How Long Should Polyurethane Dry Before Waxing? 

If you’re planning on waxing your newly finished wood project with polyurethane coatings, you may ask – how long should polyurethane dry before waxing?

While polyurethane offers a durable and protective finish, it needs time to fully cure before applying any other products. The drying time can vary based on the polyurethane, coating, and the environment. Generally, it takes between 4 to 24 hours to dry completely.

But how many coats of polyurethane should be applied before waxing? Can you accelerate the drying process anyhow? The following discussion will clear all your confusion concerning the drying time and waxing process. So let’s dive in!

How Long Should Polyurethane Dry Before Waxing Wood?

Polyurethane is available in two types: oil-based and water-based. There’s also a fast-drying polyurethane formula.

How Long Should Polyurethane Dry Before Waxing Wood

However, all these polyurethane formulas contain resins in the carrier liquid that determines the drying time based on its evaporation rate. Also, you need to allow the polyurethane surface to cure properly after drying.

1. Oil-based Polyurethane

Oil-based polyurethane is a popular choice for woodwork as it offers a durable and long-lasting finish. It provides a thicker and more protective layer compared to water-based polyurethane. However, it contains volatile organic compounds and a strong odor. 

Oil-based polyurethane can take between 12 to 24 hours to dry and 2 to 7 days to cure. You should wait till the polyurethane finish is dried and cured before waxing. The drying time of oil-based polyurethane depends on several factors, such as:

  • Temperature and humidity of the environment
  • The thickness of the coat
  • Type of wood being finished. 
Oil-based Polyurethane

In general, oil-based polyurethane takes longer to dry in humid environments and on porous woods such as oak or mahogany. 

If you wax too soon, it can cause the wax to adhere poorly to the surface, resulting in a patchy and uneven finish. Sometimes it can also cause the polyurethane to become milky or cloudy.

2. Water-Based Polyurethane

It’s an alternative to oil-based polyurethane as it dries faster. It is odor-free and also easier to clean up with soap and water. 

Water-based polyurethane can take anywhere from 4 to 9 hours to dry and 7 to 14 days. Wait till the polyurethane finish is dried and cured before waxing. The drying time of water-based polyurethane depends on the same factors as oil-based polyurethane.

Water-Based Polyurethane

Generally, water-based polyurethane dries faster in warm and dry environments. Plus, waxing over polyurethane before the surface is dried properly may result in the same condition as oil-based poly.

3. Fast-Drying Formula of Polyurethane

You can find fast-drying polyurethane both in oil and water-based formulas. For example, Minwax Fast Drying Polyurethane, Varathane Fast Drying Ultimate Polyurethane, and more. However, fast-drying polyurethanes are more expensive than the other two formulas.

After applying fast-drying polyurethane, you can touch the surface or reapply coats within 2-3 hours. However, depending on the manufacturer, the drying time of this formula can be high or low.

Fast-Drying Formula of Polyurethane

Therefore, it’s necessary to read the label thoroughly to find out the accurate time of drying of the fast-drying polyurethane.

What Factors Influence the Drying Time of Polyurethane?

The drying time of polyurethane can be influenced by several factors, including:

  • Surface Preparation: Properly sanded and clean wood can help the polyurethane coats dry faster.
  • Type of Polyurethane: Different types of polyurethane have different drying times. Oil-based polyurethane tends to dry slower than water-based polyurethane.
  • Temperature and Humidity: Higher temperatures and lower humidity levels can speed up the drying process. At the same time, cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels can slow it down.
  • Coating Thickness: The general rule is the thicker the coat of polyurethane, the longer it will take to dry.
  • Ventilation: This step is necessary to ensure moisture can escape and help the polyurethane dry faster.
  • Application Method: The method used to apply the polyurethane, like wiping, brushing, or spraying, can affect the drying time.

How Can You Make Polyurethane Dry Faster?

