Asked on Apr 09, 2016

Varnish won't dry!

Help! 5 days ago, the hubs cleaned then painted on a darker varnish on our medium oak stair bannister, and other stair wood. It won't dry completely on the bannister!!! What to do?!?
  2 answers
  • William William on Apr 09, 2016
    Although painters sometimes refer to oil- or water-based polyurethane finishes as varnishes, the term varnish usually refers to a clear oil-based alkyd finish. In order to completely harden, this type of finish must cure by combining with the air. Poor ventilation, high humidity and chemicals in the air, such as ammonia, can interfere with the curing process, and as a result, the finish remains tacky. Tackiness can also be the result of painting over wax, silicone-based cleaners and grease. There are a number of remedies, but in some cases, you may have to remove the finish and start over. Reduce the humidity in the environment of the drying varnish by running a dehumidifier. Pointing a fan at the drying varnish may also help. Wipe the surface of the varnish lightly with a rag moistened with turpentine or mineral spirits. Don't rub the varnish, just wipe it lightly enough to remove the tackiness from the surface. Give the varnish another day or two under the breeze of a fan to cure. Brush or spray a light coat of clear shellac on the surface if the varnish is still tacky after wiping it with a solvent. Shellac hardens by evaporation and doesn't have to cure. Use shellac only if the varnish has almost hardened but is still slightly tacky. Don't use it if the varnish is soft. Strip the varnish if none of these strategies work. It's probably tacky because the wood wasn't properly cleaned before varnishing. Wash the wood with a wax-removing detergent after you've stripped the old varnish, sand it and apply a fresh coat.
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    • Pamela Robinson Porter Pamela Robinson Porter on Apr 10, 2016
      Thank You William! Will try this!
  • Dee Lynch Dee Lynch on Apr 10, 2016
    Number ONE- take it off the wall - do not attempt this while the wall is in the way.... ----- Sooo much easier. Definitely strip it off, clean it with tsp to remove the old finish and get down to the wood by hand sanding, an electric sander will not remove the old finish in all the nooks. Stain must be applied to raw wood to soak in, wiping any extra off. It will soak in and dry. Apply a second coat if the look you want isn't achieved on the first application. It does need to dry between coats. Then I would use a "Floor Poly" ez water clean up and maximum protection., I use satin Varathane on all my stained pieces and the bubbles aren't there like a polycrylic. however I use a 320 sanding block or paper to achieve a silky smooth finish. Repeat 2-3 times for a lasting coverage......Good luck. or hire a professional.