How to Remove Polyurethane from Wood without Removing the Stain

This post has affiliate/referral links. Learn more.
Polyurethane wood finish is used to protect the wood from water, chemical, and more sources of wear and tear. It gives your wood a finished look in gloss or satin.

However, there comes a time to remove the polyurethane from wood. Can it be done without removing the stain?

how to remove polyurethane from wood without removing the stain

Removing it without removing the stain can be a tough task.

Using a citrus stripper is the best way to do it.

Read on to find out how you can remove polyurethane from wood without stripping the stain.

How to Remove Polyurethane From Wood without Removing the Stain

To remove the polyurethane from wood, use a special stripper applied with a paintbrush onto the wood. Wait and do test scrapes between 30 minutes to 24 hours, depending on how many layers of polyurethane you need to remove.
Once you’re done scraping, use a paint stripper wash. This will get rid of any residue.
Finally, use a mineral spirit to prep the wood surface for its new refinishing. Wait until the surface is clean and dry before starting the new paint.

Method 1: Remove Polyurethane from Wood with Stripper

Step 1: Prepare the area where you will be working

You will need to work in a well-ventilated area. If you choose to work indoors, open all the windows and doors, and turn on a fan to bring in fresh air to the work area.

What You’ll Need

Be ready with chemical-resistant gloves and chemical splash goggles.

You’ll also want to prepare the area where you’re working with drop cloths or old newspapers.

Step 2: Apply

Make sure the citrus stripper is properly sealed, and then give it a good shake.

Pour it into a container and use a paintbrush to apply it to the wood.

Use an old toothbrush to get to the corners.

Step 3: Wait and test scrape

Once applied, wait for 30 minutes to 24 hours. If you are leaving it overnight, cover it with plastic.

Use your plastic scraper to do a scrape in a corner. The stripper is ready to be scraped off when it’s easy to remove.

You will also want to do the test scrape depending on how many layers of dried paint you need to remove. The citrus stripper removes up to 5 layers of paint for each application.

Step 4: Scrape time

Now, using a plastic scraper, do the scraping in the direction of the wood grain.

If there are any stubborn areas, you’ll want to use an abrasive stripping pad dipped in the citrus stripper to remove them.

Step 5: Wash it off

Finally, use a paint stripper wash to remove any residue left on the wood.

You can then prep the surface for painting with mineral spirits.

Wait for the wood surface to completely dry and clean before refinishing.

Method 2: Using Denatured Alcohol and Lacquer Thinner

Step 1: Prepare to get to work

At first, you will need to make a few preparations. You will be working with strong chemicals.

So, you will need a room with proper ventilation. If working indoors, make sure that the windows and doors of that room are opened.

You will need to wear gloves and goggles as well. If you have an asthma problem, you should wear a mask as well.

Protect the area you’re working with a heavy plastic drop cloth.

Step 2: Make a mixture of denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner

You can make this mixture on a plastic bucket or empty paint can. Take one part of denatured alcohol and mix it with one part of lacquer thinner.

Lacquer thinner is mainly used to dissolve paint and varnishes. On the other hand, denatured alcohol will work as a cleaning agent.

Take a stick made of wood and stir the mixture well.

The advantage of using the mixture of denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner is that it will help to remove the finish from the wood.

On the other hand, the mixture is not strong enough to affect the wood.

As a result, it is the combination that will remove polyurethane from wood without removing the stain.

Step 3: Use the mixture of denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner to remove polyurethane

Now, you will need to apply the mixture to the polyurethane finish. You can use a regular paintbrush to do this.

For a better result, stroke the place two or three times so that every part of the polyurethane gets covered.

Step 4: Remove the mixture after waiting for 10 seconds

You will need to be careful after applying the mixture. After you are done applying, you will need to wait for around 10 seconds so that it gets soaked in the wood.

Then remove it with a steel wool 00 pad. Rub in the direction of the grain.

Patience is a virtue with this method. Go over the area as often as necessary until the wood is completely stripped.

Step 5: Clean the wood with warm water

After wiping away the polyurethane with steel wool, you will need to wash the wood. Use a wood cleaner to get rid of extra dirt.

Then, use warm water to clean it. At last, use a clean piece of cloth to make the wood dry.

