Is Polyurethane Wood Floor Coating Toxic? Here is What you Need to Know

Polyurethane is a coating often used to treat wooden floors to give them a shine after installation. It comes in two different forms: oil and liquid.

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You may be wondering whether it should be used on wooden floors, or maybe you have already used it and are now wondering if it was the best choice.

We’re here to justify ourselves. In the short answer yes, polyurethane is toxic. But that doesn’t mean we have to tear up the floor in a panic.

We will use this article to answer your question: Is polyurethane toxic? More details.

Read on to find out more, because there are things you can do to reduce toxicity or even avoid it altogether.

We will divide our article into a few practical subdivisions to make it easier for you to understand the answer and find the information relevant to your situation.

What is polyurethane?

A good way to explain polyurethane is to see it as liquid rubber. Feels weird, doesn’t it?

We just think that it is part of the family of polymers, like rubber, but unlike rubber it is not solid and comes in the form of oil and liquid.

It is very versatile and is used for many different things. It can be found, for example, in insulation material and, of course, in carpeting and furniture. It gives objects a shiny, smooth finish and often protects them from water and damage by applying a protective coating.

That is why it is so necessary for domestic use. However, polyurethane is not without its problems. Polyurethane is actually toxic.

What makes polyurethane toxic?

Polyurethane is a VOC. That is, it’s a volatile organic compound. This term generally refers to solvents, which is probably immediately obvious.

VOCs evaporate and release gases into the atmosphere that can be harmful to us, humans and other living creatures around us.

The problem is that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are often present in our homes, causing the gases and particles they emit to enter our homes.

This can be dangerous for us, our families, animals and plants. In an effort to tackle this problem, you can now purchase products with a low VOC content. For example, you can buy polyurethane with a low VOC content.

What is low VOC polyurethane?

The low VOC polyurethane is exactly what it says on the box. It is a polyurethane that contains less volatile organic compounds. This means that less harmful gases are released into the atmosphere that we have been talking about.

For example, water-based polyurethane generally emits far less volatile organic compounds than the petroleum-based version.

This may sound great at first, but you should know that in a small, enclosed space like a house, the levels of VOCs it still emits will be just as damaging to you and your family.

How can polyurethane affect us?

Polyurethane can cause a number of side effects and symptoms. First of all, it is important to note that the most disturbing discovery was that polyurethane contains isocyanates.

This harmful compound can cause severe irritation to the lungs, this specific conclusion has a toxic status for polyurethane. This irritation of the lungs can cause asthma, especially in young children.

In fact, a study we found in another article showed that children exposed to polyurethane in concentrations between 25% and 100% were more likely to develop asthma.

The same study showed that they were even more likely to develop eczema and rhinitis. This proves that polyurethane can cause chest tightness, coughing, skin conditions and even breathing difficulties.

Actually, asthma can be fatal. Moreover, the harmful VOCs emitted by polyurethane, even of inferior quality, can lead to vomiting and headaches. Asthma patients should also avoid working with polyurethanes because the vapours can provoke asthma attacks.

We recommend anyone who is at particular risk, such as. B. young children, people with medical problems (especially those related to the respiratory tract), pregnant women and the elderly to look for other possibilities of polyurethane.

This means that they should avoid even polyurethane products that claim to contain little VOC, because even these can have harmful effects on humans. You may be wondering what other options you can use instead.

It is a good thing that the next section tells you about alternatives and how to treat floors or furniture that have already been treated with polyurethane.

What are my other options?

The good news is that polyurethane coatings usually only last about a year. It starts disappearing after about a year. You can then give him a coat with one of the recommendations, which we will inform you about.

If you are considering laying a new floor, we recommend that you do not use polyurethane flooring because we believe it is not worth the risk if there are so many other options that will give you shine, shine and protection but that will not adversely affect your health or that of your loved ones.

We strongly recommend that you look for organic options, or at least for coatings that do not contain any volatile organic compounds. Don’t be tempted by the low VOC version, because we hope you now know how harmful these substances can be in your home, even at low levels.

Our favourite choices are actually mostly natural. Tung oil is a very popular alternative. It gives a natural finish and although it looks a little different from polyurethane, many use it with great success, especially on hardwood floors.

It is easy to use, and best of all, it is non-toxic, so you can use it without fearing that it will harm you and your loved ones.

Another very popular natural option is linseed oil. It is a very versatile alternative to linseed oil that can be used alone or as an additional ingredient in commercial organic and non-toxic finishes.

Other varnishes that have proven to be non-toxic alternatives are shellac, varnishes and lacquers.

There are many possibilities for the individual, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages.

It really depends on your personal needs and how you use it on the floor or on other wooden furniture.

Shellac, for example, reacts poorly to heat and should therefore not be used on a dining table where warm kitchen utensils can be placed.

But you can be sure that all this will be much safer for you, your loved ones and your home.


Finally, we hope your question is toxic to polyurethane… …because you’ve answered it sufficiently.

As you can see, polyurethane is really toxic, and we do not recommend that you choose if you are planning to make a wood floor or finish a piece of furniture.

Why not choose one of the above alternatives? This means you don’t have to rush into a panic to tear up all your floors and get rid of all your furniture if you have a polyurethane floor.

Don’t forget that polyurethane disappears after a year and has no effect on you or your family.

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