How long for Water-based polyurethane to dry and cure?

By Mego Kimani •  Updated: 06/17/23 •  4 min read

How long for Water-based polyurethane to dry and cure? Water-based polyurethane drying time varies depending on a number of factors. In most cases, it takes 2 to 3 hours for water-based polyurethane to dry.

In this article, we will discuss some factors that vary the drying time of water-based poly, as well as a comparison of the drying and curing times of some top brands in water-based poly for floors. But before that here is a video of the article in summary.

Drying time of different water-based polys

BrandDry timeCure time
Bona Mega One2-3 hours5 days
Norton Polywhey 35001.5-2 hours7 days
Bona Traffic HD2-3 hours3 days
StreetShoe NXT Floor finish2-3 hours7 days
Enduro VAR II4-5 hours21 days

We compared a few polys for floor finishes. All the finishes are water-based as is the critical area of the article. To standardize it we only choose satin. If you are unfamiliar with any of the products we have linked you can check out more on them including the prize.

Factors affecting the drying time of water-based polyurethane

The drying time of a finish is affected by

Humidity & temperature

Humidity will affect how soon you can recoat your poly. High humidity will prolong the drying time while low humidity will be optimal for fast drying. Similarly, Hot days are the best days for finishing as the coat dries much faster than on colder days.

The thickness of the coat

The thickness of an individual coat or spread will determine how quickly or slowly it will dry. As seen in the video below where water-based poly and oil-based are compared the thicker-to-spread polys tend to dry slower.

Application method

using roller to apply poly
Your applicator can determine how fast your water-based poly will dry

The method you choose when applying your water-based poly will also affect the drying time. Perhaps the fastest drying time is reserved for the spraying method.

When spraying finishes the nozzle of the gun forces the pressure to atomize the finish into a mist. The mist sticks and dries quickly on the surface of the wood. The use of a spray system records better time compared to a T-bar or Roller which are still better than a brush in terms of floor finishing.

Even in spraying, there are still some discrepancies that can affect how fast the poly will take to dry, including the thickness of the layer and how far or close you hold the gun away from the floorboards as you spray.

Project complication

Not all floors are created equal. In this sense, some floors will have many ‘obstructions’ in the way of your continuity in spreading the finish. Such areas require carefully working around them with smaller applicators like cut-in pads or brushes. This may come in the way of how fast you can finish a marked area.

Can you make water-based poly dry faster?

Are there ways you could speed up the drying time for poly? Yes, there are some ways of doing just that we will discuss some of them below.

Good planning

This is the easiest and probably the most cost-friendly way you could get faster drying times of water-based poly between coats. planning to refinish a floor on a warm sunny day will have you record faster drying time between coats. It would be unwise to plan to refinish your floor during the winter season. That being said here are more ways to push that dry-time even lower.

It’s important to consider both drying time and curing time. While the drying time of polyurethane can vary a general rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours before walking on the stairs. However, it’s important to note that drying time does not necessarily mean curing time. For the polyurethane to fully cure and be ready for heavy traffic, it’s recommended to wait at least 3-4 days.

Correct application

Correct application and feathering are also key in not only getting quicker dry-times but also a smooth finish with a nice appearance. Try and work with thin layers and build them with recoating. Thicker coats are problematic to work with and also harder to dry.

Check out the best way to apply water-based poly to floors

Using a heater

If you live in very cold regions you can set a room heater in a corridor to bring up the room’s temperature. There are no major concerns using this method with water-based poly but I would not recommend its use, especially above 70°F with oil-based poly where thinners and spirits are in use.

Mego Kimani

Hi there, my name is Mego Kimani, and I am the owner of Woodmeter, a website dedicated to wood finishing. At Woodmeter, we offer a comprehensive resource for woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts, providing information on everything from achieving the perfect finish to product recommendations and technique guides. Our goal is to empower our community with the knowledge they need to create beautiful, long-lasting finishes on their projects, no matter their skill level or experience.