Solving Polyurethane Finishing Problems

kitchen cabinets

I put polyurethane on cabinets after I stained them. Now a week later, I find oil on the surface of the cabinets, and when I try to clean it, it leaves dull spots. I don’t know what to do, or what is the problem. Help! -Thomas


Polyurethane finishes should dry hard in a matter of hours and not bleed oil as yours is doing. Here are some possible reasons for the problem:

    • Using an old or partially used can of finish.
    • Using a can of finish that has been subjected to extreme temperatures.
    • Not stirring the finish thoroughly before application.
    • Applying the finish outside the recommended temperature and humidity range.
  • Applying over an oily surface, or over certain exotic woods—like rosewood, teak, ebony, and cocobolo—that contain natural oils.

If you have followed these guidelines, the problem may be with the finish itself.

As far as solving your problem goes, if the finish has stopped bleeding oil and feels like it has dried hard, you might be able to even out the gloss by wiping the cabinets down with a rag dampened with mineral spirits (assuming it was oil-based polyurethane) followed by a dry cloth. Be sure to extinguish any pilot lights and open flames and use adequate ventilation when working indoors with mineral spirits.

If the gloss is still uneven, try sanding it lightly with 220 grit sandpaper and applying another coat of finish. Use a fresh can of the same finish from a different store in case the batch in question was bad. If you continue to have problems, the only alternative might be to strip the cabinets and start all over again.

Good luck,



  1. Hi Danny
    We are having windows istalled and wonder what is more toxic to a person having difficulty breathing fibre glass insulation or foam.My wife has many alergies and we have nowhere to go while the work is being done.Is there a safer product avaiable?
    Cleaning producte,strong cooking odours,smoke from fireplaces all bother my wife.

  2. Harry,
    There are several new insulation products that are easier on your lungs, such as wall and ceiling insulation made from cotton and foam made from soybeans. You can read more about them in our article Green Products for Your Home. If you go with foam, ask for a safety data sheet on it and check to be sure the VOC emissions are low.

  3. I applied a PU flooring system and after curing, there were humps and cracks on the surface. What could be the reasons for these?

  4. Danny, I had a hardwood floor refinished. a couple of small spots did not get the final ( 3rd. ) coat, when the finisher sanded them down and applied the material it came out much duller than the surrounding surfaces – same finisher / same product. Suggestions?

  5. Dear Danny, My husband applied a coat of pu to our hardwood staircase. Half of the steps came out fine but the bottom half came out cloudy (milky finish). What should we do? If he puts a second coat on it would it come out the same way or would it solve the problem? I should tell you that it is a new can of pu and today was a pretty humid day. Any thoughts are appreciated. Thanks.

  6. I’ve applied a coat of penetrating stain, a coat of poly, sanded with 220 sandpaper & put another coat of poly on top of that. I used a tack cloth in between each coat, also. I’m getting a peeling of the last coat in some areas. I’ve done this application many times & can’t figure why this is happening now? The only thing done differently is we used a 5″ orbital sander. Any answers would be appreciated! Thanks.

  7. Danny,
    I polyed my oak floors after staining them. I did three coats and likes the results. Its been a couple of months now and I’m starting to see bubbling (white) in the seams of the floors. Can you tell me why this is occuring and what should I do to fix it? I used Min wax high build polyurethane (semi-gloss). Thanks.

  8. I recently applied water based polyurethane on a new wood floor and am starting to get white hazy spots. How do I remove these spots?

  9. Danny,
    I just installed a new 3/4 inch hardwood flooring from Bruce. when we rolled our refrigerator back over the floor using heavy cardboard on the floor so we didn’t scratch the surface. We did get pressure marks from where the wheels went over the surface. Is there a way to get the pressure marks out of the surface. I heard that steam via a damp cloth and a steam iron might cause the area to swell the area. Do you have any suggestions to remove these pressure lines in the surface of the finish.

  10. Danny,

    I have installed the click-together engineered flooring in my house. We have had it less than 1 year and I’m noticing hazy white spots on the floor throughout the house. Even in areas where no liquids could be getting on the floor. The top layer of this floor is wood and I’ve read that you can sand this out. Do you know how we can get rid of these spots without replacing the floor?

  11. i have stripped sanded and re stained a dining table using minwax poly satin finish and now i have little spots all over the top. have resanded and washed with mineral spirits to no avail. is there something i can use that will fill the tiny holes where the finish will not stick?
    thank you

    • Hi Nancy,
      Sounds like a classic case of “fisheye,” which is a reaction to the silicone found in furniture polishes like Pledge. It can be difficult to correct, but you best approach is to strip the table again, then clean the surface thoroughly with multiple washes of lacquer thinner followed by naphtha or mineral spirits (these are highly flammable solvents that are also not good to breathe, so use them in a well ventilated area away from sparks or open flames). Scrub the surface several times with each solvent and wipe it clean, using fresh rags each time you do. Once dry, sand the piece and try finishing it again (use a new can of finish and new brush in case silicone residue has gotten on the old brush or in the old can of finish). There is no guarantee that this will work, as silicone is very hard to completely remove. Other options are to fight fire with fire by adding fisheye eliminator to your finish (available at auto supply stores). This is basically a dose of pure silicone, which makes the whole surface one big fisheye. It is usually used with lacquer, so check to be sure it’s compatible with your finish. Option #3 is to apply several thin coats of shellac to the surface before finishing to try and seal in the silicone. If you are spraying your finish, you can try applying several light mist coats of finish to try and achieve the same effect. Finally, you can use an oil finish rather than a built up finish, wiping off any excess after it has soaked in for a few minutes. For more shine, you can apply a coat of paste wax once the oil has dried.

