How Long Does It Take For Polyurethane To Stop Smelling?

Kellan Jansen
by Kellan Jansen
Polyurethane is necessary for many projects such as finishing a surface, but the smell that comes along with it is anything but pleasant. Depending on how much polyurethane you use, it will generally take a minimum of 5 days to stop smelling. Luckily, you can speed up the process, so let’s take a deep dive into what you can do to get rid of that distinct polyurethane smell.

When you put in new wood floorings, you want them to last. Often, this means adding a finishing material to them that will protect the floors from moisture and other types of damage.

Polyurethane is one substance you can use to do this. Polyurethane coatings are a popular choice for wood floors because of the substance’s high functionality and affordable cost. However, it does leave an unmistakable smell, which can be difficult to be around.

The smell of polyurethane should be mostly gone within 5-7 days of applying it to your wood floors. However, there may be remnants of the smell in your house for up to a month. You may be able to speed up this process by airing out your home with fans and open windows or by keeping your home warmer than you usually do.

What is Polyurethane?

In basic terms, polyurethane is a plastic that’s been chemically altered to become a liquid. The material remains a liquid until it’s applied to a surface and has the chance to dry. After that, it exists as a thin layer of plastic-like material on top of the surface you applied it to.

Polyurethane is available in many different forms, including both water- and oil-based options. You can also find it in varieties that range from satin to glossy.

Water-based polyurethane is probably the most popular option for wood floors. This is because it has a low odor and a low level of toxicity. That makes it easier to coat your floors with the substance without having to rearrange your living situation too drastically.

What is Polyurethane Used For?

Polyurethane is used for more than just coating wooden surfaces. It’s a highly versatile substance, which scientists have found many different applications for.

For example, polyurethane is often used in apparel. It can be fashioned into fine threads, which enable manufacturers to create garments that are more lightweight and stretchable.

Polyurethane is also used by professionals in the construction industry. It can be fashioned into materials that offer a high level of performance. Polyurethane offers an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, great insulation properties, and the durability and versatility that builders want from their materials.

For DIYers, polyurethane is most commonly used on floors. It can be used both as a foam underlay and as a coating for the floor’s top layer.

As a coating, polyurethane can be used on everything from wood to parquet to cement. It provides a protective finish that is easy to clean and maintain. Its properties can help a new floor last longer or restore an old one to its former glory.

How Do You Apply a Polyurethane Coating?

If you have floors that need to be treated with a protective substance, then polyurethane is a good option. Applying it is a task that’s easy enough for any DIYer to complete on their own.

In order to do so, you’ll first need to choose which polyurethane coating is best for your needs. You can choose between oil-based and water-based options as well as from a variety of sheen preferences.

Once you’ve made your selection, follow this step-by-step guide to get the job done:

  • Clear dust and debris from your floors. Doing this will enable the polyurethane coating to spread more evenly across the length of your intended target.
  • Apply the first coat with a bristle brush. The first coat of polyurethane should be a thin one. You should also wipe contoured surfaces with a clean cloth, going against the grain.
  • Sand uneven spots with 180 to 220 grit sandpaper and apply the next coats. After applying the second coat, wait 24 hours before applying the third. You should also sand again before doing this.

How Long Does it Take for Polyurethane to Stop Smelling?

As you apply polyurethane to your floors, you will immediately notice a strong, chemical kind of smell. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about. However, the smells of polyurethane can be strong and difficult to be around.

Given the strong smells of polyurethane, you may be wondering how long you need to sit through them. The short answer is that you can expect the smells to last for between 5 and 7 days. You may notice hints of the polyurethane smells for up to a month after the work is finished.

Can I Make Polyurethane Stop Smelling Faster?

There are steps that you can take to make the smell of polyurethane leave your home faster. The best strategy is to try and direct the smell out of your home with fans and other devices.

Your goal should be to keep air moving as much as possible. Try to keep some windows open and set up fans throughout the space. This will direct the air out of your home and could make the worst of the stench dissipate faster than the 5-7 day average.

Another option is to try and keep the temperature up in your home while also keeping the humidity low. This may only be a good strategy if you aren’t living in the home while it happens as it could make your living area uncomfortable.

Should I Choose Water-Based or Oil-Based Polyurethane?

The two major types of polyurethane coatings are water- and oil-based products. Each offers a different set of benefits that appeal to DIYers for different reasons.

Water-based polyurethane has less of an odor and a faster drying time than oil-based products. It’s a good option for surfaces that see little exposure to heat or the elements. You will likely need to apply more coats of this product than you would of oil-based polyurethane.

Oil-based polyurethane takes longer to dry and has more of an odor. However, it’s more durable and develops an amber tint over time whereas water-based polyurethane takes on a clear tint. This product also withstands heat better than its alternative.

Given these characteristics, water-based polyurethane is a better option for DIYers who want to remain in their home while the coating dries. Oil-based polyurethane is a better option for DIYers who want a more durable coating, even at the expense of a smellier and longer-lasting drying process.

Can I Stay in My Home After Applying Polyurethane Coating?

Experts recommend that families leave their homes for at least a few hours after polyurethane has been applied to their floors. After this point, you can return to your home. That means you should be able to sleep in your house the first night after you’ve applied a new coating.

However, you should try to walk on the newly-coated floors as little as possible. At the very least, walk over them with socks on only for the first 24 hours after the coating was applied. Doing this will ensure the polyurethane dries in the proper way.

Related Questions

How long does polyurethane take to dry?

Your results may vary based on the number of coats you applied and the specific product that you’ve chosen. That being said, the general rule is that you can expect polyurethane coatings to dry about 24 hours after they’ve been applied.

How many coats of polyurethane should I apply?

Experts recommend applying at least two coats of polyurethane to your floors. While this will cost more, it will also provide your floor with added protection. This will make your floors last longer, which will actually save you money in the long run.

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Kellan Jansen
Kellan Jansen

Kellan is a content writer who specializes in everything DIY. When he's not behind the keyboard, he enjoys spending time with his pets, playing music, and geeking out about basketball. He hopes to make your home improvement projects a little bit easier to accomplish.

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