Dewaxed Shellac

Dewaxed Shellac: What is it & When to Use (2024 Guide)

Whether you’re working on wood crafts, furniture, flooring, or other woodworking projects, choosing the right finish or sealant to protect your work is essential. In its natural state, wood is prone to water damage, rot, scratches, and other blemishes, and a stain or finish is the only way to protect it from these elements.

In this post, I’ll examine one of the most universally loved and used finishes in the woodworking industry and help you determine if it’s the right finish for you. Let’s dig in!

What is Dewaxed Shellac?

Dewaxed shellac is a type of wood finish derived from Lac bug secretions, typically found on trees. While plenty of sealant and finish options are available, dewaxed shellac is one of the best. It provides a rich, luminous finish that brings out wood’s grain and fine details.

The downside of dewaxed shellac is that it isn’t very alcohol, water, or heat-resistant. Therefore, if wood is exposed to heavy moisture, excessive heat, or other finishes containing alcohol, you shouldn’t use dewaxed shellac.

Dewaxed shellac is a sealer that holds in and retains the beautiful qualities of wood. It is not, however, meant to keep elements from the outside from penetrating deeper layers of it and getting to the wood below.

What’s the Difference Between Shellac and Dewaxed Shellac?

Shellac and dewaxed shellac are very similar and come from the same resin. In its natural state, regular shellac consists of roughly 4% waxes, which help to serve as binding agents.

However, although wax helps shellac bind to wood, it can keep it from binding to other finishes. Therefore, many shellac manufacturers remove the wax, creating a product that binds better to other finishes.

You can optionally purchase already dewaxed shellac, which is the preferred method. However, you can also purchase dewaxed shellac flakes and mix them with denatured alcohol to create your own liquid dewaxed shellac solution.

Best Uses For Dewaxed Shellac

Although dewaxed shellac doesn’t have the durability or deep protecting properties of other finishes, it remains a popular option for woodworkers. If you like its look and application, here are some of the best ways to use it.

As a Pre-Sealant

One of the best ways to use dewaxed shellac on wood products is as a pre-sealant. Few finishes and stains on the market give wood as rich, deep, and beautiful of a finish as that of dewaxed shellac.

Therefore, applying a coat of it before other finishes will bring out your wood project’s rich texture and color. You can then cover the shellac with a different finish that offers more protection, waterproofing, and heat and alcohol resistance.

Wood Pieces Not Exposed to Certain Elements

You can also use dewaxed shellac on wood pieces that won’t get exposed to certain elements and contaminants, including the following.

  • Heavy use
  • Water
  • Heat
  • Alcohol

Because dewaxed shellac cannot hold up to these elements, you must combine it with another finish or use it on a display-only item. 

As a Barrier Between Other Finishes

Finally, you can also use dewaxed shellac as a barrier between two types of finish or stain layers. For example, you can apply a layer of polyurethane or lacquer, a coat of dewaxed shellac, and another coat of polyurethane or lacquer.

Ordinarily, lacquer and poly are not compatible because they don’t bind to one another. When you add a coat of shellac in the middle, however, it binds the two materials together so that you have the best qualities of all three coats.

Benefits of Adding Dewaxed Shellac

Because dewaxed shellac doesn’t have the best protective qualities for a wood finish, you’re probably wondering if it’s even worth applying in the first place. Although it takes some extra time and work, here are a few reasons experienced woodworkers love using dewaxed shellac.

Offers Some Protection

As we said before, although shellac doesn’t offer the most rigid protection, it does offer some. For example, while shellac isn’t considered fully waterproof, it’s very water resistant, which means it will hold up against minimal moisture and rain for a short time.

Provides a Beautiful Finish

The main reason that people use dewaxed shellac is because of its aesthetics. An experienced woodworker can instantly spot when the wood has a coat of shellac on it because of how rich and grainy the finish is.

Is a Binding Agent

Finally, dewaxed shellac is one of the best binding agents on the market. You can use it as a thin base coat or to bind two different finishes together.

Does Dewaxed Shellac Have Waterproofing Qualities?

There’s no denying shellac isn’t as completely waterproof as other stains and finishes. It is, however, splash and water-resistant, similar to how a phone screen is water-resistant.

Leaving it exposed to water for too long will lead to water absorption within the wood, causing rot and damage. However, a light splash or rain likely won’t be enough to cause water damage as long as you wipe the surface dry in time.

Can You Put Anything Over Dewaxed Shellac?

The main reason that people prefer dewaxed shellac over regular shellac for their woodworking projects is that you can put almost anything on top of dewaxed shellac. This includes lacquer and polyurethane, two of the most popular and protective finishes on the market.

However, you should avoid putting anything with alcohol over dewaxed shellac, as it is not alcohol resistant.

Best Dewaxed Shellac For Your Needs

If you want to use this shellac type with your project, Dewaxed Super Blonde Shellac is currently one of the best and most popular options. Depending on your desires, you can purchase it as a liquid or in flake form.

Here’s a great video showing shellac in action!


What is the difference between waxed and dewaxed shellac flakes?

Regular shellac consists of anywhere from 3% to 5% wax. Dewaxing is a process of removing the wax so that it binds easier to other finishes.

How long does dewaxed shellac last?

When you apply it properly and add another thin layer of protective sealer, dewaxed shellac can last for five to ten years.

Final Thoughts

While dewaxed shellac isn’t the most protective or durable finish you can apply to wood, it’s one of the most beautiful in my opinion. It’s a great product for binding multiple finishes together and bringing out the intricate grains and details of any woodworking project.

However, you should never rely on dewaxed shellac as your sole protective finish, as it’s not fully waterproof, heat-resistant, or alcohol resistant.

Jalin Coblentz

Jalin is a seasoned professional content and copywriter in the construction, DIY, and remodeling spaces. Prior to his writing career, he worked as an HVAC technician for seven years and successfully flipped and remodeled many homes. When he’s not busy performing DIYs and remodels around his home, he loves traveling in his RV and travel trailer and writing about his adventures at