  12. I installed a New Bruce Urethane prefinished floor (Gunstock) and it looked terrific. My mother-in-law (bless her soul) lives with us so I thought I would top coat the new floor to seal the cracks since she often spills her food and drink due to dementia and Parkinsons. I used Bruce floor cleaner to clean the floor and top coated it with Bruce Urethane Top Coat. It dried all hazy and white. My call to Bruce elicited the comments that it was my fault and I alone was responsible. Bruce suggested I try Basic Coatings IFT and Squeeky. The floor looks a little cleaner maybe… but it is still white and hazy. Any suggestions on what I can do to remove the top coat and get back to where I started. Steel wool on a buffer? Please think of an affordable solution other than sanding.

  13. I’m refinishing my kitchen cabinets with Minwax Ebony Stain and their Helmsman Satin Polyurethane. I’m getting a bit of “frosting” in the finish. Is this normal with satin polyurethanes? It appears worse with each coat. I called Minwax. They said it was moisture trapped in the stain and I should sand off the finish and wipe off the stain with mineral spirits with would remove the color. I’m well into my project. They also said it could get worse with age, not better.

    Once I polyurethane and sand each coat several times, I will finally get them to look ok (the white cast is minimal), but now I’m worried they’ll start looking worse with time. The cabinets have a narrow oak frame with veneer beadboard inserts.

    I don’t know if I should continue or what to do now?

  14. Danny,
    I built new mahogany cabinets, stained them with oil based stain(red mahogany by minwax),sealed with a clear laquer sealer and then put two coats for oil based poly on. After two weeks the poly is turning loose and is getting worse after six months. What to do?

  15. We applied about 6 coats of polyurethane and started to sand the top coat, and a white film appeared where we had sanded and will not wipe off. Its as if the poly became “oxidized” (white). Is this normal? Did it not dry enough? How can we correct this? Thanks!

  16. I am refinishing outdoor wood benches. I sanded down the wood with course, 150 and 220 sandpaper. I applied two coats of minwax wood stain, each with 24hrs drying time in between. I then applied one coat of oil based polyurethane and within 10 minutes it seemed to have some type of chemical reaction with the stain and it removed the wood stain color. Any ideas as to the cause?

  17. how can i safely remove stain and poly varnish from an already stain and sealed armiore? i made a mistake on a door and want to remove it and leave it the way it was.

    • Hi Joy,
      Assuming your stain and polyurethane have dried, the only way I know to remove it would be by applying stripper, allow the finish to soften, scrape it off with a putty knife, clean off any remaining goo with steel wool and mineral spirits, allow it to dry, then sand and refinish. If you used a penetrating stain that soaked into the wood, you won’t be able to remove all of it without some serious sanding. Good luck with your project!

  18. sanded table top, then stained pine color, then polyurethaned. (small) area of table shows nano bubbles and
    white surface areas, otherwise, no problems..please advise

  19. I have been finishing my wood floors and on the last coat of PU it has streaked with cloudy spots. I was wondering if I can correct this problem with out redoing the entire floor surface?

    • Hi Julie,
      Sounds like moisture might have become trapped in the finish due to high humidity, or the polyurethane itself was defective. Once the floor has cured, you could try wiping down a small spot with a rag dampened with mineral spirits or naptha (provide plenty of ventilation) to see if that helps.

  20. I recently stainded a new wooden beadboard ceiling in my sunporch. After I put one coat of Minwax fast-drying polyurethane on it from a new can and brush, I noticed white spots on the surface. I tried sanding lightly with a foam sanding block, but this began sanding away the stain under it. I worked really hard to match the existing woodstain in the room and wood hate to start over. Note – it has been raining and 60 degrees.

  21. I recently sanded down my coffee table and stained it I just tried to spray a polyurethane on it and it has came out cloudy in spots what can i do to fix this without starting all over again? I am wondering if it was the weather i live in st. george and it is about 90 degrees outside.

  22. i have recently redid my hardwood floors and have used the min wax high build polyurethane. oil base i believe. some spots of my floor have some what thicker polyurethane spots what can i do to get this to blend in? please help me im going nuts with this project its been over 3 weeks. please help me.

  23. kids did great job in making a pong table out of beer bottle tops 1st coat of poly dried fine second coat is still tacky after several days please give a suggestion of how we can save the table

  24. Recently restored the wood floors 324sq feet in a old old home. I am a first time do it yourself guy, there is a 3’x 1′ area that has bubbled. I peeled it away then sanded, restained and re=applied polyurethane. The Problem now is that the Poly will not bond as it seems to be being assorbed into the wood. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  25. For furniture mfg. there are more and more factory changed to PU coating rather than those old NC systems due to the durabilities to the surface. my questions is How to make the PU top coat drying as fast as NC systems ?

  26. I have sanded my paneling and brushed on Minwax satin finish fast drying polyurethane. It has brightened my paneling, however, when the light shines on it I see shiny spots. What did I do wrong & how can I correct it?

