How to Remove Polyurethane from any Surface – Best Polyurethane Remover

Last Updated on June 1, 2022 by Bright Calister


Polyurethane on pieces of furniture gets old over time, and this can make your previous furniture unattractive. When they become worn-out, you reapply the same poly or remove them to apply a new one.

Reapplying poly may seem more straightforward, but you will discover that the poly doesn’t adhere well to the old paint, resulting in an uneven surface. In that case, removing them entirely with the best polyurethane remover is the next option.

However, although removing these paints is better, it’s even more challenging. Apart from the different removers out there, the processes involved are relatively complicated for a novice. For this reason, we have decided to come up with this review to help you get the best paint striper and teach you how to use it.

What Is a Polyurethane Remover?

A polyurethane remover or striper removes oil-based and water-based poly from wood and other surfaces. It does this by loosening the bond between the paint and the surface.

Polyurethane removers are of different types, and it’s vital that you choose the right one for effective paint removal. We shall discuss the different kinds of poly removers in the buyer’s guide section.

Why Opting for Polyurethane Remover Is Best

When it comes to removing polyurethane, there are two ways to go about it – using chemical strippers or sandpaper/sander. Sandpaper is less technical to use and leaves a smooth finish. However, it’s labor-intensive, and you could spend the whole day sanding off paint if it’s a massive project.

This makes paint stripers a better choice. It’s fast, easier, and less labor-intensive. Although using it involves understanding the process.

Reviews of the Top 4 Best Polyurethane Remover

1. Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover – Best Polyurethane Remover for Overall Performance

Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover is a biodegradable paint remover that gives off no fumes as you apply or remove paint. This remover has no methylene chloride and NMP, making it much safer for use.

This paint remover strips paints, such as varnish, polyurethane from wood, masonry, bricks, fiberglass, and metals indoors and outdoors. However, we were more impressed by how quick and convenient applying the remover is. You can use a brush, roller, or sprayer to remove any paint, whether the paint is a decade old or new, up to 15 coats.

It’s also safe to remove marine paints and lead-based paints from intricate interior and exterior surfaces without damaging the surface. It’s easy to clean, has decent coverage, and doesn’t require so much application. The product is of great value and outstanding, which is why we recommend it for use.

Pros

  • Safe to use and environmentally safe
  • Removes multiple layers of paints with ease
  • Odor-free
  • Can be applied via a sprayer, brush, or a roller
  • Convenient spraying
  • Great value for money

Cons

  • It doesn’t have excellent coverage.

Verdict

Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover is an affordable remover that is safe, eco-friendly, and versatile. The water-based stripper is effective in removing multiple layers of coats. We recommend this formula if you need a paint remover that will remove paint from most surfaces conveniently.

2. Dumond Chemicals Peel Away Heavy-Duty Paint Remover – Best Heavy-Duty Formula

Dumond Chemicals Peel Away Heavy-Duty Paint Remover is a thick formula that covers a wide area in one application. It can remove up to 32 layers of polyurethane coats in a single application, which is commendable.

This formula is non-toxic and safe to use. In addition to removing water-based and oil-based polyurethane, this highly viscous product removes lead paints.

Although the formula spreads well, it’s heavy to apply because of its thickness. Some DIYers will find it challenging to maintain consistency when using the remover.

Pros

  • Works indoors and outdoors
  • Spreads well
  • Great for removing several layers of coat
  • User-friendly

Cons

  • Expensive
  • You need to pay attention to details while using it.

Verdict

While this formula is excellent at removing several polys and lead paints layers and has good coverage, its thickness can hinder some users from applying it perfectly. Overall, it’s an excellent remover for peeling away paints.

3. Sunnyside Corporation Paint & Varnish Remover – Best Fast-Action Polyurethane Remover

If you are looking for a paint remover that can peel off polyurethane and varnish, this product can get it done for you.

Sunnyside Corporation produces one of the best effective, innovative, and trusted paint removers and other solvents for more than twelve decades. DIYers and professionals can all use this product because it’s uncomplicated.

We were amazed by the speed at which this remover soaked into the coatings. It takes less than ten minutes for the remover to work its way into the coating layers before you can remove the paint, depending on the type of paint. However, waiting longer will make the remover dry.

This formula is methylene-chloride-free, making it safe to use. It works on wood, metals, and masonry only and can remove multiple layers of paints in one application. This makes it highly effective.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Good deal
  • Non-toxic
  • Works on a variety of surfaces

Cons

  • It doesn’t have good coverage.
  • It doesn’t work well on lacquers.

Verdict

This is another eco-friendly product that will strip off the poly on your furniture. The fast-action formula is incredible, safe for use, and works well on several surfaces, although it doesn’t remove lacquers.

4. Confined Space Paint Strip Gel – Best Polyurethane Remover for Budget

Confined Space Paint Strip Gel is another non-toxic formula that you can use to remove paint. This formula can remove up to twenty layers of coats on surfaces like metal, brick, masonry, wood, etc.

