How to Get Rid of Polyurethane Smell?

Ever been haunted by the persistent odor of polyurethane in your space? Wondering how to reclaim the freshness of your home or workspace? Read on!

How to get rid of polyurethane smell

After upgrading your old, worn-out floors into gorgeous wood floors that have a natural appearance and make your house feel as cozy and welcoming as you desired with polyurethane. 

Did you feel an unpleasant odor that has given you the worst headache, cough, and even shortness of breathing after the installation? Several questions may come to your mind. 

What’s up with these symptoms you’re currently having, why is this odor coming from your home? And what can be done to eliminate this?

Don’t worry. I am here to answer your question as a well-experienced woodworker who worked with polyurethane finish for more than thousands of times. 

Let’s find out, how to get rid of polyurethane smell?

To get rid of polyurethane smell, increase ventilation by opening windows and doors, use fans to circulate air, and place odor absorbers like activated charcoal, baking soda, or bowls of onion and lemon slices in the area. Air purifiers with activated carbon filters can also help neutralize odors.

But that’s just a quick snapshot of the question!

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    In this article, I’ll explore how to get rid of polyurethane smell and I’ll explain several expert techniques to remove the smell along with all the reasons for the smell, tips to follow when applying these techniques, and so on.

    Let’s jump in!

    How to get rid of polyurethane smell
    How to get rid of polyurethane smell


    A useful and frequently used synthetic polymer. Due to its strength, adaptability, and resilience to wear and tear, it is frequently used in a variety of applications.

    Although it can give a more durable, clean finish to your wooden furniture, certain chemicals of different types and brands may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during the making and curing of polyurethane products, which may have negative health effects.

    Does Polyurethane Smell? 

    Yes, polyurethane may emit a potent and frequently unpleasant odor, particularly when it’s liquid or being cured. 

    The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are generated while the polyurethane cures and dries are the cause of the smell. 

    These VOCs may contain substances like isocyanates, which are known to have a strong odor and may be hazardous.

    Copy of Did you Know Fact
    Copy of Did you Know Fact

    Health Issues of Polyurethane 

    In addition to being strong, the inhaling of polyurethane fumes can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, and very high exposure to poly produces difficulty breathing, rash or hives, headaches, or nausea in some people.

    Isocyanate is a component of polyurethane considered a carcinogen that can irritate mucous membranes and the skin, tighten the chest, and make breathing difficult.

    Depending on the environment, such as poor ventilation, airflow, and temperature, these polyurethane fumes may spread throughout the entire air space and hang in the air for a considerable amount of time. 

    When ventilation and airflow are restricted, polyurethane fumes are trapped in the air, degrading indoor air quality and possibly hurting human health. 

    Additionally, high air temperatures in the room will make the chemical off-gassing from these polyurethane wood finishes worse.

    Why Does Polyurethane Smell?

    The smell of polyurethane is a result of VOCs. Those are the compounds that can evaporate into the air at room temperature. 

    This smell results from the chemical composition, curing agents, and some solvents that are present in the polyurethane finish.

    Polyurethane is synthesized as a chemical reaction between polyols and diisocyanate. As a consequence of this procedure, VOCs may be released through chemical reactions.

    Tip for get rid of polyurethane smell
    Tip for get rid of polyurethane smell

    How Bad is the Smell of Water-Based Polyurethane?

    The smell of water-based polyurethane is typically much less intense compared to solvent-based polyurethane. 

    Because the water-based polyurethane contains fewer VOCs.

    Because of this, water-based polyurethane is often considered a more environmentally friendly and less odorous option.

    How Long Does Water-based Polyurethane Smell?

    The specific product, application situation, ventilation, and individual sensitivity to odors are just a few of the variables that might affect how long a water-based polyurethane odor lasts.

    The strongest smell is typically noticeable when water-based polyurethane is first applied. This smell may remain for several hours after application.

    The smell of the water-based polyurethane will gradually fade as it dries and cures. For the odor to vanish more rapidly during drying, ventilation is crucial.

    Odor sensitivity varies greatly from person to person. After a short while, the stench might not affect some people, while others might continue to notice it for a longer time.

