How to get Polyurethane off your Hands – How to Remove Polyurethane from Hands

Last Updated on May 7, 2022 by Bright Calister

Polyurethane is a chemical substance widely used in various home appliances. It could be present in the paint or varnish of your furniture.

However, no matter how watchful you are when applying polyurethane-based finishes, there is every likelihood that some of it would get to your hands or skin, which is where the trouble begins. Because this substance contains chemicals that could be harmful to your skin, you want to get it off as quickly as possible, so it doesn’t lead to any further damage.

So this article is structured to tell you how to get Polyurethane off your hands. Because honestly, only soap and water cannot do the job, so you just want to follow through till the end of this piece while we take you on the easy steps by which this is done. So let’s get started.

Wood Polyurethane Formulas- Knowing what kind of Polyurethane is on your hands.

Before you learn how to remove Polyurethane from your hands, you must first know what type of Polyurethane is on the wood so as not to waste our time and yet get a perfect result.

Polyurethane, as a substance, exists in two different varieties. The oil-based and water-based. But how do we characterize each Polyurethane form and tell them apart?

Well, if you’re able to get the polyurethane can, that’s the first place you want to get what variety it is, but if you can’t access the can for whatever reason, you try the following options.

Oil-based Polyurethane

As a result of the thinning agent that this particular variety has as a solvent, you want to make do with paint thinner to clean it off the surface.

Therefore, you get a cotton board, saturate it in mineral spirit, and then wipe it on your hands’ stained spot. If the varnish stain comes off, it sure the oil-based type.

However, you can also consider the physical attributes of the varnish on your hand. For instance, oil-based Polyurethane tends to have an amber or brown hue and a sharp odor. So if you observe this, you can go ahead to confirm it with a thinner test.

Water-based Polyurethane

Water is the principal solvent utilized in this product. Therefore, you’ll need a lot of it to get this varnish off any surface.
To begin, wash your hands with soap and water under running water. While you do so, if the Polyurethane keeps getting softened and, in a way, is getting off your hands, then you most likely may be using the water-based variety.

However, on the other hand, water-based Polyurethane tends to be pretty light and clear, so if you’re Keen, this could also be over way to identify it.

You can also sink a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and then rub it on the tacky spot. If this surface softens and begins to come off your hands, then you already know what your answer is, and if it doesn’t, it can only imply it’s the oil-based type.
Now that you can identify what paint type you’re working with, how do you get Polyurethane off your hands?

Removing oil-based Polyurethane off your hands.

There are undoubtedly several ways to remove Polyurethane from your hands, but we only discuss how this is done with an oil-based variety. Mineral spirit is the primary element that this method indulges in removing Polyurethane.

Basic Requirements

To get rid of Polyurethane from your hands, below are some of the materials you’d need.

Mineral spirits

These are petroleum-based substances that remove oily items. Mineral spirit is one major key secret to removing Polyurethane as they are commonly used for painting.

Warm water

This is important to remove any sticky substance from your skin.


When using mineral spirit, soap is unavoidably essential to use. This is to clear off the mineral spirit because if not properly washed, it could become harmful.


Due to regular washing of hands, your hand tends to dry out quickly. So you want to give your hands some moisture by using lotion at the end of the process.

Baby oil or any moisturizer

This is used to remove polyurethane stains from hands.

STEP1: Apply mineral spirit

To start with, you want to get an empty and highly ventilated area without any risk of flames. Then you take some mineral spirits and rub them on your hands.

Note: Too much application of mineral spirit can be harmful to your skin, so be careful not to use many of it.
To have control over the mineral spirit you’re using, you can make use of a shop rag.

STEP 2:Wash your hands

This is where the soap and warm water mixture comes in. After you’ve completely covered the area of Polyurethane with mineral spirit, it’s time for you to make use of soap and warm water to wash your hands.

Note: Emphasis on the warm water.
Also, you can use dish soap as this helps to break the stickiness of Polyurethane. You continue to do this until you can no longer feel the stickiness, then you dry your hands.

STEP 3: Make use of additional methods

In most cases, the Polyurethane should have been off your hands by this time. But in case it isn’t off yet, you can try using this step.

Get some baby oil or moisturizer and rub it onto your hands. If you like, you can also make use of peanut butter. Rub your hands properly with the moisturizing elements, then wash your hands again with soap and water and dry.

STEP 4: Apply Lotion

After drying your hands, by now, you’d feel no stickiness anymore, which means that the Polyurethane has completely varnished. However, due to too much washing of hands, your hands can feel a little dry. So, for this reason, you can use a lotion or any other moisturizer just to give your hands that tender sensation.

Removing water-based Polyurethane off your hands.

As earlier mentioned, water and soap are the essential items needed for this method.


Apply dish soap to your hands and add just a very little water.


In the presence of these cleaning agents, rub your hands together to loosen the water-based Polyurethane on your hands. You might also scrape the tacky varnish off with your fingernail.
Probably the Polyurethane on your hand had been dried off already. You can For a few minutes, immerse your hands in soapy water—one nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol to break it off your hands.


Thoroughly rinse your hands in warm water, then dry and moist with hand lotion.

Getting Polyurethane off your hands without using mineral spirit.

Mineral spirit is a clear, liquid solvent that may be used to dissolve Polyurethane on your hands. It’s used to thin most oil-based cosmetics. This solvent works fast when breaking polyurethane bonds on skin and hands.

However, while the mineral spirit is just perfect and the best solvent for removing Polyurethane, there are quite a number of some common household items that can come to your rescue. While using any of these substitutes, follow the same procedure as though you’re using mineral spirits.

Using a Soy-based polyurethane stripper is one effective option for removing Polyurethane. This product is more friendly to the skin and as well, bioactive.

It uses baby oil, vegetable oil, or peanut butter. These are safer options that don’t expose you to harsh chemicals and are also widely used alternatives for mineral spirits when removing Polyurethane from skin and hands.

Note: When working with peanut butter, opt for the creamy one and not the chunky variety.
Alcohol is also a great option here. Using denatured alcohol or rubbing alcohol(Isopropyl alcohol) would help you lift Polyurethane off your hands. However, ensure to make use of it in a properly ventilated area.

White vinegar also tends to dissolve Polyurethane for easy removal.
Using acetone on Polyurethane is also very effective when breaking this bond. This product is most contained in fingernail polish remover.

You can also opt for a hand or waterless cleaner such as fast orange to remove polyurethane drops while it’s still wet.
You can also try to get paint thinner like WD-40. This product works as quickly as mineral spirit would when removing Polyurethane from hands.

But to avoid dryness, you must rinse it off your skin as soon as possible and moisturize the area.
After using any of the above substitutes, wash your hands and dry your hands with a soft cloth after washing with liquid dish soap and warm water. Then dry your hands with a soft cloth.

Conclusion – How to get Polyurethane off your hands

Polyurethane is used to protect items made of wood by sealing. Meanwhile, exposure to the isocyanate it contains can lead to long-term health implications. So it is always best to avoid skin exposure to Polyurethane where possible.

However, several washes mentioned above can help you get Polyurethane off your hands when this exposure occurs. At the same time, you protect the skin on your hands from dryness and irritation with a moisturizing lotion.

Important Reads:

Top 4 Best Polyurethane Remover (Review & Buyers’ Guide 2022)

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