I am finishing the stain coat of my revamped desk, and I am wondering, after much enjoying using a staining pad rather than a brush, if I could use a pad for the urethane as well — or will that leave streaks?

What do you folks use to apply polyurethane, is it a brushes-only world?

  • 1
    As this is an opinion based question it is off topic, my personal advice is never use a pad or foam with poly, you stir poly not shake unless you have a vacuum pump to degas the bubbles. Always use a good quality brush with poly or marks and or bubbles will make something that a lot of time was spent applying to look bad.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 16:31
  • I found Wipe-on Poly from Minwax, but it is not available in sem-gloss so brush it is for this project. I ordered General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Urethane Top Coat that says it can be wiped on for a try later.
    – 0xF2
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 6:34

3 Answers 3


well i just got done with staining and polyurethane a few projects.. i was supposed to sand smooth and coat but i just hit it with 60grit and brushed it on. there are stain/poly type products that are applied with one step..

rub strip

rub strip for office install

  • The question was the application method. The op already has the stain applied.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 16:35
  • Looks beautiful. How did you apply the urethane?
    – 0xF2
    Commented Jun 28, 2020 at 19:41

I prefer a decent foam brush, but I don't see why a pad couldn't do as well.

Since you have a large area, you will need to get the finish on and leveled out and uniform over the entire surface as quickly as possible, at least for the finish coat. To get real time practice, using a foam roller, get the finish over the surface uniformly, after that is done, use the pad dampened with finish to level the surface, getting rid of the minuscule texture left by the roller. Let dry the recommended amount of time before sanding with 240 to 320 grit, getting the surface satiny smooth. Then, since you now have a better feel for getting the finish over the surface, set a lighter, but complete coat over everything again and level out one last time with the pad.

It is important to not let the finish to start drying wile applying the finish. The term "wet edge" is used a lot in this type of finishing. You could use a pad exclusively, but you would need to watch how you apply so that when you start applying finish beside a part you did a few minutes before, depending on the conditions may have started to dry and then the finish will show a seam (lap) there. So get it on the whole surface quick to alleviate the lap made by not maintaining a wet edge.

You could go a third coat since it is a wear surface, but for the sanding, use only 320G since the surface will be really smooth by this time.


Polly-Shades has the stain and the urethane of sorts already mixed into the product , i just used a brush made specifically for stain, yes if it dries on you while applying you will have a hard time, I think dude said it right "wet edge"

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