The 6 Best Clear Cedar Finish for Outdoors of 2024

It’s nearing the end of the fall; summer is peaking. Now is the time to use the clear cedar finish outdoors. Why? Because cedarwood is robust, but prolonged heat will cause it to crack. You don’t want that, right? Besides, applying a clear cedar finish will make your outdoor fixtures more appealing.

Cedarwood may be expensive, but it’s the wooden outdoor furniture. I have never seen cedar made furniture indoors other than chairs and closets because cedar is softer. Not ideal for heavy indoor furniture. That’s why it’s best to use cedarwood as garden fixtures like rusting chairs and benches and even fences and handrails for the stairs.

Quick tips: Spring is the best time to apply stain to cedarwood. If you miss spring, then don’t stain your cedarwood under direct summer sunlight. People do this without knowing that the stain will fail prematurely due to excessive heat.

Benefits Of Using Clear Finish On Your Outdoor

  • The benefits of using a clear finish outdoor are here:
  • Offers a protective layer against external factors
  • Restrict mildew and mold growth
  • Provides an appealing look
  • Lock all color properties and prevent color fading
  • Termite protection

Get the best clear cedar finish for outdoors

These are the top 6 best outdoor clear cedar in 2022 that you can pick for clear cedar finish for outdoors.

Our Top Pick
1. Seal-Once nano+poly penetrating wood sealer
Key features:
  • 11 Tinted Wood Stain Colors
  • 250-350 sq/feet coverage per gallon of sealer
  • Water-based sealer
  • Polyurethane for added strength with penetrating nanotechnology
  • Enhances the look and longevity of your cedar
  • Free of toxic additives
  • Protects against water for six years vertically and ten years horizontally

The SEAL-OCE started their journey in 2005 with a business motto that they will produce toxic-free and long-lasting sealer for the precious cedars and wooden decks. The nano+poly is another successful water-based sealer from SEAL-ONCE. I’m happy that those toxic oil-based wood sealer days came to an end.

First, let’s break down the name of this sealer. The first word ‘nano’ indicates the sealer’s ability to protect against damage by penetrating the cedar or wooden plank and creating a barrier. And polyurethane strengthens this barrier by creating an extra layer of protection that will stay active for years to come.

Using the nano+poly penetrating outdoor wood furniture will protect you from-

  • Decays
  • Moldings
  • Cuppings and wrappings
  • Water damage

You’ll add decades to your precious cedars and wood slides by applying the SEAL-ONCE nano+poly penetrating sealer.

Do you know why some sealers fail? Because they trap moisture from the water underneath the sealer layer. But with the Nano+poly sealer’s breathable layer, that moisture will evaporate before damaging the wood.

You can use a synthetic brush or airless sprayer to apply the sealer. And for colors, you’ll have 11 semi-transparent colors to choose from. All these colors are tinted wood finish. So they look vibrant, last longer, and protect your wood against the sun’s UV rays.

I’ve used the Nan+poly sealer a couple of times in the last decade. After using the sealer for my old wooden deck, I was thrilled. The SEAL-ONCE didn’t make bold claims about this sealer’s ability to protect your precious cedar and woods for years.

  • The non-toxic sealer is suitable for environments, plants, and animals.
  • Tinted wood stain semi-clear color protects wood from UV damage.
  • Long-term protection for a reasonable price tag
  • Breathable nanolayer to prevent damages from water vapor
  • The sealer is VOC-compliant in all 50 states.
  • If you don’t apply the sealer as instructed, it might peel off within 6-8 months.
Best Choice
2. THOMPSONS WATERSEAL 21802 VOC Wood Protector
Key features:
  • Water-based sealer
  • Waterproof and UV-resistant
  • Usable in the exterior of furniture, decks, fences, etc
  • One cost is enough for the sealer to work
  • Last long and prevents water damage

I like how more chemical companies are adapting to water-based natural sealer production. I think all can sacrifice a little bit of longevity to keep the environment safe.

The Thompson water seal provides advanced protection from water moisture damage and UV. It’s not harmful to plants, animals, and the environment.

I also like how easy to apply the sealer. Just one coat will start to protect you from water and mildew damage. The Thompson Water Seal advanced natural sealer helps woods and cedar retain their color for years to come.

It’s an effective stain for both dry and damp wood and cedar. Once applied, there’s a scent that lasts for some time. It’s not a horrible odor, but for some, that might put them off from buying this cedar sealer.

