How to remove polyurethane from wood floors?

We're an affiliate

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Thank you if you use our links, we really appreciate it!

After a few years, the polyurethane can be dulled by small scratches and scuffs as well. Making its removal is really essential to have a pretty new-looking hardwood floor.

Many people think that removing polyurethane is something impossible for them, but it turns out to be quite easy. Today, I’m so glad to show you step by step to do it.

What Is Polyurethane For Hardwood Floors?

using polyurethane

Polyurethane is often used as external cover for wood floors. Polyurethane gives your hardwood floors a high gloss finish and shine. Not only that, but it provides protection as well.

List of things you need:

  • Paint brush
  • Floor or putty scraper
  • Sandpaper
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Chemical stripper

If you want to use water based stripper, it will be a little less toxic. However, keep in mind it takes more time to remove polyurethane.

Warning before removing polyurethane:

The chemical stripper can emit strong fumes while you’r work with it.  

A polyurethane stripper is harmful for you  if you are careless. Make sure that you have protective gear including goggles, gloves and a respirator with you.

Step By Step Guide

Step 1 – Prepare your room

empty room
  • Clear all movable items from the room and clean the floor. Dust or sweep the area with a clean cloth to remove as much dirt and dust as possible.
  • Open the  windows in the room to make the air inside your room fresh. Also, it would be better if you can put a fan with the direction of the wind straight to windows or door to make the dust and the dirty air get out of your room.
  • Cover the objects in your room. If there are unportable objects as well as furniture available, it’d better take some thing to cover these things from being unwantedly painted by the paint stripper. A plastic piece would be a good protector.

Step 2 – Protect yourself

protective gear
  • Put the gloves on to cover your fingers.
  • Wear goggles to prevent your eyes from dust as well as chemical materials.
  • Use a respirator mark if you don’t want disgusting fumes to come in your respiratory system.

Make sure that you put on the clothes that protect your body while removing polyurethane from the floor.

Step 3 – Select the paint stripper

using paint strippers

Chemical-based paint strippers are simple as well as quick to get the work done.

However, they’re not good for your skin and can lead to some consequences for you if you’re careless while working .

Instead,  water-based strippers is an alter solution for safety, but you should note that they can take you lots of time compared to the chemical-based one.Water-based paint stripper

Step 4 – Apply the stripper to the floor

apply strpper on a floor
  • Use a paintbrush to apply a uniform coat of the stripper to all areas of the floor.
  • Make the brush for painting soak into the stripper. After 10 minutes, the dipping section will be completely done.

If you choose the water-based stripper, you are likely to wait much more than this, maybe half a day or even all day long.

You can see in the instruction of the stripper and it will let you know how long exactly.

You can use a large amount of the stripper for your floor. Using strokes is essential if you want to paint all the floor.

Be careful around corners, being sure to get the corners without touching the walls. Then removing polyurethane from floors can be done thanks to the chemicals from the stripper.

Step 5 – Scrape the polyurethane off

scraping polyurethane off

It’s time to take your scraper out of your bags.

You can begin with a metal scraper. In case you’re afraid that the surface can be scratched hard,  let’s utilize a plastic scraper.

The polyurethane will be removed from your floor while you’re moving your scraper.

Scraping along with in line of the wood grain. If you intentionally do it in the opposite way, the surface can be harmed so hard.

  • For small areas, it is suggested to utilize a steel brush. You can’t use the scraper to medieval or decorated parts. If you rub these areas by the metal brush the bristles will come in all the crannies and clean the polyurethane.
  • Scrub the polyurethane down with a solvent known as after wash you use follow the paint stripper. The aim of this step is wiping completely the polyurethane together with getting rid of the paint stripper you applied previously. Take a piece of paper towel to do this task until all the polyurethane turns up.
  • Repeat it if you feel it is necessary. If the polyurethane can’t be rubbed completely in the first time, you will need to do the same job one more time. Paint another paint stripper to the needed area, and next rub it on one more time, find out whether or not if the work is done.

Step 6 – Sand the floor

floor sanding
  • This step is useful for removing the polyurethane to help you have a clean surface. Sanding the floor makes the initial wood appea. Sanding the floor lightly to remove any remaining polyurethane.
  • Sand the floor results in much dust. Remember to continue opening your window and door, as well as covering your furniture.
  • After the majority of the polyurethane has been rubbed, let’s sand down the rest of it. With a steel wool, it can be done. A sandpaper of 150 grit is also suitable to use in this case. The sandpaper will remove the rest of the polyurethane smoothly.
  • Get rid of the unnecessary materials in a friendly and safe way for environment after the work is done.

Note: *Do not throw rags and chemicals directly into the trash or sewer.*

From here the wood is ready for anything. You can stain, seal, or apply a fresh coat of polyurethane to it.

main concerns I see among many people

What type of stripper can be used that will not harm the paint underneath?

Soy stripper, because it is plant oil based rather than harsh chemical based.

Can I use satin polyurethane?

Yes, but you should sand carefully with grade sandpaper and scrub it completely after that. If there is light and bright areas, you should find the other sand.

What is the best sandpaper grit to use in removing the polyurethane coat on a hardwood floor?

If this is for removing the finish, I was told its more of a trial and error approach. We had very old floors with a very thick finish on them.

So I was told to start with 36, if the sander did not go all the way to the wood or do a decent job removing the majority, then drop down to a 24 grit paper.

For round legs, which should I buy to strip it?

As mentioned above in the article, The steel wool can have capability of running on medieval or decorated areas or objects.

But you remind yourself not to rub the wood. You can try to use wire brush because it has the same ability as the steel wool.

For my own experience, I am in favor of choosing a brass brush because of its softness as well as the less physical harm tendency to the wood.

Regardless either of the brush, your work can be accomplished easier. But remember to put the wear gloves on for your skin’s sake.

Can I scrape against the direction of the wood grain?

In this post, I suggest that you should not scrape agaist the wood grain.

You should follow, move along with the direction of the wood grain. Otherwise, you will damage the surface of floor by yourself.



From my point of view, removing the polyurethane is not easy task but not so difficult one that we can’t do. I’m sure that there are numerous people who wonder: “Why should I find someone else and pay them to do it?”

The answer is “No need for that.”  More so, do you want to put something so important in someone else’s hands? – I think it’s no.

Instead, just reading the guide above and follow it step by step would help save your money. And you feel intriguing because you have capability of doing something by yourself.

Removing the polyurethane just likes a simply exercise for you. I would be delighted if this post would be benefit to you. If you find it easy, don’t hesitate and do it right now.