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Interior clear finishes - MDF, particle and strand boards

Resene Popular Paint Systems –
Exterior and interior woodcare© (stains and clear finishes): training notes

This web page is an edited version of the Resene Best System Selling training notes provided to Resene staff and is provided to enable you to gain a greater understanding of the substrates and paint systems you may encounter in your decorating project. It is impossible to cover all decorating scenarios in a single document, so if you are in doubt about any aspect of your project please contact Resene for assistance.

How to apply clear finishes to MDF, particle and strand boards

Note: Refer to the PDF flowchart for a visual of the steps below:


  1. Sand using 220 grit zinc stearate to remove any surface imperfections and wipe with a tack cloth to remove sanding residues.

  2. Fill any nail screw holes using PAL contract filler - or Coloured Wood Filler if appropriate. Refer notes.

  3. Finish options:

    • Stained or Blonded:

    • Natural finish:

      • Proceed to step 4
  4. Apply a seal coat of Resene Aquaclear gloss.

  5. Polyurethane options:

    • Apply 2-3 coats of Resene Qristal Polyurethane (solventborne) in flat, satin or gloss, lightly sanding using 220 grit zinc stearate before the final coat.
    • Alternatively, apply 2-3 coats of Resene Qristal Polyurethane in gloss, satin or flat, lightly sanding with 220 grit zinc stearate before applying the final coat.

Old, clear finished

  1. Wash using mild detergent or Resene Interior Paintwork Cleaner to remove any surface contaminants, residues etc.

  2. Sand using 220 grit zinc stearate to remove any flaked or peeled areas and to provide a key for subsequent coats. Note: if completely stripped treat as per new.

  3. Varnish/polyurethane options:

    • Recommend 2 coats of Resene Aquaclear in satin, semi-gloss or gloss lightly sanding with 220 grit zinc stearate before the final coat.
    • Alternatively, apply 2 coats of Resene Qristal Polyurethane in flat, satin or gloss, lightly sanding with 220 grit zinc stearate before applying the final coat.


  • MDF, particle and strand boards

    There are a number of different types of composite board available – however most including MDF (medium density fibreboard) are designed for painting over rather than clear finishing. Strand or particle boards have larger wood chips in different shades and even wood types and look good clear finished or stained with Resene Waterborne Colorwood. (MDF uses fine wood pulp – and looks more like porridge).

  • The yellowish tone Resene Qristal Clear (and Resene Polythane) imparts doesn’t suit most composite boards so recommend Resene Aquaclear. If the customer insists on using Resene Qristal Clear then they will need to seal the board with a coat of Resene Aquaclear gloss first. If using Resene Polythane (for its additional toughness and moisture resistance) seal with Resene Particle Board Sealer.

  • Resene Waterborne Colorwood is best brush applied in thin films, before wiping with a clean lint free cloth – working the stain into the surface. If the colour is too light build the colour up with a second application.

  • Fill nail and screw holes with either a premixed coloured filler such as Coloured Wood Filler or putty mixed with Resene MPS Stainers. Ideally after sealing or the first coat has been applied.

  • Particle board is often used in schools for its impact resistance. However its use can be an issue if a fire rating is required (school corridors for example).

  • Resene do not have a clear finish that will provide the required ratings for these areas, with many specifiers wrongly assuming that because Resene Aquaclear is waterborne it will comply. Resene Aquaclear is a water soluble polyurethane, not very different to Resene Qristal Clear in terms of performance and how it would behave in a fire.

  • If a fire rating is required please refer to our technical helpline.

Key accessories - essential to complete the job

  • 35mm-63mm Legend brush for waterbased or Premier Oval for solventborne – the brush size will depend on the project
  • Putty or Coloured filler
  • Resene Paint pot (for decanting into)
  • Masking tape
  • Painter’s gloves
  • 220-400 grit zinc stearate sandpaper for fine finishing and sanding between coats
  • Tack cloth (to remove sanding residue)
  • Stirrer if using Resene Waterborne Colorwood
  • Clean lint free cloth(s) for wiping Resene Waterborne Colorwood (old t-shirts are ideal)
  • Turps if using Resene Qristal Polyurethane

Add ons - to make job easier or quicker

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