Do you know that Thompson’s Sealer company was founded by a polymer chemist named Edward Addis Thompson in early 1920?

Since that time, Thompson’s multi-surface water sealer has produced quality dealers with their patented formula. Their sealer is used in commercial concrete construction. Later due to the popular demand, Thompsons started their wood sealer production.

Why should you buy the Thompson WaterSeal Advanced, Natural Wood protector?

  • One gallon Thompson Water Seal covers more than 200 sq. Feet of cedar or wooden surface.
  • You can apply the sealer with a brush or air sprayer.
  • The sealer won’t damage the natural look of your wooden or cedar.
  • Your deck or outdoor furniture stays protected from direct sunlight.
  • The patented formula of the Thompsons’ natural wood sealer makes your cedar and wood waterproof. So you can use water and soap to clean your wood without risking any damage.
  • The sealer also makes your wood and cedar dustproof. So you don’t have to worry about smudge or dust residue build-up over time.

The sealer isn’t slippery. You’ll feel a secure grip on your deck’s surface.

So if you want to preserve your wood and cedar for longer, you should apply some type of sealer. And I think the Thompson Advanced natural wood protector offers more protection for its price.

The water-based sealer isn’t thin. It’s thick enough to provide protection against cracks on the wooden surface. I’ve also noticed how the wooden surface retained its actual color. It looked like the way I bought it three years back.

  • Prevents cracks on the surface
  • It’s easy to apply. One coat is all you need.
  • It keeps the moisture out of the wood by letting the water evaporate fast.
  • Although the description says transparent sealer, I noticed a yellow/orange tint, which makes my deck look like cedar wood. I loved it.
  • Although it says one-time coating, I don’t think coating once will last more than ten months. So you better apply the sealer twice.
Editor Choice
3. Eco Advanced Wood Siloxane Waterproof- 5 gallon
Key Features:
  • Commercial grade formula
  • Water-based sealer
  • Non-toxic & non-flammable
  • The breathable sealer allows faster water vapor
  • Ideal for wood and cedar surface

Just like SEAL-ONCE, the Echo advanced Siloxane Waterproof sealer allows the water vapor to escape from the wood surface. So there won’t be any water vapor damage to worry about.

You can just use 16 Oz (29.5 ml) of liquid concentrated sealer to make one gallon (3.75 liters) of an industrial-grade water-resistant agent. Depending on the price, I think the Echo Advanced Wood Siloxane Waterproof sealer is the best clear cedar finish for outdoor under 30 dollars.

I heard about this sealer from my daughter when I visited her a year back. It was in early August. The first thing I noticed is the lack of smell. Every sealer has some. But this one has mild to none.

I wanted to try some for myself, so I bought it in the quarantine and applied it to my wooden deck. Within 2 hours, my deck had a fresh look, and loved it. Then I used some to the front porch cedar siding stair handle—the same result.

You can also apply this sealer to wooden shingles, sidings, fences, and even plywoods.

Why should you buy-

  • You’ll be getting more than you pay
  • It protects from stains, mildew, and UV, the wood color becomes more vibrant and original.
  • It works fast. I was able to walk on my deck after 2 hours.
  • It’s a vapor-permeable sealer so you can apply it to green and new woods.
  • The sealer is non-toxic. So it won’t harm plants and animals.
  • I think the Echo advanced sealer is a great buy who live in areas with heavy rainfall. You’ll be getting sealer in volume for a fraction of the price. By the way, I forgot to mention that you can clean your coated wood and sealer with water and soap.

And I’m not sure how long the sealer will stay useful. I spoke with my daughter, and she said the sealer is still holding up. So  I would say the sealer will protect you for at least over a year if applied correctly.

  • It’s practical and easy to apply with a brush or an air sprayer.
  • Depending on the price and the amount of sealer you’re getting, it lasts long enough to get the money’s worth.
  • The vapor transmission formula allows water vapor to escape. So water won’t penetrate the treated surface of the wood while it breathes freely.
  • The Echo Advanced is a transparent sealer. So it won’t interfere with the original wood or cedar colors.
  • Some people complained about the cedar getting darkened. Please let the product dry out completely.
Best Overall
4. DeckWise Ipe Oil Hardwood Deck Semi
Key features:
  • 300 sq. Feet coverage with one gallon of sealer solution
  • Transparent sealer agent
  • Cracks and warps resistant
  • Protects from UV and also repels water
  • This is a penetrating sealer with a VOC complaint.
  • Usable on railings, decks, fences, and the exterior of any type of indoor and outdoor furniture

All the sealers in my list are water-based components. So added the Ipe Oil Hardwood deck Semi-Transparent natural finishing oil-based sealer to even the odds. I don’t like using oil-based agents because they tend to be harmful to me and my surroundings.

