Can You Paint Over Polyurethane?

Image of Painted Wall. But Can You Paint Over Polyurethane?The evolution in home decor has vastly picked a trend, and painting is the surest way of keeping up with them. Most homeowners finish their projects with polyurethane because of its unwavering convenience and unmatched durability. This paint finish adds beauty to your furniture and offers much-needed protection against high demands. However, let’s answer this question, can you paint over polyurethane? 

Yes, it’s possible to paint over polyurethane. Paint may fail to stick to properly sanded polyurethane surfaces, so sanding alone is not enough, instead, you need to add a primer. Primer is more or less the same as the paint however, it does so much in preparing the surface for painting. With a primer, you have a chance for perfect painting over polyurethane.

Let’s now dig deeper and unearth related information to the painting of polyurethane. 

What Paint Will Stick to Polyurethane? 

Ideally, all paint types will adhere to a polyurethane finish, provided the surface is pretreated beforehand. So, you should sand and prime your polyurethane surface for the new coat of paint to stick. 


For best results, use acrylic or oil paints as they won’t compromise the protective traits of the polyurethane finish. However, be mindful of the unpleasant fumes elicited by oil paints. 

How Do You Apply Polyurethane Without Bubbles?

Most DIYers hardly ever apply polyurethane finish using a roller due to the possibility of bubbles forming. Several factors bring about bubbles in your finish. Check out some of the common causes of bubbles below: 

  • Shaking the Can

When applying polyurethane, be mindful of two considerations: Avoid shaking the can before application, and never rub off your brush on the sides of the can. These two actions introduce bubbles into the can, and most likely, you will transfer them to the surface. 

As soon as you notice bubbles in your can, use the tip of your paintbrush to dab the bubbles lightly. You may also want to run the paintbrush along the surface to compress the bubbles into the finish. 

  • Air in the Brush

Any paintbrush incorporates air pockets which cause tiny bubbles. For this reason, it’s paramount to wet your paintbrush before soaking it in the polyurethane finish. This way, the air in the brush will escape making your bristles remain unified for a nice gliding feel as you apply the finish. 

  • Contaminated Surface

Contaminated surfaces bring about bubbles in your polyurethane finish. So then, how do you deal with this issue? The best way to avoid the bubbles is by giving your surface a thorough cleaning using mineral spirits.

Ideally, mineral spirits are reliable solvent-based products that help discard the contaminants on your surface ahead of painting. They leave surfaces extremely clean and mind you; they evaporate quickly so you can carry on with your painting. 

However, one aspect to factor in when using this formula is to allow ample drying time before applying the polyurethane. 


If you fail to address the bubbles while the polyurethane is fresh, you will catch a glimpse of hardened bubbles after the surface dries. If this occurs, make use of these tips to sort out the problem. 

First, take a vacuum cleaner and wipe out the dust on your furniture. Then take 120 grit sandpaper and make a pass over the surface. This will get rid of the stubborn spots until the surface levels. After that, introduce medium grit sandpaper to enhance a smoother finish. 

Once you are through, give your project a proper wipe down to remove the sanding dust. You can achieve the best results with a damp cloth. Ideally, the cloth should slide across the surface while wiping. If not, know that you are not done with sanding. Take your sandpaper and continue sanding until the surface feels smooth. 

After cleaning the surface, prepare the polyurethane. This finish tends to detach in the can if left for a long period without using it. So the best way forward is to mix it in a paint dish to retain its initial consistency. Please don’t shake it as it will develop bubbles. Instead, pour it into a paint pan and stir it with a mixing stick. 

Then depending on its consistency, you can opt to paint it as it is or thin it with a reputable solvent. After that, apply the initial coat from the edge of the furniture as you also administer strokes along the grain.

Remember, you don’t want to exert a lot of pressure on the painting brush. Just work the brush to and fro until you coat the whole surface. Also, do the same on the sides and edges. 

After the surface dries, do some light sanding, then add another coat of polyurethane. This time use a sweeping motion. Also, never paint in one direction because it’s unnecessarily tedious. Next, let the surface dry, then assess for any inconsistencies. Your surface should be free from bubbles. 

Can You Paint Over Polyurethane Without Sanding? 

Mostly, painting over polyurethane requires sanding for the paint to stick as usual. If not, the fresh coat of paint will crack, bubble, and peel off over time. But have you ever wondered if you can paint over polyurethane without sanding? It’s relatively possible. Given that sanding a surface is a time-intensive task, you will need to opt for other methods such as deglossing.

A deglosser can work similarly to sandpaper as it etches the polyurethane and offers a new texture for the paint to stick to. It is a prevalent option for furniture that integrates plenty of intricate details to sand manually. 