Method 3: Use baking soda and vinegar if you don’t want to use strong chemical

A lot of people don’t like to use strong chemicals in the woods. I have a solution if you are looking for one.

Step 1: Prepare the mixture

You can make a mixture of baking soda, cleaning vinegar, and cornstarch to remove polyurethane from wood.

To make the mixture, you will need 4 cups of hot water and 1 cup of cornstarch. Mix these well in a bowl filled with a half cup of cold water.

After mixing it well, you will see that it has formed a paste. Then, take another bowl and add 4 cups of water to it.

Then, you will need 1 tablespoon of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda. Stir this mixture well. Then, add the second mixture into the first one and mix properly.

Step 2: Apply the mixture with a paintbrush

Then, you will need to apply this mixture the same way as before in the wood.

After applying, you will need to wait for a few minutes so that the mixture sits properly in the wood. Now you will need a wire brush so that you can scrub the furniture.

You might be worried about scrubbing the wood with the wire brush. Don’t worry. You can put a bit of pressure while scrubbing.

Because the solution won’t discolor the wooden surface. After scrubbing, let the area dry or use a hairdryer.

Step 3: Sand the wooden surface with 60, 80 and 120 grit sandpapers

Now, you will need to get assorted sandpapers to sand the wooden surface.

At first, start with the 60-grit sandpaper.

After sanding the wooden surface for a while, you will see that the polyurethane is getting removed, and the natural color of the wood is coming out.

You will need to be very careful while sanding the wood. You must sand towards the direction of the wood grain.

If you use the sandpaper in both directions, you will see marks all over the wooden surface. A lot of people make this mistake.

Then, move to the 80-grit sandpaper. You will need to spend less time than before.

As you will use these sandpapers, you will see that the wood is becoming smoother. For the best result, use 120-grit sandpaper at the end.

Now, with a dry and clean rag, wipe the surface, and you will have a beautiful wooden surface without polyurethane.

That is how you can remove polyurethane from wood without removing the stain. The whole process will be a bit time-consuming.

You will need to be patient if you want the best result.

Can You Sand Off Polyurethane?

Yes, you can sand off polyurethane.

Although using sandpaper solely will not work to remove polyurethane, you can use it at the end to remove any residual polyurethane from the wood.

You can use 120-grit sandpaper or 150-grit sandpaper to remove it from the wood.

Using sandpaper will remove any excess coats of polyurethane. It will make the wood smoother than before as well.

It is always better to start with heavy grit sandpaper. Otherwise, it will take a long time to smooth the wood with lighter sandpaper.

Tips for Removing Polyurethane From Wood

  • Make sure the wood is thoroughly dry before you start applying the new stain. This will prevent rust spots from leftover dust from forming.
  • Remember to clean the tools so that they are ready for you on your next project. Leaving the wood strippers and solutions on the tools without cleaning them can sometimes make them useable the next day.


You can remove polyurethane from wood without removing the stain with some care. Using the right approach of the three methods discussed, the recommended paint strippers, and the correct safety precautions will help you complete this project.

You will need the correct tools and techniques to polyurethane from wood without stripping stain.

With patience and care, you can easily do it on your own without calling an expert. It will save money and give you a learning experience as well.

How To Remove Latex Paint From Wood
How Many Coats Of Polyurethane On A Table?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Must Read

20 Smart Home Gadgets That Make Life Easier

For your convenience, this post has links to Amazon. In the rapidly evolving landscape of smart home technology, creating a living space that blends convenience...

How To Sister a Floor Joist

For your convenience, this post has links to Amazon. Structural damage such as sagging, moving, and shifting floors can create numerous problems if left unchecked....

How to Remove Green Mold from Wood Deck – 5 Simple Tips

For your convenience, this post has links to Amazon. Green mold can be a problem on outdoor surfaces because it can affect the resale value...

How to Remove Bumper Stickers – 2 Easy Methods

For your convenience, this post has links to Amazon. Bumper stickers on vehicles are a way of showing support for ideas and can also be...

How to Make Crutches More Comfortable – 7 Easy Ways

For your convenience, this post has links to Amazon. The thought of walking with crutches is easy until you try it. Some of the common...
Save it now!