How To Remove Polyurethane From Wood in 7 Easy Steps


We all have an old piece of furniture stashed away somewhere in the attic or the basement, be it a chair, a table or some sort of drawer, which just sits there collecting dust. If only there was a way to repaint the thing and use it again.

Well actually, there is. You can scrape the old paint or varnish off in a few easy steps, refinish it again to your taste, and boom, good as new. Of course, it does not have to be old furniture, maybe you simply are not satisfied with the finish of the new table you just got, and that is fine.

Do not worry, you can make it to your liking. If you are interested in finding out how to remove polyurethane from wood in 7 easy steps, the solution is right ahead.

Types of Solutions

These are three ways to remove paint from wood. You can do it through the process of sanding, with the help of an electric heat gun, or via chemical stripping. Here is some additional information about these methods, including some of their flaws and benefits.

They are all efficient under the right conditions, for different purposes. We will go into more detail and give you tips for chemical stripping of polyurethane from wood since that is the main topic of the article.


Sanding is a process used for taking the surface off wood, which is done with the help of sandpaper and steel wool. These tools are used because they apply even pressure, which is very important because you do not want to have visible disparities in your work.

This is why you're supposed to do it slowly, with a lot of patience. If you are working with a smaller piece of work, you can easily do it yourself. However, for example, if you want your whole house floor sanded, or you are dealing with antiquities maybe it is better to call for an assistance of a professional sander.

Electric hot air guns can remove paint very quickly, but they are a fire hazard and they can leave scorch marks if you use them for too long, so use them with caution. Besides being a bit dangerous, they have another flaw, which is this: they do not remove a varnish, trying to do that would leave a sticky mess.

So if you are looking to remove paint only, this method could be useful as long as you stay careful. Overall, a good way if you're looking for answers on how to remove polyurethane from wood.


Chemical stripping is the best way to go in removing paint from wood, especially good for intricately carved wood, with areas not so easy to reach. Chemical paint stripper for wood brings unparalleled results in removing paint and varnish, it is easy to apply and it saves you the trouble of sanding.

The only drawback a chemical paint remover for wood has is that it takes extra security measures, so again you need to be very careful and use the right tools. We highly recommend using this method to remove polyurethane wood finish.

Instructions - How To Remove Polyurethane From Wood

Here are the 7 steps for removing polyurethane wood finish with the use of a chemical stripper:

#1 Safety

While removing polyurethane from wood it is really important to know that safety comes first. You want to be wearing old, long sleeve clothes because you do not want any of the chemicals to splash on your skin. It is also recommended to wear safety goggles, a face mask and a pair of chemical-resistant gloves.

Chemical strippers release toxic fumes, so remember to close the container as soon as you are done applying them. Also, put some newspapers beneath the woodwork you are dealing with. Finally, and most importantly, carefully read the instructions on the product you are using.

Some of these removers are for outside use only, so keep an eye open for this.


#2 Application

Let us get things started ! Of course, there are many different products which you can use, but the general rule of price-quality ratio stands, so we will leave the choice to you, depending on your budget.

Once you have bought the desired chemical polyurethane removal tool, proceed to apply a thick layer of it with a paintbrush, or just spray it onto the surface area if you bought it in spray form. Pay special attention to intricate parts of the wood, do not let them be left out. Remember, you need a good amount of the stripper.

#3 Wait

Put the brush down and let the remover take effect. Follow the instruction for measuring the accurate time for this, it varies from product to product.

Put a wax paper over the surface if you do not want fumes evaporating in your room. Be patient, do not start with the removal until the remover has completely dried off.

#4 Removal

After waiting long enough for polyurethane to go soft, scrape it off with a metal scrapping tool or a plastic putty knife. If some of it remains stuck, steel wool will help you in getting rid of it completely.

In case you do not have steel wool you can use some sort of brush (wire brush, tooth brush) instead. Start doing this only when you notice the scrapper or knife became ineffective. Steel wool is especially effective on the intricate areas or crevices in the wood.

#5 Repetition

Do not get discouraged if you haven't succeeded in removing all of the paint in the first try. It happens often, especially if you are removing thick layers of it. Reapplication of these steps will ensure the complete removal of the pesky remaining paint. Rinse and repeat, and you will be good to go.

#6 Sanding

Sand your woodwork once you have completely removed the finish. If the information we have already provided in this article is not enough, you can find more sanding tips online. Read on for the final step of how to remove polyurethane from wood.

#7 Cleaning

Some finish removers require you to wash the woodwork after their usage in order to neutralize all the toxic chemicals. Do this as the instructs demand you to. Throw away any brushes you used, unless you think you will need them again for the same process.

As for the steel wool and the rags you used, wash them and then throw away both them, this water and the leftover remover(unless you think you will need it) into a proper hazardous waste facility where you live. Do not throw this into a regular trash can because it is really bad for the environment.


If you have followed all these steps with care and dedication you will most assuredly have no trouble in achieving your goals. Be sure to take precaution, these chemicals are dangerous and not to be taken lightly.

Have in mind that this will not be an effortless job, you will need lots of patience and commitment to do it right. We hope that you found this article to be helpful and inspiring and that the information we presented will save your valuable time.

If it really helped, consider sharing these tips on how to remove polyurethane from wood with your friends, family, or coworkers. Thank you for taking your time, and sticking with us till the end.

Read more about woodworking here.

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