How Long Do Wood Putty & Filler Take To Dry?

December 20, 2022

Filling wood putty on the board with putty knife.

Working with wood filler and putty can be a big question mark. Both materials have varied drying times, and you always need to consider several factors. 

To ensure that your wood filler and wood putty will dry according to schedule, read the article below. We’ll talk about how long you have to wait, increase the drying speed, and what elements go into the drying process! 

What Are the Differences Between Wood Putty and Filler

Many people become confused when differentiating wood putty and filler from one another. 

  • While both have different mixtures and formulas, they essentially do the same thing. Wood putty is a kind of wood filler, so its purpose is similar: to cover up blemishes and damage on your wood. 
  • In the drying-time wise, the wood putty drying time is much faster than the wood filler.
  • Both putty and filler can fill pores, holes, blemishes, scratches, and other imperfections. After you fill them in, you sand and clear up the debris. Then, you get the proper paints and stains to match the wood tones. 
  • The wood filler consists of wood fibers and sawdust. Thus it can accept wood stains & finish for better covering the cracked areas. However, wood putty is mainly made from the compounds of epoxy, fiberglass, and polyurethane. In the absence of wood fiber compound like wood filler does, the wood putty cannot absorb the wood stains and finish very well.
  • Wood putty can make the final product smooth, with a consistent finish. 
  • However, in between the application and painting, you have to wait for the filler or putty to completely dry. If you work with fillers while they’re still wet, then you might as well not have repaired the wood at all! It’ll end up ineffective. 
  • Wood putty is mostly used on small cracks or holes, swallow repairs, such as nail holes or tiny cracks. However, wood filler is more suitable for filling larger cracks and holes for thicker applications.

Before we dive into different drying times, let’s consider your options. We have oil-based and water-based fillers. Choose according to the topcoats you’re going to use after the filler dries up. Oil-based top coats go with oil-based fillers; water-based top coats go with water-based fillers. 

Oil-based Wood Putty Dry Times

Generally, the oil-based wood putty will dry on the surface layer in 5 to 10 minutes.

First, take note of what the weather is like in your area and what it is like on the day you repair the wood. Drying times can depend on how warm it is, plus the humidity you experience. 

Let the filler sit for five to twenty minutes. Wipe away excess with a stiff cloth, then let dry for 12 hours. 

If you examine the surface and aren’t satisfied, you can reapply the filler. However, note that you’re going through the entire process again – including the drying time! 

Next, let it dry for at least 48 hours. See if you’re satisfied after. 

Are you satisfied with the results? Great! You’re now a step forward in completing your woodworking project. 

Sand the area with moderate to high-grain sandpaper. The sandpaper should move over the surface flawlessly. If you notice the filler sticking to the sandpaper, it’s time to step back and let it dry more. 

It might be cold in your area or very humid. Or, you may have overfilled the holes by a lot. By then, you should be ready to wait for several days. It might take a week to completely cure in place. 

Water-based Filler Dry Times

Generally, the water-based filler will take 2 to 4 hours to dry.

With water-based fillers, there’s no need to wait after the initial application. Use the same stiff cloth and wipe off the excess. For about an hour, you can wait for the filler to dry. Do other projects until then! 

Test its dryness by using moderate to high-grain sandpaper. We recommend a 320-grit for this project. Again, the surface should be smooth, and the sandpaper should have no problem going over the wood. 

If it sticks or gums up, then step back. Let the filler dry for several hours more. 

If you’re unsure how dry surfaces look and feel, test them with sandpaper. It should produce fine, white powder! 

After waiting, sand once more. Test if it’s completely dry. 

If you notice, a lot of this process is trial and error. There’s a lot of patience involved. 

If everything is dry, then sand it! Add the stain and make sure it matches the wood. 

However, don’t think that stains are supposed to be for after sanding only. You can apply it before, so you know what the grain patterns are like on the wood. Adding it before can contribute to an opaque appearance.

What Affects A Filler’s Drying Time?

Filler Types

There are a lot of fillers out there. They aren’t just two categories: filler and putty. We have latex, epoxy, acrylic caulk, and homemade powder – there’s honestly too much to choose from in the shop! 

So, the material and mixture dictate how long it will take for the filler to dry. Some fillers are very moist upon application, while others easily dry up. Certain fillers only take 15 minutes at most! 

