Did you know that there are alternatives found in your kitchen and local hardware you can use to remove polyurethane without sanding the wood? And they’re simpler than you think!
Polyurethane, when coated, becomes durable. So, these methods need chemicals to work, requiring you to be extra careful. Our professional woodworkers listed methods below and added precautions if needed.
How to Get Rid of Polyurethane Without Sanding: 3 Methods
Method #1: Using a Paint Stripper
Make sure you ventilate the area before you start. Paint stripper is easily inhaled and absorbed by the skin. Protect yourself against direct contact with the compound by wearing gloves and a long-sleeve shirt, and covering your mouth with a thick mask or respirator.
Step #1: Clear the Space
Clear out things that get in the way to avoid accidents and have a more fluid operation. Clean the surface of the wood of dust, and cover the floor with paper that will catch the spills.
Step #2: Use the Citrus Stripper
Shake the container. Coat the surface with citrus stripper thickly and evenly. The gel will become orange if you put enough along the surface.
Step #3: Allow for it to Dry
Step #4: Scrape the Poly Off
The compound reacting will peel the polyurethane layers off the wood. Then scrape it with a putty knife or a plastic scraper after.
Reminder: If you use fillers or putty to seal pores and wood grains, make sure you know the drying time of wood putty or filler before you proceed with the subsequent steps.
Step #5: Wash Away
You can simply spray soap and water if you don’t have an after wash, mineral spirit, or degreaser. However, a dedicated after wash is advisable if it leaves a strong smell. Wipe it with a clean cloth, then rinse with water.
Method #2: Baking Soda and Vinegar to Avoid Chemicals
We prefer you use these kitchen ingredients if you want to be environmental and safe. Vinegar softens the poly finish. When mixed with baking soda and cornstarch, it can effectively remove the finish.
Step #1: Get the Mix Ready
Mix your cornstarch with the hot water to create a paste. Then gradually add cold water. When reached desired texture, add baking soda and vinegar, and stir it properly.
Step #2: Use a Paintbrush to Spread on Wood
Spread the mixture across the wood. Let it soften the poly coat, then strip it with a scraper or brush.
Step #3: Sand if Needed
If unsatisfied with the result, scrub it with sandpaper until you remove all the poly residues.
Method #3: Applying Lacquer Thinner + Denatured Alcohol
Lacquer thinner and denatured alcohol is cheaper, and the smell is not as strong as paint stripper.
Step #1: Get the Space Ready
Ventilate and clean your working space before you start. Make sure you wear protective gear and place sheets of paper on the floor to avoid spills.
Step #2: Mix the Thinner and Alcohol
Mix thinner with alcohol in equal amounts in an empty can. The mixture will soften the poly coating in your wood.
Step #3: Apply on the Surface
Soak your paintbrush in the mixture. Then stroke it across the surface of the wood following the direction of the woodgrain.
Step #4: Rub the Mixture Off
Using steel brush, rub the mixture off within a few seconds — long enough to soften the coating and avoid the mixture penetrating the wood.
Step #5: Wash Away With Warm Water
Make sure the wood is free of mixture. Wash it away with warm water once you’re done.
Will I Be Able to Remove Polyurethane by Sanding?
Paint stripper is toxic, so you’re looking for a safer alternative. If vinegar and baking soda are unavailable, sanding is your next safe option. It doesn’t emit harmful fumes, and no toxic chemicals are involved.
Sanding is labor-intensive, consuming electricity and your body’s energy, but is effective and safe. Fine sanding works well in removing the remaining poly on wood and coarse grit sandpaper evens out lumpy parts.
A mechanical sander works faster than sandpaper while requiring less effort from the body. However, they can leave patterns on your wood surface that is hard to remove. We suggest you use a reliable belt sander as it is easier to control than orbital and disk types.
Using a finishing sander and water-based sanding are great alternatives, as well. But they’re less effective and only work great as finishing touches.
