If you are a fan of DIY furniture fanatic, you would have a fair number of encounters with ‘polyurethane’.

While working with polyurethane there are very high chances of spilling it on your floor or in your hand. If the same thing has happened to you, we have listed various methods to remove polyurethane from hands.

But before that, you should learn more:

  • What are the harmful effects of polyurethane?
  • What is the type of polyurethane & how to remove that?
  • Safety precautions you need to follow while working with polyurethane.

What is Polyurethane?

Applying Polyurethane on hardwood

If you look around, you will know that polyurethane is pretty much everywhere. The chair you are sitting on, the car you are driving, rails, the bed you sleep on.

In this modern era, polyurethane has become a substance of utmost importance and use.

Have you wondered what in fact is this ‘polyurethane’?

Polyurethane as a wood finish is mainly used to coat surfaces. With the intention of protecting them from scratches and helping to resist water damage.

The durability and versatility of polyurethane make it an attractive choice for a wide range of applications, from furniture and flooring to cabinetry and trim.

How & what it is made of?

Scientifically speaking, polyurethane is a mixture of polymers and urethane. It is made by mixing two of these chemicals together and allowing them to react and form a solid material.

The chemical process links the polymers together using urethane groups, forming a durable and safe product we use widely.

What Are The Health Hazards Associated With Polyurethane?

While applying polyurethane to your wood furniture, there’s a chance of getting it onto your hands.

But, does that seem like a health-conscious matter to you?

Let’s see.

Polyurethane application will lead to the production of foams, inhalation of which is said to have a negative effect on the body. These fumes can irritate the eyes, throat, and lungs and cause allergic reactions in individuals who are chemically sensitive.

Polyurethane, being a petrochemical resin, contains respiratory toxins known as isocyanates. If left uncured, it can lead to breathing difficulties such as asthma, as well as throat and eye irritation, nausea, vomiting, headaches, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Children, due to their sensitive immune systems, are particularly vulnerable to these health problems if exposed to polyurethane fumes. Those with pre-existing respiratory problems are also at a higher risk.

Common Methods For Removing Polyurethane From Hands

Though you have been very careful about the whole ‘DIY polyurethane wood finish’, it is quite normal to somehow end up getting it on your hands. At this point, you know the health hazards of this situation, and will definitely want to get it out of your hands.

Here’s when we come to your rescue. 

Before getting to the part of removing the polyurethane, you need to know what type of it is on your hands. This will help you in deciding the best method to remove the finish from your hands.

1. Method For Removing Water-Based Polyurethane From Hands

How To Identify Water-Based Polyurethane?

In this product, water is the primary solvent, meaning water is the primary thing you’d want to get out of your hand.

Try simply washing your hands and see whether it is getting off your hands. If it softens, it indicates that the polyurethane is water-based.

Steps To Remove Water-Based Polyurethane?

Follow these steps to remove water-based polyurethane:

  1. Wet your hands and apply dish soap.
  2. Lather the soap by rubbing your hands together, focusing on loosening the polyurethane. Scratch off any remaining bits using your nails.
  3. If the soap alone doesn’t work, soak your hands in soapy water or use rubbing alcohol or acetone nail polish remover.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
  5. Apply hand lotion to moisturize and dry your hands.

2. Method For Removing Water-Based Polyurethane From Hands

How To Identify Oil-Based Polyurethane?

In oil-based polyurethane, the thinning agent is used as the solvent.  You will need a paint thinner to remove it from your hands.

If mineral spirits are removing the product from your hand, it means that the polyurethane is oil-based.

Steps To Remove Oil-Based Polyurethane?

Getting polyurethane is a simple process. We’ll walk you through the steps one by one:

  1. Ensure the room is well-ventilated and grab some mineral spirits. If you have polyurethane spots or it is widespread in your body, proceed with the next step.
  2. Apply enough mineral spirits to your hands and gently rub them together to soften the oil-based polyurethane.
  3. Rinse your hands under warm water after a minute or two of exposure to the mineral spirits. If there is still stickiness, reapply the mineral spirits and rinse again.
  4. To remove the mineral spirits and any remaining polyurethane, use dish soap and water to lather and wash your hands thoroughly.
  5. Wash your hands once again in warm water. Apply baby oil or a moisturizing moisturizer to your hands after drying them with a soft towel to prevent additional drying.

Few Other Methods To Remove Polyurethane From Hands

If you are adamant about not using minerals you can try other methods as well;

1. Use Vegetable Oil:

Using vegetable oil, baby oil, or creamy peanut butter instead of mineral spirits is a safer option for removing polyurethane from hands and skin. These alternatives don’t expose you to harsh chemicals.

Note that chunky peanut butter should be avoided. 

2. Use PU Stripper or Thinner:

Other options for removing polyurethane from your hands include soy-based polyurethane stripper, paint thinner like WD-40, alcohol (denatured alcohol or isopropyl alcohol), acetone (found in fingernail polish remover), white vinegar, and waterless hand cleaners like fast orange.

Special Note:

Remember to rinse off and moisturize after using any of these products and to wash your hands with warm water and dish soap afterward.

If necessary, repeat the process until all traces of polyurethane are removed. This method can also be used to remove paint from hair.

What To Do If Polyurethane Hardened On Skin?

Once polyurethane has hardened on your skin, it can be challenging to remove. You can either wait for it to naturally peel off or wash your hands thoroughly using a skin-friendly industrial hand cleaner.

If it is polyurethane glue, then you may need to remove it using a different way. If the polyurethane glue has cured on surfaces, the most effective method of removal is to use a tool or sand it off.

Precautions While Working With Polyurethane

So, while using polyurethane, remember to use these precautions;

  • Wear protective clothing such as gloves, goggles, and a respirator to prevent skin and eye irritation and inhaling fumes.
  • Ensure that the area is well-ventilated as polyurethane releases fumes that can be harmful when inhaled.
  • Keep children and pets away from the work area.
  • Avoid skin and eye contact with the product. If contact occurs, wash thoroughly with water.
  • Store polyurethane in a cool, dry place, away from heat sources and flames.
  • Use the product according to the manufacturer’s instructions and follow all label warnings.
  • Do not smoke or use open flames near the product as it is flammable.
  • Clean up any spills immediately and dispose of waste properly, following local regulations.


Now you have got a clear idea about removing polyurethane from your hands, it’s time to follow the steps and actually get it out.

Since it will cause health concerns, it is important to remove polyurethane from your hands. Additionally, having polyurethane residue on your hands can also make it difficult to perform daily tasks or to touch objects without leaving marks.

But, the next time you are on this task of using polyurethane, to protect your skin it’s much easier simply to avoid getting it on you in the first place.

Remember to wear protective gloves the next time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, vegetable oil or baby oil can be used to break down polyurethane and make it easier to wash off with soap and warm water.

If you are having skin irritation from polyurethane, it is recommended to seek immediate medical attention.

Mineral spirits and other solvents can easily get polyurethane out of the hands, but it can also be harsh and cause skin irritation.

Make sure to test it out in a small portion of your skin before going ahead.

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