However, don’t let a quick drying time completely guide you on what filler you should buy. Contrary to what you may think, a moist filler is the best option for your project! Sure, it dries longer, but it has a better quality. 

Many quick-drying fillers shrink by the time they dry. By then, they can crack and break, making the whole repair useless. When working with quick-drying fillers, ensure you overfill the holes a bit. Allow for shrinkage. If it happens, it happens! Just adapt, and you’ll have a successful project in no time. 

Filler Thickness 

The amount of filler you use directly correlates to how fast it will dry. Make a thin layer, and it’ll warm up and dry easily. Deep applications, however, may take more time. 

It isn’t advisable to keep using thin amounts of filler just because you want it to dry quickly. The common method is to use varying amounts according to the surface that needs them. Large cavities and gaps are going to dry much slower. 

Slow drying is normal, so don’t worry about it! Base the drying time on the thickest layer. It’s not advisable to sand the already dried-up parts when there’s still a lot left. 

How To Make The Wood Putty & Filler Dry Faster? 

Absolutely! Most of us work within time constraints, so many people do methods that make the filler dry faster. You can take a page out of their book and do these techniques yourself. 

Method 1: Layering Thin Layers of Filler 

A thick layer will take a lot of time. You may notice the thinner layers on your wood – usually the ones with the least imperfections – drying up quickly. 

Before applying thin layers, refine your technique first. 

Don’t use filler on surfaces that don’t need it. When you spread a thin layer, don’t make it so thin that it becomes useless. You want your wood filler to serve its purpose. 

Since thin layers dry more quicker, you can choose to layer thin layers instead of going for one thick layer. Let the first layer dry and harden before adding another one. Continue until everything is covered. 

While this may dry up the filler quicker, it may be troublesome for large projects. On the contrary, it might take a lot more time than just a thick layer! 

So, assess your project. Will thin layer after thin layer work? Or is it worth it to apply one thick spread and be done with it? 

Consider what’s best for you! As you do the application, make sure to use what you need. Don’t waste filler. Make the hardening process as quick as possible. 

Method 2: Clean Up The Area 

No matter how many times we tell you to clean up debris before you apply filler, some readers may be impatient. The result is a slowed drying process and a bumpy surface. 

Prevent any possible hampers to your project. Dirt and debris will slow the drying process and leave you with a low-quality result. 

Use a damp cloth and sandpaper to make sure the surface is clean. For holes, go in with a screwdriver. It should clean out the entire area. That will increase the drying process! 

Method 3: Employ Hardeners

There are many hardeners on the market. Many users consider it standard procedure to add hardeners to their fillers, but this may be your first time around. See if it helps. 

Add epoxy resin and hardeners to your filler mixture, but be careful! Don’t overdo it. If you mix too much, you might end up with just a hardener, not a filler. Plus, the filler can be more susceptible to cracks and breaks if you use too much. 

Use just the right amount to make sure your filler remains intact for a long time. 

Method 4: Let It Exposed to Sunlight

A warmer area contributes a lot to the drying process. If you don’t live in a place with a lot of sunlight, try to do the project within the day. Alternatively, you can schedule woodworking projects during the summer. 

You can leave the project out under the sun. Use a hairdryer if you have to be indoors, or point a cooling fan at it. It’s not much, but it can speed up the drying process! 

Method 5: Sand It Out 

Sanding is one of the last resorts. Tear off a piece of paper and sand the surface. It gives you a smooth, finished look while drying up the filler. 

However, it might not be as effective. If the filler sticks to your sandpaper, it’s better to leave woodwork under the sun. Again, use a hairdryer or a fan! 

Method 6: Heat Gun

For the smaller projects with lots of small touch-ups, I suggest you use the heat gun to dry the fills in a matter of seconds. But don’t point your heat gun too close to the wood surface, as the extreme heat will cause the filler to dry unevenly.


Wood putty and filler can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a day to completely dry. 

Honestly, there’s one solution to this dilemma: have a lot of patience. Woodworking takes a lot of time! Depending on the material you use, you might wait overnight or several days before you can go on to staining and painting your project. 

Feel free to apply our methods in making your filler dry up quicker. We hope you’re now better informed on what can affect your filler’s drying times! Create the best finish and move on to more wood projects. 

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