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The Best Marine Varnishes for 2024

best marine varnish

Boats often come in contact with a lot of different pressures such as waters, rocks, and even animals. On top of this, it is also exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays all of the time. With this, the need for marine varnish became extremely popular among boat owners. It is actually one of the most effective things that any boat owner can do to preserve the beauty of their boat.

However, it is not that easy to find the perfect marine varnish that will work wonders for our boats. We have to experience a lot of trial and errors before we finally find what specific marine varnish is best for our lovely ships.

Do you want to keep your boat as pristine as possible? Read on to know about the top 10 best marine varnishes!

Best Marine Varnish Reviews

1. Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish

rust-oleum 207008 marine spar varnish

I was so stunned by this beautiful marine varnish! When I received it, I could immediately tell that it will perform amazingly. I sincerely appreciate that the company made sure that the application process will be easy! All I needed was a foam paintbrush to apply it on my boat’s surface and a good quality sanding sponge to smooth out the wood surface for a clean and even coat.

Unlike other varnishes, the company advises its customers to skip the thinner before using this product because it will affect the varnish’s performance by prolonging the drying time and increasing the chances of bubble formation.

Now, the most notable thing that I love about this product is that it dries so quickly! After the 1st layer that I applied on my boat, it only took roughly 2 hours for the spar varnish to dry. I am so flabbergasted because it was so convenient to use!

I love how I did not need to wait for at least 12 hours just to apply the 2nd coat of this marine varnish! This is such a good deal because not everyone has the time to let the varnish sink in. Although, you still have to sand the boat before applying the 2nd layer of varnish so that your application will glide as smoothly as butter!

As an oil-based marine varnish, it is better than a water-based marine varnish because it provides a more vivid color with a shine that does not look dull! Even though it is a little bit runny, its consistency does not affect its performance because it is oil-based. It sticks to the wood more comfortably, which is actually one of the reasons why it dries quicker!

What We Like
  • It does not require a thinning agent.
  • Even application
  • A quick drying time of 2 hours
  • Can do two coats in one day
  • Oil-based
  • Vivid and shiny
What We Don’t Like
  • It has a runny consistency

I have nothing to say but outstanding! I cannot get over the fact that this marine grade spar varnish performs exceptionally well. I am so excited to use this on my other boats because I’m sure that it will provide the perfect coating for protection and aesthetics!

2. Epifanes Clear Varnish

epifanes clear varnish

First of all, I love how this product does not smell too strong! That’s one of the many things that I love about this epifanes marine spar varnish. Because of my countless attempts at finding the best spar varnish, I know how stinky some varnishes could be. It really is a hassle because some products have strong smells that give me a headache.

But this one was delightful to use because it almost does not have a strong chemical smell! I spent a lot of time using this spar varnish, and I can safely say that I did not experience any headaches.

I used a thinning agent before the first coat for this varnish because this product’s consistency is quite thick, almost similar to a syrup’s texture. Doing this resulted in a deep, high-gloss, and smooth finish! I cannot get enough of how beautiful the finished product is.

The company recommends a total of 8 coats, but I achieved my desired deepness and intensity with just five coats. Because of this, I have enough left varnish left for future use, which I sincerely appreciate!

I especially love that this product gives off a dark amber color. I prefer this type of finish because it made my boat look rustic yet fresh at the same time! And because it is on the darker side, it can cover old stains that may be present on your boat, so technically, it is a varnish and a light paint in one!

The wood on my boat started to look really nice once the spar varnish has dried. At the end of the day, it looked brand-new and ready to take on the fiery waters!

What We Like
  • It does not smell too strong.
  • It did not give me headaches due to the chemical scent.
  • Thick consistency
  • Varnish and paint in one
What We Don’t Like
  • The recommended number of coats is 8

I think that is such a steal! For just half the container, I was able to apply five coats, and my boat looked very beautiful instantly. If I were you, I would get my hands on this beautiful spar varnish!

3. TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish

totalboat lust marine varnish

I received this totalboat gleam marine spar varnish; it was love at first sight! I immediately started to use it, and upon the initial application, I love how it enhances the woodgrain feature of my boat. Unlike other spar varnishes, this one does not try to eliminate the texture of wood; it makes it look more pleasing to the eyes!

Another thing that made my heart fall for this varnish is that it does not require the use of a sanding sponge or sandpaper. As I said, it aims to enhance the wood’s texture, so there is no need to even it out.

I also enjoy how with just six coats, I was able to finish varnishing my entire boat in one day. This made me fall head over heels for this product!

I also appreciate that this product features a slight tint that improves the overall design of the boat. No, it does not entirely cover up the boat’s original color; it makes the actual color brighter and more alive. I have had some experience with varnishes that dulls down the boat’s original hue, so I am happy that this one does not do that!

Lastly, the company offers two different types of varnish – one matte and one high gloss. Personally, I prefer a high gloss spar varnish because it lessens the appearance of scratches. However, some people enjoy matte varnishes, so kudos to TotalBoat for providing boat owners such as me with options!

Although it is quite thick, and I had to reapply varnish on some parts because, for some reason, the material does not adhere to it, I was still left with a beautifully-varnished boat at the end of the day!

What We Like
  • Improved my boat’s woodgrain texture
  • It does not require sanding.
  • Enhanced the color of the boat
  • It has two different kinds of varnish
What We Don’t Like
  • I had to reapply varnish on several areas

To sum it up, I am so glad that I was able to try this product! For such a long time, I have been looking for the varnish that has a perfect balance between tint and gloss, and I finally found it in this product!

4. System Three 1855S16 Marine Spar Varnish

system three 1855s16 marine spar varnish

Upon receiving the product, I ordered both variants: satin and high shine. I decided to combine the two types of finish to get a more solid hue without losing the varnish glossiness.

I think I made the right decision! The end product is exceptionally smooth, glossy, and stable at the same time. I love how it is as soft as a baby’s butt… maybe even softer!

Because its consistency is quite thick, I used an HV/LP sprayer to apply it. This product applies like a dream. I’ve never used a marine varnish as smooth as this before. Therefore, the use of a thinning agent is totally necessary since it is viscous.

I also find its consistency to be quite thick. I love how this product really gave me the option to have my varnish on the thicker side or on, the thinner side. Well, I opted to thin it out a little bit using a thinning agent.

I love how it applies! For me, I would not use a bristled paintbrush with this product because there is a chance for bubble formation and streaky application. So, I used an HV/LP sprayer to apply it, and I honestly did not get tired at all!

I got so excited because I have never used a marine varnish that was as smooth as this before! I personally prefer mixing it with a thinning agent for the sprayer, but if you want it to be thicker, you may want to use a new paint roller to do the job.

Even though this does not dry as quickly as the other spar varnishes I have tried, I think those good things really do come to those who wait. As I used this product, I learned to be patient and to keep on trusting the process.

In the end, I got the best-looking boat ever! On top of that, this one also has superior saltwater protection for my boat. I can honestly tell you this: I think this is such a great deal!

What We Like
  • Available in satin and high shine
  • Thick consistency for fuller application
  • Best used with a paint sprayer
  • Saltwater protection
  • Excellent finish if both variants are mixed.
What We Don’t Like
  • Long drying time

Honestly, I think I got such an excellent deal with this product. This could easily be the best marine varnish UV protection!

5. Minwax 630500444 Helmsman Spar Urethane

minwax 630500444 helmsman spar urethane

This one is for the boat owners who prefer marine varnishes without any tint! This product from Minwax is a water based marine varnish, and this means that it is a clear gloss that does not have any color to it.

I love how this could be used on top of colored boats. Since it does not alter the existing shade that the ship has, this is a good option for those who prefer to maintain the current color, brightness, and contrast of their boats.

Its consistency is thin, mostly because it is water based. With this, I used a paint roller. I got the most seamless application because a thin consistency goes well with a roller! I am in awe that I only had to use a sanding sponge or sandpaper before applying the first coat. The succeeding layers did not require any sanding because they glide on like a dream!

