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How to Repair Scratches on a Polyurethane Finish

Don Kress

Scratched polyurethane surfaces are easily repaired as long as there is a deep enough layer of polyurethane protecting the furniture. Scratches that gouge deeply into the wood's surface require significant repair that should not be attempted by an inexperienced woodworker. Light, repairable scratches appear to be slight indentations in the surface of the wood. The polyurethane will not appear to have been cracked, and the wood underneath will be untouched.

Lightly scratched polyurethane finishes are polished as a car is polished.
  1. Wrap the 800-grit sandpaper around the sanding block tightly, then sand the surface of the polyurethane finish. Avoid using a circular motion. Instead, create the pattern of an "X." Continue sanding until the scratch is level with the surface of the surrounding polyurethane, but be careful to avoid sanding through the polyurethane into the wood beneath.

  2. Remove the 800-grit sandpaper from the sanding block and replace it with the 1500-grit sandpaper. This paper is not intended to remove the scratch, but to minimize the scratches left by the 800-grit sandpaper. Continue sanding with the 1500-grit sandpaper until the surface is uniformly smooth.

  3. Apply a small amount of the rubbing compound to a clean cloth and gently rub the sanded surface. The polishing compound has a grit equivalent to approximately 3000-grit sandpaper, so it will remove the 1500-grit scratches and polish the surface of the polyurethane.

  4. Wipe the excess polishing compound off the polyurethane finish to complete the scratch removal.