What is Dewaxed Shellac + When to Use It

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Shellac is a natural resin that comes from a lac bug, and it’s also one of the popular finishes for furniture. But what about the dewaxed shellac? Is it a different finish? And when should you use it? 

Well, after countless projects, I’ve gathered some insights about this wood sealant that I’d love to share with you. Stay with me, and I’ll spill the beans!

What is the Dewaxed Form of Shellac and When It's Best Applied For?

1. Use it For Wood Pieces Not Exposed to Alcohol, Water, or General Wear and Tear

Shellac that’s dewaxed is a great option for wood pieces that won’t be exposed to alcohol, water, or general wear and tear. 

If you focus more on functionality and design than practicality, this shellac can be used as a sealant. But, let me give you a heads up – this type of sealant will not completely seal the wood pieces after staining it.

Although its dewaxed form can help prevent water absorption, it does not have the same properties as authentic sealants such as polyurethane or lacquer.

wooden table

And another thing, always be cautious with what you use around it. From my own little mishaps, I found that it’s not the best friend of products with even traces of alcohol. So if you use products containing small amounts of alcohol, such as polishing or cleaning agents, the dewaxed sealant couldn’t protect your wood pieces from these elements.

Since shellac dewax isn’t very durable, you shouldn’t use it on pieces you plan to use a lot. Instead, it can be utilized on decorative pieces such as mirrors, wall art, end tables, and nightstands. 

2. Use it as a Pre-Sealant

Dewax-processed shellac can be used best as a pre-sealant in natural wood grain augmentation. Most types of sealants can’t retain the glow or bold shine that can make a piece stand out. 

But with this dewaxed pre-sealant, you can enhance your wood’s natural grain.

applying shellac finish on wood

 After its application, I usually sand it down smoothly. Then, to ensure durability and resistance to alcohol, water, and everyday wear, I coat it with either polyurethane or lacquer.

(But how many coats of polyurethane do you need to apply? Read this guide!)

When you use dewaxed and other sealant properties, you can expect to find beautiful and durable wood pieces, and this is an effective way to make your pieces stand out.

3. Apply Between Layers of Stain and Wood Finish

Another thing dewaxed can be applied between wood stain layers or finish. This is an incredibly easy and effective way to achieve a certain type of color, but it must be handled carefully.

Here’s a scenario: Let’s say you’ve got a piece of wood, and there are gaps you haven’t filled yet. Now, you’re itching to apply that stain or finish. But if you jump right in and stain without prepping, the deeper grain of the wood will likely soak up more of that stain, making your piece unevenly dark.

(Here’s a complete guide on how to stain wood darker.)

applying shellac on wooden boxes

That’s where the dewaxed shellac comes in. By applying it as a pre-sealant, it creates a barrier between those layers of wood, ensuring that the stain spreads evenly without being overly absorbed in certain areas. After finishing, you’re free to use different types of finish, such as polyurethane or lacquer.

This method has saved me from a few potential staining mishaps and ensured a more consistent finish on several of my projects.

Can a Shellac that's Dewaxed Makes Wood Resistant to Water?

I can tell you that despite what you might hear, dewaxed shellac isn’t your go-to for water resistance. Sure, there are some claims out there touting its water-resisting capabilities, but in practice, it doesn’t hold up to prolonged water exposure.

Even if you apply a thin layer of dewaxed, it won’t protect the wood from dirt and water.

If you want a waterproof sealant, you’ll need to use a more durable and water-resistant product to protect your wood project from the elements. 

What Can You Apply Over Shellac?

Once you’ve got your shellac in place, what next? Well, I often recommend applying lacquer or polyurethane over it. This combination ensures durability and resistance to harsh elements. 

Zinsser shellac

Also, these types of sealants are relatively easy to apply, and lacquer can cover your shellac over a smooth finish. However, applying dewaxed can be done beforehand, and it’s not as tedious as it sounds.

Regardless of whether you expect your piece to brave the elements or not, my advice is always to add these protective layers. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to safeguarding your projects.

What is the Best Shellac Brand in the Market?

When protecting your woodworking projects, you need to use high-quality shellac. With so many brands available, I’ve spent considerable time sorting through them to find the ones that stand up to the test.

One brand that has consistently impressed me, especially with its dewaxed formulations, is Zinsser. My top recommendation from them is the Bulls Eye SealCoat. It’s been a reliable go-to in my workshop.

Zinsser Rust-Oleum 854 1-Quart Bulls Eye SealCoat

Zinsser Bullseye Shellac is a great product for woodworking projects because it provides an instant “hard-top” finish and durability that prevents moisture from soaking easily into the wood material.

Zinsser Rust-Oleum 854 1-Quart Bulls Eye SealCoat

This means you can work outdoors and don’t need extra supplies like sandpaper to keep things looking nice.

What I Like

What I Don't Like


Is Zinsser shellac dewaxed or waxed?

Zinsser shellac is dewaxed. It is sometimes referred to as “powdered lac” because the wax has been removed. This makes it a pure form of shellac ideal for several types of finishes.

How long does shellac that's dewaxed last?

Shellac that’s dewaxed lasts indefinitely. However, it’s important to note that it’s exact longevity can vary depending on factors such as the quality of the product, storage conditions, and exposure to light and air.


Overall, dewaxed shellac is a good type of finish to use for woodworking. It can provide a smooth, glossy surface that protects the wood from scratches and minor damage. 

But remember – it is best used as a “pre-sealant” and should come together with authentic sealants like polyurethane and lacquer to prolong the lifespan of your wood projects. 

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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