    How Bad is the Smell of Oil-Based Polyurethane?

    Compared to water-based polyurethane the smell of oil-based polyurethane is often stronger and more unpleasant. 

    Higher concentrations of VOCs, which are the source of the strong smell, are present in oil-based polyurethane.

    How Long Does Oil-Based Polyurethane Smell?

    Like water-based polyurethane, when applying oil-based polyurethane for the first time, the strongest smell is typically present. 

    This smell may persist for several days after application and can be fairly potent.

    In general, oil-based polyurethane takes longer time to dry and cure than water-based po; polyurethanes. 

    As the finish dries and hardens, the smell could be present for a few days to a few weeks. 

    Temperature, humidity, and the thickness of the application are only a few factors that can affect the persisting time. 

    Now I’m going to explain several methods that you can try to remove the smell of polyurethane.

    Tip to get rid of polyurethane smell
    Tip to get rid of polyurethane smell

    How to Get Rid of Polyurethane Smell?

    You may simply get rid of the smell of polyurethane from your house using some straightforward home treatments.

    1. Open windows 
    2. Use fans
    3. Use air fresheners
    4. Use an air purifier or an air filtration system
    5. Use distilled white vinegar
    6. Use activated charcoal
    7. Try onion and lemon slices
    8. Use of baking soda
    9. Heat the area
    10. Use an essential oil diffuser
    11. Use vaporsorb
    12. Using Lampe Berger

    Here, I’ll explain each method in detail. Just keep reading.

    1. Open Windows 

    The best technique to reduce polyurethane’s odor is by providing adequate airflow. Allow fresh air to flow through the space where the polyurethane was applied by opening windows and doors.

    To ensure that clean air is returned, make sure to keep air inlets open for as long as necessary.

    2. Use of Fans

    Fans work well to assist in the removal of the polyurethane odor. The key to minimizing the smell is proper ventilation, and fans can help to improve airflow.

    To produce cross-ventilation, place fans in windows or doors. This entails setting up two fans, one to circulate air inside the space and the other to remove it. 

    This constant airflow aids in odor removal.

    The best fans to use for cross-ventilation are box fans or window fans. Place one fan outside the room to bring in fresh air, and another within the room to exhaust air.

    3. Use of Air Fresheners

    Since air fresheners mostly mask odors rather than remove them, using them alone may not be the most efficient strategy to get rid of the strong polyurethane smell.

    However, you can combine several techniques to lessen the polyurethane odor in your living area such as opening your windows and doors and if needed, using fans to assist with air circulation.

    4. Use an Air Purifier or an Air Filtration System

    A good technique to get rid of the smell of polyurethane in the air is to use an air purifier or air filtering system. They may filter out odors and airborne particles, which can greatly enhance indoor air quality.

    Make sure the air purifier you choose has a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. 

    The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that give polyurethane its distinct scent can be captured by HEPA filters along with other small particles. 

    Inspect the purifier to make sure it is the right size for the space where the scent is an issue.

    In addition to HEPA filters, some air purifiers have activated carbon filters or ozone filters. 

    These carbon filters are very good at neutralizing by breaking down the chemical compounds and adsorbing scents, including those from polyurethane.

    5. Use of Distilled White Vinegar

    Certain aromas, such as those from polyurethane, can be effectively neutralized by distilled white vinegar as a natural deodorizer

    The volatile components will be attracted to and broken down by the acidic vapor of vinegar.

    Just follow these simple steps.

    1. You can mix equal volumes of water and distilled white vinegar in a dish or other container.
    2. Then, the vinegar solution should be poured into several tiny dishes or mugs. Place these bowls throughout the space or in locations where the polyurethane odor is strongest. 
    3. Depending on how strong the odor is, leave the bowls in place for a few hours to several days. The smell will eventually be absorbed and neutralized by the vinegar solution.
    4. Replace it with a new vinegar and water solution if the stench continues or the solution loses its efficacy.

    Although vinegar has a distinct smell of its own, it usually goes away quickly as it dries. 

    You need to be patient when employing natural methods to get rid of powerful odors.