  27. After spending hours on a six panel door, sanding, pre-staining, staining and pu’ing our doors are getting a white film, you cannot scratch it off, it is solid. It typically happens in the pu stage, the last door it happened to I put one layer of pu on, looked beautiful but the next morning my husband went to apply the second layer and within minutes he saw it turning whitish. I see another lady refered to it looking like a milky residue and that is a fair explination. What is going on? we have spent so much money on these doors and a lot of time has been put into them this has me very upset. HELP!

  28. I made a floorcloth and applied PU to it then waxed it after. The wax got milky and needed to be removed. I used a product for graffiti removal because it was the only thing that worked. I applied an oil based PU and now it will not dry it has been a month and the cloth is still tacky. My husband wants to dillute a drying agent and brush it over the top but I am don’t want to do anything that will make it worse. Any suggestions? I am desperate. Thanks

  29. hi danny, i started a cleaning job in july in a tyre shop and the front showroom has a poly floor. the guy that put it down did a really bad job, the edges are ruff and have lots of stuff stuck under the seal, there is roller marks across the whole floor, bubbles have come up and broken open and look like shooting stars all over the floor. i have stripped and sealed the floor and it will need doing again. the floor is uneven ect, ect. when my boss rang this guy he refused to come back and fix it. so i am left with a floor that is totally stuffed can you please tell me how to fix it myself

  30. Hello, I have found your site on Polyurethane Finishing Problems, I have Redone my Kitchen Cubords and I used minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. Next I used my Stain and followed The Instructions Putting Pre Stain on for the alouded time and Wiping; Also the same with the Stain.

    Then where the Semi Problem has come up I Put the Polyurethane Let Dry and Sanded and Put a Second Coat and I had a few spots with White Marks or Streaks on a few area’s so I sanded 220 just those area’s and it is drying, but I am still seeing those whit marks.

    Now I am second guessing if I should have put this Minwax Polyurethane Semi Gloss. Do I need to put the Polyurethane on for the protection?

    Any help would be greatly Appreciated


  32. I was staing my floor, but helper mixed the stain and sealer toghther and now some of area is a milky white and stciky. Just need to know how to fix the problem. Not all of the floor got this on it.

  33. Is minwax polyurethane fast drying clear gloss flammable when it’s dry? I made and a candle holder and I’m just curious of what I should put on it to get that glass like finish. Thanks

  34. Applied Cabothane water borne semi gloss polyurethane to pine floors upstairs and result was good. Downstairs after sanding properly and using wood bleach to eliminate improperly stained areas (from the past due to a moronic tenant who left stain on too long) and rinsing with water and mineral spirits, initial application of poly seemed to darken some areas again, left a pink tinge in some areas and peeled in other areas. Forgot to rinse off wood bleach with baking soda or borax. Could that be the problem and how do we correct it before reapplying poly on the oak floor?

  35. I have new walk in closet cabinets do I need to poly after staining or can I leave them or parts of them alone. And if I do need a finish after staing what should I use?

  36. I decided to redo my living floor in two parts for easy trafic issues. I sanded down the entire floor and then put two coats of tung oil on the entire floor. I put a coat of polyurethane (semi-gloss) the first half and it turned out just fine. I then proceded to do the second half a few days later and I had NO SHEEN. I mean, absolutely dull. So, since it was from the same can, I thought maybe a second coat would do it. I even added it to a small portion of the first part of the floor that had turned out so well. Not only did it not shine up at all, it even took away the shine from the small portion that had looked so good!
    Any suggestions?

  37. just sanded a very old oak floor while it was bare wood looked great no stain in site . today appled min wax oil base stain and most of the floor looks like some splattered sploches every wher ? what can i do ? there was nothing that show before staining . the foor is oak. my son in law did the floor and he wants to put polycoat on it even with the spots i do not want to have a floor like that. i took a lot of work to sand this floor to refinih it . is there anything that would fix this problem. can you reply before monday/ thank you

  38. I striped a wall with polyurthene. There was a drip mark, sanded it but needed to recoat base paint before putting poly back on that spot. Now I have a spot that appears lighter than the rest of the stripe. Is there a reason why this spot looks lighter?

  39. Similar to Debbie from June of 2010, our stain on oak doors looked perfect and they dried for a week before we started to finish them with Minwax quick-drying polyurethane. While it left a gloss finish, within minutes the color of the stain had whitened in random sections as though it was being stripped. Why? I am guessing we will have to sand down and start over, but is there anything else? How can we keep it from happening again?

  40. Danny,

    I was using pu to seal bottle caps onto a metal table for a bar top. Most of it had dried fine but a good portion on the outter rim is starting to curl up. 1/8″ topping is still pretty tacky feeling. Do you have any suggestions to keep it down or fix the curling up problem? Thank you in advance!

  41. Danny, i had stained several 12 by 12 cypress post thati stained with and let dry for a good 72 hours then put a minwax polyurethane on them just one healthy coat and all dried and looked good except the four post on the northside of the house and just that northside of the post dried with white streaks and a white coating that looks like the glavezing on a donut what can i do to fix them???? Please help it looks really bad! thank you for your time!

  42. I installed a T&G pine ceiling and used Cabot satin finish on the boards before I installed. I have air leaks, I did put insulation batts and later blown in cellulose and still have air leaks. Will brushing a heavy coat of Cabot poly on the ceiling seal the cracks?

  43. I just installed a red oak wood floor and put 4 coats of poly on it. I find the new floor is scratching too easy. Why is this and what poly should I use? Thanks,

  44. I have just finished refinished a coffee table and a dining room table. On both fish eyes so called to speak in hundreds. Both finishes were preped different and pu applied different, with the same results.