Overall, it took me a total of 4 coats to get an excellent finish. However, I added an extra layer to be sure that the end product will be as beautiful and vibrant as possible.

I love how to apply this even over latex paint, unlike other varnishes with spar polyurethane as an ingredient.

This goes to show how dedicated the company is to provide us with quality products that won’t be inconvenient to use.

The only issue that I came across is that it tends to crack whenever I suddenly apply too much. I was able to remedy this by ensuring that each layer is skinny to avoid any separation of the varnish.

What We Like
  • It does not have a tint
  • It does not affect the original color of the boat
  • It can be used over latex paint
What We Don’t Like
  • It has a tendency to crack if too much is applied
  • Thin application per layer is needed

This one is indeed a tremendous marine varnish to let the right color of your boat shine through. I highly recommend this beautiful marine varnish!

6. Interlux IVA316/QT Cetol Natural Teak Varnish

interlux iva316/qt cetol natural teak varnish

I have to say that this product is a rare breed! There are two common types of marine varnishes, and these are the high gloss and the matte variants. It is uncommon for the market to offer a satin varnish. Satin is a cross between a high luster and a matte finish; it has a shine, but it is also relatively flat. Basically, it is the best of both worlds!

My boat is made of a wood called teak. Honestly, I believe that this product from Interlux is the best marine varnish for teak! I did not have to use any unique tool to make it look splendid. No thinning agent and sandpaper had to be used because this boat varnish already does a great job in penetrating teak and, honestly, other types of wood effectively!

This product has a golden hue. It is the perfect shade for my boat’s wood! I love how it made my boat look expensive and well-kept. It also has a knack for giving a boat its personality!

I was able to see it personally because my boat’s color has already faded. But soon after applying this boat varnish, its color started to come alive! It slowly became brighter and radiant. Suddenly, my faded boat transformed into a beautiful ship with a rich and deep copper hue.

Even though this product can only be applied right above the waterline both for interior and exterior portions of the boat because it is not effective against saltwater, it is still not a bad deal because this varnish is not only useful for boats. It can also be used as an alternative for tables, chairs, and doors!

What We Like
  • Satin finish
  • Penetrates teak effectively
  • It has a golden hue
  • Alternative varnish for tables, chairs, and doors
What We Don’t Like
  • Only useful above the waterline
  • Not effective against harsh saltwater

Because of the fantastic quality that this product offers, I simply cannot get enough! I’m sure that I will be using it again soon for my other boats.

7. McCloskey Man O’War Spar Marine Varnish

mccloskey man o'war spar marine varnish

This marine grade spar varnish proves that a boat undergoes a lot of adverse conditions both while sailing and while being stored. As a varnish, I love how this product is very well-versed when it comes to being durable!

I am so amazed because it does not peel easily, unlike other marine varnishes that I have used in the past. It stays put for a long time, and it does not crack. It is very different from polyurethane-based varnishes because this one from McCloskey/Valspar screams flexibility. It has the power to adhere onto various surfaces, and it sinks deep into the wood quite decently.

It is made with tung oil instead of urethane. It can be seen as old-school because it does not have the synthetic material that modern varnishes contain, but whoever said that old-school is terrible? Actually, tung oil is useful, and it gives off a beautiful finish!

I specifically go crazy about this product because it is thick and pigmented enough to provide a certain degree of coverage. I love that it is useful as a corrector; it completely covers the tiny scratches and stains on my boat’s surface!

But still, this product is not advised to be applied on decks. It is a high gloss varnish, so when it gets wet, there is an excellent chance for the surface to become extra slippery. To avoid accidents on the deck, I decided to apply a matte marine varnish instead.

What We Like
  • Extremely durable
  • It does not peel and crack easily.
  • Flexible; can be used on different surfaces.
  • Made with tung oil
  • Thick and pigmented
  • Can cover stains and scratches
What We Don’t Like
  • It can’t be used on the deck
  • Slippery when it gets quite wet

For me, I will still go for this product even though I can’t use it on my deck. It gives some of the best gloss that I have seen, and it is very durable!

