The Low Down On Green Living
October 16th, 2007
Do you have a piece of wood furniture that’s seen better days? Or do you have wood floors that need some new life? Before you chuck that chair or have new flooring installed, please consider stripping and refinishing that valuable wood instead. And fortunately there are a lot more products available today that make it easier than ever to redo old furniture and wood floors in an eco-friendly way.
1. Before you begin your project, it’s important to check for lead in paint. Paint used before 1980 often contains lead. You can find an inexpensive kit here, or pick them up at your local hardware stores.
2. Once you know about the lead status, wash your wood with a mild soap solution.
3. Now it’s time to strip the wood. We have a few eco-smart ways to go.
- – The safest, most eco-friendly way to remove paint or finish from furniture is the old-fashioned method of sanding! With a little elbow grease, you can avoid chemical strippers completely. (And please wear a mask and goggles to protect yourself from flying particles.)
- – Another alternative to chemical strippers is to remove paint and/or finish with a heat gun, although you should never sand or use a heat gun on lead-based paint because toxic fumes can release from softening paint.
- – Annie Berthold-Bond offers a recipe for a natural homemade wood stripper as another safe option in her book, Better Basics For The Home. You just combine 1 cup washing soda with enough water to make a thick paste. Spread the paste on surface and let it damp-set for 6 hrs. Then you scrape off paint and rinse with a 1 cup water : 2 cup vinegar wash.
- – Or you can use commercial strippers. Most paint strippers contain chemicals that carry health and environmental risks. Methylene chloride is the most commonly used chemical in paint stripper, but it is linked to cancer and other health / environmental problems. There are non-toxic wood strippers availabe– some of which are biodegradable and made from soy and corn derivatives.
- + SoyClean stripper
- + aMaizing corn-based stripers
- + SoyGreen stripper
- + EcoSolve Home Strip
- +Citrus Strip, available at most Home Depot’s
4. When you’re ready to finish your piece, there are eco-friendly options available. Many common paints and stains release low level toxic emissions into the air, called VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds). Fortunately there are a variety of water-based natural paints and stains available that include plant oils extracts and simple minerals instead of harmful chemicals.
- + Remember milk paint? It’s one the safest paints available. And it comes in some great colors and finish types.
- + If you’re looking for a stain, AFM makes stains in their Safecoat DuroStain line.
- + Bioshield also has a line of stains called Aqua Resin.
- + Also check out these made from only pure linseed oil, beeswax and natural tree-sap varnish. Tried and True Wood Finish.
5. When it comes time to dispose of your unused paints or stains, please take care and be responsible. Buy only the paint you need and recycle the empty steel cans. If you have paint left over store unused paint in the can upside, down to create a tight seal around the lid. Or if you don’t want to keep it, take unused paints and stains to a local hazardous waste collection program. The earth thanks you!
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