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Best Wood Finish for Desk | Top 7 Picks [2024 Recommended]

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It’s not just the wood that needs protection from scratches and stains, it’s also the metal hardware on your desk. And if you have kids or pets, then you know how quickly those surfaces get scratched up.

You should be perceptive about selecting the best wood finish for desk. These finishes are proven to keep all types of desks looking beautiful and functional.

There are so many to choose from, and each one offers different levels of durability, ease of use, and gloss/matte finish. So how do you go about choosing the right wood finish?

We’ve compiled a list of the top wood finishes for a wood desk so that you can make an informed decision. Whether you’re looking for a natural finish or something more colorful, we have you covered.

Howard Products Wood Finish for Desk

Minwax Protective Wood Finish for Desk

Varathane Protects Indoor Wood Surfaces for Desk

A wood desk needs protection from the elements, and different finishes will give your desk different levels of protection and appearance. The type of finish you choose depends on your needs and personal preference.

We have here the top seven wood finishes for desks, including their main features and what makes them stand out from the others. We hope that this information will help you search for the right finish.

1. Howard Products Wood Finish for Desk

If you want a most durable finish on your desk, this product is the ultimate choice. This Wood Finish for Desk by Howard Products is a must-have for anyone who wants to keep their desk looking new. It helps to polish and condition the wood, making it look shiny and new. Furthermore, it protects the wood from scratches and other damage.

It comes in 16-ounce bottle that can cover a large area of desk. This is good to have around the house for any other projects involving wood, making it an exceptionally versatile product.

Howard Products Wood Finish for Desk is a high-quality, all-natural wood polish that brings out the natural beauty of wood with a soft luster and protective coating of Carnauba Wax and Beeswax. Since it is Made in the USA, the product is created with the finest ingredients for out-of-this-world results.

It is the perfect way to condition your wood and keep it looking beautiful. The wood oil in the finish keeps the wood from drying out and fading. It also enhances wood grain’s natural beauty and depth in finished and unfinished wood.

This protective wood finish helps to prevent the wood from drying out and deteriorating. It is also perfect for dining tables, kitchen cabinets, antiques, wood doors, trim, etc. This product contains no silicone or linseed oils, making it the perfect follow-up to Restor-A-Finish.

Highlighted Features:

  • It is all-natural and Made in the USA
  • Contains Carnauba Wax and Beeswax
  • Helps prevent wood from drying out or deteriorating
  • Perfect for use on wood cabinets, dining tables, doors and trim, etc.
  • Does not contain any silicone or linseed oils

2. Minwax Protective Wood Finish for Desk

This product is a Minwax Polycrylic Protective Wood Finish that comes in a clear satin finish. It is a half-pint size and is designed to protect wood furniture from scratches, water damage, and stains. The finish is fast-drying and easy to apply, and it produces a beautiful appearance.

It is a crystal clear finish that is also designed to protect furniture, woodwork, doors, and cabinets. You can use Minwax oil-based and water-based stains and colors, including woods such as maple, birch, ash, and acacia.

The Minwax Protective Wood Finish for Desk is an excellent choice for those seeking a non-ambering sealant for their desk. It applies easily and dries quickly to provide a durable finish that will protect your wood from scratches and other damage. Moreover, it’s non-yellowing, so it won’t alter the color of your desk.

Since it has a low odor, it won’t leave an unpleasant smell. Once dry, it has a water-clear color and is easy to clean up with soap and water. The wood finish is a clear coat that is designed to protect the natural beauty of the wood while also providing a classic sheen.

It dries to a clear, hard finish in just 2 hours and can be recoated after that time. A high-quality synthetic bristle brush should be used to apply it. The quantity of finish is 1/2 pint. It is enough for a typical desk.

Highlighted Features:

  • Protective wood finish that comes in a clear satin finish
  • Protects wood furniture from scratches, water damage, and stains
  • Fast-drying and easy to apply
  • Non-ambering and Non-yellowing sealant
  • Has low odor, durable finish
  • Easy to clean up with soap and water

3. HOWARD Wood Finishes for Desk

When it comes to restoring old wood furniture, there is a product that is an effective wood finish by HOWARD. This particular product is designed to remove white heat rings and watermarks.

The product contains a unique formula that helps conceal scratches, blemishes, and other imperfections. It also helps to prevent water damage and sun damage. It can be used on furniture, wood floors, paneling, and more. 

With its golden oak color, it enhances the beauty of a range of oak finishes. You can use the 16 oz bottle during multiple applications.

The product is applied with a soft cotton cloth. It has no dyes, oils, waxes, or other additives that might leave behind any unwanted residue. Once applied, it dries naturally for between 30 minutes to an hour.

Moreover, it can restore color and luster to faded finishes. If your desk is starting to look a little bit lackluster, this is the perfect product to bring it back to life! It’s easy to use and makes your desktop look brand new again.

In most cases, this will be more than enough to restore the surface of the wood. It is available in nine colors to match almost any wood finish tone.

Highlighted Features:

  • Conceals scratches, blemishes, and other imperfections
  • It also helps to prevent water damage and sun damage
  • Its golden oak color helps to restore the beauty of a range of oak finishes
  • Easy to use and makes your desk look brand new again
  • Comes in nine colors to match almost any wood finish tone
  • Available in 16 oz bottle

4. Varathane Protects Indoor Wood Surfaces for Desk

If you’re looking for a desk that will provide a glossy finish, the Varathane brand is also a good choice. You can use wood finish can on cabinets, furniture, windows, and trim, making it a versatile option for any room in your home.

 It is a water-based polyurethane that can be used on decorative items. The polyurethane dries quickly and is easy to apply, making it a great choice for fine woodworking projects. It’s easy to clean up with soap and water.

It dries to the touch in just 30 minutes and can be recoated in as little as 2 hours. You can cover up to 31.25 square feet with a single gallon, which means fewer trips to the store for more paint. The quantity of the finish is 8 fl oz.

This Varathane Protects Indoor Wood Surfaces for Desk from scratch and stain. The finish is crystal clear and will never be yellow, making it perfect for indoor wood surfaces such as desks. It has a low odor that won’t smell up your home.

Highlighted Features:

  • Has a low odor and dries quickly
  • Can be recoated in as little as 2 hours
  • Covers up to 31.25 sq ft with a single gallon
  • Scratch and stain protection

5. Odie’s Oil Wood Finishes

When it comes to wood finishes, Odie’s Oil is one of the best. It not only looks fantastic but also works on all species of wood. This wood oil can also be used as a wood stabilizer as it is food safe and non-toxic. It makes this finish for a great kitchen table.

Odie’s Oil is a unique wood finish that is easy to use. You can simply wipe it on, wait a while, then buff it off. You don’t need to sand or strip between coats or retouch. It contains no solvents, so it never evaporates, which means what you put on the wood stays in the wood! Odie’s Oil covers many times more area than conventional oil finishes.

The Odie’s Oil Wood Finishes are suitable for woods that are very oily. It also contains natural UV inhibitors that help protect your wood from fading over time. Plus, Odie’s Oil finishes become more beautiful over time, making it the perfect choice for those who want their furniture or woodwork to look great for years to come.

You can use it on interior and exterior surfaces like doors, floors, decks, boats, brightwork, and gates. It can also be used on fine furniture, patio furniture, bowls, cutting boards, kitchen implements, toys, and more.

Highlighted Features:

  • Doesn’t contains no solvents
  • Covers many times more area than conventional oil finishes
  • Contains natural UV inhibitors
  • Gets better looking as one ages
  • Food safe and non-toxic

6. Hope’s Waterproof Natural Wood Finish for Desk

When it comes to protecting your wood furniture, you want a durable finish. It is a natural wood finish and sanding sealer. This finish is made from a single ingredient-tung oil.

Tung oil is an all-natural product that is extracted from the nut of the tung tree. It comes in 32 fl oz bottles. It is also non-toxic. It is a food-safe finish and can be used on any type of wood. This is a great choice for wooden bowls, countertops, cutting boards, butcher blocks, and wooden utensils.

Hope’s Waterproof Natural Wood Finish for Desk is an easy-to-use product that provides a beautiful, hand-rubbed finish to all fine woods. Tung oil is a natural oil that craftsmen recognize for its quality and durability. It simply needs to be wiped on and allowed to cure at room temperature.

This finish penetrates deep into the wood fibers, becomes flexible yet non-oily after curing. It means that you’ll have durable protection that won’t chip or flake off and withstand everyday wear and tear.

It is a unique product that provides lasting beauty and protection to your wood furniture. Unlike traditional mineral oil and wax based products, this finish resists moisture, oil, alcohol, and everyday wear. This makes it the perfect choice for new unfinished wood, concrete floors, weathered wood, stripped wood, and cast iron.