Be warned! Before utilizing this chemical, equip yourself with essential supplies such as eyewear and gloves. Also, work in a ventilated space to avoid the risk of damaged lungs and headaches from unpleasant fumes. 

Applying a deglosser is very easy: damp a clean rag into the chemical and wipe it on the furniture. You don’t have to rub it vigorously on the surface. Let it air dry independently, then wipe it off after the due time as stated in the instructions. 

Can I Use Water-Based Paint Over Polyurethane? 

Yes, it’s possible to paint over polyurethane with water-based paint, but avoid skipping the preparatory steps. If you plan to attain durable and good-looking outcomes, begin by treating your surface before painting over the polyurethane with water-based paint. 

It’s interesting to know that polyurethane has a slick topcoat, which distances chances of other products from adhering to it. So for the polyurethane to accept the water-based paint, start by wiping it clean using a grease-cutting detergent and freshwater. Then dry it well with a clean rag. 

Next, make a pass over the existing polyurethane with medium-grit sandpaper to brush off the slick finish on top. You can perform that by hand, but if it seems intimidating and tedious, opt for a power sander attached with 200 grit sandpaper.

Afterward, vacuum up the dust produced while sanding, then use a damp rag to fetch the tiny particles left behind as they’ll inhibit paint adherence. Once the surface is dirt-free and dry, apply a coat of quality primer, let dry, then paint with water-based paint. 

How Do You Remove Polyurethane Without Removing Paint? 

A polyurethane finish fulfills various functions, such as offering furniture protection from water, chemical, and other sources of wear and tear. Once applied, this finish forms a hard and durable surface over your wood that soaks up the scratches that occur with daily use. 

Nonetheless, in due time, you will want to remove the polyurethane. But can you remove it without removing paint? Read on! Achieving this can be a strenuous task, but with this guide, you will handle the task like a pro. 

Method 1

Step 1: Preparation

This project needs a well-ventilated space. So if you are working indoors, keep all windows and doors open and preferably turn on the fan to invite fresh air into the room. 

Step 2: Apply

Take a can of citrus stripper and shake it thoroughly to bring together its ingredients. After that, pour some of the strippers into a paint dish, then soak a paintbrush into it and apply it to the polyurethane. 

Step 3: Taste Scrape

After applying the stripper, wait for 24 hours, then test a hidden spot to see if the stripper comes off easily. Then, you take a plastic scraper and start scraping in the wood’s grain direction if it comes off without strain. Use an abrasive stripping pad to scrape off the stubborn spots. 

Afterward, take a paint stripper and wash off the lingering residue on the wood. 

Note: If you don’t intend to use strong chemicals, use this procedure. 

First, you will need a considerable amount of baking soda, cleaning vinegar, and cornstarch to peel down the polyurethane. You need to have a large container where you will mix 4 cups of hot water and a cup of cornstarch.

Mix them well to form a paste. After that, take a separate bowl and pour in 1 tablespoon of vinegar and ½ cup of baking soda. Mix them properly, then blend it with the previous mixture and mix properly again. 

The next thing is to apply the mixture with a paintbrush. Apply it all over the surface and allow it to sit for a while, so it soaks up in the wood. Next, scrub the surface lightly with a wire brush, then sand it lightly with medium-grit sandpaper. This should remove the polyurethane. 

How Do You Prepare Polyurethane Plastic for Painting? 

Polyurethane plastic is a typical polymer made up of organic units. This product is non-porous, making it uneasy to absorb paint adhesives. For this reason, surface preparation is not an option but a must.

If not, you will have an unsightly finish that will often peel and flake off. Check out these techniques highlighted below to know about what it takes to paint over polyurethane plastic. 

Things You Will Need

  • Water-based soap. 
  • Coarse nylon pad. 
  • Rags. 
  • Mineral spirits. 
  • 150 to 180 grit sandpaper. 
  • Tack cloth. 
  • Craft brushes. 
  • Acrylic enamel. 
  • Latex primer. 
  • Canvas drop cloth. 
  • Polyester paintbrush. 

With the above supplies at hand, you are set to go. 

Step 1

First, use the water-based soap and coarse nylon pad to wipe clean your polyurethane plastic. After that, rinse the plastic with damp rags, place it on a canvas drop cloth, and dry it for nearly an hour. 

Step 2

When the polyurethane plastic is dry, rub it with 150 grit sandpaper to enhance its adhesive qualities. Then what follows is to wipe it with a clean rag damped in mineral spirit. Give the solvent about 10 minutes to evaporate, then proceed. 

Step 3

Take a high-quality primer and paint it on your polyurethane plastic using a polyester paintbrush. It’s wise to use the polyester paintbrush because it generates smoother results, and it’s easy to wash with plain tap water after use. 

Step 5

Let your primer soak up on the plastic, then sand the surface with 320 grit sandpaper until the base feels slightly tacky. Take a tack cloth and remove the sanding dust produced. 

