No one told you wood stain odor would smell so strong for so long when you decided to stain the floors of the nursery before the arrival of your new baby. Even worse, you did not realize floor stain was toxic until you read it on the side of your stain can -- halfway through the project! So, you Googled wood stain odor and quickly realized you are not the first one to be surprised by the overpowering and long-lingering smell of oil-based stain. But now you have an even bigger problem; when can you bring your pregnant wife and two-year-old son home from Mom and Dad’s house? Is the smell harmful to them?
What is that Smell?
That odor associated with the toxicity of wood stain is from its VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Some VOCs in hardwood floor refinishing products include benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and arsenic. All of these materials off-gas at normal room temperatures, leading to dizziness, eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches and damage to liver, kidneys and the central nervous system, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
How Long Will the Wood Stain Odor Last?
Unfortunately, if you used an oil-based stain, the wood stain odor could last for months or even years, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. One experienced DIY couple, customers of a leading oil-based stain company, reported having to wait three months before their nursery floor was cured enough to be occupied. Beyond installing a new floor, there are three options if you find yourself in this dilemma.
How Do I Get Rid of the Wood Stain Odor?
- Ventilate and wait.The least expensive option for getting rid of wood stain odor but there are no guarantees. Do your research both on the off-gassing dangers of the product you used and the risk of exposure to you and your family.
- Remove the stain and start over. This option is expensive and time-consuming but it is the only way to ensure you will be rid of the wood stain odor, dangerous off-gassing and have a safe environment for your family.
- Apply an encapsulating sealer. Two coats will be needed and may still not completely eliminate the wood stain odor. This works best if the stained wood can dry a least a month before the encapsulating sealer is used. Otherwise, the new sealer could re-hydrate the wood and worsen the problem.
How Can I Avoid Toxic Wood Stain Odor?
It is best to avoid VOCs and the off-gassing of toxic wood stains and solvents as much as possible by using stains with low or ultra-low VOCs that are "odorless" and water-based like PureColor wood stain and sealer. PureColor makes use of Clean Chemistry™ and nano-pigments to create a fast-drying wood stain that penetrates deep into even hardwood surfaces for a rich hue that rivals oil-based stains. While there is no need to ventilate with PureColor, make good use of a beautiful day this spring and do your wood staining outdoors. PureColor typically dries in 30 minutes of less and since it is non-toxic, it won’t hurt harm your lawn or the environment.
Earth Month Tip: Be Aware of Paint Products Disposal.
More than 10% of the household paint purchased each year, 65-69 million gallons, will be discarded. Buy Earth-friendly products like PureColor water-based stains and always recycle and reuse when possible. Use approved landfills for all disposal of old used and unused paint products. Bring your home finishing projects indoors safely with PureColor's Clean Chemistry. The products below are a great place to start. See our full line of eco-friendly ultra-low VOC finishes here.