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Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat

Arm-R-Seal Oil-Based Topcoats are made with the highest-quality urethane resin, making them extremely durable and long-lasting. Formulated to be wiped on with a cloth or applied with a foam brush, and they penetrate to provide deep-down protection for that "natural" look. Need some inspiration? Visit the General Finishes Design Center or Pinterest Board.

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General Finishes Satin Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat, Quart


Step 1: Preparation

All wood projects require preparation sanding before clear coating with a topcoat. If you skip this critical step, your finish may be rough and uneven.

See our video: How to Prep Sand Raw Wood

1. Sand up to 150-grit sandpaper. 

2. Remove dust with a vacuum, compressed air, a tack cloth or a water-dampened rag. 


See our video: How To Prep an Existing Finish

1. Scuff clean with a Scotch-Brite™ pad or maroon synthetic steel wool & 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol & water.

2. Dry 1-2 hours.

3. Sand lightly with 220-320-grit foam sanding sponge.

4. Remove dust with a vacuum, compressed air, a tack cloth or a water-dampened rag. 

Step 2: How To Apply General Finishes Arm-R-Seal

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat Application Steps

Watch our video: How to Apply Arm-R-Seal

  1. Work in a well-ventilated area. 
  2. General Finishes recommends continuously stirring the wood finish throughout use to reincorporate solids that have settled to the bottom of the can. Alternately, stir well and immediately decant what you'll be using. Arm-R-Seal is a thin urethane topcoat; the flatting agents used to create flatter sheens quickly settle to the bottom of the can and need to be redistributed often.
  3. Test for adhesion when applying over a sealed surface.
  4. Arm-R-Seal rarely needs thinning due to its low viscosity. If desired, thin with up to 10% mineral spirits unless restricted by local or state regulations.
  5. Apply 3 coats. Additional coats will not improve durability. 
    • Hand application: Apply a liberal amount of product using a clean cloth, natural bristle brush, foam brush or pad applicator with smooth, even strokes & light lap lines. The larger the surface the large the applicator needed. Wipe off the excess evenly with the grain & with light pressure using a cloth or high-quality absorbent paper towel. Avoid heavy pressure & back-brushing. It is more important to avoid over brushing when using Satin Arm-R-Seal, because of the increased flatting agents needed to create a SATIN sheen. Semi-gloss and Gloss sheens are easier to apply because there are little to no flatting agents.
    • Spray application: Arm-R-Seal can be sprayed successfully, but we prefer hand-application methods because it is easy to spray too much in one area. Spray thin coats and immediately wipe or brush out runs if they occur. Spray wet films at 3-5-mil thickness. HVLP: 1.0mm-1.2mm spray tip, medium air cap. Verify tip sizes with your equipment supplier. Click here for a general guide to spray tip sizes. Keep your gun at a 90° angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large, flat areas use wet, even patterns 6-8" wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" wide to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass 10% to conceal lines. Wear a full filter NIOSH/MSHA-approved respiratory & eye protection and work in a well-ventilated space. Read here for more information on spraying techniques.
  6. Finish sand between coats with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper to improve smoothness and adhesion.
  7. Remove dust with a vacuum, compressed air, a tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.

Tips to Prevent Streaking

  1. Choose a semi-gloss or gloss sheen with little to no flatting agents. The more flatting agents, the more likely a topcoat will streak when applied. 
  2. Optionally, if you want a flatter sheen, put down 2 coats of semi-gloss, followed by satin.
  3. Either stir and decant what you need to use immediately or stir frequently throughout the application process. Urethane topcoats are thin and the flatting agents used to create flatter sheens settle quickly to the bottom of the can. 
  4. When working with a satin sheen, apply a liberal amount of product, and avoid pressure and back-brushing. Wipe along the wood grain using smooth, even strokes.
  5. Remove streaks that occur by buffing with 0000 steel wool or a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad. You can also sand well and re-coat.

Compatibility With Long Oils
Arm-R-Seal can be used over Danish Oil, Linseed Oil & Tung Oil after they are dry. Allow oil to dry overnight before applying GF product.

Dry Time

Dry Time Between Coats

Dry 12-24+ hours between coats when applying over raw or stained raw wood, and dry 72+ hours between coats when working over an existing sealed finish in ideal conditions: 70°F/20°C; 50-70% humidity.