Highlighted Features:

  • Non-toxic and food safe finish
  • Comes in 32 fl oz bottle
  • Penetrates deep into wood fibers
  • Resists moisture, oil, alcohol, and everyday wear
  • Cures to a flexible non-oily solid

7. Interstate WoodWorks Beeswax Paste Wood Finish for Desk

This beeswax paste wood finish & polish from Interstate WoodWorks is a great option for those looking for a natural and durable finish for their desk.  It’s also non-toxic, so it’s a great choice for those with allergies or sensitivities.

You can use it to revive old, faded wood finishes. It can also be used as a metal polish to give metals a shiny finish. The beeswax helps to seal and protect the wood, while the natural oils help to nourish and revitalize it.

Interstate WoodWorks Beeswax Paste Wood Finish for Desk is also an excellent surface treatment for table tops, and other wooden surfaces. It comes in a large 6.25 oz container, so you’ll have plenty of wax to cover your desired surface.

The furniture wax is mixed by hand in small batches to ensure the highest quality, and it’s a great choice for those who want a beautiful, natural wood finish. A soft, velvety sheen is achieved when it is buffed. Plus, it’s made in the USA! Whether your project needs to be food safe or not, this beeswax paste wood finish is a great option.

Highlighted Features:

  • Can revive old, faded wood finishes
  • Non-toxic so safe for health
  • Can be used as a metal polish
  • Comes in a large 6.25 oz container

Factors to Consider When Buying a Wood Finish for Desk

solvent based finish

You want to give your desk a new look. You may need to refinish or refurbish your desk. Or, maybe you just want a different type of finish to protect it from wear and tear over time.

Type of Wood:

The first thing you must consider is the type of wood used for your desk. Different types of finishes work better on various types of wood, so not all finishes will work well on your desk.

If you want to apply finish on a solid wood surface, you need to consider what kind of finish is on the desk already. If the desk has a lacquer, varnish or paint coating, you cannot apply anything that will dissolve or remove what is already there. For this reason, you must be careful about the type of finish you are applying.

Oil finishes are ideal for woods such as teak and rosewood because these finishes will soak into the wood easily and do not form a film that can peel off or wear away quickly.

Whenever you are unsure of the type of wood used to make your computer desk, we recommend testing each finish on a small inconspicuous spot first. This will help you decide which finish using on your wooden desk.

Size and Coverage:

Consider the size of the container before you buy a new finish. Also, consider how much coverage each container provides and how long it will last you.

If you want to finish a large surface such as an office desk, we recommend choosing something like shellac or lacquer because these finishes come in gallons. Also, consider the number of people who will be using the finish and buy accordingly.


satin polyurethane

If you’re looking for a finish that’ll change the color of your writing desk, there are many colors to choose from. That being said, it’s important to know that some colors may absorb into your desk instead of forming a protective film which can cause the color to rub off over time.

We recommend choosing a color that is very similar to the color of your desk for the best results. If you have a light wood desk, choose a light-colored finish such as clear polyurethane instead of red mahogany. In case you’re not sure which finish to use on your computer desk, we recommend using a clear polyurethane finish.


Choose a finish that’s durable and long-lasting. If you’re looking for something that will protect your computer desk and give it a shiny look, we recommend choosing a durable finish such as oil based polyurethane and lacquer finishes.

These types of finish are harder surfaces and more resistant to scratches, scuffs, water damage, and other wear and tear. If you want a matte look, choose something like wax or varnish.

Sheen Level:

When choosing a wood finish for your desk, you must consider how shiny you want the finish to be. If you want a high shine and gloss, we recommend lacquer and polyurethane finishes.

If you choose oil or wax, the sheen level might be lower than expected because these finishes give out a matte look instead of a high shine.

Water Proof:

phenolic resin varnish

Depending on your location, you may need to use different finishes depending on the season. For example, if you live in a humid area where there is not much winter, you may want something that is more protective during these months.

If you’re looking for a finish that’ll protect your writing or computer desk from water damage, we recommend polyurethane and lacquer finishes because these finishes will keep your desk safe from water or liquids like coffee spills.

UV Rays Resistant:

If you live in an area where it gets extremely cold during the winter, this will also affect your choice of finish. You don’t want to choose a pure oil that will “dry out” when temperatures drop below freezing.

