How to Strip Polyurethane: A Step-by-Step Guide


Hey there, Reader! Are you tired of that old polyurethane coating and want to give your surfaces a fresh new look? Well, you’ve come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process of stripping polyurethane step by step. By the end of this article, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to tackle this DIY project with confidence. So, let’s get started!

how to strip polyurethane

Prepping Your Work Area

Create Cross-Ventilation

Before diving into the polyurethane stripping process, it’s important to create cross-ventilation in your workspace. Open doors and windows to allow fresh air to circulate, ensuring proper ventilation and minimizing fumes from the paint stripper you’ll be using. This simple step will keep the air quality in your work area safe and comfortable.

Protect the Floor

No one wants to deal with accidental spills or stains on their floors. To avoid any damage, make sure to protect your floor before starting the polyurethane stripping process. You can use tape to cover and secure protective drop cloths or plastic sheets. This precautionary measure will save you from the hassle of cleaning up later.

Protect Yourself

Safety should always be a top priority when working with chemicals and tools. Before you begin, ensure you’re wearing the appropriate protective clothing. Closed-toed shoes, long sleeves, and pants will safeguard your skin from any potential splatters or accidents. Don’t forget safety goggles and gloves to shield your eyes and hands from any harmful substances you may encounter.

Applying the Paint Stripper

Paint a Liberal Coating of Stripper

Now it’s time to apply the paint stripper. Choose a high-quality stripper that is specifically designed for removing polyurethane. Following the instructions on the product, generously apply the stripper onto the surface you wish to strip. Use a brush or a roller to ensure an even application. Remember, the more stripper you apply, the better it will penetrate and dissolve the polyurethane coating.

Let It Soak In

Once you’ve applied the stripper, give it time to work its magic. The instructions on the product will specify the recommended duration for the stripper to penetrate the polyurethane coating. Allow the stripper to soak in according to those instructions, ensuring optimal results. This waiting period will allow the chemicals to break down the polyurethane, making it easier to remove.

Cover the Project If You Need to Take a Break

If you need to take a break during the stripping process, cover the project to prevent the stripper from drying out. Use plastic wrap or a plastic sheet to create an airtight barrier over the coated surface. This will help maintain the chemical activity of the stripper and ensure its effectiveness when you’re ready to resume the job.

Scrubbing off Polyurethane

Use a Scraper to Scrub It Down

Once the stripper has had enough time to work, it’s time to start scrubbing off the polyurethane. Use a scraper with a sharp, flat edge to gently scrape away the dissolved coating. Be careful not to apply too much pressure or you may damage the surface underneath. Move the scraper in the direction that removes the polyurethane most effectively, usually following the wood grain.

Use a Steel Brush to Get into Small Areas

For those intricate or hard-to-reach areas, like corners or crevices, a steel brush will come in handy. Use the brush to scrub away any remnants of polyurethane that the scraper might have missed. The stiff bristles will help you effectively remove the coating, leaving you with a clean surface.

Rub the Polyurethane Down with After Wash

After you’ve removed the majority of the polyurethane, it’s time for some additional cleaning. Grab a cloth and dampen it with an after wash solution specifically designed to remove paint residue. Use the cloth to gently rub the remaining polyurethane, ensuring a thorough cleanup. This step will help eliminate any traces of the coating, leaving you with a smooth and pristine surface.

Repeat as Needed

Depending on the thickness and stubbornness of the polyurethane coating, you may need to repeat the stripping process. Simply reapply the paint stripper, let it soak in, and repeat the scrubbing process until all the polyurethane has been successfully removed. Don’t rush and take your time to ensure the best results.

Sand the Surface to Remove Polyurethane

Once you’ve successfully stripped off the polyurethane, prepare the surface for refinishing by sanding it. Use a medium-grit sandpaper to remove any remaining traces of the coating and smooth out the surface. Be sure to follow the grain of the wood and be mindful of any delicate areas that may require a lighter touch. Sanding will provide you with a clean slate, ready for your desired finish.


Congratulations, Reader! You’ve made it through the complete guide on how to strip polyurethane. We hope that this step-by-step process has empowered you to take on this DIY task with confidence. Remember to maintain a safe work environment, protect your surfaces, and use the appropriate tools and chemicals. Now, go forth and transform your old polyurethane coatings into a beautiful new finish. Happy stripping!

If you enjoyed this guide, be sure to check out our other articles on refinishing and renovation projects. From painting techniques to furniture restoration, we have a wealth of knowledge to help you create the home of your dreams. Happy reading!

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