Wood putty is a malleable composite product that professional woodworkers and DIYers use to fix scratches and small dents on wooden items like furniture. You can find the product in small jars or sticks resembling crayons.

Does wood putty harden? This is the question that comes to mind when you see the malleable nature of the product and want to use it on a project. 

Knowing the correct answer to this question can help you decide how best to use wood putty or finish the wood you have used it on. 

Read along to learn about hardening wood putty and how best to use it.

Does Wood Putty Harden?

No, wood putty doesn’t harden. When applied to wood, it dries and will set after a few hours but retains its flexibility when dry. This characteristic enables wood putty to remain unaffected by any expansion, contraction, or changes in the wood shape. 

Why Does Wood Putty Not Harden?  

Wood Putty

Wood putty doesn’t harden because it consists of pliable synthetic resins whose chemical structure doesn’t harden over time. The product doesn’t contain sawdust that would solidify into a compact material when dry. 

Still, you can induce wood putty hardening by adding a suitable hardener. These hardeners make wood putty dry faster. Additionally, they make the product dry into a more solid form than standard wood putty. 

Benefits of Wood Putty’s Non-hardening Behavior 

The non-hardening wood putty can be highly advantageous in many ways. For starters, the flexibility prevents putty from breaking away from the wood during expansion and contraction. 

Outdoor wood is exposed to extreme weather elements causing significant expansion and contraction. If you used a hard wood filler on such an outdoor project, it would not adjust to the wood’s changing size and shape, potentially causing it to break away.  As you shop for the best wood filler to use on plywood edges, be mindful of the filler’s flexibility and suitability for outdoor applications to ensure your repair stands up to the rigors of the environment.

This is where wood putty comes in. If you fill a nail hole, a gouge, or a crack in a piece of outdoor wood with it, it will adjust to all the changes, making it durable and reliable.

The flexibility of the best wood putty for nail holes also prevents wood putty from damaging the wood. For example, a hard-drying wood filler that doesn’t change shape would likely cause the wood to crack as it contracts. 

Additionally, wood putty is used on finished wood. If you used a filler on unfinished wood then stained it afterward instead, you would likely end up with a blotchy spot.

Sometimes the wood fillers contain resins and chemicals that get into the wood pores preventing the stain from getting in. This can lead to a big blotch on the wood.

Using wood putty after finishing the wood helps you avoid such outcomes. In addition, the putty comes in a wide variety of wood stain colors and tones, so you can choose a color that perfectly matches the surrounding wood.

Difference Between Wood Filler and Wood Putty 

Difference Between Wood Filler and Wood Putty 

Many people use the terms wood putty and wood filler interchangeably, which is a mistake. While the two products share some roles, putty and wood filler are far from identical. 

This section explains the difference between the two products in detail. 

Wood filler dries hard while wood putty never hardens 

Wood filler usually contains sawdust or wood fibers suspended in a binder, missing in wood putty. The latter is generally a paste or plastic such as fiberglass, epoxy, or polyurethane. And, this paste doesn’t harden, unlike wood filler. 

Because it dries hard, wood filler is ideal for large cracks in a wood project as it provides some structural support. In contrast, wood putty is more suitable for filling smaller cracks and nail or brad holes. However, it doesn’t provide adequate structural support due to its pliability. 

(See more on how to fill a drill hole in wood).

Wood putty does not accept sanding and refinishing 

Since wood filler dries hard, you can generally sand it after it has dried to create a smooth surface flush with the rest of the wood. The texture also allows painting or coating over wood filler after sanding it.

Can wood putty be stained? Some wood fillers also accept staining, though nearly all are designed to be painted. Again, you will want to check the label on the product to see if it supports staining. Still, it is recommended that you do a quick test on a piece of scrap wood to see how it works. 

Wood stain interacts differently with fillers. If it forms a blotchy finish around the filled area, you are better off with a wood putty instead. No matter what you do, it won’t stain the same color as the surrounding wood.

Wood putty remains flexible and doesn’t support sanding due to its malleable texture. The texture also means you cannot paint over it successfully. The paint would chip and peel off. 

Thankfully, wood putty comes in various colors, so you only need to find a matching color for your project. Its flexibility also allows you to apply it to a finished project after staining and applying a topcoat. 

