How to Use Wipe-On Poly

By Jane Humphries ; Updated September 15, 2017
Wipe-On Poly is a water resistant polyurethane product for wood.

Wipe-On Poly is a polyurethane product for treating wood to protect it from wear and water damage. Minwax produces Wipe-On Poly and according to “Fine Woodworking” it is the best overall and best value wipe-on product currently on the market in comparison to fourteen other wipe-on finishes. You apply Wipe-On Poly with a cloth rather than a brush so it benefits from having no drips or runs to rectify and it gives a hand rubbed water resistant finish.

Prepare the surface before using Wipe-On Poly.

Prepare the surface for finishing by removing flaking paint or any finish that is deteriorating. Sand down the wood to clear debris including polish and wax, grease and dirt. Use coarse sandpaper to begin with and change up to a medium grade.

Make sure the wood surface is smooth and clear of dust.

Sand the wood to a completely smooth finish that is uniform across its surface using fine grade sandpaper. Pour some mineral spirits onto a cloth and wipe down the wood to remove any sanding dust that remains.

You can apply a wood stain before using Wipe-On Poly.

Shake the Wipe-On Poly can vigorously to mix the solution effectively. If you want the wood to have a color stain, apply a stain first before the application of the polyurethane finish. Allow any stain to dry before using the Wipe-On Poly.

Use a lint free cloth to avoid leaving particles in the wood finish.

Pour the Wipe-On Poly onto a lint free cloth making sure it is thoroughly wet but not dripping. Wipe the wood with the cloth in a rubbing motion and allow it to dry for a minimum of two to three hours till it is no longer tacky. For small areas of flooring to refinish scratches, use a circular rubbing motion to apply the polyurethane.

Use fine grade sandpaper or steel wool to smooth the finish between coats.

Sand the surface of the wood with fine grade sandpaper to remove any dust particles or fine ridges that may have settled on the finish. Make sure that you sand very lightly to prevent the removal of patches of polyurethane. Steel wool is an alternative product to use instead of sandpaper if you find it too abrasive.

Wipe-On Poly needs to cure for 24 hours.

Wipe the surface clear of sanding dust with a clean dry cloth. Pour a second batch of Wipe-On Poly onto a lint free cloth and wipe over the surface of the wood and allow it to dry for two to three hours. Repeat step five before applying a third coat or subsequent coats to build up the finish. Leave the wood to completely cure for 24 hours before it’s ready for normal use.


Wear a mask if sanding old paint in case it contains lead.

About the Author

Residing in the coastal county of Devon, England, Jane Humphries has been writing since 2004. Writing for "British Mensa" nationally and regionally, Humphries has also held key roles within the High IQ Society. She received a Bachelor of Science, honors, in psychology with combined studies covering biology, statistics, economics, politics and sociology.