    6. Use of Activated Charcoal

    Another effective method to remove the smell of polyurethane is activated charcoal.

    You can buy activated charcoal in various forms, such as granules, pellets, or activated charcoal bags from the market.

    The best option is to use activated charcoal bags. 

    However, you can also put the activated charcoal in a container or paper plates. You can hang them, put them on shelves, or just lay them out on a table.

    Depending on how strong the smell is, leave the activated charcoal bags in place for a few hours to several days.

    The use of activated charcoal is safe in most circumstances and it is a highly effective odor absorber and can neutralize strong odors.

    7. Try Onion and Lemon Slices

    Slices of onion and lemon can cover up some aromas with their scents, but they are usually ineffective at getting rid of strong polyurethane odors entirely. 

    Utilizing techniques that can absorb, neutralize, or spread the scent is the best way to deal with a polyurethane odor.

    What you have to do is,

    1. Cut slices or pieces out of an onion and arrange the slices in a bowl or on a platter.
    2. The strong onion odor may help cover up the polyurethane smell.
    3. If you have lemon, oranges, or limes, slice or cut into wedges. Put the lemon slices in a plate or a bowl of water. 
    4. Lemons have a clean, lemony aroma that can enhance the quality of the air. Additionally, you can also use lemon juice and water in a spray bottle to mist the air lightly.

    These methods temporarily mask the odor rather than getting rid of it.

    Remember that the onion and lemon flavors will gradually fade, so you might need to replace or refresh the slices from time to time.

    Drawback of polyuretahen smell
    Drawback of polyuretahen smell

    8. Use of Baking Soda

    The unpleasant odor of polyurethane can be absorbed and neutralized with another versatile and potent natural deodorizer, baking soda

    Distribute them throughout the affected room in different locations using paper plates or newspapers as containers.

    Baking soda is an inexpensive and secure way to get rid of polyurethane smells and functions by absorbing and destroying the smell-causing chemicals.

    9. Heat the Area

    Polyurethane can cure more quickly in a space if it is heated, which may speed up the process of odor reduction. 

    However, you need to take caution and maintain safety when using this heating appliance.

    You need to follow below.

    1. Install a space heater in the area of the room where the polyurethane was applied or where the odor is worst.
    2. Then gradually raise the room’s temperature to a few degrees.
    3. Open windows and doors to preserve airflow while using the space heater. This enables fresh air to circulate and the smells to disperse.

    You need to make sure to adhere to all the manufacturer’s safety recommendations and make sure the heater is positioned safely and away from anything that could catch fire.

    10. Use of Essential Oil Diffuser

    If you are struggling with the smell of polyurethane, using an essential oil diffuser can assist in hiding or improving the indoor air quality in your room. 

    A pleasant smell from essential oils could contribute to a more comfortable atmosphere.

    You can choose calming and pleasant-smelling essential oils, such as lavender, citrus, peppermint, eucalyptus, or any other oil. 

    1. Set up your essential oil diffuser according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In general, the majority of diffusers require you to fill a certain compartment with water and a few drops of essential oil.
    2. Now, turn on the diffuser and the perfumed mist will be released into the air.
    3. The strength and length of the aroma can be altered by adjusting the settings, such as the timer or mist intensity.
    4. To cover the odor, place the essential oil diffuser next to the location where the polyurethane smell is most noticeable.

    However, the dangerous chemical substance cannot be broken down by the oil diffuser. It can only release a different odor to mask the undesired one. 

    Additionally, the smell of polyurethane cannot be completely eliminated by this process.

    11. Use of VAPORSORB 

    APORSORB, a commercial odor-removal product, is designed to absorb and neutralize a wide range of odors, including those that originate from polyurethane.

    Place the VAPORSORB container next to the area with the highest polyurethane odor, or feel free to gently sprinkle VAPORSORB grains on the floor that has been completed with the substance.

    If the VAPORSORB product becomes saturated or loses its effectiveness, you need to replace, or refill it as directed by the manufacturer.

    12. Use of Lampe Berger

    A commercial product called Lampe Berger, commonly known as a catalytic fragrance lamp is frequently used to eliminate odors while purifying the air. 

