How to Get Rid of Polyurethane Smell

Polyurethane smell is unfortunately one of the necessary evils of working with this common woodworking finish. It is an stench like no other, and it is notoriously hard to get rid of. Anyone who has had their hardwood floors redone can attest to the migraine-inducing vileness that is in your face from the moment you enter the room. It’s not a polite smell and it absolutely takes no prisoners. This stuff plays for keeps. One whiff and you are done. No sense in trying to hold your nose, because it lingers like a mini mushroom cloud of chemicals in the air. You can’t escape it; all you can do is deal with it. The suggestions in this guide focus on how to get rid of polyurethane smell.



It’s not uncommon for a  polyurethane smell to linger for several days (or longer) as the liquid coating dries. Moisture in the air will make the drying process take longer to complete. If you have decided to have your floors finished during humid weather, you may need to put up with the stench for awhile. Unless you are deliberately inhaling the fumes, there should not be any long-term health consequences from exposure to polyurethane stink. People who are prone to migraines will definitely suffer while the stuff is going through its off-gassing phase.


Polyurethane Smell


How to Get Rid of Polyurethane Smell from Floors

1 Open the Windows

The good news is that the stench from even the smelliest polyurethane will eventually dissipate. You can help the process along by ensuring that the room has plenty of ventilation. Open up the windows to increase airflow and leave them open as long as the smell remains.


2 Box Fan in the Window

Putting a box fan into a window can help to deal with the issue of polyurethane fumes. Set it up in the window and let it run all day. You may be able to borrow or rent this type of fan if you only need them on a short-term basis. This strategy can help to get air circulating and get the smell molecules rounded up and moved out of the space more quickly.


3 Run an Air Purifier

An air purifier is a device that will remove contaminants from the air. Some units are ozone generators that are powerful enough to purify the whole house. You can choose to rent a large one or specify that you want one that will clean the air in a single room if you wish. Follow the directions to remove the chemical smell from the polyurethane and replace it with clean, fresh air.


4 Turn up the Heat

Heat will help the smell from polyurethane to dissipate a bit more quickly. You can turn up the temperature in the room during the day to get the process started. Keep an eye on the weather forecast. If the temperature is going to dip below 50 degrees at night, you will need to turn up the heat in the room where the floors have just been refinished to keep the temperature constant and make sure the drying process continues uninterrupted.


5 Onion in a Saucer of Water Solution

This one may seem a bit unorthodox, but we have it on good authority that it will work. Start by peeling and slicing an onion. Put the slice in a saucer of water and place it in the room to absorb the polyurethane odor.


Remove Polyurethane Smell from Woodworking Projects

1 Move it on Up to the Attic

If you have used the polyurethane on a woodworking project that is relatively small and portable, consider moving it to your attic in warmer weather to take advantage of the sun’s warming qualities. Resist any temptation to put it outside. The sun’s rays will warm up the wood but can damage your project.

2 Rub in Some Sawdust

The issue with stinky polyurethane stems from wet spots on the wood. In a situation where you are using low lustre or satin finish polyurethane on your woodworking project, take a small amount of sawdust and rub it on the surface of the piece. The sawdust will stick to any parts of the wood that are still wet. These are the places that are causing the smell. Buff them with some extra fine steel wool to get rid of the stench.


Published by

Joe Fresh

Joe is an odor combatant, chemistry extraordinaire and all around good guy. He has an over-productive olfactory system with absolutely zero tolerance for unpleasant aromas.

2 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of Polyurethane Smell”

  1. Joe we just had out floor installed and 2 coats of polyurethane over stain white oak, our basement smells really bad of the poly. The upstairs is smelling better, the fumes are not as strong, I’ve read about turning up the furnace, leaving an onion slice in a bowl or saucer.
    I hope you have a better solution-oh yea, we have no basement windows, so opening a window and putting a fan in there wouldn’t work.


  2. Onion, lots of it. Absorbs it nicely. I redid a portion of my red oak flooring in a bathroom and had to have it done and ready quickly because my mother was coming to stay and she had respiratory ailments. I polyeurethaned the night before she came and hung cut onions in a bag on the door and closed it. The next day she couldn’t smell a thing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *