Persistent odors from penetrating oil finish

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Forum topic by GGGG posted 04-16-2021 11:16 AM 233 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 30 days

04-16-2021 11:16 AM

Topic tags/keywords: oil finishing odors vocs off-gassing vapors fumes nursery furniture baby furniture

I built some shelving for the baby’s nursery in February out of 1×12 fir boards. Finished with 1 application of boiled linseed oil (1 part to 3 parts mineral spirits.) Now in April I can still smell the finish off-gassing which is obviously a concern, especially for use in a nursery. It’s not super strong but certainly noticeable especially in the morning after the nursery door has been closed for 12 hours. My shop is cold, and the garage I stored the shelves in for a month is cold. I’m in Portland where it’s dampand cool all winter and spring. Realizing this I let them sit out in the sun for a few warm days hoping this would help them cure. They’ve even been in our heated house for at least 5 days or so. This is my go to finish on wood furniture with the exception that I traditionally do 4 to 7 applications. I have never noticed this problem before. I’m using same brand of oil and spirits I usually use. Any ideas why it still smells? I do not want the fumes to kill my baby boy’s brain cells or sensatize his lungs. Am I over reacting? Can I overcoat with something to lock it in? Would additional coats help it lock in odors? I’d like to stay with a clear finish. Any suggestions greatly appreciated!

Concerned Dad.

5 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

6987 posts in 3577 days

#1 posted 04-16-2021 11:39 AM

Any time you use oil or oil based finishes on a piece that’s enclosed in some fashion….it’s likely you’ll notice the off gassing odor for a very long time. So chalk this up a lesson learned. Solving it may mean waiting a long time, or possibly remove them and give them a coat of shellac. BLO is a very poor finish for most uses anyway so top coating it may have some other benefits. Shellac is not a very durable coating (scratches easily, and not resistant to some cleaners) so you might want to further top coat the shellac (which is there as a sealing agent) with a waterborne clear finish.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View tvrgeek's profile


1869 posts in 2733 days

#2 posted 04-16-2021 11:54 AM

Oil based finishes, any of them, can outgas for a year or more. Personally, I would use those shelves the garage and put in new for the baby, water based finishes.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


4451 posts in 2578 days

#3 posted 04-16-2021 12:30 PM

+1 seal with shellac, and top coat with WB polyurethane.
+1 make new shelves and use those outside baby’s room.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, Doom, despair, agony on me… - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View LesB's profile


2987 posts in 4527 days

#4 posted 04-16-2021 03:14 PM

Good advice so far but I would add I have found even water based finishes give off, if not volatiles, an odor for some time after they are done. Cabinets and chests I have finished with it and then left closed have an odor inside for months after they are finished.

Shellac uses alcohol as a solvent and it evaporates completely in 24 to 36 hours and seals the surface quite well. If you intend to add an additional finish on top of a shellac seal be sure to use de-waxed shellac. Brushes and etc used for applying shellac clean up with household ammonia and water.

Putting them outside on a warm sunny day should help.

-- Les B, Oregon

View SMP's profile


3990 posts in 989 days

#5 posted 04-16-2021 04:13 PM

The only thing mineral spirits does is add the smell. You can use pure BLO and end up with the same finish, just less stinky.

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