But its VOC level is 250 grams. This means the oil-based sealer is safer than other sealers with a typical VOC level of 380 grams.

There’s not much to complain about an oil-based sealer. The agent protects your hardwood surface from UV, hard waters, and mildew, and even fends off some of the harmful toxins from penetrating.

Once you apply the DeckWise Ipe Oil Hardwood sealer, you are increasing the lifespan of your wood and cedar. I also love that it’s a transparent sealer. Your wood and cedar stay in their original colors. I feel the visual enhancement of my side cedar after applying the Ipe oil sealer.

Why should you buy it?

  • Ipe Oil is compatible with both American and Brazilian hardwood products.
  • Although it’s a hardwood sealer, it can give a clear cedar finish for the outdoors. Just be sure to apply two coats.
  • One tin could cover up to 350 sq. ft. of a smooth hardware surface.
  • The transparent Matt finish looks fresh and natural.
  • The oil sealer will penetrate the wood or cedar surface to prevent moisture build-up.
  • The sealer dries up in minutes. But it could take up to 24 hours depending on the weather, temperature, and humidity conditions.

I used this Ipe oil hardwood sealer on my porches, pool decks, and wooden walkway. I’m satisfied with the result. Hands down, this is one of the best oil sealers I’ve ever used.

  • Reliable protection against UV and water
  • Adds decades to your woods and cedars
  • Enhances looks after each finishing
  • If you give your wood a power wash before applying the oil sealer, it will easily last over two years
  • It’s a value for money oil sealer if you look at it from its longevity point of view
  • This is an oil sealer. So it can’t be airlifted elsewhere for deliveries. Residents in California and South Coast AQMD can’t get the sealer.
  • I thought it was transparent. But once applied, I noticed a dark brown hue. It’s barely noticeable, but it’s there. Phoned the seller and found out that it’s Trans Oxide Pigments.
Best Budget
5. Defy 5 Gallon Semi-Transparent Deck Stain for hardwoods
Key features:
  • Water-based Semi-Transparent sealer
  • High-quality resin prevents fading and darkening
  • The sealer is rated to last over two years
  • Easy maintenance is possible with DEFY Wood Brightener
  • Protects your wood and cedar from peeling and surface build-ups

Although the DEFY transparent deck stain sealer’s primary focus is to protect your deck, it also works with cedar and redwood. The solution is formulated with resin particles that penetrate the surface of hardwoods to resist UV light damage. It’s also easier to use in softwoods.

If you are looking for a clear cedar finish for outdoors, give the DEFY deck stain sealer a try. You can also apply this synthetic Semi-Transparent deck sealer formula to exotic hardwoods like Tigerwood, Mahogany, Ipe, Teak, etc. You can also use it for oil-rich woods like cedar and redwoods for its resin particle formulation.

The one thing I like about this sealer is its long active service. You can’t tell the difference between one-day or one-year-old seal coated cedar. There’s no visible filming or peeling. I also didn’t notice any damage from mildew, mold, or Algae buildup even after a year.

Why should you buy it?

  • It’s effortless to apply. Best to do it with a truck brush.
  • It costs less in sq. ft. than the oil-based stain
  • Maintenance won’t require any sanding or stepping off the surface if you apply the DEFY Wood Brightener and then apply a single coat of DEFY Deck Stain for hardwoods and cedars.
  • Retains original wood Color and last longer
  • Despite using high-quality resin, the sealer solution is environmentally friendly.

How to reuse the DEFY Deck with the Wood Brightener?

As the years go by, the sealer layer will fade. Once it starts degrading, the vibrant color of the cedar begins to look a bit greyish. Now you can do two things here. You could either peel off the old sealer layer or start all over again.

Or you could apply the DEFY Wood Brightener. Slowly the grey hue will add, and the original wood Color will start to appear. Now your wood is ready for another coating from the DEFY deck stain Semi Transparent stains sealer.

This synthetic resin formulated sealer is best for smooth hardwood surfaces like furniture, wooden sliders, decks, etc. There are three different Semi-Transparent colors available: Light Walnut, Cedar Tone (my favorite), and natural pine.