Step 6

Now that the plastic is fully prepared, it’s time to paint it using acrylic enamel paint. Pour the acrylic enamel into a clean paint pan and mix it properly. After mixing the paint to your desired consistency, take a paintbrush and place your first coat. Apply the coats evenly and avoid overlapping as it will cause brush strokes. Let each coat dry after every 3 hours, then add as many coats as it may take. 

Can Polyurethane Sealant be Painted? 

Polyurethane sealants offer a strong bond with better tear resistance exactly when keeping up the elastic properties. But be mindful of the type of paint you use on polyurethane sealants. I say this because they are moisture reactive.

So it’s wise not to use water-based paints on these sealants because they will flash cure and introduce bubbles on the surface. 

How Do You Paint Over Water-based Polyurethane?

Water-based polyurethane adds beauty to furniture, plus it protects it from daily demands. Because of this, it is a suitable option for wooden floors where there is high foot traffic. But due to its smooth nature, water-based polyurethane needs thorough surface preparation for the new paint to adhere to it. I have some useful techniques that will help you paint over your polyurethane with ease. Find out below: 

Supplies Needed

  • Cleaning cloths and rags. 
  • TSP solution.
  •  Protective gear: protective clothing, safety eye face mask, and safety gloves. 
  • Mineral spirits.
  • High-quality paintbrushes. 
  • Paint.
  • Primer.
  • Sandpaper of various grits. 

Step 1 

As usual, surface preparation is the most important part of any paint job as it guarantees a stunning finish. So start by wiping the surface clean to get rid of any dirt, mildew, grime, and so much more.

You can achieve a clean surface using a TSP solution. However, ensure you put on your protective gear to avoid putting your health at risk due to the toxic nature of TSP. 

Take a ¼ cup of the TSP solution and mix it with a gallon of water. Next, dip a soft sponge into the solution and squeeze it out to remove the excess. Employing circular motion, rub down your wooden surface until all dirt disappears. If stubborn dirt doesn’t come off easily, use a brush with stiff bristles to scrub it off. 

Note: wait for roughly 20 minutes for the surface to dry, then use a palette knife to squeeze the wood filler into the gaps, if any.

Step 2 

Next, use 80 grit sandpaper for sanding your wooden surface smoothly. If the surface exhibits signs of yellowing, use 220 grit sandpaper. Use minimal pressure on the wood as you sand until the surface feels gritty.

Once you complete sanding, clean up the dust left behind. I would recommend using a hoover because it prevents dust from floating in the air. Once you are through, the next thing is to damp a rag in mineral spirit, squeeze it out to pinch out the excess, then collect the lingering sanding particles from the surface. 

Step 3

After the surface dries, take an oil-based primer and use it to prime the surface. I suggest you opt for a high-quality oil primer rather than a water-based primer because the oil-based option brags excellent bonding properties. For this step, you will need a sizeable synthetic brush to paint the more detailed areas, then shift to a paint roller to paint the large surfaces. 

Don’t forget to read the instructions to know how long you should wait for each coat to dry. 

Step 4

After the primer dries, take your can of paint and get ready to paint. Assemble your supplies, including a paint dish and a roller. Pour your paint into a container and mix it well. Dip your paintbrush in the paint and start painting along the wood’s grain.

If your project is large, use a synthetic roller, but use a typical paintbrush for the more detailed areas. Then as well, if you are fortunate enough to acquire a spray gun, that should be your next option as it provides a more even coverage. 


Each coat should dry regarding the manufacturer’s instructions.

Check out these useful precautionary tips when painting over polyurethane:  

  • Always put on your protective gear.
  • Given that paints are flammable, you will want to avoid smoking in your workspace. 
  • Ensure you execute your job in an open space to avoid nursing headaches or feeling dizzy from the paint fumes. 
  • Dispose of your chemicals carefully to avoid environmental and health issues. 

How Long Does Polyurethane Take to Dry?

The time taken by polyurethane to dry depends on different aspects such as humidity, the absorbency of the surface, temperature, and the rest. Also, the type of polyurethane you use determines the drying duration.

For instance, water-based polyurethane dries more quickly (24 hours) and elicits less odor. Conversely, oil-based polyurethane needs more time to dry and produces an unpleasant smell. 

Factors Affecting Polyurethane Drying Time

  • Temp and humidity

It’s interesting to know that cold temperatures extend the drying time of polyurethane by half a day. So to fasten the drying time, it’s best to apply polyurethane in temperatures ranging from 70 degrees F and above. Still, the humidity level should be 50% 

  • Surface

Applying too many coats will prolong the drying time. So it’s wise to sand the surface entirely so that you employ fewer coats for short dry time. 

