How to Make Rub-on Poly

Written by sue balk
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How to Make Rub-on Poly
Finish your woodworking projects with wipe-on poly. (handmade candle box. image by Tom Oliveira from

Rub-on poly, more commonly referred to as wipe-on poly, makes finishing woodworking projects an easy process. Regular polyurethane can take too long to dry and can go on thick and sticky, leaving noticeable runs and an uneven finish. A wipe-on poly allows you to control coverage and application is quite easy: You literally wipe or rub on the polyurethane, as the name suggests. Make your own rub-on poly with any polyurethane finish and some white spirit.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Container in which to mix wipe-on poly
  • Polyurethane
  • White spirit
  • Piece of unfinished wood (scrap)
  • Mixing stick
  • Lint-free cloths
  • Unfinished wood item

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  1. 1

    In the container, thin polyurethane with 25 per cent white spirit (i.e., three parts poly to one part white spirit).

  2. 2

    Mix thoroughly with your mixing stick.

  3. 3

    Apply to cloth.

  4. 4

    Test the wipe-on poly on a scrap of unfinished wood. If you need more time to work and want a thinner application, slowly increase the amount of white spirit in increments until you reach a desired thinness that is easy to wipe on. Many woodworkers prefer to thin polyurethane with up to 50 per cent white spirit.

  5. 5

    Apply to cloth.

  6. 6

    Wipe on to your unfinished wood item. Allow item to dry.

  7. 7

    Reapply and allow to dry. Apply several coats until the desired finish is achieved.

Tips and warnings

  • White spirit are highly flammable.

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