    Although it can be useful in getting rid of a variety of odors, including polyurethane, it’s crucial to apply it correctly.

    According to your preference, choose the fragrances and use the prescribed amount of Lampe Berger fragrance to fill the lampe. 

    The wick of the Lampe Berger should then be lighted and allowed to burn for two to three minutes. 

    In the vicinity where the smell of polyurethane is prominent, let the Lampe Berger smoke for 20 to 30 minutes. As the light purifies the air, aromatic vapor will be released.

    Alternatives for polyurethane with no odor
    Alternatives for polyurethane with no odor

    Tips for Working with Polyurethane Smell

    Here are some tips to follow to remove the polyurethane smell.

    To optimize the power of the above-mentioned techniques and organic smell neutralizers, it’s ideal to combine this technique with another, like using running fans, opening windows, etc.

    When you can’t avoid the smell of polyurethane, your best choice is to deal with it in a variety of ways; ventilate the house and make use of all the absorbent materials you have available.

    You must take precautions to prevent any accidental spills and keep the vinegar solution out of the reach of kids and dogs. 

    Once the smell of the polyurethane has greatly decreased you can also remove the bowls if the vinegar smell gets overwhelming.

    Congrats folks! Now you know exactly how to get rid of polyurethane smell using different techniques. Select the method that suits you the most and work in a polyurethane odor-free environment.

    So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.


    How long does the polyurethane smell last?

    The strong odor from polyurethane typically dissipates within 5-7 days but can linger for up to a few weeks, depending on factors like ventilation, type of polyurethane used, and the number of coats applied.

    Is it safe to stay indoors after applying polyurethane?

    It’s generally not recommended to stay inside the home for at least two days after applying polyurethane due to the toxic fumes; adequate ventilation and air purification measures should be employed to ensure safety.

    How can I accelerate the dissipation of the polyurethane smell?

    Increasing ventilation by opening windows and using fans, and employing odor absorbers like activated charcoal or baking soda can help expedite the elimination of polyurethane odors.

    Is polyurethane toxic after it dries?

    Once polyurethane has fully cured, it no longer releases toxic fumes, making it safe and non-toxic after drying completely.

    What natural remedies can be used to counteract the smell of polyurethane?

    Placing bowls of onion, lemon slices, or white vinegar around the affected area can help absorb and neutralize the unpleasant polyurethane odor.

    Does the type of polyurethane affect the intensity and duration of the smell?

    Yes, oil-based polyurethanes typically have a stronger odor and take longer to off-gas compared to water-based alternatives due to higher VOC content.

    Can air purifiers help in reducing the polyurethane smell?

    Air purifiers equipped with activated carbon filters can be effective in capturing and neutralizing the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by polyurethane.

    Is there a difference in the curing time between water-based and oil-based polyurethane?

    Water-based polyurethane dries faster and has fewer VOCs, making the odor less intense and the space more quickly habitable compared to oil-based polyurethane.

    Are there any health risks associated with polyurethane fumes?

    Exposure to polyurethane fumes can lead to eye, nose, and throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and in severe cases, allergic reactions and other health complications.

    What precautions should be taken when applying polyurethane to minimize the odor?

    Using respirators, ensuring ample ventilation, and considering the use of low-VOC or water-based polyurethanes can mitigate the risks associated with polyurethane fumes.

    Did I cover all you wanted to know about: How to Get Rid Of Polyurethane Smell

    In this article, I’ve deeply discussed how to get rid of polyurethane smell using proper techniques including the drawbacks of polyurethane smell.

    You can get rid of polyurethane smell by allowing the affected area to fully vent by opening all the windows wide. This will increase airflow and get rid of any smells that are still there. Turn on the fans or air purifier to accelerate the process. Additionally try out white vinegar, lemon or onion slices, or baking soda to remove the smell.

    Furthermore, I’ve answered some frequently asked questions.

    Hope you learn everything you need to know about how to get rid of the polyurethane smell including expert tips. 

    Let’s Try them out and get rid of the frustrating polyurethane smell. Happy wood finishing in a nice environment!

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    Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him! Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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