How to Speed up Polyurethane Drying Time? What Not to Do

A common problem that confronts most woodworkers and carpenters is how to speed up polyurethane drying time?

As we already know, wood sealants require a considerable amount of time to dry and cure.

Applying finish to your woodwork is as essential as the project itself. The wait time one needs to endure for polyurethane to dry the wood is one significant challenge.

But, can I add additives to speed up polyurethane cure and drying time? No! you cannot Speed up the drying time of polyurethane finish with additives. However, you can apply some common sense and simple preparation to help the drying process.

Using a high build finish, quick-drying urethane or Opening up the windows and doors, and Setting up a space heater are the simple and basic things that can speed up a polyurethane drying process.

Speeding Up Polyurethane Drying Time – What Not To Do

I can understand the need to speed up the finish on your tables and floors. But, don’t go overboard when trying to speed up polyurethane drying time.

Speeding up the drying time for urethane is all about applying some basic knowledge rather than using additives or some other false trickery. 

Here are some things you shouldn’t do when speeding up the drying process for urethane:

1.  Adding Naphtha or Thinner

The idea of adding thinner and naphtha into polyurethane to speed up drying time is a fallacy, more of an imaginary thing. These additives will expose you to harm and hazards.

If you feel your polyurethane is too thick, please do not attempt to thin it with naphtha. The solvent is a volatile, highly flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture.

A room full of wood finished with (polyurethane and naphtha) poses a fire hazard when the heat level in the room gets increased to speed up the drying process.

2.  Keep Under Sunlight

Keeping a polyurethane finish wood in the sun may not be the best idea for your projects. The heat from the sun can help speed up the drying process, and leaving them under direct sunlight is not good either.

Polyurethane finishes are HIGHLY susceptible to Ultraviolet rays from the sun. The sun UV can damage the clear coats of polyurethane; the finish will have tiny pinholes due to bubbles coming out through them.

3. Overheating

If your room is full of wood finishing materials, do not raise the temperature to a high heat level – it may cause a fire hazard.

Be cautious with finishes mixed with thinner and naphtha. They are volatile and highly flammable. An overheating or high temperature can trigger a fire outbreak.

how to speed up polyurethane drying time

Can You Speed Up Polyurethane Drying Time?

Yes! There are simple things you can do to speed up polyurethane drying time. But adding additives to the urethane mixture is not encouraged.

For example, when an oil-based polyurethane is applied thick and heavy on wood. What do you think will happen? It is going to take a longer time than usual to dry.

But, basic sense should tell you that applying polyurethane light would get dry in a short time than when done heavy.

You need to apply common sense and simple preparation when you want the drying process of polyurethane to be fast, rather than using additives or some other false tips.

How to Speed Up Polyurethane Drying Time?

If you are on a tight schedule and speeding up urethane drying time is crucial and inevitable. Here are some simple and easy steps to speed up the drying process.

1.  Buy a quick-drying urethane

If your project requires a prompt delivery and you want to make the varnish dry faster. You can buy a quick-drying urethane. Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane is a clear wood finish, an oil-based polyurethane that dries fast and offers long-lasting protection on finished or unfinished wood.

quick-drying urethane - speed up polyurethane drying time?

2.High build Varnish

 Another way you improve the drying time of your woodwork is by using a high build polyurethane. Rust-Oleum Varathane Triple Thick Polyurethane is a One-coat coverage, water-based formula that resists stain and scratch.

It is a durable protective finish formulated to provide long-lasting beauty and protection with just one coat. It dries within 2 hours of application and covers up to 50 square feet.

This kind of polyurethane reduces the number of coats and dries faster. Your projects get done 3times quicker than usual while providing exceptional protection.

3.Provide vents

When working with a finish, it is essential to provide vents for air circulation. Open up the windows and entryways, keep one or two fans to improve airflow in your workspace.

The air will speed up the vanishing process and provide a safe environment free of odor and fumes.

4.Apply heater

Applying some heat is one of the ways to increase the drying time of polyurethane. You can use hair-dryers, space heaters, or heat lamps.

However, this method will not speed up the cure time of your table or wooden floor but can only make the wood dry faster after applying polyurethane.

In hot seasons, where the temperatures are high, polyurethane will dry and cure more quickly.

How Long Does It Take Polyurethane to Dry?

Oil-based polyurethane requires around 24 hours to dry after application. It may not stick to the hands when you touch it.

But, not cured – you’ll need to give it more time before you start walking the surface. Water-based polyurethane has a drying time of about six hours once it is applied.

Please note that there is a big contrast between the drying time and the curing time of urethane.

The curing time of a finished floor is the duration needed for the wood to get ready for use after applying varnish.

Therefore, an oil-based polyurethane cure time table can take up to 30 days depending on the weather condition.

The water-based polyurethane cure time table is between 2-5 days before you can continue your normal activities.

How to Make Oil-Based Polyurethane Dry Faster?

To make an oil-based polyurethane dry faster, you need to provide an ambient with high temperature and low moisture. Oil-based polyurethane needs a higher temperature to dry under 24 hours.

Keep the temperature between 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit and 95 degrees Fahrenheit around the work area. And make sure the moisture level is low.

Oil-based polyurethane dry time between coats is 24 hours. The wait time is needed for a quality finish when the second coat is applied. The oil-based polyurethane cure time on most surfaces is between a few weeks to one month before use.

Does Polyurethane Dry Faster in The Sun?

The heat from the sun can hasten the drying process of your urethane, but doing this is a bad idea. Polyurethane finishes are HIGHLY susceptible to Ultraviolet rays from the sun.

The sun UV can damage the clear coats of polyurethane; the coat will have tiny pinholes due to bubbles coming out through the coat.

ALSO READ: Can You Put Polyurethane Over Acrylic Paint?

Why Your Polyurethane Is Taken Longer Time Dry?

Here are some of the few reasons your polyurethane took a long time to dry and the possible remedy to it.

1.  Less Time at Intervals

When you don’t give ample time between each coat – polyurethane might end up taking a long time to dry.

In case you have made a mistake of not allowing each coat to dry at intervals before adding the next coat. You have to scrape off the polyurethane with a powerful solvent like lacquer thinner, paint stripper, or acetone. After that, you can now start over to get the desirable results.


To make your polyurethane get dry faster, you can increase the heat level by using a Space heater or heat lamp.

2. High Humidity

Have it that applying polyurethane during fall and spring will take a longer time to dry.

During this period, the weather is very humid, and the lack of hot air slows down the evaporation process of the varnish. High humidity will prolong the dry time.


Get dehumidifiers to provide a steady low room humidity in your workspace to encourage your polyurethane to dry and cure faster.

3. Oil in Wood

On most occasions where polyurethane takes longer to dry, it is not a result of an inferior finish but the oil component in the wood that won’t allow it to dry fast.

If you have a polyurethane finish that has taken a longer dry time, it may not necessarily be the product but the wood where polyurethane is applied.

The wood used may contain natural oils, which won’t allow the finish to dry out fast.


To fix this, you need to apply heat using a heat lamp or blow dryer, or space heater to speed up the drying time.

Final thought – How to Speed up Polyurethane Drying Time?

Temperature and humidity play a crucial role when it comes to polyurethane drying and curing time. Therefore, it is essential to increase the temperature and eliminate humidity to speed up polyurethane drying time.

If you are working on a tight schedule and can’t wait, it is best to use water-based polyurethane as it has shorter drying and curing time than its oil-based counterpart.

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