Can You Put Polyurethane Over Wax?

Image of polyurethane floor, but Can You Put Polyurethane Over Wax?

Having your surface finished with polyurethane will always leave a lot to be desired. Poly products cure into a lustrous finish, and above all offer protection to your structures. Wax, on the other hand, does a lot in polishing different surfaces. What if you want to use both wax and polyurethane in your piece of furniture, can you put polyurethane over wax

No, not. It would be best if you don’t put polyurethane over wax. The rule of thumb requires that you first apply polyurethane and then use wax as the final topcoat to your piece of furniture. Wax does great when used as a polish, and using it for the same purpose would be great.

Even as you apply polyurethane to your wooden surface, you must apply thin layers so that it cures first and adhere properly to the surface. Additionally, thin layers help in ensuring that the finish does not have bubbles.

How Long Should You Wait for Polyurethane to Dry before Waxing?

This question trickles down to how long your polyurethane will take to cure so that it is ready for the application of the wax. Usually, oil-based polyurethane takes about 24 hours to dry. Water-based poly product, however, takes only 6 hours to dry. Overall, you will have to wait up to one month for your polyurethane finished surface to cure. 

Therefore, if you are looking to wax the surface, you must wait until the polyurethane finish cures before you apply the wax.

Factors that Affects the Drying and Curing Time of Polyurethane

Polyurethane is a unique finish that takes quite some time before it is ready. And when you are talking about the drying and curing time of polyurethane, you could be talking of days and weeks.

Below are some factors that will determine how fast or slow your polyurethane finish will dry and cure.

  • The Wood Type: There are wood types that will take longer and might not even be adequately cured, considering that they might be producing some chemicals that might compromise the crosslinking process. Such wood includes the Rosewoods and other aromatic cedars. 
  • Type of Polyurethane Formula: There are so many different polyurethane formulas in the categories of water-based or oil-based polyurethane. Different manufacturers use different approaches in the making of these formulae. Some choose to add oils; others add the drying agents instead. The inclusion of different components into these formulas means that they are bound to have some on the drying and curing time of polyurethane finish. Overall, you will find the drying and curing time of water-based poly products shorter than their oil-based counterparts.
  • Temperature and Humidity: The drying time that I’ve have been talking about for so long in this article is based on a 70°F (21°C) day and 70% humidity. If the temperature is high and the air is dry, you will have your polyurethane drying so much faster than the hours indicated above. The opposite is true when the temperatures are lower, and the air is moist.
  • State of the Surface: If your wood is raw and sanded, you will notice a faster drying time of the polyurethane because the wood absorbs the first coat very fast, shortening the dry time. So why is that? Well, the first coat wets and seals the wood surface hence dries faster. For subsequent coats, they lay over an existing layer of polyurethane; as a result, it will take longer to dry and cure.

What Are the Advantages of Wax?

Much as polyurethane has been the first product in the finishing of hardwood floors and other surfaces, the wax is bringing something different. Any adventurous individual would love to try it out. Wax gives you something of a less common finish, a noticeable touch.

Wax gives you a low sheen with a relaxed feel and looks that you might not easily find in a polyurethane finish.

Other advantages of wax include:

  • Non-Toxic

It would be best if you considered wax for wood as they are a healthier option considering that both the liquid and solid paste wax contain low levels of volatile organic compounds; this, therefore, makes them less toxic compared to polyurethane. If you have health-related complications that might be triggered by chemical fumes, then you should choose wax as your finish. 

  • Simple To Apply

I have interacted with different kinds of finished throughout my life as a woodworker, and I have to admit that wax is the most comfortable finish to apply. If you are looking to finish your wooden floor by yourself and need something that won’t eat you up, then you should straight away go for a wax.

  • The Smell

Most, if not all, of the wax product that I have used, has no irritating or offensive smell like the ones I have encountered with the polyurethanes. If you have an allergy to strong odors, then picking to use wax would be great.

  • High Penetration

The wax finish comes with great penetration and will find it easy to go deep into your wooden flooring; in return, you get an excellent level of protection for your wooden structure. Additionally, you will be giving your floor a low luster finish if you use wax.

Note: Wax does have some shortcomings, such as staining of surfaces. Furthermore, wax does not last long on the surface compared to polyurethane. 

Safety Measures When Working With Polyurethane

So, is polyurethane toxicOverall, polyurethane is toxic; however, it will depend on the brand you are using in this case. What are some of the precautionary measures you are supposed to take when working with a polyurethane formula?

  • First, ensure that you read the instructions and pay special attention to safety recommendations!  
  • While your polyurethane formula is drying and curing, the oil-based formulas usually emit toxic fumes that are smelly. It can cause respiratory complications, therefore have a nose mask, ensure that your room is well ventilated, or stay away from the area. Alternatively, you can use water-based polyurethane, which contains less toxic compounds.
  • Avoid extended exposure during polyurethane application and more so when it is starting to dry and cure. The best bet is always to ensure that your area is well ventilated.
  • The oil-based polyurethane is flammable when it is still wet. It begins to dry because oils and solvents present in it are generating flammable vapors that easily catches fires. Therefore, keep fire sources away from your polyurethane products.


In this post, we’ve looked at both polyurethane and wax as great finishes for wooden surfaces such as floors. The two products give different yet attractive finished and above all, protect your wooden structures. Depending on what you need, you can always use these products as an alternative for the other. What of a case where you would like to use the two in one product?

Can You Put Polyurethane Over Wax?

No, it would be best if you never put polyurethane over wax, instead, use wax as the final finish after applying polyurethane to surface.

Did you find this post helpful? Kindly share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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