How Long Does It Take for Polycrylic to Dry? (& Speed Up Tips)

Before you can enjoy and use the polycrylic finish, the paint has to dry and cure first. So how long does it take for polycrylic to dry? Here is the answer to that.

Polycrylic paint dries between 30 minutes and 2 hours. On average, polycrylic dries to touch in 30 minutes and you can safely re-coat in about 2 hours or less.

The reason for this fast drying time given that polycrylic is a sealant is because Polycrylic is water-based. However, before polycrylic can be used and cleaned. It’s best to allow the coating cure. On average, polycrylic can take light use and traffic after 24 hours. Then the finish can be cleaned and washed after 72 hours.

But there is more to know about polycrylic and its drying time. For instance, does polycrylic dry hard? Let’s take a closer look at that.

How Long Should Polycrylic Paint Dry Between Coats?

How Long Should Polycrylic Paint Dry Between Coats?

You should let existing coats of polycrylic dry for 2 hours before another coat is applied. This time is to allow the paint to dry fully.

Before the second coat of polycrylic can be applied, the solvent in the first coating must be completely evaporated. Not just that, the paint pigments and resins have to harden and bond tightly. This allows the second coat to sit well on the existing coat.

If polycrylic is re-coated too soon, solvent or water will be trapped inside the existing coating. The solvent in the polycrylic is meant to evaporate out of the paint coating but since another coat has been applied before the solvent can be fully evaporated, the moisture in the existing coating will become trapped underneath the second layer of polycrylic. This will cause the second layer to peel off and it can cause the entire finish to become gummy or tacky.

Polycrylic is a water-based sealant and a top choice for DIYers that want to seal their wood quickly. This is because polycrylic dries fast and can be re-coated quickly. Miniwax polycrylic for instance dries to touch within 30 minutes and can be re-coated within 2 hours.

Since polycrylic paint doesn’t contain any oils, the rate of evaporation and oxidization of the paint particles is accelerated.

This allows you to re-coat within 2 hours but not everyone can wait 2 hours before applying a second coat and then another 2 hours before applying the third coat. So is there a way to make polycrylic dry faster? Let’s take a closer look.

How Long Does It Take For Polycrylic To Cure?

It takes polycrylic paint between 24 hours and 72 hours to cure. On average, polycrylic paint can be subjected to light use 24 hours after the paint was applied but it will take an average time of 48 hours for the polycrylic paint to fully cure.

The curing time of polycrylic refers to the length of time to wait before the polycrylic finish can be used, cleaned, and washed.

If polycrylic is washed before curing, the finish will become water-logged and can remain tacky or sticky for several hours or days. Also, if the polycrylic is used too soon, the extra weight and pressure on the uncured polycrylic finish will cause the paint to bleed through and compress.

For polycrylic paint to cure, two things must happen. One, the solvent in the paint should be completely evaporated (evaporation) and two, the paint resins and particles must have bonded and hardened (through oxidization).

Under normal conditions, the evaporation of the solvent and oxidization of the paint particles will be completed in less than 48 hours. You should know that temperature changes and high humidity levels can affect the polycrylic’s curing time.

How To Speed Up Polycrylic Drying Time?

There are a few ways to make polycrylic dry faster. Let’s check out some of these methods and how to use them. The first on the list is…

Method 1: Use a Hairdryer

Use a Hairdryer

Since polycrylic dries based on evaporation, a good way to make the paint dry faster is to increase the rate of evaporation by increasing the heat around the paint coating. This will increase moisture loss and help the polycrylic dry quicker. Here is how to make polycrylic dry faster using a hairdryer:

1. Plug-In and Turn On The Hairdryer

You can also use a heater or radiator for this. Though a hairdryer is more convenient.

2. Set The Hairdryer to Medium Heat

Hairdryers produce a maximum heat of about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. You shouldn’t expose the polycrylic to this level of heat or the paint will dry too quickly and crack. You should set the hairdryer’s temperature between 100 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, set the hairdryer to high air speed.

3. Hover The Hairdryer Around The Polycrylic Coating

You should move the hairdryer around the polycrylic paint coating for about 10 minutes. Keep the hairdryer about 5 inches from the polycrylic coating. If the hairdryer gets too close to the polycrylic coating, it will fry the paint and cause it to blister off. Gradually move the hairdryer over the polycrylic paint from side to side.

4. Turn Off and Unplug The Hairdryer

Turn off the hairdryer and let the polycrylic paint dry. Remember, you are only trying to speed up the drying time of the polycrylic and not completely dry it using the hairdryer. If you do this, the polycrylic will dry too soon and will peel off. Let’s check out the next method.

