How to Remove Polyurethane from Wood Floors

Last Updated on May 27, 2022 by Bright Calister

How to remove polyurethane from wood floors? The use of polyurethane for wood gives a high-gloss and durable finish to wood floors. You can purchase polyurethane in oil-, or water-based form. The oil-based type is water-resistant and alcohol and acids-resistant too. But, this type turns yellow after some years.

On the other hand, water-based polyurethane lasts longer than the oil-based counterpart. However, they are not resistant to water, alcohol, or acids. In addition, the water-based ones are softer than oil-based finishes.

Although both sets of polyurethane give years of good service if you handle them in the right way, sometimes it becomes critical to removing them from your wood floors.

This article will consider ways that will enable you to obliterate polyurethane from wood floors.

How to Remove Polyurethane from Wood Floors

Materials you will need
We will like to inform you of the essential tools you need to accomplish this project if you are doing it on your own.

  • Paintbrush
  • Chemical paint
  • Scraper ( 3-inches)
  • Rags
  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Sandpaper
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles or face mask

Having listed the materials you will need, we shall explain the process involved in the project.

Prep the work area
It would be best if you prepared yourself and the workplace before you can commence the process. The following steps will assist you in getting the workplace ready.

Establish cross-ventilation You can’t remove polyurethane without the use of chemicals. Since these chemicals are primarily harsh, you need to stay in a well-ventilated area to keep yourself safe. If possible, step outside to commence your work. However, that won’t be possible with floors.

Therefore, you need to establish proper cross-ventilation for your safety. You can create cross-ventilation by taking the following steps.

Open the doors and windows in the room.

Also, you can set up two fans and make one blow inward while the other blow towards the outside to enable the air to circulate properly.

Protect yourself

Paint strippers can cause severe damage to your skin if you don’t handle them properly. Therefore, you need rubber gloves to keep your hands safe. Then, it would be best if you used the safety goggle to protect your eyes. Lastly, it would be best if you had a respirator to keep you from inhaling the fumes.

If it is possible, you should carry out your work in long-sleeved shirts and pants. Also, put on shoes to avoid exposing your body at any time during the project to the harsh chemicals you are working with.

Select a paint stripper

Chemical-based paint strippers like methylene chloride are the best option for paint strippers. But, they are tough on the skin and can trigger respiratory problems if you don’t handle them with care. If the effects of these chemicals worry you, go for the water-based strippers. However, they take longer for them to work.

Apply the paint stripper Best Polyurethane Remover

The next step in this project is to apply the paint stripper you selected. The following steps will enable you to complete the task perfectly.

Paint a liberal coat of the stripper on the floor

It would help if you coated the area affected with polyurethane with a paint stripper. You have to make the floor look wet with the stripper. Hence, you have to apply a generous amount of the coat on the floor. It would be best to use a paintbrush to make the spread easier.

You should ensure that all corners of the floor are covered. The kind of paintbrush you use for the work is not essential. However, you should use the type of brush that you can quickly dispose of after use.

Allow the stripper to soak.

There is a lot of work for the stripper to do. Hence, it would help if you allowed it to soak the polyurethane properly. Typically, ten minutes is the required time for proper soaking of the stripper on the wood floor. The best way to know the stripped has soaked enough is the sign of wrinkling and bubbling you will see on the polyurethane.

If you decide to use the water-based stripper, it will require more work. So, it would be best if you allowed it to soak for at least six hours. But, again, it would be best to read the manufacturers’ instructions at the back of the can to be sure about the time required for the stripper to soak properly.

If you need a break, cover the project.

Sometimes, the work will take longer than you expect. Therefore, it is not usually for you to take a bathroom break or a lunch break. However, you must cover the project when you take a break to ensure the paint stripper remains wet for as long as necessary.

If you don’t cover the project, the chance is the stripper will dry prematurely, and that will lead to a waste of time and resources. Instead, you can use a plastic tap to cover the project by placing it over the affected part of the wood floor.

Removing the polyurethane

Here comes the most challenging part of the project. It is the most time-consuming part of the work too. It will be best to scrape the varnish with hand. The best way to go about it is to use a plastic knife or a scraper to eliminate it.
Plastic is an excellent product that won’t cause any damage to the underlying wood floor.

