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Will Mineral Spirits Remove Polyurethane? (Quick Answers)

Polyurethane is used on wood to give a smooth finish that helps avoid scratches and resist water damage. It also provides a glossy look and improves durability.

However, sometimes to repaint or varnish the wood surface, it is essential to wipe off the polyurethane finish. So what is the solution that could ease this task of removing polyurethane? Here we will be discussing the effect of mineral spirits on polyurethane. Let’s find it out in detail.

Will mineral spirits remove polyurethane?

Mineral spirits do not remove polyurethane. To wipe off polyurethane, a paint stripper thinned with solvent is needed. It is a must process for reviving thin, flaky surfaces. Also, when one wants to change the color of wood underneath. Most commercial stripper is Methylene chloride. 

Mineral spirits do not have a considerable effect on polyurethane. To get rid of it you need to use a paint stripper mixed with a solvent. Once applied, it will soften the polyurethane. You can easily wipe off some of the top material.   

Nevertheless, what about oil-based and water-based polyurethane? Do they work the same as basic polyurethane when one applies mineral spirit? It is what we are going to find out now. 

Here’s our insight on oil-based and water-based polyurethane when we mix mineral spirit with them.  

Oil-based polyurethane:

Mineral spirits are compatible solvents with oil and can effortlessly dissolve them. Therefore you can expect oil-based polyurethane to dissolve also.

You can also test this by a method. First, saturate a cotton ball or a rag in mineral spirit. Now wipe on the stain or spots. You will have to infer it as oil-based if varnishes come off. 

However, basic mineral spirit won’t influence the polyurethane structure. You can use it to wipe off any spots without hampering the texture of the varnish finish. 

Water-based polyurethane:

No matter if it is a finish or paint, all water-based products can be thinned using the help of water. Hence, we can expect water-based polyurethane to thin when mixed with it.

However, we do not suggest using mineral spirit on water-based polyurethane because it will cause more bad than good. It will create a huge mess. It is also not advised to use paint thinners as well. 

Will mineral spirits dissolve or damage polyurethane?

Mineral spirits do not dissolve or damage a primary type of polyurethane. You can get rid of any spots on the polyurethane finish using the solvent. To remove polyurethane, you need to use a rejuvenator or paint stripper with a thinner solvent. 

It softens the top surface and you can wipe it away without hassle. 

Nevertheless, oil-based polyurethane is affected by mineral spirit. You can also remove the water-based polyurethane, however, not advised as it creates a mess.  

There are, however, some materials that effortlessly remove polyurethane. Vinegar, for example, is one of them. The acid on the vinegar can break down the finish of polyurethane-coated wood. Some other similar materials are denatured alcohol and acetone. 

What do mineral spirits do to polyurethane?

Mineral spirits do not have a considerable influence on polyurethane. One can use mineral spirit on a polyurethane finish to remove stains or spots. To wipe the varnish texture or polyurethane surface, you need to use a paint stripper that is thinned using a solvent. 

It will help you ease in wiping away the top surface of the polyurethane.  

One thing to remember is that pouring mineral spirits on cured polyurethane will not do anything. However, if the polyurethane does not dry yet and you use mineral spirit on it, expect it to dissolve the product. 

Again, oil-based polyurethane is compatible with mineral spirits. You can easily wipe it off by using mineral spirit. The texture of water-based polyurethane is also affected. However, since it creates a big mess, it is not recommended to use mineral spirit on water-based polyurethane. 

Can you clean polyurethane with mineral spirits?

It is not possible to clean polyurethane using mineral spirit. Pouring mineral spirit onto polyurethane is not going to affect it significantly. It only happens when one treats the polyurethane. If it is not dried, expect it to break down with mineral spirit. 

In treated polyurethane, you can use mineral spirit to remove spots and stains.

Again, to clean a polyurethane coat, you need to have a paint stripper added with a thinning solvent. It will help you wipe away the coating completely.