Method 2: Increase Air Circulation

Increase Air Circulation

This method works best while the paint is curing. Polycrylic paint dries based on the rate of evaporation but it takes oxidization (or oxygen) for the paint to cure. By increasing air circulation, you also increase the rate at which oxidization will occur on the paint coating. To increase air circulation, you should…

  • Open all doors and windows to allow cross ventilation
  • Turn on fans in the room to move air quickly through the polycrylic paint coating
  • Open the air vents if the room has one.

The next method to make polycrylic dry faster is by…

Method 3: Use a Dehumidifier

Use a Dehumidifier

Since polycrylic is water-based, the rate of evaporation will be slowed down if there is moisture in the atmosphere. If polycrylic is applied in humid or wet conditions, the paint will take hours to even dry to touch.

To re-coat, you’ll have to wait days. However, a dehumidifier will help to reduce the moisture content in the atmosphere. To use this method, start by…

1. Turning on The Dehumidifier

Plug-in and turn on the dehumidifier. Ensure the device is close to the polycrylic paint.

2. Set The Dehumidifier

The level of humidity in the room should be less than 50% so adjust the settings of the dehumidifier to this range. It’s advised to keep the dehumidifier between 30% and 50%.

3. Leave The Dehumidifier Running

It’s advised to let the dehumidifier run for at least 12 hours. If the weather feels very cold like it does during the winter months, you should let the dehumidifier run for as long as possible.

The dehumidifier will draw air into its coils and then remove the moisture before releasing dry air to make the paint dry faster. You should know that it is not advised to paint polycrylic or any paint during the cold winter months.

Other tips that can help polycrylic dry faster include:

  • Applying thin coats of polycrylic
  • Letting existing coats dry before re-coat
  • Applying the polycrylic in the least humid conditions.
  • Applying the polycrylic paint when the weather feels warm or hot.

Tip: You shouldn’t use Japan drier for polycrylic because it’s best suited for oil-based paints while polycrylic is water-based.

Related Read: Do You Need To Sand Coats of Polycrylic?

Does Polycrylic Dry Hard?

Polycrylic paint dries hard. Though polycrylic is water-based, the paint when dry forms a hard and thick film on the material or paint it is used over.

You should also know that the hardness of the polycrylic paint is based on the type of finish. Polycrylic like polyurethane also comes in satin, medium-gloss, and high-gloss finishes. The hardest Polycrylic finish is high-gloss.

Polycrylic like several other sealants dries hard. This is because the polycrylic finish is designed to go over and protect wood or any other material used. As such, the finish has to dry hard to withstand heavy use, dents, and moisture that can damage the material underneath.

The hardness of polycrylic is due to the paint make-up. Polycrylic is a polymer that contains resins like polyacrylates (or acrylic resins) and even urethane compounds. All of these compounds go through oxidization and cure to become a hard water-resistant polycrylic finish.

However, polycrylic is not as hard as polyurethane. This is because polycrylic has a very low level of paint chemicals and synthetic additives when compared to polyurethane. As such, the finish when dry is not as hard as polyurethane but is still hard enough to last over 10 years if applied correctly.

Related Read: Can You Paint Over Polycrylic Paint?

FAQs About Polycrylic Drying Time

Let’s check out common questions DIYers like you ask about polycrylic

Does Polycrylic Yellow When Dry?

Polycrylic is a water-based sealant and as such it doesn’t yellow when dry. Polycrylic remains clear even after it has dried. Only oil-based sealants tend to yellow after some time.

Why is Polycrylic Taking Too Long To Dry?

Here are a few reasons your polycrylic paint is not drying as it should:

  • Improper surface preparation. Always sand and prime before applying polycrylic
  • Exposure to moisture. Always apply the polycrylic in dry conditions.
  • You re-coated too soon. Always wait at least 2 hours before re-coating polycrylic
  • You applied heavy or thick coats. Polycrylic should be applied in thin coats.

How Soon Before I Can Use Polycrylic?

You can use the polycrylic finish when the paint has cured. The specific curing time depends on the brand and type of polycrylic.

Final Words

Overall, polycrylic paint doesn’t take long to dry. Compared to other sealants, polycrylic has a very fast drying and curing time. On average, you can begin using your polycrylic finish in 3 days. On the other hand, you’ll have to wait at least 5 days before you can use or wash oil-based polyurethane.

However, if you are in a hurry, you can speed up the drying time of the polycrylic paint but never fry the polycrylic coating completely by yourself. It’s best to allow the paint to dry as it should so you can have the best result.

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