Polycrylic Dry Time (& How To Speed it Up)

Polycrylic must dry and cure before its coating gets hard and rigid and can use and clean it. So, how long does polycrylic take to dry?

It takes polycrylic 30 minutes to dry to touch, 2 hours to dry enough for a re-coat (between coats), and 24-72 hours to fully dry (cure). However, its dry time depends on the room temperature and thickness of the coats.

This sealant dries faster than most sealants since it is water-based and uses water as its solvent. Since water evaporates fast, the sealant also dries fast.

Dry Time Between Coats

How Long Should Polycrylic Paint Dry Between Coats?

It takes polycrylic 2 hours to dry between coats. This allows the coating to harden enough to support the next coating without cracking.

For polycrylic to dry, its solvent (water) must evaporate. Since it uses water as its solvent, its coating will dry faster. Once the solvent evaporates, the paint particles start to harden and bond (the curing phase begins). Once the particles are hard and compact, the finish will be strong enough to handle another coating.

If you re-coat it too soon, the solvent (water) will be trapped inside the existing coat. As a result, the solvent will start to bleed through and prevent the new coating from sticking properly. This causes the second coating to peel off or turn sticky.

To know if the finish is dry enough for a re-coat, feel the texture of the sealant. If the polycrylic coating is still wet (or sticky), the sealant hasn’t dried yet, and you shouldn’t re-coat it. On the other hand, if the coating has a dry textured finish, the finish is dry, and you can re-coat it.

So, polycrylic re-coat time is 2 hours. But, its dry time depends on the temperature, thickness of the coat, and humidity levels. If the temperature is cold and the humidity levels are high, it takes longer to dry. Also, a thick coat of polycrylic takes longer to dry than a thin coat. 

Polycrylic Cure Time

It takes polycrylic 24-72 hours to dry fully (cure). On average, you can lightly use a polycrylic finish after 24 hours and clean it after 48-72 hours. The curing time refers to the length of time to wait before you can use, clean, or wash the finish. The curing process starts once the paint solvent (water) fully evaporates.

Polycrylic cures through oxidization. Oxidization is when the paint particles react to oxygen and start to harden and become compact. The longer it takes the finish to cure, the more time the paint particles have to harden and become compact. The more compact the paint particles are, the more durable the finish is.

If you wash polycrylic before curing, the finish becomes water-logged and can remain tacky for several hours or days. That’s because the paint particles haven’t fully hardened, so the finish isn’t water-resistant yet. 

Under normal conditions, the evaporation and oxidization of the polycrylic will be completed within 72 hours. However, the room temperature and humidity levels can affect the curing time. 

How To Speed Up Polycrylic Drying Time?

You can make polycrylic dry faster by using a hairdryer, increasing air circulation, or using a dehumidifier. 

Method 1: Use a Hairdryer

Use a Hairdryer

Polycrylic dries through evaporation, so increasing the evaporation rate will speed up its drying time. To increase the evaporation rate, use a hairdryer. The hairdryer will increase the heat around the coating and the evaporation rate.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Turn on The Hairdryer – You can also use a heater or a radiator.
  2. Use medium Temperature – You shouldn’t use the maximum temperature of a hairdryer as it can dry the finish too fast and crack it. 
  3. Move the Hairdryer Around – You must move the hairdryer around the coating. Don’t use it in one spot more than others. 
  4. Turn off the Hairdryer – You shouldn’t fully dry the finish as it can develop cracks. If the finish dries too fast, the paint particles won’t harden naturally, so there will be a weak adhesion and the finish can crack. 

Method 2: Increase Air Circulation

Increase Air Circulation

To speed up the curing time of polycrylic, increase the air circulation. The more air circulates over the coating, the faster the sealant dries and cures. 

To increase air circulation: 

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

Method 3: Use a Dehumidifier

Use a Dehumidifier

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

However, a dehumidifier will help reduce the atmosphere’s moisture content.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Set the Dehumidifier – The humidity levels in a room must be less than 50% for the sealant to dry. So, set up the dehumidifier to lower the humidity at that range. 
  2. Let the Dehumidifier Run – You must let the dehumidifier run until the sealant or paint dries. 

Other tips that can help polycrylic dry faster include:

  • Applying thin coats.
  • Letting existing coats dry before re-coat.
  • Applying it in the least humid conditions.
  • Applying it 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?

Polycrylic Dries Hard

Though water-based, polycrylic forms a hard and thick film when dry. However, its hardness depends on the finish (sheen) type you choose. For instance, satin polycrylic has the least gloss on its formula, and the finish isn’t too glossy.

Medium and high-gloss polycrylic forms a hard glossy finish that prevents water and moisture from penetrating the finish. Polycrylic is a polymer that contains resins like polyacrylates (or acrylic resins) and even urethane compounds. These compounds undergo oxidization and cure to become a hard water-resistant finish.

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

Related Read: Can You Paint Over Polycrylic Paint?

Final Words

Compared to other sealants, polycrylic doesn’t take long to dry. On average, polycrylic takes 2 hours to dry enough for a re-coat, and its cure time is 24-72 hours. However, you can speed up its dry time by using a hairdryer, a dehumidifier, or by applying thin coats. 

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about,

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