BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Home

Best outdoor wood furniture protector

Which outdoor wood furniture protectors are best?

Garden furniture can be made of many different materials, but there’s nothing to match the warmth and beauty of wood. Unfortunately, the sun will bleach wood, while rain and snow make it rot.

The answer is an outdoor wood furniture protector, and there are numerous effective options. Our top pick, Star Brite Premium Teak Oil, is a perennial favorite that’s easy to apply, preserves the appearance of your outdoor wood furniture and protects it from weather damage.

What to know before you buy an outdoor wood furniture protector

How they work

Any outdoor wood furniture protector needs two main components: a UV inhibitor that stops the sun’s harmful rays from making the color fade or gray; and some kind of water-resistant barrier to stop moisture from getting in, which would allow mildew and fungi to cause rot. In addition, while many are clear, there are versions that include wood stains, such as cedar or maple. These don’t hide the grain, so they can be useful if you want to add a little richness to pale pine outdoor furniture.


For many years, your choice was either oil or varnish. Oils penetrate the wood, maintaining the natural appearance and texture, and they offer good protection. On hardwoods, it’s still a favorite, but open-grained softwoods — often used for outdoor furniture — can soak up a great deal and thus it becomes expensive. An annual reapplication (which needs to be little more than a quick wipe over with the product) is also recommended.


Varnishes provide a tough protective skin. In the case of spar varnishes or urethanes — originally developed for use on sailing ships — they can be very hard indeed. They can also last several years before reapplication is required. Some have a tendency to chip or flake off as they age, although the inclusion of oils often makes them more resilient. There are a couple of negatives. Historically, harsh chemicals have been used though modern water-based versions are much kinder. Some people don’t like the appearance, which can make the wood look like it’s been encased in plastic.

Waterproof stains

A more recent addition are waterproof stains. These were originally developed to protect concrete and brick from water penetration but have been reformulated to create versions for outdoor wood furniture and decking. They’re typically thinner than oils or varnishes, making them easier to apply, and they spread further. Like oils, they leave a more natural appearance, but while they can last several years, they often suffer in cold regions and need to be reapplied annually.


Finally, there are spray-on coatings in bottles or aerosol cans. These are very quick and easy to apply and provide similar protection (and appearance) to varnishes. However, they do cost considerably more than other types and are often multi-surface finishes rather than specifically for wood.

How much you can expect to spend on an outdoor wood furniture protector

The cheapest outdoor wood furniture protectors are waterproofing stains at around $25 per gallon. Popular oils and varnishes are around $25-$30 per quart. Self-contained spray-on coatings run $12-$20 for 16 ounces.

Outdoor wood furniture protector FAQ

Does outdoor furniture need an undercoat or sealer before applying the protector?

A. It depends on the product. Many outdoor furniture protectors can go directly onto bare wood, while others do better with some prep. With so many different finishes available, it really is a question of reading the instructions carefully before you start.

What do you need to apply an outdoor wood furniture protector?

A. Varnishes are usually applied with an ordinary paintbrush, oils are wiped on with a clean cloth (old cotton T-shirts are ideal). It may be possible to spray them if you have the right equipment (though they may need to be thinned before use). If you are using cloth, be careful with disposal. Some oils make them highly flammable when dry.

What's the best outdoor wood furniture protector to buy?

Top outdoor wood furniture protector

Star Brite Premium Teak Oil

What you need to know: The classic penetrating finish provides protection for all hardwoods.

What you'll love: Made with tung oil, it preserves wood’s natural warmth and feel and dries quickly. It has UV absorbers and good water resistance. It is not just for teak.

What you should consider: Use care when applying as can irritate the skin and eyes. It is combustible and has an unpleasant smell.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top wood furniture protector for money

Minwax Water-Based Helmsman Spar Urethane

What you need to know: Traditional super-tough coating is now in a more environmentally friendly formulation.

What you'll love: This quick-drying varnish provides a protective skin that’s durable in all weather. UV blockers help prevent wood fading. Choose from satin, semi-gloss or full-gloss finish.

What you should consider: Careful prep and application is required. It will yellow eventually.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Thompson’s Waterseal Waterproofing Stain

What you need to know: Available in a range of colors, it’s quick and easy to apply to bare wood.

What you'll love: It flows easily, making it good for large areas like decking. It is semitransparent so grain shows through. It is water repellant with UV inhibitors and resists mildew.

What you should consider: Durability can be a problem in cold areas. The suggested color isn’t particularly accurate.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Bob Beacham writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: