Pro Tips for Applying Polyurethane With a Foam Brush

I grimaced looking at the bubble-filled polyurethane finish I’d carefully brushed onto my DIY coffee table using a foam brush. It was supposed to leave a smooth, even coat not make my project look like a science experiment gone wrong!

Before you toss your foam brushes in the trash, stick with me. I’ll share my hard-earned tips for flawlessly applying polyurethane with foam brushes. Soon you’ll be laying down professional-looking finishes that will have guests convinced you swapped in new furniture.


Yes, you can apply polyurethane with a foam brush. It’s affordable, leaves no brush marks, and is great for detailed work. Ideal for budget-conscious woodworkers.

Types of Polyurethane

Comprising polymers and urethane, it’s available in oil-based and water-based forms, each with unique benefits.

AppearanceRich, warm finish; deepens wood colorClear finish; doesn’t yellow over time
DurabilityHighly durable; scratch-resistantLess durable; may need more coats
Drying TimeLonger drying timeQuick drying; multiple coats in a day
OdorStrong odor; requires ventilationLow odor; more user-friendly
CleanupNeeds mineral spiritsEasy cleanup with soap and water
Effect on Wood ColorTends to yellow, altering wood colorPreserves natural wood color
Usage PreferenceTraditional projects; high-wear areasProjects requiring clarity; quick tasks

Choosing Your Polyurethane Application Method

Decided on your polyurethane? Now, pick how to apply it:

  1. Bristle Brush: Traditional, but can be labor-intensive. Prone to bubbles, requires sanding between coats.
  2. Rag or Cloth: Smooth application, fewer bubbles. Safety first — proper cloth disposal is crucial to prevent fire risks.
  3. Spray Application: Quick, uniform coverage. Our top pick for hassle-free application.

But wait, there’s another contender – the foam brush. Economical and effective, it might just be the game-changer you’re looking for.

Using a Foam Brush To Apply Polyurethane

Foam Brush Application for Polyurethane

For budget-conscious woodworkers, foam brushes present a cost-effective alternative to high-priced bristle brushes.

Here’s why they make a compelling choice:

  1. Affordability: Foam brushes are significantly cheaper than their bristle counterparts, eliminating the need for meticulous maintenance.
  2. Efficiency: They apply polyurethane smoothly, mimicking a wiping motion, reducing the likelihood of drips and brush marks.
  3. Bubble Reduction: Less prone to creating bubbles, foam brushes make sanding between coats less necessary.
  4. Versatility in Sizes: Available from 1” to 4”, they suit projects large and small, with larger sizes covering extensive areas swiftly.
  5. Precision: Their design allows for easy access to tight corners and awkward angles, much like a cloth but with extended reach, thanks to the handle.
  6. Compatibility: Ideal for polyurethane, but avoid use with shellac or lacquer as the foam deteriorates upon contact.
  7. Ease of Use: Simple to use – dip, apply, and smooth out excess polyurethane. They’re disposable, making cleanup a breeze.
  8. Protection: While gloves aren’t necessary, they’re useful if you want to avoid skin contact. Opt for nitrile gloves over latex for better chemical resistance.

Foam brushes deliver a smooth coat without brush strokes or bubbles, and once you’re done, you can simply discard them – no cleanup required!

Check out this quick video to see a foam brush in action. Remember, the key is to gently pull the brush across the freshly applied coat to remove any excess product.

9 Tips To Apply Polyurethane With a Foam Brush

  1. Prep the Surface: Clean and sand the wood; remove dust.
  2. Ready Your Area: Ensure good ventilation; protect surfaces with a cloth.
  3. Prep the Polyurethane: Gently stir, avoiding bubbles.
  4. Use the Foam Brush: Dip the brush lightly, avoiding excess polyurethane.
  5. Apply Polyurethane: Brush along the grain with even, angled strokes; don’t over-brush.
  6. Dry and Sand: Allow to dry; sand lightly between coats.
  7. Repeat Application: Apply 2-3 coats for best results, with drying and sanding in between.
  8. Dispose and Ventilate: Responsibly dispose of the foam brush; keep the area ventilated until fumes clear.
  9. Final Check: Inspect for a smooth, even finish.

FAQs: Applying Polyurethane With a Foam Brush

Can I use a foam brush for oil-based polyurethane?

Yes, foam brushes are suitable for both oil-based polyurethane. They provide a smooth, even application without leaving brush marks.

Can you use a foam brush for water-based polyurethane?

Absolutely, foam brushes work well with water-based polyurethane, offering an easy, affordable, and effective way to apply thin, consistent coats.

Do foam brushes leave bubbles?

Foam brushes are less likely to create bubbles compared to bristle brushes, especially if you apply with gentle, even strokes and don’t overload the brush with polyurethane.

How do I avoid brush marks with a foam brush?

Apply thin coats and avoid pressing down too hard. Let the brush glide over the surface, and always follow the wood grain for the best results.

Is it necessary to sand between coats when using a foam brush?

Light sanding between coats ensures a smoother finish, but foam brushes typically leave fewer imperfections, potentially reducing the need for extensive sanding.

Can I reuse foam brushes?

Foam brushes are designed for one-time use. They’re difficult to clean thoroughly and are cost-effective enough to replace with each new project.

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