Is Polyurethane a Polish? Answered

Polyurethane is not a traditional polish, but it can be used as a polish for wood surfaces. It is a clear protective finish that provides durability and resistance to scratches and stains. However, it produces a different level of shine compared to traditional wood polish.

In this article, we will explore the properties and uses of PU polish and compare it to traditional wood polish.

Polyurethane as a Wood Polish

While polyurethane is primarily known as a finish, it can also be used as a polish for wood surfaces.

When used as a polish, polyurethane can enhance the shine and smoothness of the wood while also providing a protective coating.

A polish is a substance used to enhance a surface’s shine or luster. They are made from various materials, including natural waxes and synthetic compounds.

The purpose of polish is to fill in any microscopic imperfections on the material’s surface, which can create a smooth and reflective finish.

While a polish can enhance the shine of a surface, a finish is a protective coating applied to the surface to protect it from damage.

Finishes can also enhance the appearance of a surface, but their primary purpose is to provide protection.

Polyurethane is a type of finish that is commonly used on wood surfaces. It is applied as a liquid and dries to form a hard, protective coating.

It comes in a range of sheens, from matte to glossy, and can be tinted to achieve different colors.

Using Polyurethane as a Polish: How to Do it

To use polyurethane as a polish on wood surfaces, follow these steps:

  1. Start by cleaning the surface of the wood to remove any dirt, dust, or debris.
  2. Apply a small amount of polyurethane to a clean, lint-free cloth or rag.
  3. Rub the polyurethane into the wood in a circular motion, working in small sections.
  4. Continue to apply and buff the polyurethane until the entire wood surface has been treated.
  5. Allow the polyurethane to dry completely before applying a second coat if needed.
Buffing polyurethane coat
Buffing polyurethane coat
Buffed vs unbuffed poly finish after drying
Buffed vs unbuffed poly finish after drying

When using polyurethane as a polish on wood surfaces, use a light touch and avoid applying too much pressure.

Too much pressure can cause the polyurethane to build up and leave a sticky or uneven finish.

It’s also important to work in a well-ventilated area and wear protective gloves and eyewear.

Polyurethane Polish vs Regular Polish

Polyurethane vs wood polish
Polyurethane vs wood polish

Ease of Application

When it comes to ease of application, polyurethane polish and regular polish differ in several ways.

Traditional wood polish typically requires more preparation and specialized tools for application, while polyurethane polish is relatively easy to apply with a brush or rag.

The preparation required for traditional wood polish typically involves sanding the surface and removing any existing finish or wax.

In contrast, polyurethane polish can be applied directly to a clean, dry surface.

Additionally, the application time for traditional wood polish is typically longer than for polyurethane polishes.

Traditional wood polish may require multiple coats and drying time in between, while polyurethane polish can be applied in a single coat and dries quickly.


The level of shine and finish produced by polyurethane polish and regular polish also differ.

Traditional wood polish typically produces a glossy finish and shine than polyurethane polish.

Regular polish is available in various finishes, from matte to high-gloss. In contrast, polyurethane polish usually produces a more satin-like finish.

It’s important to consider the desired level of gloss and finish when choosing between the two types of polish.


When it comes to durability, polyurethane polish has several advantages over traditional wood polish.

Polyurethane is a highly durable material resistant to wear and tear, scratches, and stains.

It provides long-lasting protection to the wood surface, making it an ideal choice for high-traffic areas.

In contrast, traditional wood polish may require more frequent reapplication to maintain the finish and protect the wood.

It may also be susceptible to wear and tear, scratches, and stains.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of polyurethane polish and regular polish differs.

Traditional wood polish is typically made with petroleum-based solvents that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, which can harm the environment and human health.

In contrast, polyurethane polish is often water-based and has a lower VOC content, making it a more environmentally friendly option.

In terms of disposal, both should be disposed of properly according to local regulations.

However, due to its chemical composition, polyurethane polish may be more difficult to recycle or dispose of.


The cost of polyurethane and regular polish can also differ.

Traditional wood polishes are generally less expensive than polyurethane polish, making it a more budget-friendly option.

However, the upfront cost is not the only factor to consider when comparing the two types of polish.

Polyurethane polish may provide better long-term value for money due to its durability and longer-lasting protection.


Applying water-based PU on an old oil-based PU finish
Applying water-based PU on an old oil-based PU finish

Polyurethane polish typically requires less frequent reapplication than regular polish, which may need to be reapplied more frequently to maintain the finish and protect the wood.

Additionally, polyurethane polish is easier to maintain since it resists wear and tear, scratches, and stains.

Final Thoughts

Polyurethane is a versatile material used as a finish and a polish for wood surfaces.

While it may not give the same level of shine as traditional wood polish, it offers advantages in terms of durability and ease of application.

When used correctly with the right tools, polyurethane can be an effective and attractive option for polishing wood surfaces.

Polyurethane is more durable and easier to apply than traditional wood polish, requiring only a single coat and drying quickly.

However, it can be more expensive and may not provide the same level of shine, depending on the desired gloss.

You Might Also Enjoy

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does PU polish last?

The lifespan of polyurethane (PU) polish can vary depending on factors such as the quality of the application, the level of wear and tear, and the environment. On average, a well-applied PU polish can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years before needing to be reapplied.

What are the disadvantages of PU polish?

While polyurethane (PU) polish is a durable and long-lasting finish, it can have some disadvantages. These may include a longer drying time, difficulty in application, and an uneven finish if not applied correctly. Additionally, PU polish can sometimes produce a slightly yellowish tint that may not be desirable on certain surfaces.

What is the difference between PU polish and Varnish?

Polyurethane (PU) polish and Varnish are clear protective finishes for wood surfaces, but some differences exist. PU polish is a synthetic resin that dries quickly, providing a durable and scratch-resistant finish. Conversely, Varnish is a natural resin that can take longer to dry and may require more coats for the same level of protection.