How to Dry Tacky Varnish

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Varnish wood in an open, well-ventilated area.
Varnish wood in an open, well-ventilated area. (Image: John Howard/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Varnishing a wood product requires a well-ventilated area to keep air circulating throughout the space, not only for proper breathing, but also to dry the varnish adequately. Certain types of varnish may take longer to dry, but they should all dry within a few days, depending on the temperature. Varnish that remains tacky can stain clothes or skin and needs drying before you can use the item. Dry tacky varnish to keep your wood item looking pristine.

Things You'll Need

  • Fan
  • Rags

Open windows and doors to provide sufficient ventilation inside the room and to help the varnish dry.

Direct a fan toward the varnish. Place the fan three to four feet from the varnished piece and set it to low speed. You want the air circulation to dry the varnish, but not spread dust over the tacky area.

Wipe the tacky varnish from the surface with an old rag and reapply. The area may have a coating of varnish that's too thick, keeping it from drying entirely. Remove the varnish and reapply with a thinner coat to help it dry faster.

Tips & Warnings

  • Varnish items when the air temperature hovers around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Applying the varnish at a temperature lower than 60 degrees may keep it sticky for several days.
  • Use a painter's mask when varnishing.
  • Keep windows and doors open when varnishing in an enclosed space.

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