How to Remove Polyurethane From Furniture

Furniture manufacturers and woodworkers apply a polyurethane finish to furniture to protect the wood from water penetration, surface scratches and marks.
Remove polyurethane from furniture before refinishing.Remove polyurethane from furniture before refinishing.
Polyurethane offers a long-lasting, durable finish on the furniture. If you want to refinish your polyurethane-coated wood furniture or repair a damaged section of the furniture, you will need to first remove the polyurethane. Some types of polyurethane turn yellow with age and require removal.

Step 1

Move the piece of furniture outdoors if possible. If it is not possible to move the furniture outdoors, open all windows and set up large fans to provide adequate ventilation.

Step 2

Put on chemical-resistant gloves and chemical-resistant goggles. Add a chemical-approved respirator, if the work area does not have proper ventilation.

Step 3

Open a can of polyurethane stripper and pour it into a small metal bucket.

Step 4

Dip a paintbrush into the chemical stripper. Apply a thick coat of the stripper to the polyurethane finish. Move the paintbrush in one direction to leave a generous layer of stripper on the surface. Let the polyurethane stripper remain on the surface as long as the manufacturer indicates, which is anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes depending on the type of stripper.

Step 5

Place a metal scraper at a 45-degree angle to the furniture. Scrape the surface, following the grain of the wood to remove the chemical stripper and the old polyurethane finish. Exert as much pressure as necessary to remove the stripper and old finish without damaging the wood. Place a metal container at the edge of the furniture to catch the chemical and old finish. Continue to scrape away the old finish until no polyurethane remains on the surface.

Step 6

Whittle the end of a wood dowel with a utility knife to create a point. Scrape the polyurethane finish and stripper from the recesses with the pointed end of the dowel.

Step 7

Wash the surface of the furniture the appropriate neutralizer to stop the chemical activity of the polyurethane stripper. Some polyurethane strippers require the use of a specialized neutralizer, while others require mineral spirits or white vinegar. Follow the manufacturer's directions to use the proper neutralizer.

Step 8

Fill a bucket with water and add a squirt of dish soap. Submerge a rag into the water, squeeze out excess soapy water and wipe the surface of the furniture. Wet a rag with plain water and wipe the surface to remove soap residue. Immediately dry the furniture with a clean rag.

Things You Will Need

  • Fans
  • Chemical-resistant gloves
  • Chemical-resistant goggles
  • Chemical-approved respirator
  • Polyurethane stripper
  • Metal bucket
  • Paintbrush
  • Metal scraper
  • Wood dowel
  • Utility knife
  • Metal container
  • Neutralizer, mineral spirits or white vinegar
  • Bucket
  • Dish soap
  • Rags

Tip

  • Contact your local hazardous waste department for proper disposal instructions for the stripper and old finish.

Warnings

  • Do not scrape with force or gouge the surface with the scraper, as you will damage the furniture.
  • Avoid using chemical strippers near children, pets or anyone not protected by chemical-resistant goggles and a chemical-approved respirator.

About the Author

Sal Marco began writing professionally in 2009. He has written many online home improvement articles based on his more than 20 years of experience in the home improvement and building industries. He has worked as both part of a team and as a site supervisor. Marco has a Bachelor of Science in management science from Kean University.