Oil Sealer Vs Water Sealer: Which is Suitable for Painting Your Home Interior?

Picking the right sealer for your project is essential if you want the best results and value for money. Comparing oil sealer vs. water sealer features will help you make the right choice for your paintwork or woodwork applications.

Oil- or water-based sealers can protect painted or wooden products against Singapore’s weather. Keep reading for all the necessary information and be well-informed when deciding which sealer type is better for your project.

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Understanding Sealers

What are Sealers?

Sealers protect exterior surfaces from damage caused by sunlight or damp conditions. With the right application process, sealers can protect against:

  • Mould and mildew growth
  • Wood rot
  • Deterioration caused by harsh UV rays.

Sealers can be used to improve the aesthetics of the item it’s applied to. Water sealers improve the opacity and brightness of a painted surface. Oil sealers have an amber tint and enhance the appearance of wooden products, giving them a richer, more enhanced colour.

Types of Sealers

There are various types of sealers and the most common ones used on paint coatings or wood are oil-, water- and latex-based options. However, water-based or oil-based sealers are the ones you should focus on for most painting projects or woodwork. 

Oil-Based Sealers

Composition and Characteristics

The composition of oil sealers varies between different brands but most are made up of a combination of oils, wax and urethane. Ingredients such as petroleum, ethylbenzene and 2-butanone oxime are included in the formulation.

Oil-based sealers promise durability, waterproofing and scratch-resistance

nippon paint vinilex 5170 wall sealer

Advantages of Oil-Based Sealers

Oil sealers are popular for carpenters and furniture craftsmen working with wooden products. Some of the advantages of using oil sealers include:

  • Protection and longevity: Waterproofing protects against fungal growth and rot. Oil sealers are, to a degree, stain and dirt-resistant.
  • Fewer coats required: The thicker consistency of oil sealers means fewer applications.
  • Aesthetically appealing: Applications to wooden items give them an attractive appearance and depth of finish as long as you apply it to the right kind of surface.
  • Cost-effective: Oil sealers are cheaper compared to water-based sealants.

Disadvantages of Oil-Based Sealers

While oil-based sealers are great for woodwork, their disadvantages should be noted:

  • Strong odour: They emit strong fumes or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during application which could be hazardous to your health.
  • Changes colour over time: It yellows over time which is more obvious on lighter woods or painted surfaces.
  • Longer drying and curing time: A coat can take up to 24 hours to dry and cure.

Water-Based Sealers

Composition and Characteristics

Most water-based sealers include film-forming properties that help to repel water. They often include titanium oxide, a common ingredient found in sunscreens which minimises UV radiation damage.

Water sealers include a combination of water, polymers and resins with very few, if any, harmful chemical ingredients.

Advantages of Water-Based Sealers

Water-based sealers offer excellent benefits such as:

  • Faster drying time: Another coat can be applied as soon as four hours after the first application.
  • Minimal odour: It has little smell and minimal to zero VOC emissions, making it a healthier alternative to solvent-based options.
  • Clear colour: The original milky colour changes as soon as it’s applied. Water sealers have high levels of opacity which is ideal for paintwork.
  • Environmentally friendly: With eco-friendly ingredients, water sealers are safe to use with minimal impact on the environment.

Disadvantages of Water-Based Sealers

There are a few disadvantages of water-based sealers worth noting:

  • Expensive: This type of sealer is expensive compared to other types on the market.
  • Less durable: They offer less durability compared to oil-based options.
  • Frequent applications: Four to seven coats may need to be applied for optimal results.
  • Less depth and finish: There may be less depth and finish when applied to some types of wood, resulting in a dull appearance.

Comparative Analysis

Pros of Oil-Based SealersCons of Oil-Based Sealer
– Durable with a hard shell.– Longer curing time
– Fewer applications required.– Strong odours
– More depth and colour on darker woods.– Cleanup requires mineral spirits or paint thinner
– Self-levelling on horizontal surfaces

Pros of Water-Based SealersCons of Water-Based Sealer
– Easy to clean with water and soap– Requires frequent applications
– Clear appearance– Less durable
– Minimal or zero odours– Expensive
– Environmentally-friendly
– Quick drying time

Performance Comparison

  • Durability and longevity: Oil-based sealers are more durable, especially when applied to woodwork.
  • Aesthetics outcome: Water-based sealers enhance the appearance of most items that have been painted. It works better for lighter woodwork while oil sealers are great for adding more depth and finish to darker woods.
  • Environmental factors and safety: Water sealers win hands down for having the least impact on the environment.

Application Specifics

Both oil and water sealers can be applied using a brush, roller, rag or spray. Spraying allows for an even, smoother appearance The working space should be well-ventilated, particularly when using oil-based products. Surfaces need to be cleaned and be dry before applying sealers.

Choosing the Right Sealer

Factors to Consider

Consider the following factors when choosing a sealer for your project:

  • Material of the item which needs sealing (wood, concrete, asphalt).
  • The results you desire including finishing touches and aesthetics.
  • Environmental implications.

Expert Recommendations

Oil sealers are highly recommended for exceptional protection and are a good pick if you like a glossy finish. Water sealers are an absolute must for paintwork and if you want to avoid the yellowing effect that comes from using the oil-based alternative.

Oil sealers are more resistant to abrasions, making them excellent for wooden floors and countertops. However, the experts do recommend using water sealers for whitewashed or lighter wood for best results.

Common Pitfalls

Consider the following common pitfalls when applying sealers:

  • Avoid oil-based sealers on painted surfaces as they will go yellow and look streaky within a week of application.
  • When picking a water-based sealer, choose matte if you don’t want a shiny appearance.
  • Be particularly careful to avoid spilling oil-based sealers as they’re difficult to clean up. Keep mineral spirits handy for this reason!
  • Ensure the surfaces are dry before applying sealers otherwise they won’t bind properly.
  • It’s not always easy to see where you’ve applied water-based sealers so don’t do a rush job.
  • Oil-based applications are sticky until completely cured so avoid touching it before it dries properly.


Oil and water sealers are essential for improving the outcome of your painting or woodwork project. They add a layer of protection, often extending the lifetime of a product while improving the aesthetics of your project.

Use water-based sealers if you are applying to painted surfaces, need easy-to-use applications with faster drying times or prefer an eco-friendly option with minimal odours. Pick oil-based sealers if you want more durability, extra moisture or sunlight protection or a deeper finish.

Contact our experts in Singapore at Painting Guy for more advice and further recommendations on the best sealer for your project.

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