    The coffee table sanded and tacked, brush applied
    Diningroom table, old finish removed with chemical and new pu sprayed on

    In both it looks like the finish had oil spots where poly did not stick in circles many of them. PU has been temp wise stored at around 50% and was applied at about the same can this cause the problem or is there a better answer.

  45. I am re-doing a 6 foot rail and newel post that separates my family room and kitchen, I purchased a fresh milled brazilian cherry newel post, rail and shoe rail. I chose this wood species because the floor in my family room is brazilian cherry that we installed 2 years ago. My questions are 1. Do I stain the wood, if so with what. If it eventually will darken without stain and catch up to the floor I am okay with that. 2 do I use a sealer of any type. And what brand poly urethane should I use. It is very confusing. I read that water based with NO modified oil. However every brand that I look at that is waterbased has modified Oil. Please tell me exactly what to use, I dont need more than a small can of each. Thanks

  46. Hey Danny, I’m installing two new solid core doors in my daughters business. I’m using 2 rotary cut birch doors. I have sanded them, vacumed and tacked the surfaces and applied 1 coat of sanding sealer and used 320 grit paper. Then I applied 2 coats of Polyurathane, sanded with 320 and 400 repectfully and tacked between coaats. after my second Poly and tack, I see some real small voids all over the surface of the door. they look like very small buble holes. I’m thinking it’s the white China brissle brush. What kind of brush should I go too? The brush package said “Good for Polyurathane…” I’m not sure about that now.
    I thank you in advance for your help.


  47. I have a question, my moms tile in her kitchen is starting ti come up, it was preglued tiles,the floor underneath it is perfectly good congoleum, so we were thinking of removeing the top flooring, once we remove the top flooring we will need to use something that will remove any glue that might be on the top of the congoleum from the tiles being removed.what do you recomend to use for cleaning any glue,and also safe and will not harm the congoleum?

  48. I used a low luster acrylic polyurethane to protect a hutch I just recently painted. After painting the finish on today noticed that parts of the urethane dried flat while the rest had a nice low sheen to it. What did I do wrong?

  49. My exterior solid hardwood entry door with polyurethane finish has oxidized through the last 10 years. How do I prep the surface to eliminate the white hazy appearance before applying new refinishing coats??? Is Helmans polyurethane with UV protection a good choice for refinish product??? Can you suggest a better product??? Choice of finish application method…bristle brush, foam brush or spray???

  50. I am refinishing a dresser and I complety removed the old stain and finish. I stained it with miniwax ebony let it dry the nextday I sprayed it with polyurthane and let dry for 2 hrs went to add a second coat and saw only in the front part was turning white. Please help

  51. read all the comments about flooring and cabinets problems such as milky white spots or area still gummy. had these problems in the past ,, first the milky problem comes from moisture that is in the wood,, and if put down new hard wood floors i can tell you from past .. that even tho new wood flooring its not fully cured or dried out..n it has moisture still in it.. learned that again hard way .. if going to stain floor ..don,t try and glubb on and cover quick.. take time with coats and let dry fully between coats.. then let dry for at least a fully week to ensure completely dry for the gummyness in area its that the poly wasn,t mixed fully.. and of course don,t use old cans use new…did my kitchen table and chairs n sanded and stained and sprayed with car poly clear… still look great after nearly 10 years,, and that was me wet sanding and polishing it to mirror finish..also if have flooring or cabinets and it real hardwood and grainy ,, should put first coats on with foam brush… to prevent bubbles ,, then if can sand lightly for adhesions purpose and imperfections,, and if can spray on last coat at low pressure with a automotive spray gun,, a hvlp spray gun . hvlp stands for high volume low pressure on these spray guns i just stated is a gravity feed gun ,,meaning the cup is on top of the spray gun instead of bottom ,, but always use mask u can use a cheap primer gun will work just as good n get results u want..learned all this from my own mistakes pluss nearly 30 years in auto body repair n painting

  52. Hello I built 3 tables out of oak and some hickory,I used minwax golden oak put on 2 thin coats and let it dry for three weeks in my house, I took one to the wood shop and wiped it down to make sure it was dust free, I put minwax high gloss pu on it, one thin coat, it developed a whitish mold looking affect and the poly just scrapes righ off, what can I do to keep the whitish looking mold from reoccuring on other peices. Thank

  53. We put pine v-groove panels on part of our ceiling last year, and are now trying to finish this project. The new panels are butting up to the older ones and we are using the sames oil based polyurethane on them. They are much lighter and I wondered if there was a technique to speed up the darkening of the polyurethane.

  54. We finished our oak cupboard doors with Minwax Polycrylic. After a few months I wanted to clean off kitchen grime with soap and water, but after they were cleaned the finish got very sticky – I reapplied the finish and it was fine for awhile, but everywhere they were washed it left a sticky surface. Is there anything or another brand that would work better? Ever heard of this problem?

    • Hi Debbie,
      Yes, you can apply satin polyurethane over semi-gloss to dull the shine, just be sure to use the same brand and type finish for both coats.

  55. Hi , I used Zars poly. over a stained redwood table and a lite coat of dust keeps collecting on top. I wipe it off and within 8 to 10 hours it’s back.