You can start by using a rag to peel it off. It would be best to use a back and forth motion to remove the softened polyurethane carefully. Immediately after, use a clean rag to wipe the area. It would be best if you dipped the rag in water or in any solvent suggested by the manufacturers of the striper you were using. Afterward, use another dry rag to wipe off excess water or solvent.

If you can’t get into small or tight places, you can use a steel brush. It would be best to scrape the wood in the direction of the world grain because rubbing against the grain can damage the floors’ surface. Additionally, if you include any scratches, they will appear as the grain of the wood.

Steel brush will enable you to get into curved or decorative areas, so if you scrub without a metal brush, the polyurethane won’t leave the nooks and crannies of the floors after the wash is an excellent solvent apply after the paint stripper.

The wash aims to clean up the end of the polyurethane and remove the paint stripper you applied. It would be best to use a clean rag to rub it on the area. You don’t have to allow it to soak.

If you can’t remove all the polyurethane the first time, repeat the entire process. Use another coat of paint stripper on the floor, scrape it again, check if polyurethane is gone.


When you notice that the polyurethane is mainly gone, you should sand what is left. For example, you can use 150-grit sandpaper. The use of sandpaper will smooth the surface and get rid of the remaining polyurethane.

Since you have used the after wash, most of the polyurethane should be gone already. Hence, you don’t have to use heavy-duty sandpaper for this part of the project. However, you should ensure that you use a gran towards the wood grain to avoid damage.

The last part of the removal process is to soak your rags and brushes in water to prevent fires. Then, take the water and rags to a water disposal unit alongside the remaining stripper. It would help if you did not throw the rags and strippers directly into the trash or sewer. You can contact your local area to enable you to locate a waste disposal center.

How to take care of the bare wood

After removing polyurethane from the wood floor, it is crucial to take care of the wood without the polyurethane. Immediately you remove the protective cover, you need to clean the exposed wood.

The first step is to get rid of debris with the use of a wood cleaner. Clean it with warm water and pat dry the area properly. Then, clean up both the polyurethane and the paint stripper used. If you use a paper towel, it won’t take much time to remove them.

How to remove polyurethane from your hands

We know you saw the safety measures we spoke about earlier. However, you may make a mistake and get some of the polyurethane on your skin and hands. So we will explain simple ways to help you get rid of polyurethane when it gets on your skin.

Materials you need

  • Mineral spirits
  • Soap
  • Warm water
  • Lotion
  • Moisturizer
  • Removing polyurethane from hands

You can use many ways to get rid of polyurethane from your hands. But, we shall only discuss four methods.

Step 1

First, you have to get an empty and well-ventilated area with little or no risk of flames. Next, take out some mineral spirit and rub them on your hands. It would be best to be careful so you don’t apply the excess quantity of the mineral spirit on your skin.

If you do that, it can be harmful to your skin. Also, using a shop rag can help you control the amount of mineral spirit you use.

Step 2

Immediately after covering your skin with mineral spirit, start washing your hands and the affected area with soap water. You should ensure the water you use is warm. Furthermore, use a bar of dish soap to break the stickiness of polyurethane. Continue to rinse your hands until you feel the sickness is gone.

Step 3

You can use additional means if the polyurethane don’t off after the second step. The use of a moisturizer is an excellent choice. First, rub the moisturizer on your hands. Afterward, wash your hands with soap and warm water again.

Step 4

If you notice stickiness when drying your hands, it means the polyurethane has not left your hands. However, chances are your hands will become dry due to frequent washing. The best way to overcome this problem is to apply lotion.

Apply the lotion and rub it in your hands. Then, wash it with soap and warm water again. This step should take care of any remaining polyurethane in your hands or skin.

Conclusion-How to Remove Polyurethane from wood Floors

We hope you have learned the best ways to get rid of polyurethane from wood floors. All you need to do is apply what you have learned from this article, and you will be able to remove any polyurethane content on the wood floor. However, you need to be patient and follow the process diligently because it is a long process.

Also, we discussed how to remove polyurethane from your hands and skin if it gets there. The process is not complicated, so that anyone can follow them easily. We wish you luck in your future project.

Important Reads:

How to Remove Polyurethane from Brush

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Best Airless Paint Sprayer for Cabinets

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