Inadequate dry time is one of the top reasons for finish failure. 

You can tell if an oil-based finish is dry if it is no longer tacky, cool to the touch, and if you can press a cotton ball over the surface and nothing sticks. If in doubt, wait longer.

Increase dry time if:

  • Humidity is over 80%
  • 3+ coats are applied
  • Thick coats are applied
  • Applying over an existing sealed finish
  • Applying over products from other brands
  • Layering General Finishes water- and oil-based products:
    • Water over oil: Let oil-based products dry 72+hrs before applying water-based products
    • Oil over water: Let water-based products dry 24+hrs before applying oil-based products
  • To accelerate dry time in humid conditions, work in a space with good ventilation and air movement. If you decide to re-coat before the recommended time, test dryness. 

Cure Time Before Use
Oil-based finishes cure and harden completely after 30 days. Avoid placing heavy objects on surfaces that have not completely cured. Treat gently, and do not clean with commercial products during the cure period.

Cleanup of Oil Based Products

Clean up application materials and hands with mineral spirits or waterless hand cleaner, like Goop or Gojo. 

Take great care when disposing of product-soaked applicators. Application materials, such as brushes and towels, containing oil-based products may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately place all application materials soaked with this product in a sealed, water-filled metal container. Dispose of in accordance with local fire regulations. 

Clean up spills with mineral spirits immediately while wet. If oil-based finishes dry, they are difficult to clean off any surface, clothes or carpet. Carpet may discolor if cleaned with mineral spirits.

Protect your workspace with a tarp, your hands with gloves, and your clothes with an apron.

Storage of Oil Based Products

Life of Product
General Finishes products do not last forever, even when unopened. They are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

Storage Tips
See our video: Tips for Storing Leftover Finishes
Oil-based products start to harden and cure when exposed to oxygen. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:

  1. Keep container tightly closed and sealed until ready for use, in the original container. Do not store in unlabeled containers.
  2. Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal. 
  3. Keep lid closed while working. Decant what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work. Every minute the can is open, the product is curing.
  4. Containers that have been opened must be carefully resealed and kept upright to prevent leakage. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Product in the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  5. Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
  6. Avoid temperatures below 50°F/10°C or above 80°F/26°C. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Store in original container protected from direct sunlight in a dry, cool and well-ventilated areas.
  7. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to ignition source with heat and flames such as a furnace. 
  8. Store the can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimizing oxygen exposure from within the can. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring.
  9. Add Bloxygen can. Bloxygen is an argon gas system that prevents oxygen and moisture from hardening leftover product. Because Bloxygen gas is heavier than air, it sinks to the surface of the leftover finish, creating a barrier between product and air trapped in the container.
  10. Decant leftovers to a smaller, properly labeled container when the finish is almost used up to reduce the volume of oxygen in the container.
  11. Use appropriate containment to avoid environmental contamination.

Furniture Care and Maintenance

Cure First
You have just finished applying a fine furniture finish. Treat gently until the paint or topcoat have fully cured. Allow 21 days for a water-based finish to cure and 30 days for an oil-based finish to cure before cleaning.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

  • Remove dust with a water-dampened cloth. Dust can build up over time and may scratch or dull finishes if not removed regularly. 
  • Remove fingerprints, cooking fumes and smoking residue with mild soap and water. These contaminants will not harm the finish, but they accumulate on surfaces and dull the original luster. 
  • As with all fine furniture finishes, avoid using furniture polish, cleaners or dusting sprays that contain silicone, alcohol, ammonia and anything acidic. Exception: We have successfully cleaned with Clorox wipes for occasional cleanups.
  • Clean up water, alcohol and food spills in a timely manner and use placemats & coasters to protect the finish.
  • Future finishes or touch-ups may not adhere properly or perform as desired over a contaminated surface. Some contaminants, such as silicone, seep through finish into the wood and often cannot be removed.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to direct sunlight, high temperatures or high humidity. These can damage furniture and finishes.

Warnings and Warranties

Arm-R-Seal Warnings and Warranties

Limited Warranty
General Finishes products must be tested to your complete satisfaction before using. General Finishes will not be responsible for color satisfaction, misapplication, nor compatibility with other manufacturers' products. General Finishes will be responsible only for the cost of our products, and not for costs such as labor, damage or project replacement.