You need to observe the final color of your project and match it with a suitable wood putty color. With that, the nail holes and minor imperfections on the finished wood will disappear into the wood. Just ensure you wipe the excess putty with a damp cloth.

Often, you can add one more coat of urethane after applying the wood putty for a perfect-looking finish.  

Wood putty is weatherproof; wood filler is not

Wood putty is usually ideal for outdoor projects due to its flexibility. If used on outdoor wood, it will adjust to changes in the wood’s size and shape occasioned by weather changes. The elements don’t affect the putty’s working. 

On the other hand, a wood filler hardens and wouldn’t adjust to changes in the wood. It’s not weatherproof and would likely break off the wood or cause cracks as temperature and humidity change. 

Since wood fillers aren’t weatherproof, they are typically set aside for indoor projects, while wood putty is used on outdoor projects involving wood. 

If you use a water-based wood filler outdoors, precipitation or rain will cause it to return to its soft, spreadable form. This is why it is best to always check the label for the product’s characteristics when buying. 

Weatherproof fillers will be labeled for outdoor use, making them viable wood putty alternatives. Such fillers are often available as two-part products such as Minwax High-Performance Wood Filler. 

However, traditional one-part wood fillers are suited to indoor projects only. You can use them to fill scratches, nicks, holes, and gouges in unfinished wood furniture, flooring, and more.

You can also use them to mold and shape broken edges or countertops, tabletops, and shelves. Although ideal for outdoor use, wood putty is still perfectly usable indoors. 

Wood filler typically dries faster than putty 

Wood filler drying time vs. wood putty dry time is another significant differentiator between the two products. Hardening wood filler takes only about 30 minutes. And the product can be fully dry in less than two hours.  

On the other hand, a wood putty will take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours to dry. It dries and cures slowly and never hardens in the process. 

How Long Does Wood Putty Take to Dry?

Wood putty typically takes about 2 to 8 hours to dry completely. Of course, the drying time will depend on external factors such as temperature and humidity. 

The thickness of the wood putty will also influence its drying. If you apply more of the product, you can expect it to take longer if you apply only a small amount. 

Drying times also vary with various types of wood putty. You can expect water-based putty to dry differently than oil-based wood putty. 

Oil-based Wood Putty Dry Time

Oil-based wood putty takes about 48 hours to dry. This drying time can vary based on the conditions of temperature and humidity.

Oil-based wood putty is ideal for surfaces with an oil-based topcoat. It will blend in well and create a seamless finish. Remember to remove the excess product for a clean surface. 

Water-based Wood Putty Dry Time

Water-based wood putty dries in half as much time as its oil-based cousin—in approximately 24 hours. However, like oil-based wood putty, temperature and humidity levels will generally affect the drying time of the water-based compound.

Oil and water don’t mix too well. So, water-based wood putty is the right option if the topcoat is water-based. 

How to Make Wood Putty Dry Faster 

Wood Putty

The 24 to 48 hours drying time of water-based and oil-based wood putty can be a long wait for someone with time constraints. If you don’t have time to wait, you can accelerate the drying process through one or more methods below. 

Method 1: Warm the area, preferably with the sun’s heat  

Low temperatures will slow down the curing process of wood putty. At the same time, direct heat, such as from a heat gun, will soften the wood putty while drying it. 

You need to subject the product to relatively high ambient temperatures but not scorching heat to accelerate the drying process.

The best way to achieve this quick-drying is to subject it to the sun’s heat. The heat is just about warm enough to speed up the drying process without softening the resin. 

If you live in a place notorious for cold weather, you can plan the project during the summer months. Alternatively, work indoors where your home’s heating system regulates the temperatures. 

Method 2: Keep the layers thin and even 

Thicker layers of wood putty take longer to dry than thinner ones. One way to ensure the project dries faster is to thin layers. 

If you are filling nail holes, the putty doesn’t have to go all the way. You only need to fill them with enough putty to cover the surface and blend with the rest of the wood. 

Applying thick layers will only mean more product to dry, which prolongs the drying time by several minutes or hours. 

Meanwhile, don’t apply the wood putty too thin to provide the required structural support. It is always better to wait a little longer for the patched area to dry than skimp on quality and be forced to do the whole thing all over again. 