UV rays can cause wood furniture to fade and look old quickly. If you want your desk to be protected from UV rays, we recommend choosing a finish that is UV-resistant.


If you want a finish that keeps the color of your wood looking new and fresh, choose something like lacquer and polyurethane. These types of finishes do not absorb into the wood; they form a protective film that keeps the color of your wood from fading.

Drying and Cure Time:

The amount of time it takes for the finish to dry and fully cure varies by brand, but usually it is best to wait at least 24 hours before using your computer desk after applying a new finish.

Sanding or Non Sanding:

sanding dust

If your desk is old and rough, we recommend choosing a non-sanding finish such as lacquer and polyurethane finishes. These types of finishes will not require you to sand your desk prior to applying the new finish.

However, if you’re working with a smooth and unblemished desk, choose a finish that you can use without sanding your desk first.

Number Of Coats:

Depending on the condition of your desk and how shiny you want the finished product to be, we recommend applying anywhere from 2-4 coats of wood finish.


Some types of finishes emit harmful and toxic compounds called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) when they dry and cure. To avoid exposure, we recommend choosing a brand with low VOC levels.

Some brands such as Howard Products and Minwax have relatively low VOC levels while other brands have high amounts of these chemicals. It is best to check the VOC levels on your brand of choice to be safe.


If you’re sensitive to smells, it’s best to choose a finish with little or no odor. Most finishes have an unpleasant smell when initially applied. The odors begin to dissipate after several hours or days, depending on the type of finish used.

Versatile Uses:

table top

Look for a finish that can be used on various types of surfaces such as glass, metal, plastic, and wood. Therefore, you can save time and money by choosing a finish that can be used on multiple surfaces. When applying finishes to various types of surfaces, the application method may vary slightly.

Ease of Application:

If you wonder what is the best finish for wood desk, there are many great options. There are different types of finishes out there, some good and some bad.

The finish that may work well with one type of furniture may not necessarily be right for another piece. As long as it’s done correctly, any number of finish types could be used with success on a wood desk.

But, the spray method is the best choice for ease of application as it has quick dry times and avoids brush marks. Coatings such as lacquer and varnish are the most durable sprayed finishes.

Easy to Clean:

To maintain a new look, it’s best to choose a finish that’s easy to clean. Choose something like polyurethane and lacquer if you want a quick-drying surface that’s easy to clean because these finishes dry within hours or days. Shellac, varnish, and wax are other types of finishes that are quick drying and easy to clean.


Choose a brand that is well-known and respected for its quality products. If there is an issue with the finish, you want to make sure the brand will honor the warranty. We recommend choosing a well-known brand like Howard Products or Minwax.


Look for something that meets your needs; don’t forget that quality goes a long way. If you’re unsure about what type of finish to choose, we recommend testing out a few options. Also, consider how long it will generally last and choose accordingly.

These are the top things to consider when buying the best finish for wood furniture, including a computer desk, dining table, reading desk. We hope this buying guide has helped you break down the different factors to consider when looking for a new finish.

Types of Wood Finish:

Types of Wood Finish

There are many types of wood finish, including oils, waxes, lacquers, shellacs, varnishes, polyurethanes, etc. Here are the details about them:


Varnish is a good choice for wood finishes because it does not emit high levels of VOCs, dries quickly, and provides a hard protective surface. Like oil-based polyurethanes, varnish cures faster than conventional oils so you can apply it in less time.


Oils are easy to apply and they have a low VOC level but they do need several coats in order to achieve the desired sheen. Oils are great for darker color pieces because it allows the color of the wood to show through. There are some oils that are used to make wood finish including boiled linseed oil and tung oil, danish oil and teak oil.

  1. Boiled Linseed Oil:

Boiled linseed oil has a low VOC level. This oil finish can give a great sheen.

  1. Tung Oil:

Tung oil is one of the most popular types of wood finish because it’s easy to apply and bring out the natural beauty of your furniture. Like boiled linseed oil, tung oil often needs several coats to achieve the desired look.

  1. Danish Oil:

Danish oil is often used as a wood finish. Once the Danish Oil has dried, you can apply a coat of polyurethane on top to give the piece a glossy protective finish.

  1. Teak oil:

Teak oil is used to provide a natural shine or matte finish on pieces made out of teak. It does not contain any chemical additives so it is environmentally friendly.


solvent based lacquer

Like oils, waxes provide a low VOC level and they can help preserve the natural look of your wood desk. However, like oil-based varnish, you should apply wax in several coats to achieve the desired sheen.