  • Works excellent on hardwoods, softwoods, and oil woods
  • Available in three natural Semi-Transparent colors
  • Protects against Color retention and bad weather
  • It’s a VOC-compliant water-based non-toxic formula.
  • It could last for several years if applied correctly.
  • Easily applicable with a brush (use truck brush )
  • You need to use DEFY Wood Brightener for easy maintenance.
  • Over-applying may hamper the longevity of the sealer, especially on cedars.
Best Quality
6. Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for decks
Key features:
  • Prevents against greying and Color fading
  • Ideal for: Playsets, wood siding, fences, decks, patio furniture
  • Protects from dirt particles and other natural elements like wind, snow, rain, and UV sunlight
  • Works both on damp and dry woods
  • Available in 5 different Semi-Transparent deck stain colors
  • Deck stain works in two ways: Color and sealing from water penetration.

If you don’t want to work with a chemical-based dec stain sealer, then the deck stain premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain should be your next sealer. It’s one of the best water based sealers on the market right now.

Along with brightening up and enhance your deck’s natural, vibrant look, it also works well in cedar. Once applied, this semi-transparent solution will give a clear cedar finish. Not to mention prolonging the life span of your cedar by preventing cracks from UV damage.

The stain is formulated in a way to protect your cedar from growing mildew, peeling, or greying over time. Your wood and cedar will stay safe from water damage.

Why should you buy it?

  • Long-lasting stain come sealer
  • Safe for the environment
  • The coated surface is easy to clean with water and soap
  • Works well on both damp and dry wood and cedar
  • The stain works triple ways by adding Color, sealant and prevents water damage

The deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain is easy to maintain. Once the surface color looks faded, simply wash it off with soap and water.

Once you’re done, let the surface dry. Please don’t strip or sand the surface. Just reapply the stain again to get that vibrant natural color back and complete the precise cedar finishing.

Tips: Use a block pole brush. It’s better than a roller. It helps to reach the stain into mini cracks of your wood or cedar correctly.

  • The stain has the potential to revive old stained wood and cedar.
  • Semi-Transparent Color stain helps retain the wood Color.
  • Easy to apply
  • Gives a natural-looking Matt finish that brings out the natural beauty of the exterior wood surface.
  • The stain spreads out smoothly on the surface.
  • Hardwood needs frequent maintenance. The first coating needs a lot of stains.
  • One gallon of stain covers around 100 ft.

What to Look in the Clear Cedar Finish for Outdoors?

First, you’ll have to decide on the type of clear cedar finish you’re looking to use for your outdoor furniture. I like a clear water-based stain, but let me clarify some pros and cons between water-based and oil-based wood stain.

Water-based stain pros

  • It dries quickly.
  • You can easily clean water-base stain-coated wooden surfaces with soap and water.
  • The best defense against mold and mildew growth
  • It’s non-toxic, so it’s better for the environment.

Water-based stain cons

  • Water-based stain dries so fast. It raises the wood grain, which makes it difficult to do another coat.
  • Water-based stain can’t penetrate to the level the oil-based stain does.

Oil-based stain pros

  • Oil-based stain dries late, which allows us to do an even finish on the cedar.
  • It penetrates deeper into the cedar than the water-based stain.
  • Oil-based wood stain lasts longer than water-based wood stain.

Oil-based stain Cons

  • The slow drying is often frustrating. It’s not an ideal option for those who are on an urgent project.
  • The resin component in the oil-cased stain causes molds and mildew growth over time.

The water-based stein is best for a clear cedar finish because cedar has the natural ability to resist rottings.

Now back to the main topic of what to consider before buying the best clear finish stain. You already know that cedar is naturally durable and well-known for its impressive insect repellent availability. Those light and rusty colors add more to its attributes.

So the stain you should be using on that impressive piece of cedar needs to have some attributes of its own. Here are the main things to consider for the best exterior cedar finish for the outdoors.

Waterproof and dustproof

You have to check for better wood penetration in the stain you’re looking to grab. Fortunately, cedarwood is hard and oily. So it soaks up the stain to create a seal that prevents water from damaging the wood.

Vapor permeable (breathable)

You need to make sure that the stain you’re using on your cedar is vapor permeable. It’s essential because this formula prevents moisture build-up by quickly releasing water vapor into the atmosphere. As a result, you are less likely to experience water vapor stains and damages.

