Guide To How Long Does It Take Varnish to Dry

Dry time or recoat time is the time between applying one coating and another, whereas cure time is how long it needs to pass before you can use your finished product regularly. If you want to know how long does it take varnish to dry, make sure you continue reading this article!

How Long Does It Take Varnish to Dry?

When it comes to natural varnish, the drying time is approximately 24 hours, while polyurethanes and water-based varnish typically dry faster. If you’re applying varnish in wet or humid weather, we recommend that you prolong the drying time because dampness may slow down the process. 

If you’re looking for quick-drying, wipe the surface of the varnish with a rag moistened with mineral spirits or turpentine. Keep in mind that you should be gentle when you’re wiping the varnish since your goal is to get rid of the tackiness on the surface. To cure it, place it under the breeze of a fan for a day or two.

If you want to put varnish on wood, we suggest that you use a foam applicator or a flat paintbrush. When you’re applying the varnish, work along the wood grain, and use long and even strokes. Sand the first coat with sandpaper after a day has passed, and then wipe away any remaining dust with a dry cloth. 

Factors That Affect The Drying Time

In this section, we will discuss a few important factors that will affect your drying time. 

Humidity and Temperature

As we previously mentioned, high humidity levels and cooler temperatures can extend the dry time anywhere between 8 to 10 hours. 

Guide To How Long Does It Take Varnish to Dry

Starting Surface

The varnish will dry faster when you apply it to a raw wood surface, but dry time will increase when you apply it over an existing finish. 

Types of Products

When you’re applying a water-based product over an oil-based product and the other way around, the dry time increases. Before you apply the next layer, the previous coating must be completely dry. 

If you’re switching from a water-based to an oil-based product, you need to wait for 24 hours before applying your next coat. If you’re doing it the other way around, you need to wait for 72 hours. 

What Does Varnish Do?

People enjoy having wooden pieces in their home not only because they have a more natural feel compared to plastic or metal, but also because wooden furniture is very durable. To make it more practical, wooden furniture requires varnish. A coat or two of varnish helps protect and preserve our favorite pieces of furniture. 

The varnish offers a layer of protection between the wood and the environment. This means that the wood would last longer than a piece with no finish or varnish.  

In this section, we’re going to look at the advantages of using varnish. 

  • Helps with absorption of moisture - Unfinished wood swells more easily because it absorbs moisture in the air. When it dries back out again, the wood can also shrink. This process of expanding and contracting can result in wood warping and splitting. Plus, when you use varnish, your wooden furniture is less likely to absorb any moisture from the air, and if you accidentally spill some water on your furniture, it doesn’t soak it up as unfinished wood would.
  • Easier to clean - Due to the many little ‘pores” in the wood, dirt can built-up on the surfaces. In this case, you will create an environment where bacteria will be able to thrive. If you varnish the wood, you will seal the surface and decrease the chance of dirt and dust. This furniture will also be a lot easier to clean.  
  • Prevents damage - In addition to waterproofing the wooden furniture, you will also safeguard the surface from any abrasions or scratches. By using varnish, you will be protecting the wood from any bumps or knocks that are hard to avoid when you live in a house full of people.

As you can see, there are many benefits to using varnish besides delivering a rich and lovely sheen and enhancing the woods’ natural color. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can You Sleep in a House After Polyurethane?

After you’re done with polyurethane, you shouldn’t live in the house for at least two days. Better yet, we would advise that you stay away for up to 5 days to avoid breathing in the off-gassing and fumes. Do so even if you’ve only painted one room and there are other rooms you can use for sleeping.

Is it Dangerous to Breathe in Varnish?

Many varnish products have benzene in their ingredients, which is a highly flammable carcinogen. The fumes from varnish can cause a variety of symptoms, including dizziness, skin irritation, headaches, and drowsiness. 

Direct contact with the chemicals can be the reason for irritation of the skin, and being exposed to the vapors for an extended period can cause asthma attacks, nausea, headaches, breathing difficulties, nose and throat irritation, and so on. 

How Long Does Wood Varnish Last?

Danish oil, polyurethane, or gross oil-based varnish can last between 10 to 20 years. 

Water-based paints and coating have a resistance of more than three years. 


You now have all the information you need about how long does it take varnish to dry. We hope that our article has been useful and that you’ll face no issues when you’re varnishing your woodwork

Last Updated on April 30, 2022 by Tom Bradly

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Tom Bradly

My entrepreneurial journey started in 2006, when I dropped out of university. I wanted to work with my hands, to build things. Now I mix my background with computers with my first-hand experience with woodworking to provide insights into the tools I like best. I love everything about woodworking and have been building stuff for over 20 years of my life. I hope to pass some knowledge and expertise. See more at

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