8. Old Masters 92304 Spar Marine Varnish

old masters 92304 spar marine varnish

What a beautiful product! All I can say is wow! This marine varnish is quite exceptional! This company really is the Old Master of the varnish industry. The sun is known to be a catalyst for the faster aging process of wood and paint, which results in brittle and faded-looking boats.

I am so happy that I have this product, which is perfect for absorbing the sun’s harmful UV rays, so it worked well as my boat’s exterior marine varnish! I love how it can be used above and below the waterline so I could still protect the bottom half of my ship from fading quickly.

Although this product works well as exterior spar varnish, I am in awe because it is also useful as an interior varnish! Because of its satin finish, the deck would not feel slippery even when the area is wet. I love how the safety of all riders is guaranteed because of this varnish!

However, it took me three days to finish the entire application process because the drying time took 5-8 hours per each coat. But even though the process took quite some time, I was not disappointed with the result that I got!

After patiently applying eight coats, I was left with the most marvelously looking boat! It seemed very mysterious; not too shiny, not too matte. Now, my boat has the perfect coating!

What We Like
  • Absorbs the sun’s harmful UV rays
  • Perfect as an exterior marine varnish
  • It can be used below the waterline.
  • Also great for interior portions of the boat
  • It prevents boat aging and fading
  • Not too shiny, not too matte
What We Don’t Like
  • The drying time is 5-8 hours per each coat

Because of this product, I am so glad! I was left with a good-looking and well-protected boat. I could not ask for more!

9. Pettit Captains Varnish

pettit captains varnish

I am so happy that this product is a water based marine polyurethane varnish. It can be challenging to find a glossy varnish that is water based because most glossy varnishes are oil based. Because of this, I am always on the hunt for a water based product that is a high gloss, and finally, here it is!

I love that this product is exceptionally eco-friendly because it does not contain VOCs or volatile organic compounds, which can be harmful. Varnishes usually release these, and long-term exposure to these chemical compounds can result in long-term health effects.

I am so relieved to finally see a marine varnish that does not negatively affect humans and species that reside in water. I love how this company went the extra mile just to give us a healthier alternative to the usual varnish formula that we get in the market!

Another reason to stan this product is its exceptional clarity! Upon using this, I could immediately say that it produces a very smooth, flexible, and clear varnish. I am so happy because I did not have a hard time applying it on the boat.

I really like how this varnish was able to encourage the improvement of my boat’s woodwork! It did not weirdly interact with the ship, and it actually sank into the wood utterly. This is one of the best features of this product!

Now, let me tell you about its leveling property! This is the smoothest and most even varnish application I have ever experience. I love that it glides on smoothly and allows room for error. You can go over a wet varnish as many times as you want!

What We Like
  • High gloss, even though it is water based.
  • Eco-friendly
  • It does not produce volatile organic compounds.
  • It does not pose harmful health problems.
  • Exceptional clarify
  • Improves woodwork
  • Amazing leveling property
  • Allows room for error during application
What We Don’t Like
  • None!

As a water based varnish, I cannot believe that this is as amazing as it is! If I were you, I would stock up on this product, especially if you have multiple boats!

10. Interlux Y60/PT Goldspar Satin Varnish

interlux y60/pt goldspar satin varnish

Indeed, a fantastic product! This marine polyurethane varnish gave my boat an amazingly bright and lively hue. I love how it did not change my boat’s color; it only brightened it up by introducing a nice sheen on top of it!

For this one, I decided to use a bristled paintbrush because it made the application smoother and more even. It went on in a more uniform layer, which makes layering seamless and effortless! Even though it has a thick consistency, it works well with a brush. I love how it did not form any air bubbles!

Because it is quite thick, the drying time is kind of long. I applied it for a total of two days, and on the first day, when the temperature was low in humidity with excellent air circulation, each coat was able to dry for just 5 hours. However, the weather was a little more humid on the second day, and each coat dried for 7 hours.

I love how hard this product is once it is dry! Because of its thick consistency, it was able to cover my boat’s surface better than other marine varnishes. It can resist stains, scratches, and other minor physical damages that roaring waters and sharp rocks can cause. I love how I can be assured that my boat will look its best even when I sail rough waters!

