6 Best Applicator for Water Based Polyurethane 2021- Reviews & Guide

If you are disappointed for not having the desired finish out of your wood coating then the problem must be the applicator. No matter if you are using the best varnish, wax, or oil, the final wood coating depends on the applicator you are using. However, water-based polyurethane is considered the best finish for hardwood floors.

And for applying it, you must need the best applicator. But the best ones are hard to find. Therefore, for your convenience, we have come up with a complete guide and list of the best applicator for water based polyurethane.

Water-based polyurethane is a durable, strong, and tough finish. It holds the natural and original beauty of the wood. Moreover, it cleans up quickly and easily. Its fast dryings formula has made it to be on constant demand.

However, all the best finishes require the best applicator for a durable and smooth finish. Let’s get to the best applicators we have picked.

Best Applicator for Water Based Polyurethane

Top 6 Applicator for Polyurethane Finish:

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1# Stain Pad: Wood Stain Applicator Pad for woodworking

Wood Stain Applicator Pad for woodworking
  • Sponge Core and Microfiber Cloth works like a brush

  • Suitable for all oil and water-based stains and sealers

  • Delivers flawless & consistent finish

2# Padco, 10 Inch

10-inch trim pad applicator hardwood floor
  • Suits all kind of polyurethane and other finishes

  • Applies finish evenly & efficiently

  • Pads are effective and easy to clean

3# Foam Paint Roller Set

Foam Paint Roller polyurethane finishes
  • Provides an ultra-smooth great finish

  • Includes closed-cell foam of high-density

  • Can be used with all stains and paints

4# Duratool T-Bar Applicator

T-Bar Applicator ideal for outdoor
  • 18-Inch t-bar is Best applicator to cover a big surface area within few times

  • Extremely Durable and meant to last

  • materials is Suitable for refinishing

5# FoamPRO 175 Foam Paint Roller

Foam Paint Roller oil-based water-based stain
  • The foam pad is high-quality and lint-free

  • Provides super slick, smooth, and glossy top

  • Best for oil-based + water-based stain

6# Pro Grade – Paint Brushes – 5 Ea – Paint Brush Set

Paint Brush sprayed urethanes
  • The brushes are made of high-quality filaments, steel, and handle

  • Ideal for all kinds of uses and includes flexible brushes

  • Holds more Stain for faster finishing

Which Types of Applicators are Best for Applying Water-based Polyurethane without Brush Marks & Bubbles:

Generally, stains and sealers come with instructions about what kind of applicator to use. however, there are some types of applicators that are designed to bring the best result possible. Here are some of them that are the best for applying water-based polyurethane. These applicators will leave no brush marks or bubbles on the wood surface.


T-bar applicators are the best for water-based polyurethane finishes. They come with a synthetic sleeve. A t-bar applicator is a great choice for hard-to-reach places and around doorjambs. For perfect snowplowing, this applicator works amazing.

Its T-shape design makes it easy to handle. Also, it avoids uneven sheen marks and levels, turn marks, and lap marks on the floor. However, t-bars come in different sizes and lengths. So, you can choose any size according to your need.

Trim Pads:

Trim pads are also suitable for applying polyurethane finish or any other finishes that are water-based. A Trim pad is recommended as it does not hold on to polyurethane. For small spaces and corners, these are some of the best synthetic applicators.


Rollers are also great options for water-based polyurethanes. They are recommended for some of the moisture-cured and oil-based polyurethane finishes as well. To deal with parquets or any multi-direction floors, rollers work just great. They offer a great finishing to the floor. Also, for applying conversion varnish, you can choose a roller without any doubt.

So, these are the applicators that are suitable for applying water-based polyurethane. But we recommend you double-check the manufacturer’s instructions given on the finish. They surely suggest a certain applicator for the finish.


Brushes are mainly recommended applicators for moisture-cured and oil-based polyurethane. But in some cases, you can use it for the water-based finish as well. This tool usually has bristles that are attached to a long handle or pole. However, there are some risks in using brushes as an applicator. It tends to leave some stops that are missed finishing. Also, it can produce brush stokes if not applied properly.

Still, brushes allow a perfect finish as they can hold plenty of finish in them. Also, to apply finish hard-to-reach areas brushes are a great option.

6 Best Applicator for Water Based Polyurethane Review:

Reducing the overall coating time, only the best applicator can offer perfect nurture for wood surface. Hence, we know you all are in search of applicators that are premium in quality. So, after a great deal of research, we have managed to pick the best ones for you. Look.

1. Stain Pad: Wood stain applicator pad for woodworking:

Stain Pad Wood stain applicator pad for woodworking

Among all our picks, this Stain Pad applicator for polyurethane stands out from all other applicators for its design with sponge core and microfiber cloth. This applicator has so much to offer its buyers. You must have gone through the frustration when the water-based finish get dries before even you apply it. Well, with the microfiber cloth feature of the Stain Pad, you can solve this problem.

