Polyurethane varnish is undoubtedly one of the most durable and beautiful finishes. But, if you don’t know how to get rid of polyurethane smell from the finished area, the toxic fumes can have detrimental effects on your household.

Polyurethane is made of isocyanates and volatile organic compounds. These components are what’s responsible for their durability as well as their harsh vapors. As a result, polyurethane smell can linger around off-gassing for weeks after its application.

Discover how you can expel toxic polyurethane fumes faster.

How To Get Rid of Polyurethane Smell

Open the doors and windows to ventilate the place. Switch on fans and run an air purifier. Absorb the odor using Onion or lemon slices in water and white vinegar. Distribute paper plates containing baking soda, activated charcoal, and fumes absorbent granules.

How to Get Rid of Polyurethane Smell from Floors

It is probably best to use a combination of the following methods; you will get faster results that way.

Open the Windows and aerate the room

Ventilation should always be the first thing you do before, during, and after refinishing projects. Open the windows and doors to promote free airflow in the stinky room.

As soon as the fresh air mixes with the unbearable polyurethane smell, it starts fading away. So ensure you leave air inlets for as long as necessary until clean air is restored in the house.

Use Fans

Use overhead fans, table fans, or place a box fan into a window and let it run for as long as necessary to help banish polyurethane fumes. This will help to promote air circulation and get the bad air out.

You can rent it from rental units if you plan to use the box fan temporarily, especially for the one-time polyurethane project. But if you prefer to own it, it is a worthy investment.

Run an Air filtration system to filter out toxins

Consider using an air filtration system for woodshop to help eliminate polyurethane odors from the room. Place it in the room where polyurethane is still off-gassing, run it for as long as you need to until you have fresh air circulating in the space.

You can buy or rent one with an ozone or activated charcoal filter. The purifier will collect the stench, pass it through a filter that breaks down the chemical compounds and neutralize it.

Try Lampe Berger

Another tried-and-tested way to banish toxic fumes involves burning a Lampe Berger

Since we don’t want to mask the existing smell, put 90% alcohol and a few drops of essential oil into the glass container, light the wick and let it burn for at least 20 minutes.

The open flame will burn the toxic chemical compounds in the air without bursting into flames. Afterward, blow out the flame and let it diffuse.

You should notice the toxic fumes subsiding within 20 minutes. However, keep it running for longer until you are satisfied with the smell of air circulating indoors.

Later on, you can use 100% essential oils to fill your interior space with scented air.

Onions or Lemons in a bowl of water

This common ingredient is a reliable remedy for banishing polyurethane smell from the space. Slice an onion in half. Put the halves in water bowls and space them on the floor to absorb the toxic polyurethane vapors.

Lemons also work similarly to onions. It has been used for ages to counter several types of odors within the house.

Use VAPORSORB Natural Fume Remover

Sprinkle VAPORSORB granules liberally on the finished floor with polyurethane. Leave them to sit for several hours, even overnight. These vapor absorbent granules will draw out the remaining pungent vapors and absorb them. 

After a while, sweep up the granules and scatter them again if necessary until all the fumes have been eliminated.

Try using activated charcoal

Activated charcoal is another natural remedy that can help you deal with strong polyurethane odors. This product is super dry and excellent at absorbing and filtering contaminants in the air.

Put them in saucer plates and place them on the recently finished floors. Let them sit overnight or for a couple of days. Replace them every few days until the pungent smell dissipates completely.

Using baking soda in the room

Baking soda is another absorbent product that can help purify the air. Place them in paper plates or newspapers and distribute them in several areas of the affected room.

Paper and baking soda are absorbent and will suck the stubborn odors in no time.

Distilled white vinegar

White vinegar can also refresh the air in your entire house. Pour a bit of this vinegar into small containers and place them in the corners of the varnished floor. Let it sit overnight and replace them as necessary.

Alternatively, you can simmer a bit of the vinegar for about an hour. The acidic vapors will attract and break down the volatile compounds and, in turn, banish the annoying odors.

Turn up the Heat

Heat accelerates the drying process of varnish. Therefore, the sooner it dries, the sooner the space becomes habitable.

That said, close the windows during the day and raise the house’s temperature to help polyurethane cure faster. The house will certainly become unbearable, so keep pets and everyone out of the house throughout this process.

Maintain the temperature until polyurethane cures fully. Then ventilate the house with all you can and use all the absorbent materials we’ve mentioned above.

Remove Polyurethane Smell from Portable Furniture

Leave it on Up to the Attic

If you applied polyurethane on movable furniture, you are better off leaving it in the garage or your workshop away from the main house.

Resist the urge to put it directly under the sun; you might ruin your furniture.

