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Allergy Advice: Sanding, Staining and Sealing Wood Safely

Posted Dec 16 2010 6:09pm
Last week I blogged about painting safely for those individuals with environmental allergies however minor or major. In this post I will give you the high points for sanding, staining and sealing wood as distinct and separate from painting - different products and different beast entirely! I prepared, sanded, stained and sealed 7 windows in our home, sanded and sealed a dining room table and 4 leaves, and sanded and sealed our old dining room floor and new kitchen floor using AMF Safecoat stains and sealer.

On the Sanding: WEAR a mask and YES I am shouting!! Make sure you are doing any sanding in a well ventilated area that will not contaminate your home with any sanding dust. A mask is an absolute must even if you are healthy and well like I am. They sell a wide variety of respirator masks at any hardware store - just make sure it fits and it works. If you purchase a disposable mask - you should know that you may need more than one. The "disposable" type masks have a limited shelf life and will not last through some projects.

Use the Right tool for the Job: I hand sanded the windows because of the size and scope of the job. I used a hand-held orbital sander for the dining room table and 5 leaves (yes, I still have one leaf left to seal), and I rented a floor sander and edger for the dining room and kitchen floors. The right tool for the job includes using the right grit sand paper. Make sure you sand down to the bare wood if you are going to apply a different type of sealer than was previously used.

Refinishing Table Leaves1
This is the BEFORE picture - a leaf that is untouched, the middle leaf is in progress and the leaf to the back or left is completely sanded. Below is the kitchen and dining room floor photo. Can you tell where the new floor ends and the old floor begins?



Staining and Sealing: I'm going to assume for this post that you know something about sanding and skip to the staining and sealing with the AMF Safecoat stains and sealers because that is the meat and potatoes of this post. First of all, if you are ordering a AMF Safecoat stain, which I believe to be one of - if not the - safest products for those with allergies or health issues, you should be forewarned that I did not find that the colors of the stains listed on their website were true to the colors that arrived. What that means is you should be sure to test your stains on some scrap wood. We ordered two different stain colors and I felt that they were more than a little off in color from the website representation. That is not a show stopper, just something to be aware of. Below is the AMF Safecoat Stains and Sealer picture:

Safecoat Stain and Seal Picture

The AMF Safecoat stains went on much like any other stain (once you get the color you want), except that they are non-toxic and wash up with soap and water (not mineral spirits)! Same goes for the floor and furniture sealer. One difference with the sealer is that the manufacturer recommends that the surface be wiped down with a damp cloth prior to the sealer application. I wiped down the windows, table, leaves and floors with a damp paper towel between coats - after the sanding - and that seemed to work fine. Having worked with standard polyurethane, a water based polyurethane and the AMF Safecoat sealer (PolyureSeal BP) over the years, I have to say that working with the Safecoat product was a dream. Now, having said that, I don't know how the AMF Safecoat PolyureSeal BP will hold up over time and with traffic. However, it could do no worse than the standard water-based (chemical laden) polyurethane that I used years ago on the table I just refinished. The water-based polyurethane got gummy and tacky after years of use. At least with this application I was not subject to toxic chemical exposure.

One of the best benefits for my family of using these non-toxic products is that once the sealer dries, it does not off-gas chemicals and toxic fumes like polyurethane does! I could write so much on this topic, but I won't go on and on! If you are looking to refinish furniture, floors or other wood in your home and you have a question, please post it here on my blog and I will respond!!! Happy and Safe repairs to you and yours!




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