If you are looking for something food safe to seal a project or you are concerned about your health refinishing furniture, you would be interested in using nontoxic products for painting and sealing furniture. It’s important to be careful when sealing a furniture piece for a nursery or child’s room and use nontoxic products that will not be harmful to young children. Babies often chew on the railings of cribs. My daughter gnawed on her crib like a little beaver which did cause me concern about the chemicals used in the factory finish on her crib.
Nowadays, there are many non VOC paints and products available from companies. Volatile organic compounds are compounds that are gases emitted into the air. Some of the most common VOCS are: benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, xylene, and 1,3-butadiene. VOCs are mostly human-made chemicals that are used and produced in the manufacture of paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants. Breathing in low levels of VOCs increase your health risks especially if you have asthma or sensitivities to chemicals. The severity depends on how long and often you breathe in VOCs. You can expose yourself to VOCs just by storing paints and products with VOCs.
The level of VOCs is reported to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. While people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and low levels of VOCs can persist in the air for years. Pretty scary right? This is why it’s important to use air filters, have good ventilation, and air out your home. You don’t want to suffer the short term side effects like nausea, throat and nose irritation, headaches, and dizziness. Long term effect can be cancer, damage to the kidneys or liver, and central nervous system damage. Children and the elderly are at higher risk to the adverse effects of VOCs.
Luckily, there are many kinds of zero VOC paints and products you can purchase to use at home. Zero VOC paints are made without VOC chemicals listed in the US Clean Air Act. There is still the potential for unlisted VOCs to be in the paint. Your safest bet is using all natural paints like milk paint which is made from casein, lime, chalk, and pigment. It is made to use by mixing the powder form with water. It does not last long after mixed so use only as much as you need per application. There are companies with milk paints that are available in containers ready for use but they still have preservatives that keep the paint on the shelf longer as well as bonding agents that help them adhere and are not true milk paints. They are called “milk paint” because it gives you the same smooth finish milk paint does such as Rustoleum’s Milk Paint which is zero VOC and General Finishes Milk Paint. This is why milk paint has a tendency to chip. It doesn’t contain the inorganic bonding agents of other types of paints but uses milk protein. It is less smooth than other paints that are ready to use and is less durable. An example of real milk paint is the Fusion line of milk paint.
Zero VOC paints are still far better than other paints containing VOCs. They come in many colors, are ready to use, and have varying textures and finishes. If you have any questions about the VOC levels, check the MSDS sheet for clarification. One reason why I recommend Wise Owl Paints is because it is not made using box store latex paint with minerals added as is the case with many Zero VOC paint companies. This poses health issues with consideration to inhaling crystalline silicates, but it also affects performance. Their paint is made in small batches from scratch which improves quality. Choosing to use zero VOC paints is always a good option for health safety.
Sealing paints helps with the endurance and durability. You want your furniture to last so sealing it is a no brainer. Some paints now have built in top coats but that has the possibility of adding VOCs. Just because the paint is zero VOC, it doesn’t mean the top coats and varnishes you use are. If you are painting a piece that will be in a high traffic area or the surface top where objects are placed and removed often, durability is a concern. If you are wanting a food grade safe sealant, natural oils are your best bet. Technically any top coat cured for 30 days is food safe including polyurethane and polyacrylic. Linseed, tung, refined hemp, soy, and walnut oil are all natural oils. Shellac is also all natural as it’s made from Indian Lac bugs and is water resistant. Watco has a butcher block oil that seals and protects wood and is food safe.
I’m excited to offer Wise Owl’s furniture tonic as an all natural sealant for wood and paint. It is made with hemp oil, natural wax, and essential oils without any solvents. It comes scented or unscented. It is also hydrating and nourishing for anything you rub it on like leather, wood, skin, hair, ect. You rub it on with a lint free cloth, let dry for 20 minutes and polish. I also highly recommend their furniture salves which have a waxy paste like consistency. When sealing nursery furniture, children’s furniture, and anything you are concerned with the levels of VOCs, using all natural products are the best options. You can find my recommended products in my shop page. Be safe and happy painting.