If you do not want to use an oil or a wood finish that emits VOCs, wax is a great option. Wax can be easily applied with a lint-free cloth. You just need the number of coats needed to achieve an even sheen.


Lacquers are easy to apply and quick drying but they come with high VOC levels so it’s important to take proper precautions when using them.

Water-based Polyurethane:

While not as popular as oil or lacquer, water-based polyurethane is an excellent choice for those looking for a low VOC finish that’s easy to apply and brings out the natural look of your wood desk. Water-based polyurethane also dries quickly so it’s great for people with little time to spare.

Oil-based Polyurethane:

As the name suggests, oil-based polyurethanes are made with oils just like conventional oil finishes. The difference is that oil-based polyurethanes cure faster and dry harder than conventional oils. This makes it a great choice for surfaces that will get heavy use.


Shellac is a great option for wood finishes because the final sheen can be adjusted depending on how many coats you apply. There are 3 types of shellacs available including orange, garnet, and blonde. Additionally, these products are non-toxic.

How Do You Finish a Wooden Desk?

oak finish

Applying a wood finish is a simple process that anyone can do. Here are the steps:

1. Sand the Desk Thoroughly:

If you have a large piece of furniture, it’s best to use a power sander for this step. If there are nicks in your furniture or uneven areas, now is the time to fix them. You should also sand the desk before applying any wood finish to allow the surface of your desk to absorb more of it.

2. Clean the Desk:

Even if your furniture is already clean, this step is a must because you don’t want to trap dirt or dust into an unfinished piece of wooden furniture. You can use a damp, lint-free cloth to wipe the wooden desk clean.

This will help the wood finish adhere better to your furniture. Mineral spirits and denatured alcohol can also be used to clean your furniture.

3. Apply a Pre-Finish or Wood Conditioner:

A pre-finish is a type of wood conditioner that contains elements such as linseed oil, shellac, paste wax, etc. If you have a large piece of furniture to finish, a pre-finish can help you save time because you won’t have to go through the process of mixing different types of wood finishes.

4. Apply First Coat:

Apply First Coat

Now that your desk has been pre-finished or conditioner, it’s time to apply the actual wood finish. This process is similar to applying stain so you should use a lint-free cloth and be sure to cover all areas of the furniture.

You’ll need enough coats of wood finish so allow each coat sufficient time to dry before applying the next one. The actual finishing time will depend on which type of wood finish you use.

5. Apply Final Finish:

After the previous coat has dried, you can apply a final wood finish coating. If desired, you can also wax your wood desk at this point to give it a sheen that’s between high gloss and matte.

6. Wet Sanding:

After applying the final coat of wood finish, you will need to wet sand it in order to achieve a smooth and polished look. You’ll want to use a piece of fine sandpaper. Always wet sand in the direction of the wood grain and make sure you don’t overdo it because this can cause unevenness or scratches on your desk.

7. Let it Cure:

If you want to make sure that your desk is completely cured, leave it alone for at least an entire day before using or moving into a room.


01. Is Polyurethane Good For A Desk?

Water-based Polyurethane is a good finish for a desk because it is easy to clean and dries quickly. It also protects the desk from water damage and UV rays.

02. Is it Better to Wax Or Varnish Wood?

Varnishing and waxing wood is an easy process that gives off a nice finish. Varnish is better if you want to protect your desk from water damage, while wax is good if you want an antique look to your wood desk.

03. How do I Protect My Wooden Desk Top?

If you want to protect your wooden desk top, we recommend using a wood finish such as Watco Danish Oil, Tried and True Varnish Oil, and Minwax Wipe-On Poly. These finishes will form a protective film that keeps liquids from seeping into the desk.

04. Does Beeswax Really Restore Wood?

Beeswax is an excellent natural finish for wood because it conditions the wood. However, beeswax can darken the color of your desk over time, so we recommend using it only if you’re okay with this effect.


Wood finish is a great way of protecting your desk. It brings about a smooth finish that is easy to clean and maintain. But you have to use the best wood finish for desk to maintain the quality of your wood desk. Our recommended wood finishes keep your desk in tip top shape.

Choosing the right wood finish was not easy before because of the overwhelming number of products available. But now, with our unbiased reviews and recommendations, you can make an informed decision quickly and easily.

We hope this article has been helpful. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below!

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