Will Mineral Spirits Remove Polyurethane? [And What Other Products To Use]

Do you want to remove polyurethane from furniture, flooring, or cabinetry in your home and wonder if mineral spirits can do the job? What alternatives can you try for removing polyurethane? Luckily, we’ve done plenty of research into these questions and have the answers!

Although mineral spirits may help break down the top layer of polyurethane, it isn’t strong enough to remove polyurethane entirely. Mineral spirits usually can’t clean up spilled polyurethane that has dried, either, so you should stick to using a stripping gel/liquid.

In this post, we’ll discuss the best products for removing polyurethane and cover the materials mineral spirits work best for. Whether you’re stripping a surface, working on refinishing old furniture, or have other questions, we’re here to help. With that said, let’s dive right into this topic!

Can I Use Mineral Spirits To Remove Polyurethane?

Bottle of paint thinner isolated on white

We may include affiliate links and curated AI content to highlight top design styles.

In general, you don’t want to try and remove polyurethane with mineral spirits. As we mentioned, mineral spirits may help break down polyurethane if it hasn’t dried, but you will need to apply a more aggressive paint stripper to finish your project. 

You can try using a paint stripper like Citristrip, which will remove the rest of the polyurethane from a given surface.

Again, using multiple products to remove polyurethane is better, so nothing is left behind. This can be important if you’re refinishing an older wood surface.

Best Products For Removing Polyurethane

Since polyurethane products are meant to last for long periods, this can make removing them a multi-step process.

One of the best ways to remove polyurethane is to use a chemical stripper. According to experts, many paint and varnish strippers will work on polyurethane. Their formulas have chemicals that will eat away at the polyurethane.

Using chemical stripping agents for polyurethane shouldn’t harm the surfaces below, especially wood. Instead, they’ll target the ingredients in the polyurethane, break them down, and allow for an easy wipe-off.

Here are some recommended products for removing polyurethane.

Citristrip Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel

This product has a gel formula. It stays active for 24 hours and can strip multiple layers. It will strip polyurethane, shellac, varnish, dried latex and oil-based paint, and lacquer.

Get our FREE 7 design style cheat sheets
Subscribe for home design tips & inspiration
Get your free gift: Downloadable design style cheat sheets
Thank you for subscribing!

Check out this stripping gel on Amazon.

Sunnyside Corporation Ready-Strip Plus Paint & Varnish Remover

This paint and varnish remover starts working in 60 minutes. It can be used to remove polyurethane. It will remove up to seven layers of coating and does not contain methylene chloride or NMP. The product changes color when it’s ready to be removed and doesn’t produce any odor.

Check out this product on Amazon.

How Do You Remove Cured Polyurethane?

Will Mineral Spirits Remove Polyurethane? [And What Other Products To Use]

Using Products

Once polyurethane cures, it can be challenging to remove. You’ll probably need to use a couple of products.

You may want to start with mineral spirits for the top layer. As we mentioned, mineral spirits can’t remove polyurethane entirely, but it may help break it down.

After the mineral spirits, you can apply a chemical stripping agent like Citristrip or Sunnyside or any other paint and varnish stripper that works for polyurethane.

None of these products should harm surfaces, but if you overuse them or don’t wipe them off, you could be dealing with damaged wood or metal.

Sanding Off Polyurethane 

Sandpaper is a tool used for sanding wood surfaces or furniture. to make the wood smooth and beautiful

Sanding off polyurethane shouldn’t be difficult, especially if you have an automatic sander. A sander will make the entire process easier. You can also use 150-grit sandpaper or fine steel wool to remove polyurethane, as they will break down the coating.

Since polyurethane typically goes on in thick layers, it will be challenging to rely solely on sandpaper to remove it. So, we recommend using a stripping agent as well as sanding, which should give you a nice final result.

Regardless, try and focus on applying a thinner/stripping agent to the polyurethane once the top layer is broken down, which should give a clean, smooth result.

It’s also worth noting that whatever you use on polyurethane will probably have a strong smell. Unless a product mentions being low-VOC, you can probably expect quite a bit of smell during your project. This could be a good time to pull out a fan or open a window.

Here’s a video tutorial for removing cured polyurethane from wood. In the video, the demonstrator uses paint/stain remover, a sander, and a few rags to wipe down the surface. Using a sander may be your best bet, depending on how thick the polyurethane is.


How Can I Remove Polyurethane Without Using Chemicals?

Although it’s usually best to use chemicals for removing polyurethane, there are ways around them. Many people have successfully used DIY mixtures on their polyurethane-coated surfaces.

Here’s how to make a chemical-free stripping agent for polyurethane:

  1. Make a paste by mixing 1/2 cup cold water and 1 cup cornstarch.
  2. In a bucket, mix four cups of water, 3/4 cup of baking soda, and 1 tbsp of vinegar.
  3. Add the paste of cold water and cornstarch.

After you create your solvent, you can apply it to the polyurethane surface. This process should take around four hours to complete and is easy (even for beginners).

You might consider using mineral spirits on your polyurethane before this DIY mixture, as it could help break down the coating.

Does Vinegar Remove Polyurethane?

white vinegar on the wooden table top

Vinegar is a great stripping agent that doesn’t contain harsh chemicals. You can use vinegar to remove thin layers of polyurethane coating. Typically, you want to combine vinegar with another stripping agent.

Since vinegar is naturally potent, it will eat away at the polyurethane on a given surface. From there, you can expect the acid in the vinegar to break down the polyurethane. 

Vinegar is a great natural alternative to chemicals for removing polyurethane coatings. The key is applying enough to your surface and letting it sit for a while. Unlike a chemical product which may start eating away at the polyurethane instantly, vinegar will take a minute to activate.

Can I Use Mineral Spirits To Clean?

One quart of Odorless Mineral Spirits by Klean Strip, used to clean oil based paints.

Yes. One of the most common ways to use mineral spirits is for cleaning. Mineral spirits is natural and shouldn’t harm most household surfaces. Unlike aggressive chemical strippers, mineral spirits has a gentler formula and can be used as a regular polish for furniture, floors, and other surfaces.

People often use mineral spirits on tools and auto parts, cleaning with the solvent and a cloth. That’s because those tools may develop oil coatings over time, which mineral spirits work can remove.

Can Mineral Spirits Damage Wood Surfaces?

No. Most of the time, mineral spirits will not damage wood surfaces. Since this product is organic/natural, mineral spirits should not cause any damage to wooden surfaces.

Therefore, you can safely use it to polish and remove oil/residue from wood furniture, floors, and cabinetry with ease. The key is making sure your wood is treated and doesn’t already have damage.

To Wrap It All Up

Whether you need to refinish a surface in your home or want to remove polyurethane from a piece of furniture, it’s always good to know what products work.

We found that mineral spirits is not the best product to use for removing polyurethane. You will need to rely on a chemical product or try a vinegar-based DIY version to do the heavy lifting.

Since polyurethane cures hard, sanding it down is another route to take during your refinishing process. Don’t be afraid to mix a few products and use them to break down the polyurethane coating.

Check out these helpful related articles!

Do Mineral Spirits Freeze? [Can They Be Stored In The Garage?]

How To Remove White Spots On Hardwood Floors

Can You Sleep In House After Polyurethane?

Get our FREE 7 design style cheat sheets
Subscribe for home design tips & inspiration
Get your free gift: Downloadable design style cheat sheets
Thank you for subscribing!
Share with a friend -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *