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How Long Does it Take for Polyurethane to Dry?

It takes 24 hours for oil-based polyurethane and 6 hours for water-based polyurethane to dry. This would allow you to walk on it with socks and also move on to the next step in the application process (sanding or applying the next layer). It is essential to point out that dry time is different from the curing time. Curing usually takes up to 1 month, depending on conditions. Continue reading to know more about Polyurethane and how it affects your flooring.

What is Polyurethane 

Polyurethanes are derived by the reaction of a polyol (alcohol with more than two reactive hydroxyl groups per molecule) with a diisocyanate or polymeric isocyanate in the presence of suitable catalysts and additives. A broad spectrum of diisocyanates and a variety of polyols can be used to produce the compound. Therefore a wide range of materials can be made to meet the needs of specific applications.

According to the US Department of Energy, heating and cooling cost about 56 percent of the energy consumption of the average American household. Besides, the nature of the chemistry allows polyurethanes to be adapted to solve challenging problems and also be molded into unusual shapes. This helps to improve industrial and consumer goods.

What is the Time taken to dry Oil-based Polyurethane

Oil-based polyurethane dries more slowly than water-based polyurethane. It takes 24 hours before you can walk on the floors. And 24-48 hours before you walk on the floors with socks on. Avoid shoes and bare feet. And make sure your pets (who are usually barefoot) are not walking on the floor during this time.

However, you can walk with shoes on it after 48 hours. Then after 4 days, you can put the furniture back on the floor. But then, it is ideal to wait between 1-2 weeks before the dogs walk on the floor (unless they are using doggie socks).

Also, it would take 4 weeks for the floor to cure. Although it is best to wait 30 days before placing carpets on the surface. If you need or want to put them in early, 2 weeks is a good benchmark, but 30 days is better. Check out this post on what to do when Polyurethane doesn’t dry.

What is the Time taken to dry Water-based polyurethane

Water-based poly dries faster. It usually takes between 4-6 hours before you can walk on the floors. After 6-24 hours, you can walk on the floors with socks. Also, avoid shoes and bare feet. And ensure your pets don’t walk on the floor during this time. 

After 2 days, you can move the furniture back. It is ideal to wait one week before the dogs hit the floor (unless they use doggie socks). It takes approximately 30 days for the floors to harden. So it is best you wait for 30 days before placing carpets on the surface. However, if you want to put it back earlier, 2 weeks is another good benchmark.

How long for Polyurethane take to Cure?

It takes 2 phases for Oil-based poly to dry and cure. First, the thinners evaporate, and the coating becomes non-stick. Then the oxygen begins to combine with the varnish as the curing process begins. The curing does not only makes the finish hard and long-lasting but also creates complete adhesion to the floor. 

This curing process usually takes up to approximately 4 weeks. But it depends on the environmental conditions (e.g., humidity) and the thickness of the applied film, and the number of polyurethane layers. So long the poly is giving off an odor even if it is mild, it shows it is still curing.

How to Visually Assess Dryness of Polyurethane

Examining the floor is usually a better measure of surface dryness than using a clock. This is because drying time depends on environmental factors, including room temperature and humidity. The best sign that water-based polyurethane has dried is a lack of coloration – the milky white color of the liquid coating disappears when the product dries. 

On the other hand, oil-based polyurethane products are not dairy in liquid form. They tend to develop a matte sheen when they dry, and you can walk on the floor when the shiny areas disappear. Don’t re-coat the floor while there are signs of a wet surface. Doing it is a recipe for disaster. It may cause the surface to bubble and separate. And then it may need to be stripped.

Factors affecting Polyurethane Drying and Curing

Many variables influence polyurethane drying and curing. They’re as follows:

Type of wood

There are some categories of trees that do not cure appropriately because they produce chemicals that inhibit the crosslinking process. Examples are Rosewood and some aromatic cedar trees.

Polyurethane Type

This is the primary variable, but you should know that there are many sub-categories in each category of water- or oil-based polyurethane. Some manufacturers add desiccants. At the same time, others put oil and possibly other solvents. 

