So, I stupidly applied some polyurethane to my project without reading the instructions on the can. After it was dry several hours later, I finally read the instructions, and to my horror, I saw it said something like this:

Let sit for 30 minutes, then wipe off with lint-free reg. Do not let the finish dry without wiping it off.

So, erm, now what do I do? Did I ruin my project (it still looks perfectly fine..)? Why does it need to be wiped off, and what are the consequences if I don't!?

  • Is this straight polyurethane, or polyurethane/stain combo?
    – Tester101
    Mar 20, 2012 at 17:19
  • @Tester101: Not sure what it was. It wasn't straight polyurethane, but it definitely contained it. Mar 20, 2012 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


There's a chance you were using wiping varnish or a "tung oil finish" (not really tung oil). It's basically thinned down poly that can be left on in a thick coat, or the excess can be wiped off after a coat is applied.

The warning to not let the finish dry without wiping is probably good advice to eliminate the possibility of runs and drips.

Popular Woodworking has a good article on the history of wiping varnish.

  • It's just to avoid runs/drips? So forgetting to wipe it off won't, say, ruin the wood, or leave it permanently oily? Mar 20, 2012 at 17:30
  • Disclaimer: Learned about 'wiping varnish' for the first time today via Google. Before your question, I'd never heard about wiping off a poly coat after application.
    – Doresoom
    Mar 20, 2012 at 17:31
  • @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft From what I can tell, if that's what you're using, then yes - it's just to avoid runs and drips. It may also help eliminate brush strokes.
    – Doresoom
    Mar 20, 2012 at 17:33
  • 5
    wiping the excess off also produces thinner coats, which may be desirable depending on the look you're trying to achieve. With poly, too many thick coats will make the wood look 'plasticy'. If you apply the same amount of thinner coats, you'll get the same smooth finish without the extra build up.
    – Tester101
    Mar 20, 2012 at 17:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.