How to Remove Polyurethane Solvent

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.

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.

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.

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.

Things You Will Need

  • Scraper
  • Rag
  • Soft brush
  • Stiff brush
  • Paper towels
  • Metal can
  • Trash bags
  • Detergent
  • White vinegar
  • Chemical neutralizer


  • Wear chemical-approved safety goggles, chemical-approved respirator, chemical-approved jumpsuit and chemical-approved gloves when working with solvents.
  • Call your local hazardous waste department for instructions regarding safe disposal.
  • Always remove and neutralize solvents after use to stop the solvent's chemical reaction.


  • Do not leave solvents on surfaces for longer than the prescribed time.
  • Work in a well-ventilated room when using solvents.
  • Do not use solvents near open flames.
  • Read all safety precautions prior to using a solvent, and keep neutralizers close by in case of accidental skin contact.

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.