What Are the Best Non-Toxic Coatings for Refinishing Children’s Furniture to Ensure Safety and Durability?

March 8, 2024

If you’re planning on refinishing your child’s furniture, it’s essential that you select non-toxic coatings for the task. Not only do you want a finish that’s safe for your little one, but you also need it to be durable, to withstand the rough and tumble that comes with being a child’s possession. This guide will walk you through some of the best non-toxic coatings for refinishing children’s furniture, taking into account factors like their composition, safety profiles, durability, and ease of use.

Milk Paint: A Safe and Natural Choice

Derived from the casein of milk, milk paint is a natural and safe choice for refinishing children’s furniture. It adheres well to most surfaces including wood, and it’s known for its durability. Milk paint is a water-based paint that contains absolutely zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making it a safe choice for children’s furniture.

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One of the best aspects of milk paint is that it can create a beautiful, vintage look on furniture. It has an ultra-flat finish that provides a rich depth of color, which can be both classic and contemporary. Milk paint is also a self-sealing paint. Once it dries, it becomes a hard, durable finish that stands up to daily use.

However, be careful when buying milk paints. Some brands add synthetic resins, making them semi-toxic. Always check the label before purchasing.

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Chalk Paint: The Multipurpose Finish

Chalk paint is another type of paint that is safe for children’s furniture. Like milk paint, it’s water-based, which means it’s free from toxic solvents or VOCs.

Chalk paint is renowned for its versatility. It can be used on a wide variety of surfaces, without the need for priming or sanding. This makes it a great choice for busy parents who might not have the time to prep furniture for painting.

Moreover, chalk paint is known for its ultra-matte finish. It can give furniture a soft, velvety look that’s perfect for a child’s room. However, unlike milk paint, chalk paint will need a safe, non-toxic wax or sealant to finish and protect the painted surface.

Oil-Based Finishes: The Durable Choice

Though not as safe as milk or chalk paint due to small amounts of VOCs, oil-based finishes are still an option if used responsibly. These finishes are highly durable and resistant to water, making them a good choice for children’s furniture.

Oil-based finishes include tung oil and linseed oil. Tung oil, derived from the seeds of the tung tree, is an excellent furniture finish. It penetrates deeply into the wood and hardens to create a strong, flexible, and water-resistant surface. Linseed oil, on the other hand, is derived from flax seeds. It seals wood from moisture and gives a soft, lustrous sheen.

However, it’s important to note that these finishes may have a strong smell during application, which can cause irritation to some people. It’s advisable to apply these finishes in a well-ventilated area and keep children away until the smell has completely dissipated.

Water-Based Paints: The Odorless Option

Water-based paints are a great alternative for those who are sensitive to strong odors. They are low in VOCs, easy to clean up, and dry quickly.

Like chalk and milk paint, water-based paints adhere well to most surfaces. They also come in a wide variety of colors and finishes, from high gloss to matte, giving you plenty of options when refinishing children’s furniture.

One downside to water-based paints is that they might not be as durable as oil-based finishes. However, they can still stand up to everyday use, and touch-ups are easy due to the fast drying time.

Food-Based Finishes: The Edible Option

Believe it or not, there are finishes available that are so safe, they’re actually edible. These include finishes like shellac, beeswax, and certain food-grade mineral oils.

Shellac is a natural finish derived from the secretions of the lac bug. It’s non-toxic, and it dries to a high-gloss finish that’s resistant to water and alcohol. Beeswax, while not as durable as shellac, is also a safe and natural choice. It’s easy to apply, and it gives wood a soft, warm glow. Some food-grade mineral oils are also safe for use on children’s furniture. These oils penetrate the wood and provide a natural, matte finish.

However, these finishes are not as durable as some of the other options mentioned above. They may need to be reapplied more frequently, especially on high-use items like chairs and tables. But for their safety profile, they’re a great option to consider.

So, whether you’re refinishing a beloved family heirloom or a thrift store find, there are many safe and non-toxic options available. By taking your time to choose the right finish, you can ensure that the furniture pieces are not only beautiful and unique but also safe for your little one.

Spray Paint: The Swift and Safe Selection

Spray paint is often overlooked as a safe option when it comes to refinishing children’s furniture. While not all spray paints are safe, there are low VOC, water-based varieties that are perfect for this task. They contain fewer toxic chemicals than traditional oil-based spray paints, making them a safer choice for your child’s room.

One of the main advantages of spray paint is its ease of application. It can be applied swiftly and uniformly, covering large areas in a short time. This makes it an excellent choice if you’re working on a larger piece of furniture, like a baby crib.

Furthermore, water-based spray paint is known for its smooth finish. It doesn’t leave brush strokes like traditional paints, resulting in a sleek, professional appearance. And since it comes in a wide array of colors, you can let your creativity flow and create a truly unique piece of furniture for your child.

However, despite its many benefits, spray paint does have a few drawbacks. It tends to be less durable than other options, potentially requiring touch-ups over time. Also, while it dries quickly, it is susceptible to drips if applied too heavily. Therefore, it requires a bit of practice to achieve the perfect finish.

Low Odor Wall Paint: The Breathable Option

When considering what type of paint to use, don’t overlook wall paint as a viable option. Specifically, low odor wall paint can be a great choice for refinishing children’s furniture. Made with fewer chemicals than traditional paints, low odor paints are kinder to both your child and the environment.

These paints are water-based, making them safer than traditional oil-based paints. They contain low levels of VOCs, making them less harmful to breathe in. They are also easy to clean up with soap and water, which is a bonus if you’re not the neatest painter!

Low odor paints come in a multitude of colors, making them a versatile choice for any furniture makeover. They are also available in different finishes, including matte, semi-gloss, and high gloss. It means you can tailor the look of your furniture to suit your child’s room perfectly.

However, while low odor paints are a more breathable option, they may require multiple coats to achieve the desired coverage and opacity. This can make the process a little more time-consuming, but the end result is worth the extra effort.

Conclusion: Ensuring Safety and Durability

Refinishing your child’s furniture can be a rewarding task, particularly when you know that the products you’re using are safe and non-toxic. Whether you opt for milk paint, chalk paint, water-based paints, or even food-based finishes, your choices are plentiful.

Remember to consider both the safety and durability of the finish. While oil-based finishes like tung oil and linseed oil can offer durable surfaces, they do come with a stronger smell and a slightly higher VOC content. If odors are a concern, water-based or low odor options may be more suitable.

Regardless of the type of coating you choose, always ensure proper ventilation during application and drying processes. And keep in mind that while the finishes mentioned in this article are non-toxic, it’s always a good idea to keep all paints and finishes out of reach of children to ensure their safety.

In the end, the goal is to create a piece of furniture that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also safe for your child. With the right preparation and choice of finish, the furniture in your child’s room will be both beautiful and durable for years to come.