Is Polyurethane Toxic After It Dries?

Is polyurethane toxic after it dries? Yes, it is.

Although polyurethane provides a stunning and long-lasting glow on wood furniture, however, it is still a toxic chemical that should be used attentively.

Using polyurethane inside, you will be exposed to fumes with a range of possible side effects.

These smells can potentially irritate the skin, mouth, and lugs and allergic to chemically sensitive persons.


Why Is Polyurethane Toxic To Humans?

Polyurethane is known as a respiratory poison, a petrochemical resin containing isocyanates.

Breathing problems such as asthma can occur in uncured polyurethane.

People in spaces with unhealthy polyurethane-coated furniture are also affected by eye and throat pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue, coughing, and short breathing conditions.

Especially, the foam of polyurethane is toxic to babies and people with respiratory diseases.

Poly polish can create an obvious scent in airspaces when applied to a wood floor, cabinet, or furniture in a home, which is full of a mixture of chemicals.

These fumes may be circulating through the air for a significant portion of time, a process known as off-gazing, depending on environmental factors such as low ventilation, airflow, and temperatures.

If airflow and drainage are reduced, polyurethane gases will be trapped in the air, reducing internal air quality and possibly affecting human health.

Furthermore, with high temperatures in the room, the release of chemicals in these treated wood finishes would intensify.

The length of cure and dryness in the environment for varnish is usually equal to that of toxicity in the indoor air room.

The time span of poisonous fumes lingering in the air has been estimated depending on the form of the varnish used, whether water-based or oil-based.

The illustration below explains why poly is still a good choice and how it works on furniture:

How Long It Takes To Avoid The Toxic Of Polyurethane After It Dries?

After the application on a wide area of your project, the initial curing period will be up to 5 to 7 days.

Most toxic polyurethane laminate should be dry on the surface and ready to live on once again after this cycle.

However, in some circumstances, this fragrance will linger for months when it comes to smells made with a polyurethane finish in a home.

Petroleum protection has a longer drying time than the water-based type, making it more poisonous in the space for a longer period of time.

It is usually advised to stop walking on the wood floor after coating for at least 24 to 48 hours.

Moreover, at least 4 days after your initial coating, you can postpone shifting back furniture.

It is said overall that the boards take up to 30 days to recover correctly, which means this will likely equal the length of time of toxic gases in the air.

Are There Any Non Toxic Polyurethane Alternatives?

Nowadays, there are some environment-friendly, natural, and less poisonous substitutes available:

Since it provides significant UV protection, the varnish is highly recommended for outdoor uses.

However, it does not work well with outdoor furniture.

Shellac is made from natural ingredients means it is a lot safer than the original polyurethane.

Not only safe and easy to use, but shellac also brings your wooden board a nice amber coloring, as vibrant as possible.

But this type is sensitive to heat.

If being used on a piece that is regularly exposed to heat, white rings will be formed.

Thus, you should not use shellac on surfaces that are likely to have hot things placed on top of it.

Lacquer brings a glossy finish to your board.

People usually apply it via spraying since it is a pretty thin finish.

It does not last as long as the others.

Over time, the areas sprayed with lacquer may have some problems with discoloration.

This oil made from the oil of the nuts of tung tree oil, a native plant of China.

Tung oil will be able to provide a great layer and also affordable to your budget.

Nevertheless, tung oil may not work exactly like what polyurethane finish does.  

Linseed oil helps the lumber look better while also expanding the durability.

It can work pretty well by itself in natural form or can be mixed with other ingredients to create nontoxic polyurethane finishes.

In certain cases, linseed oil may not perform well as polyurethane.

This depends on the purpose you are going to do with your lumber, be sure you buy the suitable kind of linseed oil for each type of project.

This is very environmentally friendly and effective to use.

Candelilla wax is extracted from the Candelilla shrub, actually works similarly to beeswax.

It is the perfect choice for hardwood sides, makes them shines, and provides some protection layers.

It can not be mix with other stains or finishes.

How To Get Rid Of Polyurethane Toxic After It Dries?

Before using and applying polyurethane wood surface finishing, there are a variety of safety precautions you need to know.

This safety information should be clearly understood before the process begins.

This kind of polish, as previously mentioned, is a potentially poisonous chemical that typically contains other harmful ingredients, such as isocyanates, which, upon inhalation can pose a risk to human health.

Isocyanates are sensitization agents thus it is important for anyone who applies the finish to wear proper personal protection equipment (PPE). The following PPE is:

  • Eyes and face protection
  • Cover all your body with long sleeves shirt and long trousers, usually disposable
  • Nitrile, latex, or neoprene gloves
  • Protection shoes
  • Respirator: make sure the air respirator mask is fit to fill your facepiece.

In addition, always do the installation in a well-ventilated room and do not smoke to mitigate the risks of varnish vapors.

It is safe to stay away for about 48 hours until finish to cure and the distinctive smells to disperse.

Ensure good ventilation for that space to accelerate the drying and curing process and reduce the off-gazing time.

Opening windows can speed up the operation, but dust that may contaminate the board finish may also be admitted.

Setting up fans to blow across the surfaces, transform the heat in the room to accelerate the dryness, increase the airflow, and to decrease the toxic of polyurethane after it dries instead.

This video show you some simple hacks to get rid of uncomfortable smell fast:

Frequently Asked Questions When Applying Polyurethane Polish

1. Can I Stay In Home During The Refinishing?

If you wish to get it done in one job when refinish or install your work, it might be safer to remain elsewhere until the project has been finished.

2. Is Polyurethane Fabric Or Clothing Toxic?

There are no solvents in the poly cloth, so it contains very few poisonous chemicals, and most materials will eventually deteriorate.

3. Is My Polyurethane Pillow Toxic?

Unlike the natural latex pillow from rubber tree sap, these foams are human-made and also contain off-gazing poisonous substances that are harmful.

The polyurethane mattress cover may be treated with bleach, pesticides, or other chemicals that you are touching and breathing every day.

If you are using a polyurethane pillow, you should reevaluate.

4. Is Polyurethane Toxic To Dogs?

These chemicals are all dangerous to not only your dogs or cats but also the pets.

When they are exposed to paint (through licking, eating, etc.) or being stuck in the room with these solvents, extreme symptoms can occur.

There is no particular quantity or dose of paint that is harmful or not.

However, you should call for instructions or your vet whether you know or suspect dogs and cats have been subjected to the polish.

Thus, please keep your pets away from furnished compounds at all times if possible.

5. Can I Burn The Polyurethane Coated Furniture?

Polyfoam products are fuel able when exposed to an adequate source of inflammation.

That is the reason why we need a barrier that can postpone the ignition, combustion, reduce the burning surfaces, or shielding the substance from fire-caused sources.


Is polyurethane toxic after it dries? Yes, and it lasts longer than you can imagine. To make your project a success and protect the health of your family, it is very crucial to know the pros and cons of each material you use so far. Having non-poisonous choices in the house will help to reduce carbon footprint and provide family members with clean air for a healthier life.

Further Reading:

Tags: hardwood floors, health problems, floors finished, potentially harmful, polyurethane floor, water based polyurethane, affected area, polyurethane products, volatile organic compound, air flow

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