Polyurethane Wood Floor Vapor and Fume Prevention: What Homeowners Should Know

Tony 04/15/2024

avoiding polyurethane fumes

As we've discussed in past blog posts, polyurethane fumes can have negative health effects on people and pets of all ages. In fact, studies have shown that levels of several volatile organic compounds average two to five times higher indoors than outdoors, and when inhaled they can contribute to several health problems. And while many homeowners assume that avoiding polyurethane fumes is as easy as buying low VOC paints, it's also important to keep flooring materials in mind. Here's what homeowners need to know about preventing polyurethane fumes and vapors from wood floor applications.

Mental Health Risks

It may not seem like it, but many of the chemicals in traditional paints and varnishes can negatively affect cognitive mental health. For example, in a recent study, participants spent six full work days in an environmentally-controlled office space at the TIEQ lab at the Syracuse Center of Excellence. In this space, VOC levels were reduced to approximately 50 micrograms per cubic meter and 40 cubic feet per minute of outdoor air per person. They found that, on average, cognitive scores were 101% higher than in conventional workspaces.

Physical Health Risks

According to a report by CBC Marketplace, VOC levels over 500 ppb could cause problems for people with chemical sensitivities, and there are also plenty of physical health risks associated with traditional products:

"Direct contact with the chemicals can cause skin irritation, and exposure to the vapors during installation and before the finish cures may cause eye, throat and nose irritation, breathing difficulties, headaches, nausea, asthma attacks or dizziness. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals, as in those who work with the finishes regularly, may cause chronic lung conditions, birth defects, allergies, cancer or other serious problems," writes Evan Gillespie on Hunker.


If your flooring is more than one year old, many of the VOCs will have dissipated already. But if you're installing new flooring or painting your floor, go for an organic option and use VOC-free painting materials. It also helps to let the room air out as much as possible by keeping windows open. Consider investing in an air cleaner or purifier to keep air quality up.

Ultimately, avoiding polyurethane fumes is as easy as buying low VOC and nontoxic products. For more information about the ideal paint for wooden floors, contact Ecos Paints.

CATEGORIES DIY Projects Healthy Home