Protection from other elements

Make sure your chosen stain keeps the cedar safe from chemicals, salts, oil, stains, mold, mildew, and algae growth.

Transparent or Semi-Transparent?

Both work nearly the same. But if you like to show off your cedar’s natural color, choose the transparent stain solution. And make sure it is rated for wood Color retention.

Coverage per gallon

If you are working on a big project and you need to cover as many square feet as possible on a budget, then check out the spec of the wood stain. Typically, the best wood stain will deliver 200-300 sq—Ft. Of coverage per gallon.

Stain volume per unit

Some wood stain sealer cones in a gallon. Others come in multiple 1 gallons can in a bundle. You will also find 2.5 to 5 gallons of wood stain sealer. Choose the right amount by calculating the stain coverage and the size of your cedar.


Some wood stains are dual purposes. They seal your cedar with a color finish. Check if your preferred wood stain offers clear or color stain solutions.


Most of the manufacturer doesn’t provide any warranty for their stains. Because they have decided on shelf lives, but some wood stain comes with a warranty. If you see that your preferred wood stain provides a warranty, then check the manufacturing date. Don’t accept the product if it has passed over two years on the shelf already.

Check the VOC

From today’s point of view, I think it’s essential to make sure that the wood stain you’ll use is non-toxic. Please don’t buy any type of water or oil-based stain or paint with a VOC level of over 250 grams because it causes damage to the health and environment.


Now, this factor is dependent on the type of weather you have in your area. The temperature and humidity of the area will impact your exterior furniture’s lifespan, such as garden sets, decks, fended, porches, cedar slides, and sidings.

If you live in an area that is prone to frequent rain, please don’t use a water-based stain for your exterior furniture. But if it’s the other way around, where you live has many dry months, and it’s hot and humid, go for the water-based stain for your precious cedar.


Water-based stains are easy to maintain, and it’s easier to reapply the sealer. But oil-based stains last longer. If you don’t have the time to run maintenance on your cedar every year, then go for the red cedars. And if you maintain the red cedar properly, it’ll stay durable and stay. It’s the original color for decades without fading.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How long do cedar woods last if left untreated?

If you don’t care about the looks of your decks and fences, then your cedar will last from 15-30 years untreated. But if you treat it with the best clear cedar finish, it will last up to 40 years or even longer. And it’ll look gorgeous during its long lifespan.

How do you keep cedar wood from cracking?

Your cedar wood will crack if it stays exposed to the dry air. So you have to use water-resistant solutions to a new or restored cedarwood. Then let it dry out. Apply the clear cedar finish outdoors.

Make sure the coated stain has a vapor-permeable feature. This will allow the wood to release water moisture back to the environment and stay protected from dry air and UV of the sunlight. If you do this, then you won’t see cracks on your cedar furniture in your lifetime.

Does Cedarwood contain any toxic content?

Cedarwood includes an element called colophony. Long-time exposure to this element might cause chronic lung diseases. Scared? Don’t be. Because this element is harmful to those who work in a cedar wood furniture factory.

Please note that the probability of the disease is more of a hypothesis than a medical fact. So fingers crossed.

Is cedar wood furniture any good?

Yes, the cedar wood is excellent for furniture. But not for inside. Why? Because these woods are soft. Also, cedar woods are naturally resistant to harsh weather.

One indoor piece of furniture, however, is made of cedarwood. And that is the closet because the cedar wood has a national insect repellent odor.

Why do people use cedar for garden furniture?

Cedarwood is expensive. I mean, really expensive. Why? Because it is super durable and has a natural resistance to outside elements like heat, water, dust, etc.

It also produces an odor that keeps away insects—another great reason to use cedarwood for garden chairs and benches. And with proper treatment like applying a stain coat regularly will keep your outdoor furniture spotless for up to 40 years.

Even if you don’t use any treatment, or apply clear stain coating, cedarwood will age phenomenally. It’ll slowly turn in silverish or greyish color, which will give it a vintage look.


Cedarwood is as tough as they come. An unmatched wood for your outdoor furniture and other fixtures. It’s tempting to leave the cedarwood untreated, knowing it will last as long as you’re alive. Or you could use the clear cedar finish outdoors to add a few decades in its lifespan.

And once that chair in the garden starts to look grey, you can sit down, take a sip off your coffee and watch the dusk on the horizon while holding hands to that special person in your life—a happy ending.