What should we do if the drawers of our boys' bunk beds are still off gassing after nearly a year?


What should we do if the drawers of our boys' bunk beds are still off gassing after nearly a year?

Asked by Darlene Molina

We used Minwax stain and polyurethane in one. We didn't know anything about VOCs. We do now! We have not been able to use their bedroom for nearly a year since we don't have a garage to move the bed into. It is a beautiful bed with a drawer staircase. We are desperate to know what to do as we only have two bedrooms to begin with. When I called Minwax, they said they had never heard of such a thing. Sherwin Williams treated me like I was crazy and finally said it was the plywood off gassing. I find that strange although I know it can off-gas also. My father built furniture all my life but I have never run into anything like this. If you have any suggestions, we would appreciate them. Perhaps we will just have to sand everything down and start again. I hope not.

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Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP's picture

Dear Darlene,

I hate to say it, but I see no other alternative than to sand it down and start over.

I have never used Minwax stain and polyurethane but have used other products that continued to off gas indefinitely.

  • Often it was because they were applied in conditions not suitable to the product, like an overly cold garage or a too moist area, so the product did not set up properly.
  • In those cases, the furniture had to be stripped and redone.

Minwax carries a product called VOC compliant, which means it complies with minimum standards for off-gasing, but that doesn't mean it is low VOC by the standards of many chemically sensitive people. For that, you would want to have a product verified by a third non-industry supported party, such as GREENGUARD.

  • To compare, Minwax 250 VOC has 250 g/Liter of VOC content while Safecoat DuroStain Clear Base has 13g/Liter.
  • 250 g/Liter complies with the AQMD standards.
  • Chemcraft or AFM might have something that would work for you.
  • But beware, because the eco waving companies may be glorifying that their waste doesn't go in a landfill or that it doesn't contain formaldehyde while selling you a product that is high in VOC's!

Just so you know, clear and stained products are harder to make with low VOC's than pigmented products, which is why you'll see more lenient standards for them.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District sets the standards for many low and zero VOC programs. I guess since Southern California has been notorious for pollution, it stands to reason they would do the research and come up with the standards. AQMD are the result of the adoption in 1970 the California Environmental Quality Act.

Both websites are great sources of information on the subject of air quality.

Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP

For more information:

Read "What kind of stain and polish can I use for painting my unfinished wood furniture?" a Q&A answered by Molly McCabe.