I made myself a small desk out of pine plywood and square tubing. I stained the pine with water based stain, then applied several coats of clear, water based polyurethane.

The last coat was applied at least one week after the last one, but still, the brush would get soiled with the color of the stain. I expected that to happen for the first coat, but not from the second onward. (The poly looks like diluted milk while in the can. After a few brush strokes, the brush leaves faint streaks the color of the stain when dipping it in the can)

This was at least over 8 months now, and still if water or moisture gets on the desktop, when cleaning it, the rag would get soiled with stain. If I rub the wet spot with my hand, I would get stained too. It's like this coat is not waterproof at all.

Weather here is tropical, most of the time it is between 20-35 C° (68-95 F°), it rains often but it is not terribly humid (A damp towel would typically hang-dry indoors in about 2 hours, not in direct sunlight)

Is the water based poly supposed to be water proof once cured? could it be that the stain chemically ruined the poly?

It was the first time I used W.B. poly, as now I live in a small apartment and didn't wanted to bother my family with the smell of traditional oil based lacquer. The advertised fast drying time and no odor encouraged me to try.

I'd like to "fix" this desktop, more for utilitarian purposes. If I painted over it with oil based lacquer, would it dry o.k.? (I don't think sanding the desktop would be worth the time and effort this time, as I do not own a power sander and also, this poly clogs sand paper after only a few passes.)

I already read this question: Why is my desk still tacky two weeks after finishing it with a polyurethane clear coat? but it does not directly answer my doubts, it does not clearly states whether it is water or oil based.

  • 1
    That sounds like a faulty product or one that wasn't mixed properly prior to use. I've used water-based poly many times in fairly humid environs and have never encountered this. I'd try a different brand. Minwax is reliably good.
    – isherwood
    Jul 29, 2021 at 14:34

1 Answer 1


I suspect that the water-based finishes have never actually cured, due to your constantly humid climate. To do the job right, I'd sand the top layer down a bit and start over with oil-based poly-stain combo. Then just accept the fact that it will take a very long time to actually become dry to the touch. Unless, of course, there is an air-conditioned area you can move the desk to for a couple of weeks, in which case there is an obvious solution. Good luck.

  • The question makes it fairly clear that perpetual humidity is not the problem.
    – isherwood
    Jul 29, 2021 at 14:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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