When applied, this water-based stripper agent clings to the surface, breaking the bond between the paint and the surface. The formula is designed for small spaces and generally safe for humans, thanks to the absence of methylene chloride.

Instead of giving off toxic fumes as some chemical strippers, Confined Space Paint Strip Gel gives off a citrus lime scent. Therefore, you don’t need to wear a respirator to protect your lungs. It also spreads well and convenient to use.

Above all, you don’t need to break the bank to buy it, as it’s affordable. This is one of the formulas we love and recommend if you have a small project to work on.

Pros

  • Straightforward to apply
  • Removes multiple layers of coats easily
  • Has a good coverage
  • Affordable
  • Non-toxic and environmentally safe

Cons

  • It takes time to soak in before you can start removing the paint.

Verdict

Confined Space Paint Strip Gel does what it says. It works excellently well and emits nice scents to the point that you don’t have to worry about respirators. Overall, it’s another great product you can opt for on this list.

Best Polyurethane Remover Buyer’s Guide

When choosing the best polyurethane remover, you will come across different types, and this can further confuse you and make your choice more complicated. Each paint remover or stripper comes with unique features, and that’s why you have to be meticulous when purchasing.

To choose the best polyurethane remover, you need to consider the following factors;

Types of Paint Removers

Paint removers are divided into four major types – Solvents, Caustic paint removers, Biochemical paint removers, and Zero-VOC paint removers. Each of these removers is unique and is suited to removing polyurethane from certain surfaces. Let’s go over them one after the other.

Solvent Removers

Solvents are the most used paint removers because they are versatile. You can use them to remove polyurethane and epoxy from wood, metal surfaces, masonry, etc, without discoloration. Solvents are made up of chemicals like methanol, methylene chloride that loosen the paint’s hold over the surface.

We advise that you go for removers that have low or no Volatile Organic Compounds like methylene chloride. These compounds can lead to health hazards and damage the cerebral and reproductive systems. If you must use paint removers containing these high VOC products, you must wear a respirator to curb the strong fume, a chemical-resistant glove, and overalls.

Solvent removers only need to be applied in a thin layer and barely stay on the surface for fifteen minutes before you can remove the paints off the surface. After removing the surface with a scrapper, you must then wash with water or mineral spirit before applying new paints.

Caustic Removers

Caustic removers turn the paint into soap, thereby loosening its hold on the surface and making it convenient for you to wash the surface. They do this because of the active chemical ingredient Sodium Hydroxide inside.

Caustic removers work with oil-based polyurethane but are ineffective against epoxy. They are also somewhat versatile, as they work well on masonry surfaces, wood, and some metals. However, it would be best to be careful while using them on hardwoods such as maple, as their black appearance can easily be removed.

You can apply caustic removers in thin and semi-thin layers. However, they require at least thirty minutes before you can scrape off the paint from the surface. You should also note that caustic removers are alkaline. Therefore, you need to wipe it off with water and vinegar to neutralize its effect on the surface.

Like solvent removes, caustic paint removers can be detrimental to health. Therefore, you need to protect your eyes, lungs, and skin by wearing glasses, respirators, and overalls.

Biochemicals Removers

Biochemical removers combine a plant-based solvent like terpenes and N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone organic compound. They can remove polyurethane, whether water-based or oil-based, from masonry, wood, and metals. You can apply them in thick or thin layers.

However, biochemical removers have a longer waiting time compared to caustic and solvents. They are left for about four hours on the surface before you can remove the paint. You don’t need to neutralize anything with a solution; washing the surface with water or mineral spirits is fine.

Unlike caustic and solvents, biochemical strippers are safer to use because they contain low VOCs. However, the organic compound inside can irritate the skin and affect the reproductive organs. You still need to put on your protective gear while using the remover.

Zero-VOC Removers

If you have doubts about using any of the above removers, you can opt for the Zero-VOC removers. Zero-VOC removers, as the name suggests, have no VOC, Sodium Hydroxide, or N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone. They are odorless products made with naturally occurring solvents, such as benzyl alcohol.

Benzyl alcohol breaks the bond between the polyurethane and the surface. Zero-VOC works on metals, masonry, and wood, although not all wood types are okay with it. Zero-VOCs are the safest removers available but the priciest. However, they aren’t very effective against polyurethane. Wearing safety gear is still recommended.

You can apply Zero-VOC removers in thin and thick layers and are left for about three to 24 hours before the paint can be removed. Afterward, rinse with water or mineral spirits.

Sitting Time

Different paint removers have different sitting times. While you need to wait for some to sit on the surface for up to twenty-four hours, others need just a few minutes before you can remove the paint. You need to take note of the sitting time of the product after application.

How to Remove Polyurethane with a Paint Remover

Most novices often face challenges when trying to strip polyurethane off their furniture. This guide will teach you how to strip paint off using a remover successfully.

