CLEVELAND – Sherwin-Williams®, through its Industrial Wood Coatings Division, invited industry professionals at the recent AWFS® Fair in Las Vegas to participate in a “Waterborne Challenge” to determine if they could tell the difference between waterborne and solvent-based finishes.

The results are in. With the improvements in today’s waterborne finishes, it’s not easy to tell the difference through the look or feel.

The Waterborne Challenge consisted of 14 panels finished in a variety of light and dark stains and paints. Participants were asked to identify which panels were finished with a waterborne topcoat and which with a solvent-based topcoat. Of the 67 participants who took the challenge – and in so doing were entered to win one of five Louisville Slugger® baseball bats finished with Sherwin-Williams waterborne coatings – the results were exactly in line with a random coin toss – 49% of responses were incorrect, and only 51% of answers guessed right. No participant reached 80%, with the highest score identifying only 11 correctly.

“The outcome of the Waterborne Challenge is a good indication of what we’ve been saying all along – if you haven’t tried waterborne today, you haven’t tried waterborne,” said Joe Kujawski, Global Director of Marketing, Sherwin-Williams Industrial Wood Coatings. “Shops currently using solvent-based finishes are in for a pleasant surprise when it comes to waterborne coatings. These finishes are light years ahead of what was available even five years ago.”

To support that claim, Sherwin-Williams has developed an infographic that dispels popular myths surrounding waterborne coatings.

  • Myth #1 – Waterborne coatings are more expensive than solvent-based coatings.
  • Myth #2 – Products finished in a waterborne coating have a poor look and feel.
  • Myth #3 – Waterborne coatings don’t perform as well as solvent-based coatings.
  • Myth #4 – Waterborne coatings won’t help you grow your business.

“Waterborne technology is literally the wave of the future of wood finishing,” Kujawski said. “Now is the time for manufacturers of kitchen cabinetry, wood furniture and wood building products to explore this technology.”

To learn more about the advantages of waterborne coatings and view the infographic, visit