Alternatively, you can leave it in the attic when the weather is warmer. The natural warmth will slowly but surely cure the polyurethane and eliminate the fumes.

What Does Polyurethane Smell Like

Polyurethane smell is unmistakable; it kind of hits your face when you come into contact. It can trigger headaches and other allergic reactions.

Polyurethane finish is made of isocyanates and volatile organic compounds. When these ingredients are emitted into the air, they release the unrelenting toxic smell. The stench is most dominant in the oil-based polyurethane variety.

How Long Does it Take for Polyurethane to Stop Smelling?

Top factors that determine how long the smell will linger around include the number of polyurethane coats applied and the weather conditions.

Ideally, it should dissipate fully after three to six weeks. But the house can be habitable in 10-12 days if your family and pets aren’t allergic to such strong fumes.

What are the Dangers of Polyurethane Fumes?

Prolonged exposure to polyurethane fumes has been linked to several health complications, in the extreme case being asthma and cancer in pets.

This product is a classified carcinogen that will trigger skin, eyes, and throat irritation. This irritation can develop into skin rash or hives, chest tightness, and possible difficulty in breathing.

Exposure to these fumes has also been linked to nausea, headaches, and dizziness.

How to Avoid Unbearable Polyurethane Smell

You can use safer alternatives to avoid toxic polyurethane smells: The following are great alternatives.

Linseed Oil

Linseed oil is extracted from flaxseed. It is a natural, durable and non-toxic oil finish for treating wood. You can use it in its pure form or when mixed with other products.

Tung OIL

Tung oil is one of the eco-friendly finishes derived from the seeds of the Tung tree. It is all-natural, durable, and free of VOCs.


How to get rid of polyurethane smell fast

  1. Put some activated charcoal on several paper plates.
  2. Place the paper plates on the varnished surface.
  3. Let the activated charcoal absorb the toxic polyurethane smell for 24 hours.
  4. Replace the plates and the activated charcoal if necessary.

How long are polyurethane fumes toxic?

The toxic smell of polyurethane takes about five to seven days to decrease. However, you’ll still notice a bit of the odor here and there for about three weeks in the case of water-based polyurethane and four weeks for oil-based poly.

Is it safe to stay in house after polyurethane?

No, the house is inhabitable for at least two days after completion of the polyurethane. But, it’s highly recommended that you stay out of the house for at least a week or longer until the finished surface is completely dry and the harsh fumes have subsided. Read more on if you can stay in a house after polyurethane.

Is polyurethane toxic after it dries?

No, polyurethane is no longer toxic once it has fully cured. However, while it’s still wet, polyurethane releases volatile organic compounds into the air: These VOCs are highly toxic and can trigger severe health problems.

Is there polyurethane that doesn’t smell?

Yes, water-based polyurethane has a mild smell that dissipates soon after application. It’s a barely noticeable, non-toxic smell that won’t drown the air in the room. That’s because it has less volatile organic compounds.

How to get rid of polyurethane smell from floors

  1. Cut bulb onions in halves and put the cut side up in a water bowl.
  2. Place the bowls on the floor and let the onions absorb the toxic fumes from the air.
  3. You can use lemon slices in place of onions.

Does water-based polyurethane smell?

No, water-based poly finish almost has no smell. This product won’t fill the air with a notorious odor like oil-based polyurethane. It is a safer choice because people and pets don’t have to evacuate the space while coatings are underway.


When you know how to get rid of polyurethane smell from the varnished surfaces, you can keep your family and indoor animals from suffering from the effects of the poisonous fumes.

When you can’t avoid the polyurethane odors, your best bet is to deal with it using a combination of methods; ventilate the house and use all the absorbent materials at your disposal.

If you stained your surfaces and it’s equally stinky, read our article for tips on how to get rid of stain smell.

4 thoughts on “How To Get Rid of Polyurethane Smell on Furniture and Floor”

  1. We had our stairs refinished and the contractor used polyurethane oil based varnish. My family and our cats stayed out of the home for 24 hours after and are now staying in a well ventilated room away from the stairs. Thank you for the tips to eliminate the smell!

    Do you know if the vapors/fumes can collect in pet water dishes and fountains that were left out? Just wondering if all the water needs to be dumped and dishes cleaned before pets can drink from them.

  2. Hello! Thank you for thus information. I’m moving into a new apt, and the landlord put polyurethane in the floors. I’m moving in 8 days and I am concerned as I noticed that they didn’t keep the windows open after they did it. It was supposed to rain here.. so I suppose that’s why. Should I tell them to open the windows? It’s been three days and still closed. I do believe there is one open. Thank you!!!


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