How To Get Polyurethane Off Hands And Skin

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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If you are doing DIY or home improvement projects with polyurethane, you must wear gloves. However, no matter how vigilant you are while applying polyurethane finishes, you will most likely get some on your hands or skin. There is no need to worry if this happens, but you need to clean the polyurethane off as fast as possible. To learn how to get polyurethane off your hands, we got you covered. Read on to learn the different methods to get polyurethane off your hands.

What is Polyurethane?

Polyurethane is mostly abbreviated as PU or PUR. It is a plastic material that exists in various forms. The material can be made to be either rigid or flexible. This allows for polyurethanes to be used with a wide range of applications.


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Polyurethane comes in two forms: oil-based and water-based polyurethane. The two forms are used to create all manners of industrial; and consumer products. For instance, you could use polyurethane as a wood stain to protect your wooden furniture, to insulate freezers and build insulation, coatings, adhesives, cushions, mattresses, and car parts.

Now that we understand what polyurethanes are, let’s look at how to get both oil-based and water-based polyurethane off the hands.

How to Get Oil-Based Polyurethane Off Hands Using Mineral Spirits

Using mineral spirits is one of the most effective ways to get rid of an oil-based poly. However, you will need some essential equipment to remove the sticky polyurethane from your hands. First, you will need to purchase mineral spirits, soap and warm water, Moisturizer, baby oil, vegetable oil, and lotion.

Mineral spirits

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You can follow the simple steps indicated below to help get the polyurethane from your hands or skin with all the essential sets.

Step-1: Apply Mineral Spirits

Yes, mineral spirits remove polyurethane. First, you will need to get to a well-ventilated room with no risk of flames. Then, you will need to apply enough mineral spirit to the affected areas and gently rub your hands.

If you have sticky spots, you will apply more spirit, but you need to be careful because mineral spirit can have harsh chemicals harmful to your skin. You could consider using a shop rag to control the use of spirits. The spirits will soften the oil-based poly and make it easy to wash off.

Step-2: Clean Your Hands

The other step is to wash the mineral spirits off using soap and water. The mineral spirits tend to be acidic, so you will need to rinse it off using warm water and soap after a minute or so. For example, you could use lava soap or dish soap to properly remove the mineral spirits or polyurethane left on your hands. Then you will need to rinse your hands thoroughly and dry them using a soft towel. If you still have any sticky substance on your hands, you could use the mineral spirits and then wash your hands again.

Step-3: Use Moisturizing Lotion

When your hands are dry and don’t feel any stickiness, you can apply any moisturizing lotions. The lotion will help if your hands or skin feels a bit dry.

How to Get Water-Based Polyurethane Off Hands Using Soap and Water

Washing hands

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If you get water-based polyurethane on your skin or hands, it is much easier to remove the polyurethane. For this process, you will need only soap and water.

Step 1: Apply Dish Soap and Water to Your Hands

This step will require you to apply dishwashing soap and a very tiny amount of water to the affected areas.

Step 2: Rub Your Hands

The second step is to rub your hands together. This will help loosen and remove polyurethane from your hands. You could also gently rub the affected areas with the tip of your nails. If you have difficulty removing polyurethane, you could soak your hands in a water and soap solution for a few minutes. If the water-based poly is still not removed, you could consider applying denatured alcohol or acetone nail polish remover.

Step 3: Rinse Off

The other step is to rinse off your hands using clean and warm water completely. Then you will need to dry your hand using a clean, dry towel.

Step 4: Use Moisturizing Lotion

After you have dried your hands completely, you will need to use a moisturizing lotion to keep your hand moisturized.

Additional Methods of Getting Polyurethane Off Your Hands

Getting polyurethane off your hands

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While the mineral spirit and water solution are the best methods to remove polyurethane from your hands or skin, a couple of other methods will get the job done.

1. Using Baby Oil or Vegetable Oil

Using baby oil or vegetable oil is another effective home remedy method to get polyurethane off your hands. First, rubbing baby oil or vegetable oil on the affected area will help loosen the polyurethane. Then you will need to wash your hands with warm water and liquid dish soap, then dry and moisturize them.

2. Using Peanut Butter

Another effective method is using peanut butter. You simply apply the peanut butter on the skin, rub it well and wash it off the peanut butter using warm water and liquid dish soap. Then dry and moisturize your hands.

3. Using Olive Oil and Salt

Using olive oil and salt will also work to remove polyurethane. Just like using peanut butter, you will apply olive oil on your hands, and they use salt to scrub and remove polyurethane. Then clean, dry, and use hand lotion.

4. Using Paint Thinners (Best for Oil Based Polyurethane)

Paint thinners

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Will a paint thinner remove polyurethane? Yes, using a paint thinner is another effective way to clean polyurethane. This method works best on oil-based poly. One of the most effective thinners is the WD-40 paint thinner. The paint thinner will loosen the poly, and then you will need to clean up your hand with water and soap. Then dry and use a moisturizer since your hand may dry out from excessive washing.

