Remove Polyurethane from Hands

How To Get Polyurethane Off Hands: 9 EASY Ways (2024)


Some of the best methods to get polyurethane off your hands include:

  • Using dish soap and warm water to remove water-based poly
  • Using mineral spirits or denatured alcohol to remove oil-based poly
  • You can also try using peanut butter, rubbing alcohol, or white vinegar – but these can be less effective.

Polyurethane is my go-to finish when it comes to woodworking and DIY projects, but it’s easy to get it stuck to your hands.

And it can be harmful to your skin if left on for too long, so it’s critical to remove it as soon as possible.

In this post, I’ll explore how to get polyurethane off hands, what substances you can use to get polyurethane off hands, and much more. Let’s get started!

How To Remove Water-Based Polyurethane from Hands and Skin

Water Based Polyurethane

Water-based polyurethane can fall apart with just warm water and soap.

That’s all you need to get this type of polyurethane off your hands.

Here are the steps to get rid of water-based polyurethane:

  • Add dish soap to your hands and use a little bit of water
  • Lather the soap and use your nails to work off the substance
  • If needed, soak your hands in warm water to get the polyurethane bonds to break
  • Wash the polyurethane off your hands with warm water
  • Dry your hands, free from sticky polyurethane, and add moisturizing lotion

You can use just about any kind of soap, but dishwashing soap like Dawn tends to be more effective than a standard hand soap.

It’s much easier to get rid of water-based polyurethane than it’s oil-based alternative.

Check out these ways to get the polyurethane smell out of your home!

How To Remove Oil-Based Polyurethane from Hands and Skin

Oil Based Polyurethane

Oil-based polyurethane is a little more complicated than water-based variety.

You may need mineral spirits or denatured alcohol to get it off your hands.

Here’s what you need to remove the oil-based poly:

  • Warm water
  • Cloth
  • Soap
  • Hand lotion
  • Mineral spirits (or an alternative)

Gather your ingredients and lay them out in a well-ventilated room. Once you have them, you’re ready.

Here’s how you can remove oil-based polyurethane off your hands:

  • Grab mineral spirits
  • Rub a little of the mineral spirits on your hands
  • Rinse under warm water
  • Repeat if necessary
  • Wash one more time with dish soap and water

Mineral spirits are extremely effective at removing polyurethane, but they can be harmful so you have to be careful.

There are several alternatives to mineral spirits if you want to try something gentler to get the harsh chemicals off your hands.

Don’t forget to clean your polyurethane brush immediately after using them!

Alternatives to Mineral Spirits to Wash Polyurethane Off Hands

There are many alternatives to mineral spirits if you need to remove oil-based polyurethane from your skin.

While mineral spirits tend to be the most effective, these can be less harsh and sometimes more affordable options.

Here are some of the best alternatives to mineral spirits you can use to remove polyurethane from your hands:

  • Peanut Butter
  • White Vinegar
  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Paint Thinner
  • Baby Oil/Vegetable Oil
  • Olive Oil and Salt
  • Alcohol
  • Soy-Based Polyurethane Stripper

1. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter might not be the first thing you think about when removing a chemical like polyurethane, but it’s an excellent product that can get the job done.

It doesn’t have the same chemicals as mineral spirits and is kinder to the skin when exposed.

Here’s how you can remove polyurethane with peanut butter:

  • Scoop peanut butter out of the jar
  • Let the food soak on your hand for a few moments
  • Wash the peanut butter off your hands with dish soap
  • Add hand lotion

Peanut butter is more natural and might already be in your pantry at home making it an ideal solution. It’s an excellent way to keep your body in better shape and save money that might otherwise go towards mineral spirits.

2. White Vinegar

White vinegar is another excellent option to remove polyurethane off hands that you might already have in your kitchen.

It works to soften the oil-based polyurethane, which can then be wiped off with ease. Vinegar might have a slight smell, but it’s effective and natural solution if you want something other than mineral spirits.