  56. Did a light coat of Helmsman spar Urethane over stained wood cabinets. It been raining cats and dogs for the last three days, and the finish is still tacky. Would it be helpful to direct a fan on the wood, or maybe a sunlamp would help. What suggestions do you have that would accelerate the drying time in prep for a second coating?

  57. Hi, I washed, dried, sanded my kitchen cabinets, applied oak stain. When It was dried and smooth I polyurethane it working outside. I do not remember if it was water or oil based but it left lots of little lumps. So I sanded it lightly. wet tack and dry completely and again mixed the poly slowly and tried using a brush and also tried using the paint pad on the stick both left little lumps all over. I didn’t overlap much. I sanded it again and again did all I could and gave it another coat of poly. If i sand it a little it doesn’t look good so I gave it another coat of poly and again same little lumps. What did I do wrong. How can I fix this. Again I do not remember if I used water or oil base poly but it was a large new can. I do not know if I should now use oil or water based poly. I will probably find the can in my garage though.
    Thanks for your help.

  58. I completed an outside mural in acrylic then wanted to protect it.i used cats was fine till it rained.the water got under the coating creating saging.i sanded and repaired then recoated with two coats using a roller.the wall is textured after a month got more rain it is back

  59. I was trying to fill a same hole on my kitchen cabinet with wood putty. She I took off the excess putty it let a light spot on my cabinet. Can I do a quick fix with gel stain. I don’t want to make it worse

  60. To remove the white areas caused by moisture, use a hair dryer to apply even heat, and in two or so minutes, they will disappear. Worked for me on a table top.

  61. I recently just applied the second coat of polyurethane to a table top, but when you tried to sand it, it just looks like it scratched the surface and left a whitish residue that won’t go away, any idea how to get rid of this? If I apply another coat will it be able to fix itself? Thank you any help is appreciated

  62. We did 3 coats of polyurethane and sanded between each one on a new wooden table but the last coat left a dull finish. We tried sanding it down again and then started scraping the film with a razor and some of it is coming up easily showing the original tabletop, but some is very difficult to get up. Do you have any suggestions on how to get the tuff part up without scraping the table? At this point, we want to just get the original tabletop showing.

  63. I used semi gloss poly over a cleaned pine paneling wall. The finish started to bubble up and looked like a crackle coat. I was very upset so after it had dried I sanded this wall so that all the puffed up finish was smoothe. I wiped the dust off and painted with a gloss poly. This looked a little better but it still has a rough looking finish underneath the glossy coat. What happened to make it blister up like that?

  64. Hello,
    My husband and I bought two beautiful slatted swivel rockers for the front porch. The wood was unfinished. We wanted to protect it from those dastardly wood bees so we hurriedly used polyurethane on them resulting in many drips that have now hardened. I now have time to try to fix the many drips and froth that has hardened and looks awful. I have been sanding my brains out. It is so hard with all the thick one inch slats. Plus it isn’t helping much. Can you suggest a better way to fix this?


  65. I refinished my wood dresser. I stained, applied the poly, and wet sanded with mineral oil. Now my dresser has a milky sheen almost like water spots. What did I do wrong and now how can I fix this, please?

  66. Not always, but a lot of these finishing issues that I read about have to do with the characteristics of woods and grains and are sometimes beyond the scope of any expert to correct except to remove the finish, sand, but not as fine, and reapply until it begins to even out. Sometimes an over-sanded finish will resist your attempts to stain.

    Humidity, temperature changes, species of wood and coarseness of the grain… even the manner in which it was kiln-dried can have a devastating effect on your attempts to get the finish just right.

    We had a piece of red oak that was improperly dried at a lumber mill that became a nightmare to complete a furniture piece we were working on; we would have thrown it away, but we needed an exceptionally wide non-laminated piece for the application.

    Even slight temp changes spread and tightened the grain so radically that it would squeeze the oil-based stain up through the polyurethane semi-gloss finish, or even bubble poly layers away from the wood surface. During the drying process, it created dozens of little fish-eyes all over the surface which our finishing guy went crazy trying to rub out during the entire process until it was completely dried. This is not the typical way in which red oak reacts to the stains and finishes we use.

    No matter what you try sometimes, you will run into a mild battle or an all-out war trying to get things to go per the mfrs instructions; but those instructions apply to applications where everything is within certain tolerances and the wood reacts the way ‘most’ woods should react. That is a perfect world; be prepared to use a different wood, or if that’s impractical, then remove, sand a little course and try it again… Believe me, the pro-shops have a few clever secrets, but often they have to throw in the towel as well and do battle with the mysterious little wood Leprechauns.

  67. I have a beautiful hand carved oak mantle in my living room. I bought an insert for heat to put in it. in order to do this my dad had to build the mantle out to accommodate the insert. we were unable to find red oak lumber for this so we used regular plywood and finished it with 1/4 inch red oak plywood. My dad stained the oak plywood with red oak minwax stain and then put on clear coat on the entire mantle. the original wood is great, however, the oak plywood part feel oily. Why is this and how can we fix it to get rid of the oily feel?

  68. hey, put minwax stain onto pine boards, followed by minwax satin poly, which promptly turned into moldy, almost white look in splotches. never seen that before, & used your products for years without such an issue. doing an entire ceiling of exposed wood look using ‘car siding.’ so far 5 of the 50 boards only have this issue. whats going on & how to fix it?

