How to Remove Polyurethane Finish From Cabinets

Home ownership brings a lot of pride until you are forced to look at the same interior design year after year. A kitchen tends to be the hub of activity for most homes, and replacing cabinets is a guaranteed way to bring back some excitement. This type of project often carries a shockingly high price tag. An equally effective and less expensive method of updating the kitchen is to refinish the cabinetry. Before a beautiful new look can be applied, the old polyurethane finish has be removed.

Refinishing kitchen cabinets can dramatically change the look of the entire kitchen.


Step 1

Remove all doors, drawers, hinges, handles and knobs. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws, twisting in a counterclockwise direction. Use a marker and a small piece of masking tape to label each drawer and cabinet door with a designated symbol that indicates where they go when finished. Save all hardware and screws in a convenient location.

Step 2

Place a drop cloth over the floor in a well-ventilated area you have picked to strip the polyurethane off the cabinets. Set all doors and drawers on the plastic in the order you wish to complete them.

Step 3

Place a drop cloth over all counters directly beneath the cabinets you will be using the stripping agent on. Secure it in place using masking tape.

Stripping the Finish

Step 4

Put on a face mask and protective gloves. Apply an even, thin layer of gel stripping agent to small areas of the finish on the cabinets using a paint brush. Wait a few minutes for the gel to begin working. The polyurethane finish will start to bubble up.

Step 5

Hold the putty knife down toward the wood surface at a 45-degree angle. Begin carefully scraping the polyurethane and stripper from the wood. Scrape with the grain of the wood to avoid gouges.

Step 6

Dip a steel wool pad and toothbrush in stripper to finish scrubbing away areas of polyurethane that seem to not want to budge. Allow the surface a few hours to dry.

Step 7

Use a small belt or palm sander with 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface and remove all leftover stripper. Wipe the surface with a damp cotton cloth to remove any remaining dust.