Non-Toxic Stain

Ok, this non-toxic stain post has been a long time coming!  So long story short my hubs made me an amazing table as a birthday and Christmas present last year.  Yeah, he rocks.  I had been wanting a table I had seen at Restoration Hardware but didn’t want to pay $3k for it- anyone else feel me on this??   So he made one for me with my uncle, who is an expert craftsman.  To say I love it would be an understatement!  He nailed it and it’s a gift I will cherish forever.

He finished the table in December of last year but we weren’t able to stain it until now(8 months later in September).  It was too cold to stain it in the winter because the stain wouldn’t cure unless it was inside the house.  There was no way I was going to have it stained in the house with two little girls around.  I was concerned about the off gassing, but also having my 3 year old accidentally put her hands on the newly stained table- and with my 3 year old the probability of that was very high.  We don’t have a garage, so we simply had to wait until the temps warmed up.  We could have done it sooner but summer was so crazy busy that we hardly had a free weekend to do it.


Anyways, it’s finally done!  I wanted to share what we ended up with, the process of application and the final look.  I searched high and low for a non-toxic stain.  For those who may not know of the toxicity of wood finishes- it’s really toxic!  Wood finishes contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are not only harmful to the environment but horrible for your personal health.  Stains are solvents that can be derived from petroleum or synthetic chemicals and are highly toxic.  I didn’t want to be breathing in chemicals but I also wanted my table to be protected.


We ended up choosing Vermont Natural Coatings Furniture Finish Poly Whey Clear Semi-Gloss.  It is a sealer and topcoat.  I had read up on Vermont Natural Coatings and heard great feedback and reviews.  I also spoke to someone at The Green Depot here in Seattle and was very impressed with the product.  When it came down to the final decision, it was either Vermont Natural Coatings or Osmo.  However, we ended up going with Vermont Natural Coatings because with little kids we really wanted the surface to be protected and durable.  Osmo would give a more matte finish which I wanted and would be easy to touch up just one area if need be, but it’s not durable like Vermont Natural Coatins PolyWhey Furniture Finish.  Also, the Osmo would turn the wood more yellow and I didn’t want that either.  At the end of the day I wanted a durable stain that would last through many meal times.  You just have to weigh what’s important to you in a stain/wood sealer.

The Vermont Natural Coatings Furniture Finish uses whey protein from the dairy industry for a bonding agent.  It’s a natural and renewable resource.  It has very low VOC’s.  When I spoke with The Green Depot staff they said to let the table sit out for a week and it would off gas mostly.  You couldn’t even smell anything when my husband was applying it.  We did let it cure for a week outside to let it set, just because the directions say to allow one week for full product cure.  When we brought it in you couldn’t smell anything.  Score!





I was nervous about the amount of gloss but once my husband did the first coat I knew I had made the right decision- I loved it!  It doesn’t look super shiny.  You can choose from satin, semi-gloss and glossy.  We chose semi-gloss just because we knew it would be eaten on and used frequently.  We even had a wood worker tell us we could take a 220 grit electric sander and sand it just a little after to give a more matte look if we really wanted too.  We may in the future but for now I think it looks great!  Another big concern was not changing the color of the table.  I loved the light color and didn’t want to sacrifice that but also knew it would get a little darker but was fine with that.   The Vermont Natural Coatings Furniture Finish was the perfect solution.

My hubs just followed the directions on the back of the container.  Everyone I talked too recommended we do that since natural products can have very specific directions.  The drying time between coats was only 2 hours which was nice.  My hubs did sand it before the first application with a 220 grit sand paper and then after each application (there was a total of 3 applications) too.  This is what the directions said.

I’m so pleased with the way it turned out and would recommend it to anyone looking for a natural alternative to traditional wood finishes!  Have you used natural stain or wood sealer?  What were your thoughts?

Cheers, Suzi


Suzi is a wife, and mama who is passionate about sharing her natural lifestyle with those around her. She created Gurl Gone Green to show how our everyday decisions, from what we use on our face, home and the food we eat affect us more than we know. She loves holding space where people can weed through the marketing clutter to find truth, and ultimately make the best decision for their families.

1 Comment

  1. Bailey

    Thanks for sharing! Unfortunately my husband finished our table which is gorgeous a few months ago and even with lots of research I never found anything natural. He stained it in the garage and sealed it when we could have lots of ventilation inside (I still wasn’t happy with that option). My question is whether the polyurethane still off gases even after its dry?


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