, you need to be careful not to create splinters. This particularly happens when the pressure is too high. In case of decks, if any of the planks are especially weathered, replace them and then seal it all together.

Wood with Existing Stain or Sealer

Remove the sealers by sanding before applying the new stain. Or else the old sealant might show through the new coating and appear blotchy. Film forming sealers need to be thoroughly sanded and removed in order for a penetrating stain to have the desired effect.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What are wood sealers used for?

Wood sealer is designed to prevent damage to wood products. All species of wood are permeable and highly susceptible to water damage, rot, and staining. Additionally, it can be damaged by UV rays, wind, and other natural elements.

When wood is used outdoors, such as in decking, patios, or railings, sealer should be applied to preserve the material, improve its durability, maintain its appearance, and prolong its life expectancy.

What is the best exterior wood sealer?

The best wood sealer for outdoor wood products is exterior penetrating wood stain. These sealers deeply penetrate the wood and adhere to the porous spaces, thus preventing water from penetrating through the material and avoiding decay. They also contain mildewcide, which helps to prevent mold and mildew growth.

Some exterior penetrating wood sealers also contain UV light absorbers, which protect the wood from the damaging rays of the sun. They are available in both water and oil-based formulas, and there is a wide selection of colors to choose from.

How do you seal outdoor wood furniture? 

To seal outdoor wood furniture, you need to select a high-quality exterior penetrating stain in your preferred color and a primer. Sand the entire surface that will be sealed. Doing so will help the primer adhere to the material. Work in a dry, well-ventilated space (indoors, if there are high humidity levels or rain is in the forecast).

Apply an even coat of primer to the wood; let dry. Once dried, apply an even coat of stain to the surface of the wood, ensuring that all surfaces are completely covered, including the joints and undersides of the legs and arms. Allow the stain to dry completely before placing outside and using.

How do you seal untreated wood outside?

Check the untreated wood for mold, and mildew. If any mold or mildew appears, remove it with a solution of diluted bleach. Allow the wood to thoroughly dry. Sand all surfaces that will be sealed. Vacuum any dust off of the surface of the material.

Apply wood sealer to the surface of the wood using even brush strokes that follow the grain of the material. Cover all surfaces of the wood. Allow the sealer to dry completely. Apply a second coat to ensure complete coverage.

How long does it take wood sealers to dry? 

The amount of time it takes a wood sealer to dry depends on a variety of factors: the type of wood and stain being used, and the environmental conditions, for example. The lower the humidity, the less time it will take the wood to dry; the more moisture content in the air, the longer it will take the sealer to dry.

Thinner, non-penetrative sealers it can take several days or up to a week or more to dry, depending on the environmental conditions. For thick, penetrative stains, the surface can be dry within a few hours; however, complete drying takes a day or two, depending on the temperature and humidity. Latex wood sealers tend to take the longest amount of time to dry - generally, two to three weeks.

How long do wood sealers last?

The length of time a wood sealer will last is dependent on several conditions: the type of sealer that is used, the climate, the weather, the location of the wood, and the manner in which the wood is being used. For example, a thin, non-penetrative stain on wood that receives a lot of sun exposure and experiences a great deal of use won’t last as long as a penetrative stain that is used on wood in a relatively shaded area and does not receive a lot of use.

Generally speaking, however, wood sealer lasts an average of four to five years.


The Tall Earth treatment is the ideal choice of wood sealers if you're particularly mindful of environmental impact. It does a good job of protecting wood from mold, mildew, rot, and fungus by penetrating into the wood. This characteristic also ensures that it doesn't peel or flake as some sealers do that only to form a protective layer on the surface. The other useful feature is that it lends an aged or weathered look to the wood, which is distinctive and adds personality. However, it's not ready to use and needs to be mixed in water first.

Log Cabin

The Minwax Helmsman and SaverSystems Wood stain are both water-based and can be used on decks and outdoor furniture. If you're looking to seal weathered soft wood such as those used in decks, then the SaverSystems wood stain is a better option and it's a value-for-money option as well. The Minwax Helmsman has drawbacks in terms of effectiveness, but it costs significantly more.

Thompsons WaterSeal, as the name indicates, is a great easy to use waterproofer. It's in the same price range as the SaverSystems wood stain, but it provides double the coverage per gallon, 200 square feet per gallon as compared to the 100 square feet per gallon coverage provided by SaverSystems.

If you're looking for long lasting wood sealers, then oil-based option is better. Both Star Brite teak oil sealer and Ready Seal wood stain and sealer are good. If you live close to the sea, then look no further and pick up the Star Brite teak oil sealer, even though it's a bit more expensive. Overall, the Ready Seal wood stain and sealer is one of the best oil-based wood sealers. Plus, it's available in 9 different colors, so you can find one to match the different types of exterior wood you have.

About the author

Hey, I'm Dale Keese.. thanks for reading.. hopefully this article can save you some time and trouble with your sealing job. I'm also in the process of making some video walk-throughs for youtube so check back soon! thanks

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