Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Poly-Toxic What?!

Today I applied the second and final coat of polyurethane to Paul's first "big boy" bed.  Jon and I have made almost all of the furniture in our home so I have applied gallons of this polyurethane.  Since the urethane is oil-based, I have always used the foam brushes.  Sadly, I used these cheap throw away brushes because years ago when we first started this hobby, Jon and I had very little extra cash, and the foam brushes were cheap, convenient, and didn't require mineral spirits for clean up.  At the start of this project I decided to break that habit of using the foam brushes and purchase a durable, reusable brush.  I was a bit hesitant to spend the $10.00 on a single brush compared to the $.28 foam brush, but I bit the bullet and purchased it.  I was apprehensive because I didn't feel confident enough to clean the brush properly so it could be used again.  Thankfully we already had a can of mineral spirits at home that I could use.

So...I'm brushing the first coat feeling good about my new brush choice, until I started thinking about the polyurethane.  I stopped mid-stroke with my gloves all sticky, my breathing mask starting to loosen, as polyurethane dripped off the brush onto the sheet below..."what is this polyurethane anyway?!"  These are the thoughts that went racing through my head at that moment:
-I have to wear a breathing mask because the fumes are toxic...
-The bed will be left in the garage for at least a month so it can "cure and air out" so it's not off-gassing in my son's bedroom...
-I have to use Mineral Spirits (whatever that is) to clean the brush...
-Mineral Spirits is considered hazardous waste so I have to store it until the next hazardous waste pickup happens, whenever that is...
-I need to keep the used Mineral Spirits in a separate container so I am expanding my "shrine" of chemicals that I am storing in the garage, and who knows if those are all sealed 100%...
-What's in the polyurethane and mineral spirits; how are those chemicals extracted; what environmental impacts are there when making these products...
-I can't recycle an empty polyurethane can because of the chemical residue so it ends up in the landfill even though the can is recyclable material...
-If I'm not supposed to breathe the fumes, what about my eyes & skin---are they "taking in" these toxins...

I took a shallow breath in the mask and was relieved to find that I only have enough polyurethane for this one project which means there won't be leftovers!  I have officially decided that a more environmentally safe product will be used on the next project.  Finding out what that product is exactly will require a bit of research, but I'm up for the challenge.  And hey, who knows, maybe I can make my own product!!


About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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