How To Remove Polyurethane From Wood? | The Full Process

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Polyurethane coating is great from the durability & appearance perspective. Generally, you’ll see two types of polyurethane – oil-based & water-based polyurethane. Both of them have their own advantages & disadvantages. The major problem with oil-based polyurethane is the yellow effect it gets overtime. 

On the other hand, water-based polyurethane doesn’t turn yellow, but it’s not resistant to alcohol & acids. Don’t you think removing the polyurethane will solve all the problems? But the question arises – is it possible? If yes, how to remove polyurethane from wood? Stay tuned as I’ll be 

answering all of these questions in this article.

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Is It Possible To Remove Polyurethane From Wood?

Removing polyurethane from wood is possible in various ways. However, chemical strippers do the job more conveniently. Though chemical stripper is great in terms of removing polyurethane, it’s slightly riskier too. 

Things You’ll Need To Get Started:

  • Chemical Paint Stripper 
  • #0000 Steel Wood
  • Plastic Scraper 
  • Spray
  • Paint Brush &  wire brush
  • Face Mask
  • Safety Goggles 
  • Thick Rubber Gloves
  • Sandpaper 
  • Waxed Paper

How To Remove Polyurethane From Wood: A Complete 5 Steps Guide 

Don’t forget to prepare your room before starting this polyurethane removal project. Make sure your room is well-ventilated & don’t forget to turn on the fan. Collect the materials I’ve mentioned above so that you can follow along with me. Finally, follow these steps below to remove polyurethane from wood using a chemical stripper:

Step 1: Apply Chemical Paint Stripper

Apply chemical paint stripper on the furniture surface. Use brush or spray to do this task. I recommend using spray entirely as it reduces work-load. Don’t cover all the furniture at once; treat 1 X 1-meter area at a time.

Step 2: Let Chemical Dry For 15 Minutes Or So

Depending on what chemical you use, you may have to wait 15 minutes or more to let the chemical dry. It’s worth mentioning that chemicals won’t be very effective in a place with evaporation problems. In this type of situation, use a waxed paper state just applying paint stripper. 

Step 3: Remove The Polyurethane Using Scrapper 

After the waiting & drying period, it’s time to remove polyurethane. Use the scrapper to slide through the wood following the wood grain. You’ll notice the polyurethane coating is coming out. Do it for sometimes & the full layer of polyurethane coating will be detached entirely. 

Step 4: Use #0000 Steel Wool If Necessary

This step doesn’t apply to plain wood surfaces. Scrapper can’t remove polyurethane from cracks & you’ll need steel for this task. A fine wool like #0000 steel wool performs best removing polyurethane without doing significant damages. 

Step 5: Sand The Surface Thoroughly 

At this point, you should have removed polyurethane from wood entirely. Now it’s time for the final finishing task, which is sanding. Use 100-120 grit sandpaper to have a polished & smooth finishing. 

Precautions While Removing Polyurethane From Wood

Polyurethane Finish contains highly toxic substances. You don’t want to inhale some of these toxic substances while breathing, do you? That’s why consider following these precautions I’ve mentioned below to stay safe while working with a chemical stripper. 

  • Avoid chemical-based strippers if you don’t have a well-ventilated workspace. Use water-based products instead.
  • Only a well-ventilated areas are suitable for working with a chemical-based stripper. 
  • Rubber gloves are a must working with a chemical stripper.
  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt & long pants to avoid chemical contact with your skin.
  • Don’t forget to wear a mask like KN95 if you’re working with a chemical containing mineralized alcohols & Methylene Chloride. 

Is It Possible To Remove Polyurethane From Wood Without Chemicals?

Yes, it is possible to remove polyurethane from wood without harsh chemicals. Instead of using chemicals, you’ll be using your own home-made varnish remover to remove polyurethane. In this segment, I’ll be showing the exact procedure of removing polyurethane from wood without chemicals. 

Things You’ll Need To Get Started:

  • Water – Hot & Cold
  • Cup, Bucket & Tablespoon 
  • Cornstarch
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar 
  • Paintbrush 
  • Wire Brushes Or, 3M Heavy Duty Stripping Pads
  • Fine Grit sandpaper 

How To Remove Polyurethane From Wood Without Chemicals: A Complete 4 Steps Guide

After collecting everything you need to get started, you’re ready to start this polyurethane removal project. Follow these steps below:

Step 1: Make Your Varnish Remover Mixture

To create a varnish remover mixture, you’ll need – 4 cups warm water(boiled), ½ cup water(cold), 1 cup of cornstarch, ¾ cup of baking soda & 1 tbsp of vinegar. 