What You Need:

  • Safety gears like a respirator, rubber gloves, goggles, etc.
  • Plastic tarp
  • Paint remover
  • Paintbrush, roller, or sprayer
  • Paint scraper
  • Steel brush
  • Water, mineral spirits
  • Sandpaper

Steps

  • Prepare the work area by either creating cross-ventilation indoors or working outdoors if what you are working on is moveable. Some of the chemicals intended for use are harsh and have a strong odor. Therefore, you need to paint in an airy environment. To create a cross-ventilation, open the windows or place two portable fans inside – one blowing inwards and the other blowing outdoors.
  • Use a plastic tarp to shield the floor from drops of the remover.
  • Wear a respirator to protect your lungs, rubber gloves to shield the hands, overalls for the body, and goggles to protect the eyes.
  • Select the appropriate polyurethane remover and one that won’t cause so much harm to the skin or lungs. We recommend that you opt for eco-friendly removers, although they are not the most effective.
  • Using a paintbrush, roller, or sprayer, apply a coat of the remover on the polyurethane. The coat must be wet enough to soak into the polyurethane. For water-based removers, allow up to twenty-four hours to soak in properly, while chemical-based removers take a shorter time. Use an old paintbrush to get the remover to the tight spots in the furniture.
  • Use a plastic or metal scraper to peel off the surface as you work along. Scrap along the wood’s grain in the same direction until the majority of the paints are removed.
  • Some polyurethane paints might remain in certain areas that the scraper might not be able to remove. Use a metal brush in these areas to remove the poly.
  • Wash down the surface with water or mineral spirit afterward using a paper towel.
  • After the wash down, sand the surface with 150-grit sandpaper to remove the remaining polyurethane and smoothen the surface.
  • Dispose of the paint waste and other material used.

Tips and Tricks for Working with Polyurethane Removers

  • While working with a paint remover, you need to follow certain practices to maximize safety and effective remover use. Below are what you should know;
  • Use products that have less harmful chemicals. If possible, avoid poly paint removers that contain methylene chloride.
  • Place a chemical-resistant tarp over the floor and furniture that you can’t take away from the room.
  • Use polyurethane removers in a well-ventilated area, especially outdoors. If any of the furniture you want to work on is removable, we advise that you take them outdoors.
  • If you must remove polyurethane from the furniture indoors, ensure you place a fan behind you to circulate air.
  • Wear protective pieces of equipment to avoid contact with the striper.
  • Paint according to the instructions on the label. Apply in the recommended thickness, paint in short strokes in the same direction chosen. If it’s wood, move in the grain’s direction.
  • Allow the polyurethane remover to stay on the surface for the recommended time according to the instructions on the label.
  • Remove the paints with a paint scraper whose edges are relatively dulled—Lift off the paints in a rotary motion and the direction of the wood’s grain.
  • Gather the waste and dispose of it appropriately in a resealable plastic bag.

Some paint removers require the use of a neutralizing agent. Use the recommended solution in the package, and then test to see if the pH is equal to 7. If the paint refuses to come off, use a power washer with a relatively high PSI to rinse the surface.

Allow the surface to dry entirely. You can speed up the drying by turning on fans.

What will remove the polyurethane finish?

Paint remover can polyurethane finish. You can either use an already made remover or create one by mixing denatured alcohol with lacquer thinner.

How does vinegar remove polyurethane?

Vinegar removes polyurethane via an acidic reaction. Vinegar has a pH level of 2.4, which is considered acidic. The acid, when diluted, will soften the polyurethane and loosen its adhesion on the wood.

Does CitiStrip remove polyurethane?

Yes, CitiStrip can effectively remove polyurethane, whether in single or multiple layers. It can also remove varnish, lacquer, acrylics, epoxy, etc from masonry, brick, wood, and metal surfaces.

How do you neutralize wood after stripping?

You can neutralize wood after stripling use vinegar and water. The mixture of these two solvents will neutralize the remover or striping agent effectively. To do this, mix the two solvents in equal proportions, dip a paintbrush or a rag in the solution and apply on the surface.

Can you leave CitiStrip on too long?

Yes, you can leave CitiStrip on too long. As long as it remains wet, the manufacturer states that the striping agent will stay active on the surface and remove polyurethane for up to 24 hours.

What removes a clear coat from wood?

Sanding and stripping are the two methods you can use to remove clear coats and other wood paints. However, it’s always better to strip than to sand because it’s more convenient and less labor-intensive. Striping can make the job messy, considering that you will use a scraper later.

Do you need mineral spirits after striping?

Yes, you need it. After striping, you need mineral spirits to loosen the remaining paint and stripping agent from the surface.

Conclusion – Best Polyurethane Remover

Polyurethane removers are essential products that will make removing old paints from furniture more convenient. It’s faster and more efficient than sanding, as it removes more paint.

Although there are plenty of paint stripers in the market, we have selected the best for you based on their effectiveness, eco-friendliness, and safety. The best polyurethane remover should be odorless, biodegradable, and have minimal effect on humans. These products reviewed here fit into the categories.

So when next you want to revamp the appearance of your old furniture, but looking for how to remove the existing paint, you can opt for any of these products. Be rest assured that they will perform outstandingly.

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