  69. We have stripped and stained our kitchen cabinets. There are white streaks and spots on them. We want to stain them. Question 1. What’s the best way to go stain or glaze? Question 2. Will the streaks or spots interfere with stain or glaze?

  70. Re: cloudy (milky finish)

    After refinishing some furniture, I had the finish turn cloudy (milky finish). I had read that the reason was because the humidity was too high and moisture had gotten into/on either the furniture or the poly that I was applying. I had to take the poly off and redo them again to get the problem corrected.

  71. I live in Seattle. I have a deck of new, untreated cedar. There is no space between the boards. I plan to cover it and surround it with a combination of screen and plexiglass. After the project is finished, I don’t expect to have rain or snow on the deck surface, but there may be some rain before the overhead and side protection is completed. It will be treated as an unheated room. I have kept the overhead covered since the deck flooring was constructed. Now, I need to get a protective finish on it.

    I would like the coating to be clear-gloss if possible. I have a family member who has some experience with floor finish application who has offered to apply it. He is asking for water-base Varathane-gloss, one step. I am not finding a clear, gloss, water-based, one step Varathane product that is for outdoor, wood floors. Do you know if there is such a product or can you recommend another product that would be at least as good for an outdoor wood floor that would be subject to minimal rain this summer, and, then, dry but subject to temperature changes?
    Thanks very much!

  72. Hi,
    I have melamine kitchen cuboards I made sure there where sanded and cleaned before I applied the undercoat two coats I applied .. Now I have used cuboard paint in champagne colour the cuboards have dried a rough finish .. What do I need to do before applying the second coat ..
    Look forward to your views,

  73. Hi,
    I’m finishing an unfinished alderwood dining room table with lots of knots. I’ve filled the knots with wood putty and sanded down the wood multiple times down to a 220 sanded finish. I’m planning on staining the table and then putting a hard matte/satin poly or varnish finish on the table. I’d like the final product to be extremely hard so the finish can withstand dings and scratches…What would you recommend for the hardest possible finish?

  74. I am applying a new coat of semi-gloss oil based polyurethane to my front doors that have an existing coat on them already that was applied when the house was built. The polyurethane is drying with a cloudy finish. What am I doing wrong?

  75. Hi Danny
    20 years ago I bought an oak table from an unfinished furniture store.
    My problem now is the polyurethane finish is becoming sticky to the touch. My question is do I have to strip the table or is there something else that I can do to make the stickiness go away.

  76. I stripped a primed fiberglass entry door, stained it and applied minwax Helmsman spar urethane semi-gloss. I should have use satin. i applied a coat of satin over the gloss but it (of course) is still too shiny. What can I do, short of re-stripping the door to dull the finish.

  77. I used Zar exterior water based poly on an outdoor table. Followed the directions on can. When it rains it gets white spots all over the table and then when it dries they disappear. Any ideas?

  78. I just finished my new red oak floors and used mini wax high build polyurethane. The polyurethane looks like it has cracks in it. What can cause this . I noticed it after the first coat but went ahead and put two more coats on and it still looks like it has cracks in it.

  79. I am refinishing a wood front door. Sanded lightly, stained. Today started my three light coats of Miniwax spray urithan

    On second coat spray is dripping in the middle of the door. What do I do now? Later? How much later? I am so upset! Thank you

  80. makig a cedar wood table. wood has deep rot holes that i am trying to fill with oil based polyurethane (Minwax). Air bubbles have developed. How do i get rid of bubbles that have formed?

  81. I refinished my hardwood floors myself. I sanded down to the bare wood stained and waited the full time if not longer to put the polyurethane down. However the polyurethane is pealing and chiping. I used a water base product. What can I do and what is causing this? I need your help please

  82. Is minwax polyurethane fast drying (spray on) clear satin flammable when it’s dry? I want to use it on the outside of a glittered candle. Thanks.

  83. stained 3 interior doors. I applied a light coat of Minwax clear satin PU. The finish is glossy rather than satin. It is a new can and I stirred it well before applying. I applied it with a brush. Have used this product in the past with good results.Any suggestions,thanks

    • Mike,
      Usually I would say the can wasn’t stirred enough, but since you said you stirred it well, you may just have a can that wasn’t made correctly. Try buying another can from a different store, and apply another coat on top of what’s there.

  84. I have refinished a child’s rocker, striped, sanded, and stained. All went very well. I then applied a coat of polyurethane. Unfortunately the coat came out very uneven. I realized that the can I used must have been older than I thought. I then went to the store and bought a new can hoping that adding a new coat could help. I got a can of water based urethane, but I realize that the old can was oil based. Can I put the water based over the oil based? Is there a way to save this project without a full strip?

  85. We just had stairs and railing put up in our house. I used wood conditioner on them and stained them. I wish I wouldn’t have used the conditioner but it’s done. I used a polyureathene on them ( water based) but it didn’t say it was for floors. I want to re-do the poly using one specifically for floors what do I need to do? Do I have to take all the old off? The new stuff is also water based. If I sand them down a little can I put on more stain before I put on the new poly? I am very new at this so I would love some directions.

  86. I purchased an antique fireplace mantel with round columns and an oval beveled mirror on top. The mantel seems to have been polyurethaned as an after thought. There are some paint flecks on the shelf below the mirror and I’d love to remove the sloppy urethane that was put on it. What can I use so I don’t destroy the original stain?

