Which Stain is better for hardwood floors – DuraSeal or Minwax?
Over the years, I’ve gotten many comments and questions relating to stain colors. Many people tell me that they (or their contractor/handyman) are using Minwax. I also see Minwax used in many Do-It-Yourself blogs. This always puzzled me as we almost always use DuraSeal, and most Professional Floor Refinishers exclusively use DuraSeal rather than Minwax.
Why is it that most DIYers use Minwax? And, why do most flooring professionals use Duraseal? And, if given the choice, which one should you use?
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Who Makes DuraSeal and Minwax?
Duraseal and Minwax are owned by the SAME company (Minwax) and they are both excellent stains. DuraSeal has been around since 1898 and Minwax since 1904. Minwax acquired DuraSeal many years ago. It appears that their marketing strategy is to promote Mixwax to homeowners/Do-it-Yourselfers and DuraSeal to professionals. (And a MInwax rep confirmed this).
What’s the difference between Minwax and DuraSeal Stains?
DuraSeal, which is made by Minwax is in my opinion a better product and generally leads to better a result on floors (i.e. more even coat and less likely to have drying/curing issues). Most flooring professionals STRONGLY prefer Duraseal, and have tested both stain brands.
Minwax is a bit more pigmented , DuraSeal tends to more soluble and penetrates the wood a bit more which seals the wood better. Although most colors are offered in both Minwax and DuraSeal, the colors tend to show a bit darker on DuraSeal. And, DuraSeal has a wider color selection, including the new and trendy True Black.
The biggest and most important difference between Minwax and DuraSeal is DRYING TIME. Duraseal dries MUCH FASTER.
Duraseal generally takes 2 hours to penetrate and 8 hours to cure enough before you can apply the first coat of poly. (Note: We generally wait 24 hrs both to be safe…and also to apply the coats while it’s light outside).
Minwax generally dries in 8 hours (per the manufacturer) but often takes 2-3 days to cure enough before you can safely apply the 1st coat of poly. And, if it’s very humid and/or a dark color, it can take even longer. In fact, for a very deep colors such as red mahogany, dark walnut, jacobean or ebony and during a very humid time, it could even take as long as 5 to 7 days.
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So, why does drying/curing time matter so much?
Well first, because it’s more convenient for the homeowner to have their floors dry faster (so that they walk on their floors sooner and move in/move back into the home (yes, you need to be off the floors during this process and you can learn more about that here: How long does it take to refinish hardwood floors?). It’s also a bit easier for the contractor as well, but truthfully, the big win is for the customer.
Second, when the stain dries faster, you are less likely to have issues with the finish reacting with stain, or peeling and you are more likely to have a consistent color. These sort of issues are much more common among DIYers, handymen and general contractors than among hardwood flooring professionals.
Professional floor sanders know their trade very well and know how to “read” the floor well to know if it’s dry enough to apply polyurethane. And, if it isn’t dry enough, they will return the next day (as they know the cost of applying poly too soon (i.e. you need to start from scratch and sand the floors again). So, it’s ironic that the ones who are more likely to make the mistake of applying poly too soon also use a poly that takes longer to dry and they are hence more likely to have a problem.
Durability: Minwax vs DuraSeal stains
There really is very little (if any) difference in durability for these 2 stains. I’ve seen some contractors claim that Duraseal lasts a bit longer because it penetrates the wood more. But, the truth of the matter is that the durability is driven much more by the quality of sanding job and the type, brand and number of coats of polyurethane use.
You can learn more about the best brands and different types of polyurethane in these 2 articles:
Which costs more – Minwax or DuraSeal stain?
There is not a major cost difference between DuraSeal and Minwax. Generally, DuraSeal will cost a bit more and this is a testament to the quality of the product and validates why higher quality contractors will stand behind this product – they are usually looking to save money, but here’s an example where they are willing to pay more…because it leads to a better outcome.
Also, while DuraSeal may cost a bit more, the cost is inconsequential in the whole project cost when you factor in labor (or renting a machine) and the cost of the polyurethane. And, since it will lead to a better and more even application, it is so worth it.
Is there a difference in the VOC levels?
No, there is no real difference in VOC levels (Volatile Organic Compounds), per the technical department at Minwax (yes, I called them). They are both compliant with state and federal laws, too. But, because DuraSeal dries faster, it doesn’t smell quite as long.
When would we use Minwax?
We would use Minwax when we are matching an existing floor and the customer had used Minwax on their existing floors. We would also use Minwax if the customer absolutely loves the stain color that’s only offered in Minwax.
Stain color options for Minwax and Duraseal
Both brands offer most of the same stains, especially the more popular ones such as golden oak, gunstock, provincial, special walnut, dark walnut, jacobean, and ebony. Duraseal also has a wider selection of colors. To learn more about stain color trends (and to see a full stain color list for both brands, check out the this article on Hardwood Floor Stain Trends.
Duraseal stains tend to come out a bit darker than Minwax (when you are comparing the same color e.g. DuraSeal Ebony vs Minwax ebony. DuraSeal now offers a super dark color called True Black. This is more opaque vs Ebony and other dark stain colors. (see the picture on the right).
Which stain combo should you use for staining hardwood floors gray?
Please note that if you are looking to stain your floors gray, I would NEITHER recommend DuraSeal nor Minwax (nor any premixed) gray. These stains are too watery and not thick enough. Instead use white (preferably by Bona) and Duraseal ebony. I get tons of questions and calls about this. Read more about staining hardwood gray in this article.
Update: Duraseal just came out with 6 new gray stain blends. Some are gray, some are gray/beige (or greige) mixtures and some are dark brown/gray mixes. You can learn more about these here.
Why do Do-It-Yourselfers use Minwax and Flooring Professionals use DuraSeal?
So, back to the original question: Why do DIYers use Minwax and Professionals use DuraSeal? Well, this simply seems to be a matter of familiarity and availability.
Homeowners are more familiar with Minwax (both from years of TV ads and from ease of availability in the stores (Minwax can be found in Home Depot, Lowes and most hardware stores). DuraSeal is typically found in Flooring Stores (and thankfully, they are now available on Amazon).
If you have the choice, I’d recommend Duraseal over Minwax.
Where can you buy Minwax and Duraseal Stains?
Related Hardwood Sanding and Refinishing articles:
- Which are the best brands of Polyurethane?
- Water vs Oil Based Polyurethane?
- How to stain hardwood floors gray
- What is water popping and when does it make sense to do?
- How to reduce scratches in your hardwood floors
- Products that will help prolong the life of your floors e.g. felt pads, hardwood cleaners, doggie socks
If you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here.
Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors
For more info, check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets to Refinishing Hardwood floors.