Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/sticky handrails


I moved into a home where the handrails going up the stairs were very sticky. I tried cleaning them, then sanding lightly and reapplying polyurethane (which made it even stickier). I then stripped the rails down with Strip Eze and sanded them well. I wiped them down with paint thinner before I  applied the stain.I let that dry for over 24 hours and then applied one coat of polyurethane, I still feel sticky gunk on parts of the handrail. I was told that this is from oils in the wood . I sanded the stair rails lightly and was getting ready to put a second coat of polyurethane on but I have a feeling those areas will still be sticky. Before I apply that second coat, can you give me any advice? For what its worth, I live in Louisville but the humidity hasn't been that high lately and we have had our heater on in the house. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated!

It sounds like you've done a good job and did it the hard way.  

Usually I would take 1 part mineral or coconut oil and mix with 1 part baking soda.  Then, with a microfiber cloth I would wash the sticky areas.  Once done I used to take a can of clear polyurethane or laquer and spray the handrail with a light mist.  Always seemed to work.  You may also try mixing equal parts of water and vinegar in a spray bottle.  The vinegar solution is safe for both finished and unfinished wooden handrails, especially with polyurethane and laquer.  

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Joseph G. Swallow


I can answer all staircase balustrade questions where handrails, newels posts, balusters (wood and metal), and stair treads are concerned. I cannot help with cabinetry and floor (outside of stair-related treads and risers), as well as stain and finish issues unless staircase related.


30 years in the stair industry. Founder of Hardwood Creations in Southern California and CEO of Westfire Manufacturing, Inc. I was a stair builder for 10 years, both in custom and production housing. Have estimated over 750,000 single family homes and provided materials to lumber yards and builders for 12 years. Was an expert witness in several staircase related law suits in Southern California. Stair codes, installation help, stair handrail and balustrade installation are what I know best.

NAHB of Portland, OR. Was a member of ICBO for 9 years.

Cal State Fullerton, Cypress College

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