Contamination and Compatibility
Our finishes are engineered as a system and are compatible with each other. General Finishes cannot guarantee an ideal refinish when applying our products on top of or combined with another company's products or over surfaces that have been in contact with waxes, polishes or sprays containing contaminants such as silicone. Test for adherence and aesthetics before beginning.

FIRST AID: Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms occur due to the following. EYE CONTACT: Remove any contact lenses. Flush eyes with water for 20+ minutes while lifting upper and lower eyelids. SKIN CONTACT: Wash thoroughly after handling. INHALATION: Move to fresh air and loosen clothing. If not breathing, if breathing is irregular or if respiratory arrest occurs, provide artificial respiration or oxygen by trained personnel. INGESTION: Call physician immediately. Wash out mouth with water. Do not induce vomiting unless directed to do so by medical personnel. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person.

Prop 65 WARNING:

  • Gloss: No chemicals were found in this product which are known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.
  • Satin & Semi-Gloss: This product can expose you to Benzene, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. This product can expose you to chemicals including Crystalline silica, respirable powder, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer, and Toluene, which is known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.


DANGER: Can enter lungs and cause damage.
DANGER: Keep out of reach of children. Keep away from heat and flame. Use only with adequate ventilation. Do not breathe vapor or mist. Do not swallow. Avoid contact with eyes. Keep container tightly closed when not in use. Wash thoroughly after handling.


Basic Features
Product Colors Dries Amber
Base Type Oil
Ambering Yes
Sheen Satin (25-35), Semi-Gloss (50-60), Gloss (80+)
Interior or Exterior Interior only
Type Urethane
Coats 3 coats
Application Method Brush, Roll
Brushable Yes
Usable over existing finishes Yes
Sprayable Yes
Spray Tip Sizes HVLP 1.0mm-1.2mm
Dry Time
Dry Time - Touch 12+ hr
Dry Time - Recoat 12-24+ hr raw wood, 72+ hr existing finish until non-tacky. (Add more time with subsequent coats.)
Dry Time - Light Use 7-10 days
Dry Time - Cure 30 days
Can Sizes Pints, Quarts, Gallons
Coverage 50-60 sq.ft./pint, 100-125 sq.ft./quart, 400-500 sq.ft./gallon
Technical Data
Viscosity Thin
Viscosity (cPs) 100-200
Weight Solids 32%
Satin: 576.788 g/L
Semi-Gloss: 576.231 g/L
Gloss: 531.138 g/L
Durability (Highest, High, Medium, Low) Highest
Hardness (Koenig #) 77
Wear (Taber #) 57.10 mg loss
Water (5 max) 5
Chemical (105 max) 99

Design Center


Arm-R-Seal FAQs

*Can I Spray Arm-R-Seal?

Arm-R-Seal can be sprayed successfully, but we prefer hand application methods because it is very easy to spray too much in one area. If you choose to spray, use very thin coats and watch for runs (large drips that run down the side of your project).

If you notice a run, immediately wipe or brush it out. If you correct a run promptly, you will not see a mark. However, dried runs can be difficult to remove.

Wear a mask and work in a well-ventilated spray booth.

Size: Small Needle Nozzle (1mm)


Relevant Videos

*Can An Oil Based Topcoat Such as Arm-R-Seal Be Thinned?

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal

Although Arm-R-Seal rarely needs thinning because of its low viscosity, it can be thinned with up to 10% mineral spirits - more than that may thin the solids content too much. Thinned Arm-R-Seal will be diluted but can be stored without risk of separation.

Relevant Videos

*Can I Change the Sheen of the Topcoat? The One I Applied Is Too Shiny.

If you want to change the sheen, you can re-coat with a different sheen over top. The second layer of top coat will replace the appearance of the first.

Sand lightly with a used 220 sanding PAD to knock down the original finish before re-coating. It may take two or 3 coats to get complete coverage.

Related Products

*What Finish Would You Recommend for a Butcher Block Counter Top?

It depends on the type of use you plan for your butcher-block top and the look you want.

If it is a statement piece and not intended for high use, almost any finish would work. If you intend to prep or chop food, either General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat or General Finishes Butcher Block Oil could be applied.

