How to remove polyurethane varnish

Written by sharon sweeny
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Polyurethane is an all-purpose finish that is applied to furniture and other household objects. If you don't like the shiny, plastic-like finish of polyurethane, it's easy to remove it and apply a different finish. Thanks to modern chemical strippers without toxic fumes, almost anyone can do it.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Clean rags or cloths
  • Chemical stripper
  • Medium size paint brush
  • Putty knife or plastic scraper

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  1. 1

    Remove surface dirt and grime by wiping with a damp cloth.

  2. 2

    Apply chemical stripper. Work on a small area of the piece at a time. Following manufacturer's instructions, brush on stripper with a medium size paint brush.

  3. 3

    Allow the stripper to sit on the surface of the piece for about 10 minutes to break down the polyurethane.

  4. 4

    Remove the stripper and polyurethane residue with a putty knife or plastic scraper. Gently scrape over the wood so you don't scratch it. After you remove most of the gunky, globby stuff, wipe over the area with a clean, damp cloth.

  5. 5

    If any trace of the polyurethane remains, repeat Steps 2 to 4.

  6. 6

    Allow the piece to dry thoroughly before applying new finish.

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