Asked on Aug 13, 2020

How do I fix white desk after using oil based polyurethane?

MissEmMorgan McBrideSimple Nature Decor


I painted a desk white using Rust-Oleum chalky smooth finish Linen white. I added 3 coats of varathane oil based polyurethane to protect the paint. I now notice a slight yellow to the white paint. Is it going to get more yellow over time? Can I just sand top coat and paint the white paint over top to finish without adding a top coat? Or should I just let it be?

18 answers
  • I would sand the top coat and just do a coat of the white paint

  • GrandmasHouseDIY
    on Aug 13, 2020

    Yep you can sand it and paint over it. I would use a good primer though to seal that poly in or it will probably bleed yellow through your paint. After you prime, paint again and then use a water based poly called polycrylic - that won't yellow your finish :)

  • Deb K
    on Aug 13, 2020

    Hi Ellen, you can just sand the top coat off, Any water based polyurethane will go on clear and will not yellow over time. Oil-based finishes start yellow and get more amber as they age. ... For now, all you can do is remove the finish and start over, or simply paint over the polyurethane with primer and white paint.

  • Janice
    on Aug 13, 2020

    A quick sand and repaint should do the trick. You want to find a water-based clear acrylic that says "non-yellowing" or "crystal clear" on the label.

  • I'm so sorry that happened to you, Ellen, but, yes, polyurethane will yellow. I've even seen the poly pull tannins out of the wood through the chalk paint. Was the desk a dark color? I would lightly sand and and repaint with a latex enamel. Then you don't have to worry about a topcoat.

  • Redcatcec
    on Aug 13, 2020

    You have a couple of options...

    1. Sand and repaint it in white.
    2. Use a good primer (KILZ) to seal off the existing paint and sealer then repaint, then seal with a water based acrylic-this will not yellow.
    3. Just paint with chalk paint and then apply a protective wax, otherwise the chalk paint will chip off.
  • Maura White
    on Aug 13, 2020

    I've seen a yellow tint when I put poly over white as well. Do what Redcatcec suggested!

  • Kathy Gunter Law
    on Aug 13, 2020

    Polyvine (water based) would be a better choice. You can try removing just the poly but you will probably have to do some paint touch ups.

  • William
    on Aug 13, 2020

    Yeah oil based poly has a yellow cast and does yellow over time. Water based poly goes on milky but dries clear and does not yellow. Lightly sand the piece with 220 grit sandpaper, prime with Kilz primer then the topcoat. Seal with three coats of a water based poly.

  • Carrie @ Curly Crafty Mom
    on Aug 13, 2020

    I'd remove the poly and then use a wax to avoid getting the yellowish tint.

  • Flipturn
    on Aug 13, 2020

    As a temporary solution, if the lightbulbs you have in the room are incandescent or fluorescent, you could try replacing the them with LED to see if they change the perceived color on the desk. LED light can sometimes have quite an effect on what color wall paint looks like.

  • Mogie
    on Aug 13, 2020

    Oil bases poly tends to yellow. Water based doesn't.

  • Unique Creations By Anita
    on Aug 14, 2020

    I would recommend sanding all the oil based poly off. and add a new coat of chalk paint so the colour is even then add you water based poly. Another thing to look out for is to select a waterbased poly that does not yellow. I have had some in the past that still went yellow.

  • Annie
    on Aug 14, 2020

    You could try a light sanding and put a good primer/sealer on, then re paint

  • Simple Nature Decor
    on Aug 16, 2020

    I would sand it off and apply a primer then paint the color you would like.

  • Morgan McBride
    on Aug 18, 2020

    Chalk paint usually gets waxed, not poly. I don't know how you can sand off the top coat without damaging the white unfortunately.

  • MissEm
    on Aug 19, 2020

    I've only ever sealed with wax... Once you repaint, if you do it with chalk paint, I'd just get a good name brand wax sealer (I use Minwax clear or if I want a chippy, beautiful finish without all the work, but a little stinky while using it, I'll use Bri-Wax) and seal it really good and see how it goes. You may find you like it much better without the poly. I've honestly been using chalk or milk paint for yrs and only have ever sealed with wax and love the results

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