  • Dust and Debris

A dirty surface can cause drying delays on the polyurethane surface. So ensure you clean your surface thoroughly before applying a polyurethane finish. 

  • Wood species

Some woods generate chemicals that inhibit the drying of the polyurethane finish. For instance, woods like aromatic and rosewood produce natural oils which slow the drying process.


It’s easy to tell if your polyurethane is dry by watching out for a tacky or wet appearance. If none of these signs appear on the surface, it means it’s dry. 

How Do You Remove Polyurethane Without Sanding? 

Polyurethane finish is overly resistant to foreign influences. Because of that, it is not easy to get rid of this finish from wood surfaces. People often use sandpapers to peel off this finish from wood, but I’ll show you how to remove it using special strippers.

Strippers are often employed to peel down polyurethane finish because they enter deeply into multilayer coatings and wash off easily. 

Here are the steps you will employ;

  • Clean your surface to remove the impurities on the topcoat. 
  • Next, take your stripper, dip a synthetic brush into it and apply the first coat. After that, reapply another coat, then let the solvent sit on the surface for a while. 
  •  After a few minutes, wipe off the top surface to remove the polyurethane. If it doesn’t come off all of it, try reapplying another coat of the stripper until you achieve your desired results. 

How Do You Prepare Polyurethane for Wraps? 

Polyurethane is a smooth surface, so it hardly adheres to any surface without proper surface preparation. So the best logical approach for making your polyurethane Stick to wrap is by first cleaning the surface with chemical cleaners.

Use a soft cloth to rub the solvent on the polyurethane until it comes off completely. After that, pass sandpaper over the surface to prepare it for adherence. Then, you collect the sanding dust with a saturated cloth, so you don’t leave behind any particles. Once you are done, install your new wrap after applying strong adhesive glue.

Does Vinyl Wrap Stick to Polyurethane? 

Yes, vinyl wrap adheres to polyurethane and almost all other surfaces. The secret Is to give the surface thorough preparation before installing the vinyl wrap. 

How Soon Can I Paint Over Polyurethane Sealant? 

Polyurethane sealants offer excellent bonding qualities. The only downside of this sealant is that it is very reactive to moisture. But how soon should you paint over it?

It’s my understanding that polyurethane sealant should sit for 72 hours before painting over it, so it cures completely. Painting over polyurethane sealant that has not fully cured can cause paint peeling, bubbles, and other surface complications. 

What Is the Difference Between Silicone and Polyurethane Sealant? 

Both polyurethane and silicone sealant are versatile adhesives that form an integral part of most DIYers’ toolkits. These formulas are made of flexible materials, and that’s why they are ideal for areas that encounter intense contraction and expansion. 

The main difference between these two adhesives is that polyurethane sealant is less durable than silicone sealant. Because of silicone sealant’s hard-wearing and exceptional adhesive properties, it’s a suitable choice for professional projects that require strength. 

Here is why silicone sealant is a better pick over polyurethane sealant: 

  • It is rarely impacted by ultraviolet light and rain. 
  • It keeps up adherence even if it’s stretched out to the maximum. 
  • It is inorganic therefore offering greater chemical resistance.
  • It’s flexible and adapts to different temp ranges, unlike polyurethane sealant, which doesn’t make a solid bond when low temperatures prevail. 

Can Polyurethane Be Applied Over Silicone?

Both polyurethane and silicone serve similar purposes, but slight differences distinguish them. Both are available in various versions. So applying polyurethane over silicone depends on the version you employ. It’s wise to assess the type of version you have before using them together. 

How Can I Make My Polyurethane Dry Faster? 

One of the daunting challenges DIYers face is waiting for the polyurethane finish to dry. Luckily, there are ways you can employ to speed up the drying time. Check them below: 

  • Apply thinner

Using thinners such as Naptha makes polyurethane dry very quickly because it brags a higher evaporation rate than other thinners. 

  • Use water-based polyurethane

The surest way to complete your wood on time is by working with water-based polyurethane. It dries within 6 hours of application, unlike its oil-based counterpart that eats up 24 hours to dry. 

  • Apply heat

Using a hairdryer to blow air directly over the wet polyurethane finish can reduce its drying time significantly. However, be sure not to switch to heat mode as you will damage the polyurethane and introduce cracks on it. 

Final Thoughts

It is now true to allege that a polyurethane finish is a worthwhile product to use on any furniture. As stated in this guide, polyurethane has great bonding qualities and can hold high traffic provided you use it regarding the manufacturer’s instructions. But: 

Can You Paint Over Polyurethane? 

Yes, painting over polyurethane is very effective, but with thorough surface preparation beforehand. If not, the paint will slide off with time, and bubbles might also develop on the surface. 

I hope you have gained a lot reading through this post. Do you have a question, suggestion or an opinion that you would love to share? Kindly do so in the comment section below!