How Long Does Polyurethane Take To Dry? This Post Is Your Answer

Polyurethane is an indispensable element to process wonderful wood floors. The polyurethane coating will protect and polish the wood floors at the same time. 

But, how long does polyurethane take to dry? No more people know the exact answer to this question. This results in a consequence of polyurethane’s improper effect on the wood floors. 

Let’s avoid this mistake. We help you give the most accurate answer possible through our experience. Roll down and read!

how-long-does-polyurethane-take-to-dry
How long does Polyurethane take to dry on Wood

How Long Does Polyurethane Take To Dry?

There are two most common polyurethane types on the market, and their drying times are different. 

If you use water-based polyurethane, you need to wait about 6 hours until it gets dry and about 24 hours to walk on or touch it.

On the other hand, if you apply oil-based polyurethane for your wood floors, it will take you from 24 to 48 hours to dry and be suitable for you to carry out further application processes.

So, above is the answer for the primary topic of this article. If you don’t mind, I would like to extend your knowledge in this field with answers to some related questions based on my own experience. The more you know, the easier your coating work gets.

What’s The Difference Between Polyurethane Drying And Curing Time?

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The matter, as confusing as the main topic, is about the curing time. Many people, even I, have mistaken these two definitions. Consequently, they carry out the finishing processes, which are only appropriate after the curing time, right after the drying time.

To avoid making the same mistake as I have done, you should clarify what drying time is and what curing time is.

When you find the polyurethane’s exterior finish hard, it means the chemical is dry. At this phase, the polyurethane turns from a liquid substance into a denser and tougher form.

However, it’s still not ready for heavy use like placing furniture on due to the unstable structure of dry polyurethane. If you rush to utilize the recently dry polyurethane-coated wood floors, the coating layer can easily get wrinkled or damaged.

Curing is the next process of drying. After being dry, the polyurethane’s chemical components will take more time to react with the oxygen completely. Then, it will be hard throughout.

Cured polyurethane is the final and the hardest form of this substance. When the polyurethane is cured, you can use the wood floors without any hindrance.

To conclude, drying time is not curing time. Besides, curing is the next stage of drying.

Here, from my research and experience, I have a table to show you the general drying and curing time for each type of polyurethane:

Oil-basedWater-based
Drying time24 hours6 hours
You can walk on after48 hours24 hours
Replacing and placing furniture4 days2 days
Fully cureda montha month

Why Do Polyurethane Types Affect Drying Time?

As you can see from these two sections above, each type of polyurethane has distinct drying times. I will show you the reason.

Since water will evaporate quickly in the open condition, water-based polyurethane’s drying time is much faster. Furthermore, water-based polyurethane can create thinner coating layers than oil-based products, so it will take less time to dry. Despite being less durable, water-based polyurethane is safer for health, and it doesn’t release unpleasant odors.

In contrast to water-based products, oil-based polyurethane will significantly consume more time. The reason for this difference lies in the greater thickness of the coating layer and the oil-based structure. The longer drying time is tolerable because oil-based products will ensure a more durable finish for your wood floors.

But, when using this chemical, you should use protective tools against its high level of VOCs and irritating odor.

What Factors Affect Polyurethane Drying Time?

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Speed up polyurethane drying time

To remarkably minimize the drying time, you should know what factors have an impact on it. And then, adjust these conditions below to optimize the coating efficiency.

#1. Temperature

Temperature is the most noteworthy factor affecting the drying time. According to experts, the perfect temperature for polyurethane to properly dry is about 21 Celsius degrees. 

I have made a mistake when learning about this and I would like you to pay attention to avoid a misconception that colder temperatures will accelerate the hardening process of polyurethane coating. On the contrary, the frozen condition will result in the odd white film on the polyurethane and lengthen the drying stage. 

#2. Humidity

From 50% to 70% of humidity is the optimal condition for polyurethane to dry in time. If the percent of humidity exceeds this ratio, the polyurethane will struggle to attach to the wood. As a result, the drying time will be remarkable.

#3. Thickness

The thickness of the coating layer will affect the drying time. This is understandable. The thicker the polyurethane layer is, the longer it takes to dry.

You can decide the thickness by the method of application. By painting the polyurethane, you will make it thicker. Or else, if you spray or roll it on the floors, the coating is thinner.

Bottom Lines 

Polyurethane will take from 6 to 48 hours to dry. It’s up to the polyurethane type you use. Getting to know “How long does polyurethane take to dry?” will help you a lot to adjust your coating task for significant efficiency and greater durability of the wood floors. It will be such a pleasure for me if my knowledge and experience mean something to you.

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Image by Olger Fallas (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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