Apply 1 cup of cornstarch with ½ cup of water & create a paste. Take a bucket & fill it with 4 cups of boiled water. After that, add ¾ cup of baking soda & 1 tablespoon vinegar to the bucket. Stir them thoroughly & add this mixture to your cornstarch & cold water. After the mixing process, you’ll have your varnish remover mixture in hand & ready to apply on wood. 

Step 2: Apply The Varnish Remover

Apply the varnish remover on your wooden furniture using a paint brush. You can also use cloth, 

depending on your preferences. Let the varnish remover dry for 3 to 5 minutes.

Step 3: Scrub Using Stripping Pads Or Wire Brushes

Now scrub the furniture using wire brushes or stripping pads. Don’t hesitate to pressurize if needed. Scrub until there is no slick feeling, which indicates the complete removal of polyurethane.  

Step 4: Sand The Furniture Thoroughly

Sanding is the final touch your furniture needs after removing the polyurethane coating. Start sanding with 60 grit sandpaper & continue leveling up until you get the smoothness you desire.

Is It Possible To Remove Polyurethane From Wood Without Sanding?

Yes, it is possible to remove polyurethane from wood without sanding. You’ll need two chemical mixtures to do this job quickly & effectively. In this segment of removing polyurethane, I’ll show how you can remove polyurethane from wood without sanding. 

Things You’ll Need To Get Started:

  • Lacquer Thinner
  • Denatured Alcohol
  • Wooden Stir Stick 
  • Empty Paint Can/Bucket
  • #0000 Steel Wool  
  • Wood Cleaner

How To Remove Polyurethane From Wood Without Sanding: A Complete 4 Steps Guide

If you’ve already collected the products mentioned above, follow these steps below to remove polyurethane from wood without sanding:

Step 1: Create a Varnish Remover Mixture

Mix lacquer thinner & denatured alcohol into a small bucket. Stir this mixture with a wooden stir. Later on, this mixture will be used as your polyurethane stripper, AKA varnish remover mixture. 

Step 2: Apply The Varnish Remover

Apply the varnish remover mixture on the furniture using a paint brush clean cloth. You can overlap using brushstrokes to cover the whole area. Wait for about 10 seconds so that the mixture can dissolve the polyurethane coat. 

Step 3: Remove Stripper & Polyurethane Using Steel Wool

After 10 seconds of keeping the varnish remover, use steel wool to remove both stripper & polyurethane. I recommend using #0000 steel wool for this job. 

Step 4: Wash & Clean The Wood Thoroughly

This step is applicable only if there’s any stripper residue remaining. Wash the wood thoroughly using any wood cleaner. Rinse the surface with warm water if needed. 

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ

What Is The Best Sandpaper Grit To Use In Removing The Polyurethane Coat On A Hardwood Floor?

120 grit sandpaper performs best removing polyurethane coat on a hardwood floor. You’ll get a smooth finish with 120 grit sandpaper. On the other hand, 60 or 80 grit sandpaper won’t work removing the polyurethane & giving a smooth finish. That’s why I recommend using 120 grit sandpaper while removing a polyurethane coat on a hardwood floor. 

Can Paint Thinner Remove Polyurethane From Wood?

No, paint thinner alone can’t remove polyurethane from wood. If you’ve no way other than using paint thinner to remove polyurethane, add another substance, which is paint stripper. You can use a mixture of paint stripper & paint thinner to soften the polyurethane. Later on, you can use any scrapper or Metal wool to remove the polyurethane coating entirely. 

Can You Sand Polyurethane Off Wood?

Yes, you can sand polyurethane off the wood. After using chemical or other varnish removers, you’ll find a very small amount of polyurethane coating. The remaining polyurethane coating can be removed with a fine-grit sandpaper. Depending on the polyurethane condition, you can use 80 to 150 grit sandpaper to remove polyurethane from wood. 


I hope this article was helpful enough to satisfy your queries regarding removing polyurethane from wood. I’ve discussed several ways of removing polyurethane from wood so that you can remove polyurethane no matter what happens. 

I recommend using the chemical paint stripper method to be the most convenient if you want my recommendation. To be safe from Methylene Chloride. Please cover yourself well (with a mask, Rubber glove) before starting this polyurethane removal project.

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