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What would be the best low VOC product to seal cedar to prevent its natural VOC emissions?

My wife is very sensitive to VOC's. We have an expensive 3 year old oak bedroom dresser and two matching nightstands with a total of 20 drawers that have dovetailed joints and cedar sides and backs. The cedar in the drawers is causing my wife headaches, and we will have to sell the furniture at quite a financial sacrifice unless I can find a low VOC coating of some kind, primer, polyurethane, whatever, to seal the cedar well enough to prevent its natural emissions. Any ideas as to what would work would be very appreciated.

Asked by James Day
Posted Oct 14, 2012 12:18 PM ET


6 Answers

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milk paint

google your quest, lots of info

IMO, you know what to do, remove the furniture, take the loss, for more important issue of health.

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Oct 14, 2012 1:27 PM ET
Edited Oct 14, 2012 1:29 PM ET.


Thanks for the tip about milk paint; I appreciate your interest. Milk paint certainly is low VOC itself, but I can't find any indication that it will cover cedar or anything else well enough to prevent the cedar from its "natural" emissions, which is the problem. Having someone use the oak drawer fronts to rebuild all the drawers with something other than cedar is a lower cost effective solution than just giving away $7,000 worth of bedroom furniture; I was just hoping to find a less expensive solution than building new drawers as it seemed there must be something that would effectively seal off odors. They use primers sometimes to cover wood and other materials that have smoke damage to contain the smoke odor; I just don't know how well they work, and no one here seems to know either. Thanks for our suggestion.

Answered by James Day
Posted Oct 15, 2012 9:56 PM ET


BIN for smoke damage. Not low VOC. You might try a water base poly on a test chunk of cedar if you prefer a clear coat. Get some cedar and experiment.

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Oct 15, 2012 10:29 PM ET


James, shellac is the classic all-purpose sealer. Get some shellac flakes and denatured alcohol, mix them together, and brush the solution on. It will dry almost instantly. You will get a small amount of residual odor from the alcohol but it won't last long.

You can buy pre-mixed shellac but I don't know how pure it is. Flakes are simply the dried excretion of the seedlac bug, and the dried finish is food-safe.

BIN is supposedly pigmented shellac but I don't know how pure it is.

I don't think milk paint would create a continuous barrier against cedar VOC's.

Answered by Michael Maines
Posted Oct 16, 2012 6:50 AM ET

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Oct 16, 2012 9:06 AM ET


You all have been very helpful and your advice is greatly appreciated. I had thought of using water based polyurethane and actually purchased a quart to try after the people at Sherwin Williams said they didn't have a clue as to what would work but my guess on the water based poly was as good as any. Shellac is a great suggestlon, and, I may go ahead and order the AFM SafeCoat Safe Seal just in case to see if one is any better than the other. Thanks very much for you time and interest

Answered by James Day
Posted Oct 17, 2012 3:57 PM ET

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