This applicator and water-based polyurethane together offer the best result on the wood surface. To provide a streak-free finish, the Stain Pad empowers excellent absorption power. Even if you are not a professional with brushes, this applicator pad has got your back.

Its premium quality offers versatile usages. From cabinets and doors to furniture and floors, Stain Pad is the ultimate solution to achieve a beautiful finish. Even on rough surfaces, the pad applicator provides outstanding coverage.

However, this applicator arrives with a total of two pads of 6”x 8” size. This convenience size has made its cutting easier. So, you can cut the pads in any size easily according to your need. Again, you can make about 16 applicators out of the two pads.

Moreover, to talk about the applicator’s efficiency, it holds the finish very well. Also, it doesn’t let the paint dry rather it absorbs it quickly. Therefore, you can release the finish just by pressing it on the furniture or floor. overall, with a 4.5-star rating, there are very few people who are not thrilled about this applicator.


  • The microfiber cloth works like a brush
  • Suitable for all oil and water-based stains and sealers
  • Delivers flawless and consistent finish
  • Easy to use and low maintenance
  • Affordable and foam core releases paint smoothly


  • The pad creates lint after cutting

2. Padco, 10 Inch:

Padco 10 Inch

Our second-best pick as the best applicator for polyurethane is this 10-inch trim pad applicator from Padco. This applicator works great for both water-based and oil-based polyurethane on hardwood floors. If you feel trouble applying finishes on the edges then the Padco trim pad applicator is certainly the best choice. For applying sealants on tile floors, you can also count on this applicator.

The applicator comes in a standard size. Its handle size is also standard for easy and comfortable application. Moreover, this Padco Trim Pad is also designed in a way that you can easily change its refills. Its pads are also easy and fast to clean.

Using this applicator, you can have an efficient and even finish. hence, there is no doubt about the efficiency of the tool. For cutting in floors and edging, most probably you cannot think of a better option than this one. Its pad holds strong and performative fibers. The fibers altogether can hold an adequate amount of finish. They also hold the texture and contours of the finish when applying.

Also, in the case of spreading the finish, this Padco applicator behaves faster beyond your imagination. However, some professionals are not happy with the product. Some of them have found little fiber on the working project after using this trim pad applicator. Otherwise, for DIYers and beginners, this Padco 10-inch T-bar Applicator is worth using.


  • Comes in a standard shape and size
  • Suits all kind of polyurethane and other finishes
  • Designed with easy refill changing features
  • Pads are effective and easy to clean
  • Delivers even, smooth, and efficient floor


  • Not recommended for professional use
  • Not suitable for use on tabletops or countertops

3. Foam Paint Roller Set:

Foam Paint Roller Set

This roller set applicator is another best thing you can think of for applying finishes. According to affordability, efficiency, and design, this Foam Paint Roller Set is great. The set includes everything you need for applying paint. It includes a roller frame handle of 6-inch, a paint tray, a total of 6 foam covers, and more.

The foam covers are high in density and they are premium quality. Also, the mini roller is convenient to use by any professional or DIYer. From doors and bathtubs to floors and cabinets, the Foam Paint Roller is the ideal one. While releasing paint or polyurethane finishes the tool doesn’t allow any fiber loss.

In fact, the roller helps to bring and achieve an ultra-sleek and smooth finish. It also confirms a shed-free plane finish of any wood surface. Again, the paint roller is constructed with steel and has a chrome plating finish. It reduces rusting chances and also adds durability to the product.

Moreover, the set also comes with a paint tray. It can hold a sufficient amount of paint in it. Also, you can use the tray for any 4 to 6-inch roller. Overall, with a pack of 8, this little Foam Paint Roller Set is recommendable. Although some have problems with the size of the paint tray yet you cannot complain about the roller.


  • The frame roller is high in quality
  • Includes closed-cell foam of high-density
  • Can be used with all stains and paints
  • Provides an ultra-smooth great finish
  • Includes foam covers, tray, and roller frame


  • The pain roller tray is comparatively smaller than the roller frame

4. Duratool T-Bar Applicator:

Duratool T Bar Applicator

This 18” applicator is Duratool’s one of the best lightweight collections. It is a t-bar applicator and excellent for applying water-based polyurethane. This applicator is the ultimate problem solver. It will release paint or polyurethane to any hard-to-reach corners of the floor. The company Duratool is already a well-reputed and renowned tool supplier.

This T-bar applicator, however, excels its other offerings. This applicator is a flexible and first-rate one. Its flexibility has made it to be versatile. Therefore, working with the applicator becomes easier and quicker.