When I started to check how it feels inside the boat, I was taken aback because it did make a huge difference! I thought that the interior had a new coating, but it did not feel slippery at all. I can assure you that this marine grade varnish for wood is very useful in providing a safe surface for passengers!

I am quite disappointed with this because obviously, one of the main reasons why we, boat owners, invest in great marine varnishes is because of its UV protection. Although this product offers a great sheen and exceptional thickness, it, unfortunately, cannot prevent the boat from aging and fading.

What We Like
  • A modified version of polyurethane
  • Did not form any air bubbles and streaks
  • Thick consistency offers excellent protection.
  • Resists stains, scratches, and other minor physical damages
  • Not slippery
What We Don’t Like
  • It does not have UV protection.
  • It can’t protect my boat from aging and fading.

I am very fond of this product. I can see myself using it more in the future, although it will work best as an interior marine varnish!

Who is This for?

best boat varnish

The marine varnish is for people who are passionate about improving their boats’ appearance. Other than that, it can also be used as a substitute for the typical varnish that is used for daily materials such as doors, windows, chairs, and tables.

Boat Owners

The marine varnish is for boat owners because they take pride in their boats’ beauty and maintenance. Boat owners need to apply marine varnish on their ships because it protects the wood against the rigorous events that take place while sailing.

Marine Artists

Marine artists also need marine varnish because they are responsible for doing the dirty work that most boat owners prefer not to do. They get paid to paint, design, and apply varnish on boats so that the wood is protected and well-maintained.


Varnishing is an essential aspect of carpentry because it strengthens wood. It provides a protective layer between the wood and the outside world, which could pose harmful threats to the wood.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Marine Varnish

Marine varnish, sometimes referred to as spar varnish, is a term that is quite famous in the boating world. This specific type of varnish is a finish specially designed to protect boats from the harsh conditions they experience during sailing. It is one of the essential materials that a boat owner has in their arsenal of boating essentials.

There are a lot of different options when it comes to purchasing a marine varnish. Here are some of the best features that you might want to consider before buying one:

UV Protection

This is the main reason why marine varnish was specifically made is for it to act as a UV blocker against the sun’s damaging UV rays. As you shop for your next varnish, it is vital to make sure that you are getting one that has the best marine varnish UV protection because it will help to prolong your boat’s life.

Remember that a protected boat will always remain on top of its game. It will not age, fade, and get damaged easily.

High Gloss, Satin, or Matte

There are three different finishes that marine varnish comes in:

High Gloss

It will make your boat appear new and shiny. This variant is best used for the boat’s exterior area because it tends to become too slippery if used inside the ship. Accidents may happen, such as accidental slips, which could result in harmful injuries.


As you can tell, this finish is entirely flat and free of any shine and gloss. This is the best choice for your boat’s interior area because it will provide you and the passengers the perfect surface texture for walking and standing.


This finish is perfect for both exterior and interior portions of your boat. It has a sheen, but it is not too glossy. It is a fusion between a high gloss and a matte, which leads to a perfect finish that is suitable for any boat.

Tinted or Untinted


A tinted marine varnish has the capability of slightly altering the original color of your boat. It will most likely produce a more resonant tone that will complement the color of your boat’s wood. Usually, oil based marine varnishes have tints.


Basically, this form of marine varnish does not have any color to it. If you prefer to maintain your boat’s paint but you want to add some gloss and protection to it, you may opt for this variant. Typically, water based marine varnishes are untinted.

Oil Based Or Water Based

Oil based

As mentioned above, oil based marine varnishes have a tint to them. It could be amber, golden, or a rich copper tone. As time passes by, rest assured that your boat’s tint will get more prosperous and more profound.

I like this type of marine varnish because it does not try to hide the wood grain of the boat. It actually aims to improve its texture, not cancel it out. It is also essential to take note that oil based marine varnishes are glossier if compared to water based marine varnishes.

Water based

This base has no color at all; it is transparent. It only provides gloss because it does not affect the original color of the boat. However, this has the tendency of flatting out the wood grain of a vessel.

