Drying Times

1 Drying Time Video Lesson

4 Drying Time FAQs

What is the Cure Time After Applying a Finish to Furniture or Cabinets?

"Cure time" is the amount of time needed for the finish on a piece to reach maximum hardness and be ready for normal use. This is different than "dry time." 

Water-based finishes cure faster than oil-based finishes, approximately 21 days vs 30 days under ideal conditions (70 degrees and 70% humidity).

During the curing stage, treat your project with special care. Avoid placing heavy objects on it. Always avoid the use of furniture polishes, dusting sprays or oil soaps as they may contaminate the finish for future re-coating. Use a water-dampened cloth for regular cleaning. Wipe up spills in a timely manner.

WATER SPILLS AND DAILY USE: Clean water spills up as they occur during regular use and protect from heat. Although General Finishes products are water resistant, they are not impervious to water. Surfaces will not be damaged by spilled water so long as it is cleaned up promptly. Use coasters to protect your wood from standing water and pot holders to protect from heat

What is the Difference Between Dry Time and Cure Time?

Dry time is the recommended length of time between coats of product, often called recoat time, and cure time is the length of time recommended before subjecting your finished project to daily use.

The following factors can influence your dry time:


All of General Finishes products' dry and cure time recommendations are subject to the conditions of the room in which you are refinishing and storing your piece. Ideal conditions are 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) and 70% humidity. Cooler temperatures and high humidity levels can prolong dry time any from 8-10 hours.


When applying an oil-based product over a water-based product and vice versa, dry time increases. It's extremely important to be sure your first application of finish has completely dried before applying the next layer. When switching from an oil-based product to a water-based product, wait 72 hours to apply your next coat of product. When switching from a water-based product to an oil-based product, wait 24 hours.


Applying product to a raw wood surface will result in a shorter dry time. When applying over an existing finish, dry time increases.


Painting your finish on will require a  longer dry time. If you are applying and then wiping off, or spraying, dry time is less.

Before adding additional coats of product, the following DRY times should be honored:

The following are average CURE times based on recommended temperature and humidity:

  • 21 days for water-based products
  • 30 days for oil-based products
  • You can use a piece lightly after about 7 days but be cautious - the finish will still be curing for another 2 or 3 weeks.

Some of General Finishes wait times might seem a bit generous but we need to account for all variables beyond our control. You can test your surface for dryness ahead of schedule by knowing what to look for. There are two ways to tell if it is an oil-based product is dry. If it is no longer tacky and it doesn't smell, it is dry. You can tell if a water-based product is dry by touching it. If its cool to the touch, it's not dry. If you can sand a water-based topcoat to a powder, its dry.  

Note - General Finishes Enduro-Var should never be used in conjunction with oil-based products.

How Soon Can I Put My Project Outdoors After Finishing with General Finishes Exterior 450?

We recommend waiting 5-6 days to let the finish cure a bit before putting outdoors. The finish will continue to harden for approximately 20-21 days.

How Can I Tell if a Water Based Topcoat is Dry?

If the finish feels cool to the touch, it's not ready. When you can sand it to a dry powder, it is ready for the next coat. Dry times will be longer if it is raining, cold, or humid. When in doubt, waiting longer is always better.