5. Soy-Based Stripper

Using a soy-based polyurethane stripper is another great option to get the job done. The best bit about this method is that it is bioactive, making it great to use on the skin. However, you will still need to wash it off and moisturize your hands.

6. Alcohol

Does denatured alcohol remove polyurethane? Rubbing denatured or isopropyl alcohol will definitely help lift to remove polyurethane. Rubbing alcohol will help break down the harsh chemicals in the polyurethane stuck on your skin or hands. However, rubbing alcohol can be hard on your skin, and you should clean it off thoroughly. Also, note that you need to use it in a well-ventilated space to prevent respiratory problems.

7. Nail Polish Remover

Using polish remover is the other effective method that you could use. The polish remover contains acetone as an active ingredient. The acetone effectively breaks down polyurethane bonds though the product is mainly used for fingernail polish remover. Nevertheless, acetone can be tough on human skin, just like rubbing alcohol, and you should clean it off thoroughly. Also, remember to use the polish remover in a well-ventilated area.

8. White Vinegar

Another perfect method that will work is using white vinegar. The vinegar will help liquefy or soften the polyurethane making it easy to remove. 

9. Using a Hand Cleaner

Using a hand cleaner is another option that will get the job done. However, you should know that waterless cleaners or hand cleaners will only work if the polyurethane is still wet or fresh. So this method will not work for dried polyurethane. It would help if you also washed your hands after using the products for this option.

Tips for Using and Removing Polyurethane

Using and removing polyurethane

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1. The first tip is wearing gloves. You can get nitrile, latex, or chemical-resistant gloves and use them each time you apply polyurethane.

2. When applying polyurethane glue, apply it from a container and away from your body. Also, ensure you use the best brush for polyurethane.

3. If the poly spills on your clothes or shoes, you should clean them up before drying on your fabric. It will be wise if you change your clothes immediately and clean them.

4. Work in a well-ventilated area. So it would help if you worked with exhaust fans or opening windows.

5. Always store the polyurethane in a sealed container when not in use.

6. It is important to have mineral spirits or paint thinner with you each time working with polyurethane. This way, it will be easy when you are removing polyurethane from the brush or your hands.

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Get Polyurethane Off Hands

How to get polyurethane off hands

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1. What removes dried polyurethane from hands?

To remove dried polyurethane from your hands, soak your hands with solutions like acetone or mineral spirits. Also, you can use alternatives like vegetable oil, baby oil, and soy-based strippers. Apply any of these products to the dry polyurethane to soften the poly residues and help you easily wash them off.

2. What dissolves oil-based polyurethane?

Oil-based polyurethane is much more viscous than water-based polyurethane because it contains a large quantity of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds.) Therefore it is harder to remove and will require appropriate solvents such as lacquer thinner, mineral spirits, and acetone to remove

3. What is the best solvent to remove polyurethane?

Because of its properties, polyurethane is one of the most difficult adhesives to remove by traditional methods. But, using proper cleaning materials is vital to successful removal. Acetone is a chemical solvent that can help dissolve polyurethane glue and ease removal.

4. Can paint thinner remove polyurethane off hands?

Yes. Paint thinner removes oil-based polyurethane from hands and other body parts. This petroleum distillate quickly breaks down the polyurethane allowing it to be wiped or washed off.

5. What home remedy can remove polyurethane from hands?

You can use olive oil and vinegar to remove poly from your hands. But if you don’t have these, you can opt for nail polish remover and peanut butter. Also, regular household items such as dishwashing soap and baby oil can help in removing poly from your hands.

6. How can you wash off poly caulk from your hands?

To remove poly caulk from your hands, rub thinning agents like acetone into your hands. Use a cotton ball or a piece of cloth soaked with the thinner to wipe it until the caulk is gone. 

7. Is Polyurethane safe on the skin?

The chemicals in polyurethane are normally safe for contact with the skin, but in some cases, they may cause allergic reactions and dermatitis in some people. The symptoms of a reaction include skin rash, itching, and abrasions. Another common reaction is irritation of the eyes and throat. People with these allergic reactions should always take precautions when using polyurethane.

8. How do I get polyurethane off my hands without mineral spirits?

Instead of mineral spirits, there are several common household products that you can use to get poly off your hands. You can use any one of these alternatives, which we have already explained.

The alternatives include

    • Vegetable or baby oil

    • Peanut butter

    • Denatured or rubbing alcohol

    • Hand cleaner

    • Acetone

    • Warm water and dish soap

    • White vinegar

    • Olive oil and salt

    • Paint thinners

    • Soy-based polyurethane stripper, which is bioactive and gentle on the skin.

Conclusion on How to Get Polyurethane Off Hands

How to get polyurethane off hands

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We now know how to get polyurethane off hands and skin. As we have discussed, the best way to get rid of oil-based poly is by using mineral spirits or paint thinners, and for water-based poly, you will only need to use soap and water. Also, you must wear protective gear such as rubber gloves to prevent polyurethane from getting on your hand or skin.

Remember, after using any of the methods listed in this article, you must rinse your hands thoroughly using warm water. Also, remember to protect your hands from dryness or irritation using a moisturizing lotion.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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