Again, take note that even though water based marine varnishes are still quite glossy, it is still less glossy than oil based marine varnishes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Marine Varnish

best varnish for boat interior


UV Protection

Marine varnish’s sole purpose is, in simpler terms, to protect the boat from aging. It can block the sun’s UV rays, which can slowly but surely deteriorate the wood’s quality and color.

Most marine varnishes in the market nowadays are effective in protecting the wood against harmful light. This will ensure the boat owner that their boat will maintain its quality for an extended period of time.

Aesthetically Pleasing

The varnish is used to enhance the wood’s appearance. It provides shine and evenness across the entire wood surfaces. It reduces the wood’s porosity by sealing each area; it penetrates the wood without damaging it. It also keeps tiny wood parts in place to avoid woodcut incidents.

Covers Micro Tears, Scratches, and Stains

Marine varnish can also serve as an additional cover over micro-tears, scratches, and stains. Even though your boat has some scratches, rest assured that a few coatings of the best boat varnish will thoroughly cover it up. Also, it is thick enough to resist minor physical damages.


Slow Drying Time

Some, not all, marine varnishes tend to dry slowly. So instead of getting the job done within a day, you might have to work for 2 to 3 days just to finish all of the needed varnish layers.

Can Contain VOCs

Most marine varnishes nowadays contain Alkyd or Polyurethane synthetic products. Although they provide excellent results for applying and retaining the varnish onto boats, they produce high amounts of VOCs or volatile organic compounds.

VOCs are gases that Alkyd and Polyurethane emit into the air. It is associated with the formation of cancer within the human body. It also has the capacity to interact with other forms of gases, which could result in both short-term and long-term health issues.

Some other health issues that volatile organic compounds pose are the following:

  • Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat
  • Dizziness and headache
  • Memory loss
  • Visual impairment
  • Sick building syndrome

Care and Maintenance

Clean Before and After Sailing

As a rule of thumb, always clean your boat’s surfaces before and after sailing. Not only will it make sure that your varnish is well-kept and beautiful-looking, but it will also lengthen the life of your boat.

While cleaning, do your best to get rid of all sorts of grime and dirt. Check both the interior and exterior. It is also a smart choice to do a thorough cleaning at least once or every two weeks. Not only will it keep your boat hygienic, but it will also make your boat maintain its best shape.

Apply New Varnish If Needed

Yes, you have fully applied marine varnish on your boat’s surfaces. However, you need to check for the need to reapply every now and then. Keep in mind that it is always better to prevent damage rather than to repair it.

By doing a monthly check-up, your boat’s safety and elegance will always be assured. If you can see certain varnished spots that have thinned down, reapply several marine varnish coats onto that area to avoid the promotion of wood brittleness.

Frequently Asked Questions


Where can I Buy a Marine Varnish?

There are a lot of different places where you can purchase a marine varnish. Here are some of the most common establishments where you can find the best marine varnish for your boat:

  • Hardware stores
  • Department stores
  • Ship’s stores
  • Marine stores

Can a Marine Varnish be used on a Deck?

Yes, you may use a marine varnish to enhance your deck’s beauty and UV protection. But make sure to choose a matte or satin marine varnish so that the deck would be safe to walk on. Avoid using high gloss marine varnishes because they will be too slippery to walk on and may result in unwanted accidents!

Does a Marine Varnish Effectively Waterproof a Wood?

In a way, it does provide a non-porous layer between the wood and the outer area. Think of marine varnish, especially polyurethane marine varnish, as a thin plastic that clings onto the wood. If you put in enough oceanic varnish layers, you will successfully get rid of any porous areas, directly waterproofing the wood.


In a nutshell, every boat owner has to have a little bit of knowledge on marine varnish because it is one of the most effective ways to preserve a boat’s health. With just one session of marine varnish application, their craft will be protected for a long time.

The marine varnish is essential to protect boats from getting older instantly. As much as possible, we have to do our best to take good care of them because, let’s face it; they cost quite a lot!
This list of the best marine varnish of 2021 will surely give you some ideas about which varnish to purchase!

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