Moreover, if you want to cover a big surface area, this 18-Inch t-bar is undoubtedly your go-to solution. Also, the applicator is built with a solvent-based body. It makes the tool more durable and premium. In spite of its quality, this Duratool applicator comes at an affordable price rate.

Including indoor uses, the applicator is ideal for outdoor uses as well. Also, the applicator arrives with a high-quality refill pad. Thus, you won’t have to spend an extra buck to buy a refill pad. All of its users have only left positive reviews about this applicator. So, overall, this Duratool T-bar Lightweight Applicator is a great choice to have efficient performance.


  • Best applicator for big spaces
  • Equipped with solvent-based materials
  • Easy to use and cost-effective applicator
  • Suitable for refinishing
  • It covers large areas within very few times


  • The applicator is not suitable for smaller space

5. FoamPRO 175 Foam Paint Roller:

FoamPRO 175 Foam Paint Roller

We have picked another paint roller as one of the best applicators for water-based polyurethane. This one is from FoamPRO and we have chosen it because of its sturdy feature. The applicator offers performance going beyond your expectations. Its sturdiness will add extra effort to make the process and finishing smoother.

FoamPRO paint rollers are already arguably the best rollers for their toughness. This 175 Paint Roller model is also not an exception. With its small roller, it offers a completely streak-free finish. The paint roller is also free from lint.

Hence, you can get a constant and consistent finishing of polyurethane on your hardwood floors. Its reinforced design and structure have made it easier for the users to run effectively. Again, its robust and sturdy structure also adds to its performance and efficiency.

Though the paint roller works perfectly with oil-based paints as well, it works tremendously with water-based ones. It also ensures absolutely zero lint or stains. Again, this FoamPRO 175 Foam Paint Roller makes your investment a hundred percent worth by delivering an extraordinary glossy top.

Though not all of its customers are happy with the result, for its price value, it is worth trying. However, there are also complaints about its non-reusable pads. At least, unlike its FoamPRO 15 model, it comes with a handle.


  • The foam pad is high-quality and lint-free
  • Built with a sturdy and compact feature
  • Best for oil-based and water-based stain or polyurethane
  • Doesn’t fall apart or crumble and easy to use
  • Provides super slick, smooth, and glossy top


  • Bubbling occurs sometimes
  • Pads tear easily

6. Pro Grade – Paint Brushes – 5 Ea – Paint Brush Set:

Pro Grade – Paint Brushes – 5 Ea – Paint Brush Set

Last but not least at all pick of ours is this applicator set from Pro Grade. With a hundred percent satisfaction guarantee this set comes with a total of 5 pieces of brushes. The brushes are unbelievably high in quality. They are also versatile in shapes and sizes for professional applications. The set includes one 1-inch flat Ea, 2-inch stubby angle, 1-1/2-inch and 2-1/2-inch angles, and 2-inch flat brushes. So, if you want to work with high-quality brushes without breaking the bank, go get this one.

The most convincing fact about this Pro Grade brush set is that it is the best for both exterior and interior painting. The brushes are designed with ferrules. The ferrules are made of high-quality stainless steel. thus, the brushes are last longer, unlike the cheap ones. They are also constructed with hardwood handles.

The handles are smooth and offer an ergonomic grip. therefore, you won’t gain any muscle pain even after working for a long period of time. Again, to hold sufficient paint in them, the brushes are designed with synthetic stiff filaments. The filaments are medium and thick. They are also highly durable and survive even after a lot of washing.

For dealing with trim works smoothly and easy cutting, the tip of the brushes has a thin design. It also adds better control over the tools. Though many have complaints about the brushes being short, yet they do what they are good at. Overall, holding the bristles tightly, the brushes are adaptable for applying water-based polyurethane.


  • Ideal for all kinds of uses and includes flexible brushes
  • Comes at a reasonable price
  • The brushes are made of high-quality filaments, steel, and handle
  • Offers a very comfortable grip
  • Holds more paint for faster painting and finishing


  • They may seem short compared to other pricy brushes
  • You may discover chunks of filaments melted together after some uses
  • Losses of bristles may occur if abusively used

How do I get a smooth finish with water based polyurethane on wood floors?

Most of the time people choose water-based polyurethane instead of oil-based polyurethane. It is simply because the water-based finish dries faster. However, having a smooth finish using water-based polyurethane requires a proper process. And the process requires some materials and certain steps. Let’s get to know them.

Materials Required:

  • The best applicator
  • Water-based polyurethane
  • Mineral spirit
  • Orbital sander
  • Sanding pad
  • Sandpaper
  • Wipe-on poly

Step – 1: Sanding Light Pencil Lines:

This is the first step where you need to draw some lines with a pencil on the wood surface. Make sure the lines are light and you draw them at all grit stages. Then sand the lines carefully. After disappearing the lines, you can move on to another grit. Continue the same process again.

Step – 2: Clean the Wood Floor:

This is the key to have a perfect and complete polyurethane finish. If there is dirt and dust on the wood surface then you won’t have the expected result. It will not be smooth and durable. Therefore, keeping the working environment and surface clean is the most important thing. Only then you can have a slick and smooth polyurethane finish within a very short time.

To keep the surface clean you can vacuum the place. make sure everything that you are using throughout the process is also clean and dust-free. However, make sure you do not start with the finish the same day you sanded the floor.

As dust remains in the air for many hours even after sanding, applying finish the same day would not be wise.

Step – 3: Using Mineral Spirit for Wiping Floor:

To make sure the floor doesn’t have any traces of dust, using mineral spirit is important. Saturate a lint-free rag or cloth with the mineral spirit. Then wipe the floor with the cloth. A cotton t-shirt will also be perfect for this. When you wipe it on the floor, it will accumulate all the dust in it from the floor.

However, make sure you don’t use water with it. Otherwise, it will produce grain. Consequently, you will have to sand it again.

Step – 4: Applying Polyurethane Finish with an Applicator:

Now, it is time to apply the finish with a suitable applicator. Make sure the applicator is meant for applying water-based paint or polyurethane. However, you can choose a roller with a 6-inch size for this purpose. It will make the process easy and fast.

Just dip the roller into the finish and roll it on the wood floor. Make sure you are doing the process precisely. When you are done with the first coating, give a minute look at the surface. With a ranking light, you can see properly whether the floor is fully covered with the finish or not.

You will see many flaws as well. If so, then dip the roller again into the mineral spirit and put it inside a zippered plastic bag. Zip the bag and leave it to dry. At the same time let the floor dry as well after its first coating. When they both get dry apply the second coating in a similar way. For the wood floor, three to four coats of the finish will be enough to protect it.

Step – 5: Using Wipe-on Poly:

When the coating dries, look for the same sheen or some wipe-on poly. Use them on the corners, edges, or small areas of the floors. You can use them with a cotton rag. Make sure you wear hand gloves while applying it. Also, do this only when the larger surface gets dried fully. Otherwise, there are chances of smudging the floor and ruin everything.

Step – 6: Again, Sand Lightly:

When you are done with applying wipe-on poly, let the floor dry again. Now use papers or pads to lightly sand again. It is more appreciated if you sand this away between two coats. It adds roughness to the wood floor and helps to obtain the main goal of smoothness. It also removes drips, dust motes, and hairs from the surface.

Step – 7: Dry the Final Coat:

Finally, make the area fully dust-free to dry the final coat properly. To make the room dust-free, vacuum it again. Then let it dry for one more night. Next day morning, hopefully, you will get your desired flawless floor.

Tips for Applying:

  • Don’t shake the polyurethane finish can. Otherwise, it will create bubbles. So, only stir it.
  • Keep the working place and object clean. Also, make sure the place is well-ventilated.
  • Give each coating enough time to dry properly and then start doing the next job.
  • Polyurethane works great on flat surfaces. On an uneven surface, it drips off often. So, choose a flat surface to apply this finish.


Question: How do you prevent brush strokes when using polyurethane?

Answer: If you have already applied the final coating and you discover brush strokes on it, you can prevent them. First, with a foam sanding pad of 220-grit, sand it down. Then clean the dust and apply the polyurethane again. You can liberally apply the finish. Make sure you are not doing heavy and strong back-brushing.

When you are done, let the surface to the self-level. When it dries, the topcoat will tighten itself. You can also add a 10% GF Extender if the humidity is less than 70%. It will enhance the finishing and ensure a stroke-free topcoat.

Question: How many coats of polyurethane should you put on a wood floor?

Answer: For oil-based polyurethane experts suggests applying at least two-layer of coats. Also, a lacquer sealer coat will add to the look of a wood floor. However, in the case of water-based polyurethane, three to four coats are recommended to apply. As it creates a thin but hard layer than the oil-based ones, it requires extra coating.

Question: Which is better oil-based or water-based polyurethane?

Answer: Many people get confused about which polyurethane to choose, water-based or oil-based? Actually, it depends on you. If you want to go through an easy finishing process then oil-based polyurethane is a good choice. This polyurethane has less temperamental properties. Also, it is thicker and solid than water-based ones. That is why only two to three coats are required if you are using oil-based polyurethane.

But, the downside of it is that it takes enough time to dry. On the contrary, water-based polyurethane has a fast-dry formula. Unlike the oil-based one, it dries faster. However, it also has some drawbacks. it can produce grains and watermarks after applying. Also, at times it becomes temperamental. So, as both types of polyurethane have benefits and difficulties, the choice is yours.

Last Updated on December 7, 2021 by Rogers Weber

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