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Choosing The Right Non-Toxic Floor Finish

Hardwood floors are known for longevity and can last up to a century with proper care and maintenance. However, they are not low maintenance by any stretch. Hardwood floors require refinishing around every decade to maintain their appearance and durability. 

When refinishing, selecting the right floor finish is of utmost importance. Most conventional floor finishes contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which is why you need a non-toxic floor finish. 

This article takes you through the importance of floor finishes and critical considerations for choosing a non-toxic one. 

What is Non-Toxic Flooring?

Non-toxic floor finishes are coatings applied to floors that do not contain harmful chemicals or substances. These finishes are designed to be safer for human health and the environment. They are typically made from natural and sustainable materials without toxic additives. 

Most floor finishes contain VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds, chemicals emitted into the air from floor finishes. VOCs can have detrimental effects on both health and the environment, including air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, respiratory irritation, and allergic reactions, to name a few. 

On the other hand, a non-toxic floor finish is specifically designed to minimise or eliminate VOC emissions, making it a safer and more environmentally friendly choice. Furthermore, non-toxic finishes have a more pleasant and less overpowering odour than toxic finishes.

Non Toxic Floor Finishes

Non-toxic floor finishes contain significantly lower levels of VOCs and hence emit fewer harmful chemicals into the air. 

Non-toxic floor finishes include 

● Water-Based Polyurethane:

Water-based polyurethane has water as the primary carrier instead of harmful solvents. In terms of performance, water-based polyurethane provides excellent durability and protection for floors. 

● Plant-Based Finishes

Plant-based finishes provide a healthier and more sustainable alternative to traditional finishes. They use natural ingredients derived from plants, making them eco-friendly options. 

○ Soy-Based Finishes

○ Carnauba Wax

○ Candelilla Wax

○ Beeswax

○ Thistle Oil

○ Linseed Oil

○ Tung Oil

                            On the downside, they may take a few days to cure. 

● Shellac

Shellac is derived from the resinous secretion of the lac bug, found in Southeast Asia and India. It is a renewable resource and dries relatively quickly. On the downside, it is susceptible to moisture and chemicals such as alcohol and harsh cleaning agents.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Non-Toxic Floor Finish

With numerous options available, it’s crucial to consider the key factors contributing to a non-toxic floor finish. 

VOC Content

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, concentrations of VOC can be 2-to-5 times higher than outdoors

Look for floor finishes with low or zero VOC content. VOC-free finishes are generally considered the safest option.


Check if the floor finish has been certified by reputable third-party organisations. Certifications such as GREENGUARD, LEED, and FloorScore indicate that the product has undergone rigorous testing and meets strict safety and environmental standards.  

Floor finishes with these certifications are non-toxic and suitable for indoor environments.


Review the list of ingredients present in the floor finish. Look for natural, plant-based, or water-based formulations, which are generally considered safer and less toxic. Avoid finishes that contain petroleum-based solvents. Alternatively, opt for water-based finishes as they have lower VOC content and reduced odour.


Consider the durability and longevity of the floor finish. Look for finishes that offer excellent wear resistance and protection against scratches, stains, and UV damage. A longer-lasting finish will require fewer refinishing cycles, extending the life of the wooden floor. 

Concluding Thoughts

Selecting a non-toxic floor finish is crucial for maintaining a healthy indoor environment. Opting for non-toxic options such as water-based polyurethane, plant-based finishes, or shellac can protect your health and the environment while achieving a beautiful and long-lasting finish. 

Take the first step towards a healthier home and a greener future by contacting Abacus Flooring today. Our skilled professionals are ready to answer your questions, provide personalised recommendations, and schedule a consultation to discuss your flooring needs.