Interesting Read: Grit of Sandpaper Equivalent to 0000 Steel Wool
Below are tips to consider when sanding to remove poly from wood:
Removal of Polyurethane From Wood: Key Tips and Tricks
Paint stripper is more efficient and effective at removing poly than sander. Follow the instructions on the label properly, always take note of the risks, and be careful. Ventilate the workspace and wear safety gear appropriately to avoid woodworking accidents.
If you use other methods besides sanding, the chemical reaction may leave a foul smell. It can lead to health risks, so apply after wash or mineral spirit. Paint strippers usually put recommended after wash on the label. It is best to follow it.
Consider the age of polyurethane in expecting paint stripper effectivity. A 10-year-old poly is harder to remove than a 2-year-old poly.
To avoid scratches, use rubber materials when you scrape or brush off the coat, following the woodgrain pattern.
A mixture of vinegar and baking soda is the safest and most environmentally friendly option. It may not work as effectively or quickly as other methods, so try to sand it with fine-graded grits.
Why Apply Polyurethane on Wood?
Poly is a type of plastic that is used to seal various types of surfaces. If fabricated as wood coating, it can have multiple advantages:
Makes the Piece or Surface More Durable
Poly finish is the most resilient, durable, and effective at protecting your wood when it dries. It is tough enough to resist water, high energy radiation from the sun, and dents and scratches caused by other objects.
Keeps it Protected from UV and Water Damage
Polyurethane’s chemical properties are structured so that the sun’s UV rays cannot simply penetrate through it. It also repels more water than it absorbs, decreasing your wood’s chances of permeating and softening due to water exposure.
Also Read: Can You Apply Stain On Top of Polyurethane?
Oil or Water-Based Polyurethane: Which is Better?
Oil-based poly contains a higher concentration of chemical compounds that extends its durability. It offers more protection against heat, moisture, and other weather conditions. It lasts longer and is more resistant to scratches.
Water-based is easy to apply and releases low odor. It becomes ideal when used indoors, where the wood has less exposure to rain or sunlight.
When is it Time to Remove Polyurethane From Wood?
You can remove poly from wood for various reasons. We listed some below.
Signs of Damage
When the layer of protection is damaged, it is better to do a complete replacement than to patch the damaged area temporarily.
Refinishing your wood extends its lifespan while having a new look.
Get Rid of the Gloss
You might have changed your preference for a glossy finish and decided to coat your wood with something else.
But aside from a glossy finish, you might also want to consider having a satin or semi-gloss finish.
What is the best way to remove polyurethane from wood?
The best way to remove polyurethane from wood is using paint stripper.
How do baking soda and vinegar remove polyurethane?
Mixing baking soda and vinegar removes polyurethane as they create a chemical reaction that softens the coated surface. Then it peels off the wood when scraped.
Can you use a heat gun to remove polyurethane?
You can use heat gun to remove polyurethane from wood with minimal skills. Heat gun can melt the coating when right temperature is met. It is non-toxic and works quicker than sanding.
Can acetone get rid of polyurethane?
Acetone is a flammable liquid strong enough to dissolve polyurethane . It mixes well with water and has low evaporation rate. It’s practical to have in your home since it’s mainly used for housekeeping and as a removal agent.
How can I determine if it’s okay to remove polyurethane without sanding?
Check whether the workplace is well-ventilated and away from potentially harming children when you use other methods besides sanding.
Consider availability as well. There is no need to invest in an electric sander to remove polyurethane if you already have vinegar and baking powder in your kitchen, or thinner lacquer and denatured alcohol left in a small cabinet.
Will I need to use rubber cement thinner?
Rubber cement thinner is intended for rubber cement, while lacquer thinner contains acetone making it more effective at removing hard coatings.
Will I need to use a wire brush to remove polyurethane?
Wire brush effectively removes polyurethane from wood but might leave scratches along the process.
Other Related Reads:
Removing polyurethane from wood without sanding may require strong chemicals to for wooden surfaces. However, these methods are simple. You only have to be patient and extra careful.
We hope we have explained the things you wanted to know while considering the risks it poses. In the end, do whatever method works for you best.
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