How Can You Make Polyurethane Dry Faster

If you consider the polyurethane drying factors, you may determine the simple tips for drying polyurethane. Here are some suggestions to accelerate the drying process:

  • Ensure the working surface is properly sanded and clean. Use a vacuum or clean cloth to remove sanded dust properly.
  • Opt for fast-drying polyurethane if you don’t have a budget problem.
  • Consider working on warm and sunny days for higher temperatures and lower humidity. If not possible, use a dehumidifier, hair dryer, or fan to enhance air ventilation and decrease humidity levels.
  • Then the polyurethane, by adding mineral spirits or paint thinner, helps the coatings to dry fast.
  • Instead of applying one thick coat of polyurethane, apply thin coats and repeat 2-3 times.

What Type of Wax To Apply Over Polyurethane?

There are two types of wax that can be used on polyurethane: paste wax and liquid wax.

  1. Paste wax is a thick and creamy wax that is applied with a cloth or brush. 
  2. Liquid wax is a thinner wax that is applied with a cloth or spray bottle.

When it comes to using wax over polyurethane, paste wax is the best pick as it adds additional protection against scratches.

How to Apply Wax Over Polyurethane After Drying and Curing?

When waxing polyurethane, it’s important to follow a proper guide. Otherwise, wax can turn your poly surface into a mess. Before you go into the step-by-step guide, here’s what you need for the procedure:

  • Duster for dusting the working surface
  • Cloth diaper or brush for applying wax
  • A piece of clean cloth to wipe the surface
How to Apply Wax Over Polyurethane After Drying and Curing

Here’s how to wax over polyurethane:

Step 1: Clean The Surface 

Before waxing, clean the surface with a duster. If the surface contains stains, use mild soap and water to remove them. Allow the surface to dry completely.

Step 2: Apply Wax 

Apply the wax in a thin and even layer using a cloth or brush. Be sure to apply the wax in the direction of the grain.

Step 3: Buff The Waxing Surface

After applying the wax, buff the surface with a buffing pad or clean cloth like cheesecloth, cotton diaper, or Terry cloth. This will remove any excess wax and create a smooth and glossy finish. Now you have to wait 15-20 minutes for the wax to dry.

Step 4: Repeat If Necessary

If desired or the final result isn’t satisfying, you can repeat the applying and buffing of the wax process until the desired level of shine is achieved. However, you need to wait 7 to 8 hours between applying the light coats of wax.

If you’re wondering about the ideal drying time for polyurethane before waxing, our article on satin vs. semi-gloss polyurethane might provide insights that could help guide your decision. Additionally, if you’re comparing different types of urethane finishes, our guide on spar urethane vs. polyurethane considerations is here to assist you. We understand the importance of achieving the best finish for your projects and making informed choices, and our comprehensive resources are designed to help you navigate and make the right decisions for your woodworking needs.


Here are some commonly asked questions by people about applying wax over polyurethane:

Q. Why Should You Apply Wax Over Polyurethane?

There is no such rule that you must apply wax over polyurethane. However, if you would, you can have some additional protection on the polyurethane surface and enhance the natural beauty of the wooden surface.

Waxing can also provide the surface with a smooth and glossy finish that is resistant to scratch and water.

Q. How Many Coats Of Polyurethane Should You Apply Before Waxing?

The number of coats may vary depending on the type of wood and the desired level of protection and sheen. Generally, 3 coats of polyurethane are enough, according to professional recommendations.

And if you use water-based polyurethane, you need more than 3 coatings to make the surface thick. It’s because water-based polyurethane is thin and may fail to handle heavy-foot traffic with 3 coats.

Q. Can I put furniture wax over polyurethane?

Yes, most furniture wax can be applied over polyurethane coatings. These wax help prolong the polyurethane’s lifespan by adding a protective layer.

Q. Can you wax over polyurethane floors?

You should avoid waxing floors with polyurethane coatings. It can make the floor slippery as well as make refinishing the floor in the near future difficult.

Q. How do you know if polyurethane is cured?

If you notice that the surface isn’t sticky anymore and doesn’t look damp, consider that the polyurethane surface has dried out. You can gently tap the surface with your finger to ensure dryness.


So, how long should polyurethane dry before waxing? Oil-based polyurethane can take 12 to 24 hours to dry, while water-based polyurethane can take 4 to 9 hours to dry.

Waxing too soon can cause the wax to adhere poorly to the surface, resulting in a messy and lumpy finish. Moreover, it’s crucial to follow proper steps when waxing polyurethane to achieve a smooth and glossy finish that’s resistant to water and stains.