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How to Remove Polyurethane Solvent

Sal Marco

Polyurethane has many accepted uses, including as a colored or clear wood or metal sealant or as an adhesive that bonds a variety of materials. Using a solvent to remove a polyurethane finish is an accepted practice among wood workers and craftsmen. Solvents chemically break down the composition of hardened polyurethane and allow for easy removal. Polyurethane solvents include acetone, mineral spirits, methylene chloride, methanol and turpentine. Many commercially available chemical strippers contain one or more of these ingredients to remove polyurethane. Removing solvent residue is necessary before refinishing or re-gluing your project. If solvent reside is left, improper bonding will occur during refinishing.

  1. Scrape away the solvent and polyurethane with a scraper, or wipe it away with a rag. Defer to the manufacturer's instructions, based on the substrate from which you are removing the polyurethane solvent. Typically, softer materials require solvent removal with a rag or soft brush, while hard surfaces can stand up to a scraper or stiff brush.

  2. Blot excess solvent with disposable rags or paper towels. Place the towels or rags in a container as specified by the solvent manufacturer. Containers include water-filled metal cans or plastic trash bags. If the solvent is flammable, soak rags immediately in water to avoid combustion is necessary.

  3. Rinse the substrate according to the manufacturer's instructions. Some manufacturer requirements include rinsing with plain water or washing three to four times with detergent and water. Some types of solvent may require neutralization with white vinegar or a specific chemical neutralizer.