  87. I recently had my hard wood oak floor sanded and screened. I applied 2 coats of light golden stain. Floor looked uniform. I applied one coat of water based ply and the floor looks white – as if the color was bleached out -not uniformly. What happened and how do I proceed? Thank in advance for any help you can offer!

  88. We installed a wood ceiling 12 years ago, we sanded, pretreated,stained & polyureathened before installing, it now is showing some white streaks, not sure why or what to do to get rid of the white streaks. We have cleaned the ceiling every 3 years with Murphy oil soap.

  89. Hello!

    I am refinishing an end table. I sanded, primed, and painted with latex paint. My husband advised me to finish with clear coat of polyurethane in the form of a spray. I sprayed and let dry..only to find that the end table is turning yellow! How do a remove the finish? I tried sanding and it “gums” up and collects on the sandpaper. Any advice is appreciated!

  90. I have sanded and applied 3 coats of solvent based polyurethane to a hardwood floor. I sanded back between coats using a 180 grit on a canterbury sander (like a polisher) which seemed to do a wonderful job until the final coat dried and the sanding effect can be seen under the surface creating a slightly opaque look with subtle glossier speckles. Will this disappear as the finish cures or do I sand back more aggressively and apply another coat?

  91. Hello Danny,
    I was doing some signs that have stain and acrylic together on one sign. Could polycrylic be good for stain as well? I tried polyurethane and seems like it takes off the acrylic. When I stained one side that had just stain on it, I let dry 24 hours and I touched it (seemed dried) but I had noticed on my brush that some of the stain was on it. Yes I live in Florida and pretty humid. So maybe 48 hours?? wow.
    Thank you Danny for taking your time to address my situation. Have an awesome week.
    Thank you again,

  92. I sanded some of bathroom cupboards and stripped and stained some of the other bathroom cupboards. The stain turned out good but i have found the polyurethane finish is turning cloudy as the cupboards dry. I also noticed some of the stain came off on the tach cloths. It was a lot of work. Please give me some advice.
    Thank you

  93. Hi Dan,
    I stained a piece of moulding then put two coats of high gloss poly on. its too shiny! can i finish with a coat of satin poly?

  94. I used polyurethane on the already stain pine flooring boards and the boards developed a white surface I haven’t been able to remove. I have tried smooth sanding, cleaners, to not avail. Is this a chemical reaction to the polyurethane. I used it in my hardwood floors in the first floor and it was fine it appears to have this reaction on pine. Can you help?

  95. We stripped and repainted an old oak table and then applied minwax polyeurathane and it remains tacky after a week. Do we have to sand it off or strip it?

  96. hi,
    Just stained over old stain on kitchen cabinets. I sanded in between used minwax poly gloss …well they turned out great, except couple of the doors have particules of dirt and some hair, but it’s already dried. how can I get rid of that?

  97. I had my floors redone in May 2015. I recently (July 23, 2015) was mopping my floors with vinegar and water, and the bottom of the bucket had water on it and it left a white foggy ring on my floor. I need to know how to remove it without having my entire floor redone again. Thank you

  98. Please don’t waste your time posting any questions here because they won’t be answered. I read every question and have had the same problems many of these people have had guess what, no answers. I’ve called Minwax, been to Sherman Williams stores all the same, no intelligent answers or no idea what the problem could be. Don’t these people use their own products? I’m starting to see why everyone is painting this beautiful wood instead of refinishing it.

  99. I have a small study that has wood panels on the wall and was probably put up when the house was built in 1961 (probably pine) They have either been stained cherry, or they have just discolored over time – but I liked the color so I merely cleaned them and then applied polyurethane over them. The trouble is, the stuff was thick and the first wall I did I put on too thick and there are drip marks everywhere – looks terrible. The other 3 walls are fine because I realized I really needed to spread it out (which wasn’t easy). What can I do to correct that first wall? I’m afraid to sand it because I may sand into the stain and I’ll never be able to match it.

  100. I polyurethane all my cupboards, doors and woodwork and know they are are turning white in spots. Can you please tell me how to get the white spots out of cupboards, doors and woodwork. What causes this?

    Thanks so much,

  101. I have just refinished my kitchen table and have applied 4 coats of Varathane Poly semi-gloss (soap and water clean up). The table looks cloudy. Should I try a high gloss on top to see if that helps? I have been sanding in between coats with 000 steel wool.

  102. I applied Minwax Polyurethane clear semi gloss fast drying spray to a new table and chair set that I bought, its light oak, and it left white streaks on it.

  103. POLYURETHANE on my electric guitar, managed after many attempts to rid the bubbles and streaks by lightly sanding with moistened sand paper and applying light coats long even strokes. It is immaculate but hard to keep clean looking. always looks smudgy with any touch even after drying for a week. Used mineral spirits to remove smudges, buy they are right back with the slightest touch. Not good for a guitar that is played by the hands. Oh ya, in case you are wondering my hands are clean.

  104. I applied Minwax polyacrylic to a table top. Followed directions to the letter: removed previous finish, applied one thin coat under optimum weather conditions (not humid, not rainy), allowed to dry WAY beyond the recommended 24 hours, lightly sanded, applied 2nd coat, waited TWO weeks before using the table – and every freaking thing I put on it sticks to it; lamp, books,everything. Emailed Minwax. No reply. In the future I’ll refinish or restore – and use paste wax. To hell with this.

