If you have wood floors and you are considering refinishing them, there is a good deal that you will want to consider. First of all, it’s important to realize that most wood floor finishes on the market today are petroleum based and loaded with potentially dangerous chemicals. Especially when they are first applied, they can leave even those even those without chemical sensitivities shocked by the smell.
Yes, this noxious odor does go away eventually. But still the chemical nature of the smell should set off an alarm for anyone looking to avoid chemicals and the potential dangers that they represent.
Healthy Floor Finishing Products are a Must
Should you be obsessed with avoiding chemicals when refinishing your wood floors? If you are environmentally conscious, have kids or just want healthy products in general, then a healthier and safer floor-finishing product should most definitely be in your future.
Watch Out of High VOC Levels
Many wood flooring refinishing products are very high in VOCs or volatile organic compounds. VOCs will stay in your home for a considerable period of time after they’ve been applied. Just because you no longer smell a wood floor-refinishing product that does not mean that it is no longer releasing VOCs.
Smell isn’t the only issue where VOCs are concerned. Chemicals ranging from benzene and formaldehyde and arsenic are all present in the many wood floor-refinishing options. These products can continue to “off gas” for extended period of times and, more alarmingly, could eventually cause organ damage and nervous system damage issues. In some cases, these off gassing issues can last not months, but years! In the short term, you might very well find you are frequently getting headaches being around your floors.
New Flooring Isn’t Necessarily the Answer
We should pause to note that installing new wood floors isn’t necessarily an answer either. The reason is that there are many different types of options for new floors, ranging from manufactured wood products to flooring that needs to be sealed with chemicals.
Installing new wood floors also means that you will still have to finish your floors in some fashion. In short, it is quite easy to find yourself in a situation where potentially hazardous flooring chemicals make their way into your home.
The best option for any homeowner is to protect his or her health by opting for a safe and environmentally friendly wood floor refinishing option. Let’s take a look at some of the best options available.
Stay Away from Chemicals and Your Body Will Thank You
When it comes to refinishing wood floors, the bad news is that chemical-laden options containing harmful ingredients, such as formaldehyde, are everywhere. They are also cheap to use. Adding to the complexity of the situation is that most contractors and hardwood flooring refinishers want to work with these products as they are fast, easy to work with and contractors and refinishers have experience using them. That is great for construction industry professionals, but that doesn’t mean that they are right for you and your family.
Talk to Your Contractor in Advance
If you want to have a healthy floor finish, you might very well have to work for it. This means asking your contractors (or floor refinishers) if they are willing to work with products that they may not be familiar with before you even hire them. This step could save you a tremendous amount of time and headaches when you are looking to refinish your wood floors with a healthy product instead of chemical laden product that could cause organ damage at worst and a decrease in air quality at best.
The Natural Oil Option
With all of this in mind, how should you refinish your hardwood floors? The first step is to opt for a refinishing product that can be trusted, which is easier said than done. All kinds of products position themselves in the marketplace as being low VOC and environmentally friendly. Some of the best options include natural oil products such as linseed and tung oil, but there are others as well.
Linseed oil is gaining in popularity, as it is very hard when it dries and is considered to be very safe. Linseed oil is also known as flaxseed oil. Flax and flaxseed oil are consumed as a food and are, in fact, not just considered safe, but are also considered quite healthy due to their high level of omega-3s.
Linseed oil gives wood a great appearance, but won’t necessarily protect against scratching. However, on the plus side, it is very safe. Like most natural oils, it may take a little more effort to apply linseed oil, but the end product is worth the time.
Tung oil is also called China wood oil. Tung oil dries relatively quickly after its exposure to air and has been used in China for centuries. Today, tung oil is used in many floor products to provide a deep rich look and feel.
Green Products May Still Have Harmful Compounds
Regardless of what kind of floor finish you ultimately opt for, it is vital that you carefully read the full ingredient list. Many “green” products may not be that green at all and may even contain chemicals. Likewise, it is important that you test the odor of a product before applying it to your floors, for if the odor is too strong, that could indicate a problem.
Well Ventilated Spaces are a Must
Once you’ve applied any product, it is a prudent move to be in a well-ventilated space. Having a beautiful floor is, of course, a wonderful thing, but it should never take precedence over the health of you and your family. There are many hazardous flooring options on the market, but luckily there are an increasing number of healthier options now available.
Your contractor or flooring professional may try to steer you towards a chemical based product that is easy to apply, but it is important that you hold your ground and demand a floor finish that is safe. The end goal is to be able to enjoy hardwood floors that look good and make you feel good as well.