Nevertheless, oil-based polyurethane behaves slightly differently when we use mineral spirit. It will get dissolve into the material. In the case of water-based polyurethane, it is better not to use mineral spirit as it does nothing much but cause a hassle.

What removes polyurethane finish?

Not all types of solutions are compatible with polyurethane. If you want to wipe off the coating while not destroying the stain beneath, you need to be cautious when choosing solvent. To be specific, you may need chemicals in DIY or homemade stripper formula. 

Here, we have listed some that will help you remove the polyurethane finish without affecting other materials. Most of them can be found in the home as well. Refer to the list below to know more. 


Though it may sound ridiculous, vinegar is one of the best DIY products in removing polyurethane. How does it help? Well, the acid in the vinegar helps disintegrate the polyurethane finish.

It also starts to pit the finish. The pits once again help trap sand. Eventually, it will strip off the polyurethane coating. 

Denatured alcohol:

Though rubbing alcohol does not work on polyurethane coating, denatured alcohol does. It effortlessly helps clean the surface. 

Once again, it is less toxic compared to paint strippers. However, it takes more time to work.


Acetone can damage most of the paint and finishes. It also wipes off polyurethane coating. It is again advised not to use acetone on most solvent-resistant finishes. You can also wipe away the two-part polyurethane. 

Methylene chloride: 

Methylene chloride help soften the polyurethane coating. It helps diffuse evenly. In doing so, it weakly associates with carbonyl and disrupts the inter-chain linkage. With additional swelling, it facilitates the diffusion of solvent. 

How To Remove Polyurethane?

Removing polyurethane is straightforward. Here we have described steps on how to wipe off polyurethane from different mediums.  

Remove polyurethane from hands:


Take some mineral spirit. Ensure the room is well ventilated, even if the spirit is odorless. 


Now take enough mineral spirit and rub on the spot where you have polyurethane on your skin/hand.

Rinse hand:

If the mineral is caustic or sticky, rinse your hand thoroughly in warm water for a minute to two. If it is still on hand use some more mineral spirits. Finally, use soap to clean your hands properly.

Remove polyurethane from wood:


Since you are trying to strip chemicals, make sure the area is well ventilated. Use nylon or cloth cover over the floor and furniture.

Wear protection:

Since you are working with chemicals that can be toxic, make sure you are protecting yourself. Wear rubber gloves and safety goggles.

Use stripper:

Use a standard brush to apply the paint remover and coat the varnish layer with it. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Water-based strippers need more time to start working. 

Scrap the varnish:

Now scrap the varnish by plastic knife or simply by using hand. It can be a piece of fabric as well. Use back and forth motions to soften the varnish. Now thoroughly clean the area.

Remove dried polyurethane from brush:

Soak the brush:

Take water and soak your brush on it for several minutes. It is applicable for water-based polyurethane only. Throw away the old water and soak the brush again. Do it at least four times.

Clean the brush:

Now wearing gloves, clean the brush. Be careful not to splatter paints everywhere. Finally, wring out the bristle dry.

Remove oil-based polyurethane

For oil-based polyurethane, you need to use paint thinner. Ensure ventilation. Pour some paint thinner on a cup and dip the brush into it. Leave it for 20 minutes. Wring out the polyurethane. Do it until it is clean.

Remove cloudy polyurethane:

Use mineral spirit:

Take a small amount of mineral spirit in a soft sponge and wrap it on a cotton cloth. Make sure the polyurethane is dry.


Rub the finish back and forth and remove the first coat using the sponge. Let it dry. Repeat the process. Do this until you remove all the blotches. Let the surface dry. 

Use sandpaper: 

If the cloudiness persists, use 220-grit sandpaper. Rub it until the finish is gone.  

Final thoughts

It is not possible to remove polyurethane coating using mineral spirit. To wipe it off, you need a paint stripper mixed with thinner. Nevertheless, it affects the texture of both oil-based and water-based polyurethane. One can, however, remove spots or stains using mineral spirits from polyurethane.