Why I Only Use Greener Finishes

If you have been around here for more than five minutes you know that I use the greenest products I can find.  Eco friendly paint, stains and finishes are the only reason I can continue to work on furniture.  There is no way I could use oil based toxic stuff all day, breathing in chemicals that everyone agrees are bad for you.

Funny enough I still get asked all the time why I only use “eco stuff”.  I guess some people just think I’m being difficult.  I really believe  that all the “eco stuff” we use and do around the shop and house are very important.  Why you ask?

1. There are a lot of chemicals that are really bad for you.  And they are approved to be used in your house.  A lot of chemicals are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  That means instead of proving a chemical is safe to use, the government requires the chemical company to report if it’s been proven to be harmful.  It’s a very important distinction.  So if there is no evidence the chemical is harmful  = safe!  Years later we find out that wasn’t true after a bunch of people get sick.  Think lead paint and asbestos.

2. I am a DIYer.  I work at home.  I do not have the industrial exhaust system to comply with most of the use recommendations on the label.  Adequate ventilation does not mean a small fan and a tiny window in the basement.

3. The other stuff stinks.  Since my eco thing has been a progressive journey, there are still cans of paint and finishes downstairs that aren’t low VOC etc.  I opened one to touch something up in the living room.  It stunk like hell.  Since I am not used to it at all anymore I immediately was nauseous and got a headache.  Once you take the toxic smog away, your body really does respond when you bring it back.  I can’t walk through the plastic garbage can aisle at Target without getting the same headache.

4. The environment matters.  Especially for Lincoln.  When you use a toxic finish, not only does the off gassing effect your health, it also off gasses into the air.   You know, where birds fly.  And then it comes back down with the rain and gets into the soil.  You know, where our food grows.  Besides the using of it, the process of making it and disposing of it can be quite messy.   All the things we buy and use have to go somewhere.  They don’t just disappear.

5. Greener finishes are safer to have around.  Do you know what happens when you take a pile of rags soaked with an oil based poly?  Fire.  Spontaneous Combustion.  Like this.

Burlington Police: Man Burned, Explosion at Laundromat

And this.  In a school.

School Fire Due to Spontaneous Combustion of Oily Rags

And this.  Where the house was destroyed.  (And the dog dies.  Seriously the dog died because of a toxic finish!)

Fire started by oil-stained rags claims another Portland home

So as you can see I am not just being difficult.  Vermont Natural Coatings tweeted about the first story the other day. It was a reminder that their PolyWhey, the poly I use most around here on furniture and floors, is not flammable.  It’s a little piece of mind.  After all I have three very precious boys who sleep above my shop every night.


  1. Reid

    I commend your use of products like Vermont Natural’s PolyWhey that are safe for not only your health but also the environment. In addition to this great finish, if you need color you may want to look at OSMO professional color stains which could be top coated with either the clear OSMO (both zero VOC) or with PoyWhey. Safety in the workshop is extremely important and a good habit with any product used is to either lay out the rags to dry or have a metal can to put them in when finished.

    1. The Ridiculous Redhead (Post author)

      Hi Reid, thanks for stopping in. I don’t have any experience using OSMO products. I am always looking for differnent stains as the ones I use now are very eco but temperamental to apply. Do you retail them?


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