Why Wood Stain Fumes Can Be Harmful

Emma from ECOS Paints 02/22/2023
What to know about wood stain fumes

A fresh coat of wood stain can transform old wood, flooring, and furniture, making it look like new. But if the stain is not applied carefully, that new furniture look can come at a steep cost—your health. Fumes from conventional oil-based wood finishes are well known to be toxic. But many people are still unaware as to why wood stain fumes can be harmful to one’s health.

Ingredients in Oil-Based Wood Stains

Oil-based wood stains contain ingredients such as petroleum, alcohol, formaldehyde, sodium hydroxide, and glycol ether. These are all harmful, whether because they are toxic, corrosive, or carcinogenic. As these ingredients evaporate, they become harmful volatile organic compounds, more commonly known as VOCs, that linger in the air for days or even months. This is a process known as off-gassing, which can have significant health implications.

How Wood Stain Fumes Impact Health

Wood stain fumes from oil-based products often have a harsh smell that can be irritating. But this isn’t the only way wood stain fumes impact our health. Along with degrading indoor air quality, they can potentially cause:

  • Breathing issues
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Irritation of the eyes and throat
  • Headaches

Prolonged exposure to these products without proper ventilation can also result in wood stain poisoning. This more serious level of exposure may result in a burning sensation, blurred vision, and collapse. In this case, seek medical attention immediately.

How To Handle Wood Stain Fumes

Ventilation and Protection

When working with oil-based wood stains, ventilation is key. It’s best to use oil-based wood stain outdoors. If you are not able to work outdoors, however, be sure that air can circulate in the room you are working by opening the windows and turning on fans. This is even more important when the stain is drying because VOCs can be released into the air as the stain evaporates. If you are staining the floor of a room, avoid having anyone occupy the room.

Zero-VOC* Wood Stain

The biggest defense against wood stain fumes is avoiding them completely. You can do this by choosing water-based wood stains and varnishes. These don’t have the harsh smell of traditional wood stains and do not use the same toxic ingredients, making them valuable for every area of your house.

Here at ECOS Paints, we have top-quality no polyurethane odor* wood stains in a variety of colors for use on your furniture, floor, or other woodwork. Our wood stains add depth and color to your woodwork, penetrating the wood and enriching its natural grain. Pair our wood stain with a top coat of one of our clear varnishes for the perfect protective finish for your next woodworking project.

*Zero VOC - Conforms to CDPH 01350 (VOC emissions test taken at 11, 12, & 14 days for classroom and office use).

*No polyurethane odor - Polyurethane can cause headaches, nausea, and respiratory issues. Conforms to ASTM E544 & ASTM MNL13.