Method 3: Sand the area properly 

You can reduce the drying time of wood putty by sanding the wood surface properly before applying the putty. Sanding helps even out the surface, removing most of the furrows that could potentially impact the thickness of the product. 

A more even surface allows you to apply the product thin and speed up the drying process. It helps eliminate potential holes that could suck up the putty and prolong its drying. 

Method 4: Use hardeners

Hardeners do an excellent job speeding up the drying of wood putty. We recommend adding epoxy resin to your wood putty if you want it to dry faster. It is the best hardener and will get the product to dry in a fraction of the time.

Ensure you mix the resin properly with the putty to accelerate its drying process. Epoxy resin isn’t the only hardener for wood putty, so you can always ask your supplier or contractor for recommendations if you prefer variety. 

Note that mixing wood putty with hardeners requires following the correct ratios to avoid spoiling the product, so ensure you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations with precision. 

Recommend Reading: What is the best epoxy wood filler?

Method 5: Keep the area clean

Cleaning and drying the wood before using wood putty can go a long way in accelerating the drying process. While this isn’t the most outstanding way to speed up the drying, it eliminates impurities that can typically slow down the drying time. 

A slower drying process means you have to wait longer for the patched area to cure. Cleaning the wood and drying it before applying putty can prevent impurities from slowing you down. 

What is Non-hardening Wood Putty Used For?

Non-hardening wood putty is typically used to cosmetically fill nail holes and other surface imperfections, including small holes, gouges, and scratches in finished wood. 

By covering gouged spots, cracks, and other imperfections on the wood surface, wood putty usually helps create an even finish. The product is often used for outdoor projects such as railings and furniture. 

It is generally flexible and can change with the changing shape of outdoor wood without breaking away or dislodging from the affected wood surface. Its weatherproof quality also ensures it can withstand the extreme weather elements outside. 


How long does wood filler take to dry

Most wood fillers dry pretty fast, achieving full hardness in about 30 minutes to one hour. After this drying window, you can sand the product to flush with the rest of the wood surface. Then you can paint or apply wood stains over it to finish the project without waiting longer. 

Minwax wood putty drying time

Minwax wood putty takes about 2 to 6 hours to dry. This drying time will vary based on the thickness of the product and the ambient temperatures. These external factors can speed up or slow down the drying. 

Does Minwax wood putty harden?

No, Minwax wood putty doesn’t harden. Wood Putty is designed to fill holes and minor surface imperfections in finished wood without hardening. Even after drying, it retains its flexibility, making it ideal for outdoor projects. 

Can you paint over non-hardening wood putty?

Painting over non-hardening wood putty isn’t recommended as the paint will likely peel off. You cannot sand, stain, or coat the non-hardening product. So you need to choose a color that matches your finished wood and apply it with a putty knife after the finish. 

Can you sand wood putty?

No, wood putty doesn’t support sanding due to its malleable consistency. So, it is recommended to even out the surface during application and let it dry flush with the rest of the wood surface. The product will maintain the surface when dry. 

How long does wood filler last?

Wood filler, or plastic wood, can last as long as 20 years if you store it appropriately in a cool and dry environment. Even if you open and use some of the product, you can still stow the rest for future use without affecting its longevity.

How long does putty take to dry before sanding

You should allow a joint compound to dry for a minimum of 24 hours before attempting to sand it, paint over it prime it. The product drying time may vary, but it helps to give it the maximum drying time for better results. 

Can you paint over Minwax wood putty?

Minwax wood putty remains malleable when dry, so the company discourages painting over it. Painting over Minwax wood putty can result in peeling and chipping of the paint layer due to poor adhesion. The malleable wood putty surface doesn’t adequately support sanding to prep the surface for painting. And without sanding wood putty, the paint may not have anything to grip on. 


Even though wood putty doesn’t harden when used to repair minor surface imperfections on wood, the quality is more of a blessing than a curse. The malleability goes a long way in making wood putty suitable for its role. 

We hope this guide helped answer your questions regarding wood putty and its uses. We also hope we covered everything you needed to know about this topic. If you have any addition or observation, please leave a comment below. 

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