However, neither product will withstand continuous water use or standing water, or hold up to knife cuts. We always use a cutting board just as we would on a standard kitchen counter. Basically, all horizontal wood surfaces in a kitchen must be maintained, and will easily wear with high water use.


  • Butcher Block Oil is a maintenance product that should be reapplied over time. It has a lovely matte finish that soaks into the wood and is an excellent protectant for wood surfaces that come in contact with food. Simply wipe on, allow 5 minutes to penetrate and wipe off the excess. It can also be used on cutting boards, utensils, or bowls. It is one of our most popular finishes for butcher-block counters.
  • Arm-R-Seal is a fine furniture finish, offers several levels of sheen and is a durable finish. It has been successfully used on home bar projects with this caveat: no fine furniture finish is impervious to water. Spills must be wiped up in a timely manner.

For a more water-resistant finish, we recommend visiting a finish dealer that carries lines specifically designed for high water use such as an Epoxy or a professional two-step catalyzed finish such as General Finishes Conversion Varnish.

Relevant Videos

*Why is Arm-R-Seal Blotching Over an Oil Based Stain on a Table I am Refinishing?

Arm-R-Seal Blotching

The problem areas on your table are probably caused by surface contamination from oils, waxes or cleaning products used over the years. Contaminants from dusting sprays that contain silicone will also impact the appearance and adherence of a finish - silicone is almost impossible to remove. Oil soaps and wax can also cause adhesion failures. This may be why the finish is performing differently on the leaves vs the table top. Adhesion failure is often more obvious in the deepest patterns of grain because the contamination is driven deep into the grain. 

Unfortunately, even though you sanded the table down to raw wood, sanding alone will not remove this type of contamination. In fact, sometimes the friction heat of sanding will drive contaminants deeper into the grain. 

You have two options, and we recommend the first:

  1. Strip, sand and refinish the table. Use a strong solvent such as a paint stripper and, brushing the surface with a soft brass brush to clean out the grain. Follow this by cleaning with 0000 Medium steel wool and mineral spirits.
  2. Buff the existing finish with 0000 steel wool and mineral spirits, particularly in the affected areas, and then re-apply several more coats of Arm-R-Seal

Relevant Videos

*Is it safe to buff Arm-R-Seal with an auto polish?

We know of many customers that have achieved great results from buffing Arm-R-Seal with auto polishes, providing that the finish has cured for 7 to 10 days.

As with all products that are not manufactured by General Finishes, always test for compatibility on a hidden area of your project before getting started.  

Relevant Videos

*Why did my remaining Arm-R-seal thicken in the can?

General Finishes Oil Based Arm-R-Seal Topcoat

Oil-based topcoats are "oxidizing" products which means that the moment it is introduced to oxygen, a chemical reaction will cause the finish to begin to harden. As topcoat is used, the empty space in the can is filled with air, furthering the curing process. 

Tips to ensure your Arm-R-Seal remains in great working condition:

  1. Decant the amount of Arm-R-Seal you will need into a foil covered bowl or paper cup and reseal the can right away. Every minute the can is open, the stain is curing.
  2. Be sure to thoroughly clean the chime and the lid of the can to assure a tight seal.
  3. Add Bloxygen to remove excess oxygen from your can of finish before sealing. 
  4. Store your sealed cans upside down.
  5. Transfer any unused finish to a smaller container once finished with your project.

Add plastic wrap before sealing? 
We have not tried it, but you get the idea. Anything to prevent contact with air is the key.

*Which General Finishes Products Would Work Best on a Restaurant Table?

GF has two products that would work well.

For non-professional finishers, we recommend using General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat.

Arm-R-Seal is oil based and will amber. Be sure to apply liberally with a foam brush or roller, letting the product self-level a bit. A liberal application will help you avoid streaks caused by back-brushing and pressure. Stir product thoroughly before and during application because flatting agents settle quickly in a solvent base finish.

For experienced professional finishers who spray, we recommend our two-step General Finishes Conversion Varnish, which would cure in half the time and dries clear.

Even though General Finishes products are water resistant, they are not impervious to standing water condensation (like an epoxy finish). As with any fine furniture finish, spills should be wiped up in a timely manner. We recommend using coasters to protect your wood from water condensation and pot holders to protect from heat.