Here’s how you can remove polyurethane with white vinegar:

  • Pour the white vinegar into a bowl, just enough to cover your hand when inside the container
  • Allow your hands to soak in the vinegar for a few moments
  • Remove the polyurethane with your nails
  • Wash your hands with soap and water until the remnants are gone
  • Add a hand lotion to moisturize

It’s easy to remove polyurethane with white vinegar. If you don’t have any at home, it doesn’t cost much to buy some at your local grocery store.

As a benefit, you can then use the remaining vinegar for cooking, salad dressing, and cleaning at home.

3. Nail Polish Remover

Nail polish remover is a little stronger than peanut butter and white vinegar, but it’s still a safe choice to avoid mineral spirits to remove polyurethane off hands.

If you are a woman or live with females, you might already have nail polish remover in your home.

Here’s how you can get polyurethane off hands with nail polish remover:

  • Gather cotton balls and nail polish remover
  • Add nail polish remover to a cotton ball
  • Rub the ball on your hands until the polyurethane starts coming off
  • Continue until the polyurethane is gone
  • Wash with soap and water
  • Add hand lotion for moisture

Nail polish remover has a strong scent, so ensure you work in an area with excellent ventilation. You can also put on a breathable mask to keep your inhalation of the chemicals to a minimum.

4. Paint Thinner

Paint Thinner to Remove Polyurethane

Paint thinner is another excellent choice to get polyurethane off hands.

It works to loosen the polyurethane from your skin so that you can then easily wash it away. However, paint thinner is more potent than the other products on this list and should only be used as a last resort.

Here’s how you can remove polyurethane with paint thinner:

  • Gather your paint thinner
  • Use cotton balls or a cloth to rub your hand
  • Wait until the polyurethane comes off
  • Wash your hands with soap and water
  • Add lotion when dry

Paint thinner should be used in a well-ventilated area. Put on a mask to avoid inhaling too many fumes.

5. Baby Oil/Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil or baby oil works well to get rid of polyurethane on hands.

It’s a gentle substance that you may already have in your home. It loosens the polyurethane and makes it simple to peel off your hands after it sits on top for a few moments.

Here’s how you can remove polyurethane with baby oil or vegetable oil:

  • Find your oil
  • Rub it on the hand with the polyurethane
  • Let it soak
  • Wait until the polyurethane lifts up
  • Wash your hands with soap and water
  • Add lotion once your hands are dry

Baby oil is a great choice because it is gentle and won’t harm your skin. It’s an affordable material and will almost always do the trick.

6. Olive Oil and Salt

Olive oil and salt are a tasty combination on bread, and they also work well to remove polyurethane from your hands.

They work a lot like peanut butter and there’s a good chance you already have them in your kitchen. If not, they’re affordable and located at any grocery store.

Here’s how you can remove polyurethane with olive oil and salt:

  • Gather your materials
  • Let the olive oil soak on the polyurethane
  • Use the salt to scrub it off
  • Wash with soap and water
  • Add lotion when dry

Olive oil is gentle and salt work as an effective scrub for polyurethane.

This can also be a great way to remove resin from your hands!

7. Rubbing Alcohol

Alcohol is an excellent product if you want to lift polyurethane from your hands in a more natural manner.

While it’s harsher than other materials it’s still better than mineral spirits for your skin.

You can use denatured or isopropyl alcohol to rub the polyurethane off your hands.

Here’s how you can remove polyurethane with alcohol:

  • Gather your materials
  • Use cotton balls to apply the alcohol to the skin
  • Wait for the polyurethane to lift
  • Gently rub it off
  • Wash with soap and water
  • Add hand lotion when dry

Wearing a mask can be helpful when working with any type of alcohol to avoid inhaling too many fumes.

Need to get Gorilla glue off your skin? Check out these methods to remove Gorilla glue from your hands and skin!

8. Soy-Based Polyurethane Stripper

There is a traditional stripper available for removing polyurethane, and then there is the soy-based variety.