  105. I am refinishing an oak exterior front door and applied the Ipswich stain which matched the color beautifully. I waited three days for drying and then applied a light coat of the clear satin polyurethane to the door and trim. When it dried, there were sections, not all over but just in certain spots, where a white covering formed. I first started sanding it with 220 grit paper but discovered that it just scraped off quickly with a putty knife. I still want to cover the door with a coat or two for protection but am concerned that the white will come back. Why is this happening?

  106. I’ve had similar issues with this product and I wish I would have read all these issues before hand because I had a beautiful bench made with reclaimed barn wood now I have a bench that’ll make good fire wood because it looks like S@#T!……

  107. I’ve stained a table top with Miniwax wood finish penetrating stain,then applied three coats of Miniwax fast drying polyurethane clear semi gloss,after each coat it appears that some of the surface isn’t covered,it doesn’t have the same gloss to it. Is there a solution to getting the whole surface to cover ?

  108. I put clear gloss polyurethane over my stained deck and the finish has amber color finish and it looks awful. I thought this is clear and now what can I do do remedy this problem. The stain on the deck is cape cod gray and the clear has ruined the looks.

  109. I finished the second coat on my steps with polyurethane and and it dried but, I forgot to put on a flat surface and the finish ran and dried in a white and hazy wave pattern. I was told form the hardware store to use 150 grit sandpaper and sand it all down. I did and it created a bubble in a hole and it got into the stain. I have four boards that I did this to what can I do to fix it and not go into the stain. Also, when I send it down the polyurethane is white and hazy. What can I do to fix that?

  110. good to see everyone else is not getting good results, never had a nice finish yet just done a flat boards, sanded sealed it with pre seal etc, used oil based minwax, first coat sanded, 2 coat smooth on two hours later can see creators sunken spots, uneven color, ripples .I never seen any home hobbeist get a half decent finish yet, and seem like there are no answers in this list they should sell a stick on top coat roll on

  111. When a oil base polyurethane had not dried in the allotted time it needs exchange of air. Another words the air inside needs to be exchanged with the air inside. Air can only absorb so much moisture and if it is humid or raining the air can be very wet. Heat can always help the problem by drying up the air. If it is to hot for heat…DO NOT turn on the Air conditioner. Air conditioners will only slow the process down. Take a box fan and place in a window facing out and another facing in. This will pull the inside air out and replace it with the air outside.

    Floors which have a white haze: This happens for a couple of reasons. 1. The coat below is not dry including stains. 2. The last coat you applied dried to quickly and has trapped gases below the surface. A lite sanding with a 240 grit sand paper padded with a 3M maroon pad will help break open the surface. wipe with a damp almost dry paper towel.. this will simulate what the finish will do after it is recoated. The white will come back after the water is dry; however let it dry over night. The next day you can re-coat the floor or furniture.
    Re-coating: when re-coating It Can Not be done in spots even if using the same finish. The entire area needs to be redone. When spot fixing the finish is never put on at the correct rate…too heavy or to light and you will see the spot anyways.
    Poly Beads: This is when after some time goes by finish seeps through the boards of a floor or two separate pieces of wood. This is caused by finish in between the boards not drying completely; then the wood expands and pushes out the wet finish between the boards. These can be removed by knocking them off – vacuum the area – lightly sand and then re-coat.
    Pressure marks from heavy items: The only way to remove these is to re-sand the floor. When moving heavy furniture Masonite should be used; cardboard is not sturdy enough.
    Exotic woods: These need to be coated in within 1 hour of prepping them for a coat. If they aren’t coated in that time – the oil from the wood will penetrate back to the top of the freshly sanded wood and cause waterbase finishes to peel; while oil base finishes on them will take much longer to dry. This is because the oils from the wood and the oil finishes blend and stop the finishes from drying all together. A sealer which dries quickly should be used whether oil base or waterbase.

    I can’t believe some of these answers given to solve these problems. They are wood finishing 101 for anyone who works with wood

  112. don’t know if this is the place to post, but I have an issue with Minwax spar urathane on reclaimed barn boards. I I am preparing the boards well and they are perfectly flat. I have made a few table tops about 3′ square (alternating the boards). then after a few coats of this product, top and bottom and they start to cup, any ideas?

  113. I had my old wood floor redone with polyurethane but know I have lines showing!! My contractor used the sprayer and roller. The floor looks like he stopped using the roller then started to use the sprayer. So I don’t know what caused it or how to fix it!! He is not telling me what he did. I need your help!! Can I email you a photo of the floor? Thank you for your help!!

  114. Hi Danny,

    I decided to refinish my hardwood floors recently. I sanded down the floors with a 36, 60 and 80 grit (cleaned up after each grit). I used mineral spirits and microfiber cloth to clear after the final grit. I applied a sanding sealer and sanded the sealer after drying.

    My issue now is after I placed down the first layer of polyurethane it seems to bond to the wood unevenly. We have red oak floors I left them natural. The floors seem to have bonded certain areas more than others. I can see darker areas and lighter areas throughout the space. Do you know why this has happened? Anything I can do to remediate this issue? I’ve placed down another layer of polyurethane hoping it’ll “even” itself out but doubt the problem will resolve itself by the third or fourth coat. Any advice is greatly appreciated.


    • Hi, John,
      Thanks for describing the situation with your wood floors. We haven’t covered this specific topic on; we recommend submitting questions involving such a unique situation to the Today’s Homeowner Radio Show.
      Please use this form to contact Danny Lipford, America’s Home Expert, directly:
      Take care, and good luck!


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