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I recently refinished our dining room table using Minwax stain and urethane. My question is why hasn't this overpowering smell gone away? Its been two weeks now and I can't stand the smell yet. Its beautiful, the stain and varnish worked like magic, but the smell. How long should it take for the smell to go away?

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    Did you use oil-based or water-based poly? – keshlam Dec 24 '16 at 3:17
  • In addition to @keshlam's question, how did you apply it, how long did you wait between coats, and how many coats did you apply? Also, what type of wood did you use? – rob Dec 24 '16 at 3:59
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It depends.

The first thing is the type of product used. As the Comments have asked about the types of product used are a big factor — oil-based and spirit-soluble stuff smells much more strongly (and most people think more offensively) than waterbased equivalents.

After that the major factor is drying, which is down to air flow* and temperature. In a room in a typical modern interior (often made specifically not to be draughty) the smell can be expected to hang around for at least a couple of weeks if you've used quite a lot.

In general the smell is really pronounced for a while, with a fairly steep falloff after that so you should expect the smell to begin to diminish from now on. Obviously it'll help if you can open a window, maybe set up a fan blowing over the table if that's practical.


*In an enclosed space the smell can be really amazingly persistent. Varnish the inside of a cupboard sometime and see how many months it takes for the smell to diminish enough that it doesn't bother you O_O

This is one reason that it's generally advised not to varnish the insides of drawers, unless you have the time to leave them to fully cure before installing them (after a full cure you can't smell a finish with your nose right at the surface).

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