Each component may have little effect on drying and curing time, or it may force you to change your entire approach. In general, water-based polyurethanes dry and cure in a fraction of the time that oil-based systems take.

Temperature and humidity

The above times are based on a day with 21 ° C and 70% humidity. When the temperature is hotter and drier, the drying time will be much faster than mentioned above. Conversely, a cooler temperature on a damp day can extend the drying time by up to half a day.

Starting surface

Raw and sanded wood will absorb the first layer and shortens the drying time. The first layer wets and seals the wood. Each subsequent layer consists of applying a coating to an existing polyurethane layer, and it takes longer to dry.

Applications for Polyurethane

Polyurethane can be used in the following areas:

  • Textile

Polyurethanes are widely used to make fine threads, and also combined with nylon to make clothes that are lighter and more elastic. Over the years, polyurethanes have improved and developed into spandex fibers, polyurethane coatings, and thermoplastic elastomers.

Currently, there is an improvement in polyurethane techniques. So manufacturers can create a wide variety of polyurethane garments from human-made leather and skin, used in clothing, sportswear, and various accessories.

  • Appliances

Polyurethanes are an essential part of the great equipment that consumers use every day. The most commonly used polyurethanes in large appliances are rigid foams for cooling and freezing thermal insulation systems. 

Rigid polyurethane foam is an essential and inexpensive material that can be used to achieve the energy values ​​needed in refrigerators and freezers for consumers. The good thermal insulation properties of rigid polyurethane foams are the result of the combination of fine closed-cell foam and cell gases that resist the transfer of heat.

  • Automobile

Polyurethanes are used in all cars. They’re used to make a foam that makes car seats comfortable. Additionally, bumpers, interior ceiling sections, the car body, spoilers, doors, and windows use polyurethanes. With polyurethane, manufacturers can offer drivers and passengers significantly more mileage for cars, reducing weight and increasing fuel consumption, comfort, corrosion resistance, insulation, and sound absorption.

  • Building and construction

Today’s homes require strong, high-performance materials. These materials not only easy to install, but they are durable and flexible. Polyurethane preserves natural resources and protects the environment by reducing energy consumption. 

With its excellent strength-weight ratio, insulating properties, durability, and flexibility, polyurethane is widely used in construction. Both the affordability of these versatile materials and the comfort they offer homeowners have made polyurethane components a part of the home everywhere.

Polyurethane is used throughout the house. On the floors, a flexible foam pad softens the carpet. On the roof, reflective plastic covers can reflect sunlight and dissipate heat through polyurethane foam, which keeps the house cool while lowering the consumption of energy. 

Furthermore, building materials made of polyurethane can add design flexibility to new homes and renovation projects. Foam core panels offer a variety of colors and profiles for walls and ceilings. At the same time, foam core entrance doors and garage doors come in a variety of designs and designs.

  • Composite wood

Polyurethanes play an essential role in modern materials such as composite wood. Polyurethane-based binders are used in wood composite products to permanently organic bond materials in oriented strands, medium-density fiberboard, long-chain wood, laminated veneer, and even straw and particleboard.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make polyurethane dry faster?

You can polyurethane dry faster by applying a thin layer of Minwax® Fast-Drying polyurethane using a high-quality natural or foam brush. Then allow it to dry for 4-6 hours. Afterwards, lightly sand the entire surface with fine sandpaper (220 grit) to ensure a uniform finish and proper adhesion. Don’t forget to remove all dust.

Can you put too many coats of polyurethane?

Generally, more than three layers of polyurethane will not do well. It isn’t necessary or recommended. Any additional coating will need to be buffed so that you weaken half of the previous layer. This is something like nail polish, where it takes longer and longer to dry and harden for each layer.

How long do you wait between coats of polyurethane?

You should allow the polyurethane to dry for 1 to 2 days before sanding. This allows the surface to harden and cure.


To wrap up, applying the polyurethane with a brush makes the layers thicker than when you spray it on or when you use it and then wipe it off.