This option is bioactive, which means it is gentle and comfortable on the hands.

Here’s how you can remove polyurethane with a soy-based polyurethane stripper:

  • Add the stripper to cotton balls
  • Rub the cotton balls on the polyurethane
  • Wash your hands with soap and water
  • Add a hand lotion once dry

Soy-based polyurethane stripper is gentle on the hands, but it’s still crucial to wash your hands after using it.

Consider the Type of Polyurethane On Your Hands

Choosing Polyurethane

There are two types of polyurethane on the market. Each type serves a different purpose, whether for your next woodworking project or protecting your floors from scratches.

The two main types of polyurethane on the market include:

  • Water-based polyurethane
  • Oil-based polyurethane

You can typically identify the polyurethane by the texture and feel.

The oil-based variety will be more greasy feeling than the water-based option.

Water-based polyurethane is also thinner and light, while the oil-based variety brown, amber, and smelly.

You’ll need to take a different strategy based on the polyurethane you have on your hands.

If you can, try to wipe it off your skin before it dries. Dried polyurethane can be much more difficult to remove and will require more harsh chemicals. The time it takes polyurethane to dry is not extremely long, so be sure to remove it ASAP. 

Tips for Removing Polyurethane

When it comes to removing polyurethane, there are a few tips you should keep in mind:

  • Always wear gloves, whether preventing polyurethane on your hands or removing it from another location
  • Clean up polyurethane spills as soon as possible to avoid staining
  • Keep it in a sealed container in storage to prevent spills
  • Have mineral spirits with you at all times to take care of troubles as soon as they occur

You can also check out the video below!

Future Tips To Avoid Polyurethane On Your Hands

If you want to avoid getting polyurethane on your hands in the first place, there are a few things you can do.

Here are two ways to avoid getting polyurethane stuck on your hands:

  • Use protective gear like rubber gloves when working with polyurethane
  • Wipe off polyurethane while it is wet

You should never use polyurethane without an action plan.

Use Protective Gear

Protective clothing and gear go a long way when working with polyurethane to avoid getting it on your hands or any other exposed body part.

Here are a few of the best protective items to use as you work with this material:

  • Chemical resistant gloves
  • Protective goggles for your eyes
  • Long-sleeve cloths
  • Pants to cover your legs
  • Close-toed shoes
  • N-95 mask

These will keep you safe when applying polyurethane.

Ensure you cover as much skin as possible as the less that is exposed, the less likely you will spill the material on yourself.

Curious about cleaning wood that’s been finished? Check out this guide to cleaning polyurethane surfaces!

Wipe Off When Wet

This precaution won’t prevent polyurethane from getting on your hands, but it will prevent the material from causing damage as it dries.

If you happen to spill polyurethane on your hands, ensure you wipe it off while it’s wet. You can use a soft towel or cloth to do this.

Wiping off when wet will:

  • Prevent the material from soaking in the skin
  • Make it simpler to remove

The more critical thing you can do is being careful when applying polyurethane. The slower you go, the less likely you are to get polyurethane on your hands.

It might take more time, but you will save your skin and prevent a removal process in the first place.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Paint Thinner Remove Polyurethane?

Yes! Paint thinner will remove oil-based polyurethane off hands and other body parts. The petroleum distillate will quickly break down the polyurethane allowing it to be rubbed off.

Will mineral spirits remove polyurethane?

Yes! Mineral spirits, just like paint thinner, will remove polyurethane by breaking it down. The only difference is that mineral spirits are less harsh and will not damage the skin as quickly.

Final Thoughts

If you’re wondering how to get polyurethane off hands, luckily there are many options depending on the type of polyurethane used.

Water-based polyurethane can come off relatively easily with just water and liquid dish soap.

Oil-based polyurethane requires the use of other substances like mineral spirits, rubbing alcohol, or even peanut butter to remove polyurethane stains from your hands.