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Material Collection

Alternative Finishes

Often products need a finish, which mediates between user and material. Irrespective of what it covers, the last coat itself can potentially off-gas. A finish sheds particles simply through use and wear, making it particularly impactful on human health. Unfortunately, the combination of troublesome ingredients and a lack of transparency make finishes and sealants a minefield of health hazards. Sealants and finishes often have high VOC emissions and contain toxic binders. Compared to other disclosures, safety data sheets have a low disclosure threshold. When a manufacturer does not disclose ingredients beyond an SDS, they may leave potentially harmful ingredients undeclared. Natural oils without harmful additives, if used without accelerators, offer the healthiest option for finishes.

Alternative Finishes

6 products
How to Use This List

About Our Collections

The goal of our collections is to help promote transparency in the material ingredients of building products by fostering knowledge and awareness of products and materials for which life-cycle information is available, and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life-cycle impacts.

Keep an eye out for the following symbols:
A Healthier Affordable Building Product

Products with the designation of "Healthier & Affordable" were specified and installed in at least one of our Case Studies of healthier affordable housing.

Available at the Donghia healthier Materials Library

The Donghia healthier Materials Library library is open to Parsons student and faculty. Learn more about access and opening hours here.

New Product

This product has been added to the collection within the past six months.

Ingredient Disclosures

There are several ways of evaluating a material’s health that we include with product information. Disclosures are reports by manufacturers about product ingredients, impacts, or other attributes.

Key Disclosures include:
Health Product Declaration (HPD)

A voluntary technical specification for reporting information on product contents and associated health information, intended to be the health-analogue to Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

Declare Label

Declare is a transparency platform and product database that answers three questions: 
  1. Where does a product come from?
  2. What is it made of?
  3. Where does it go at the end of its life?

Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)

A standardized format for communicating the environmental effects associated with a product’s raw materials extraction, energy use, chemical makeup, waste generation, and emissions to air, soil, and water.

Safety Data Sheet (SDS)

A reporting format that provides basic information about a material’s chemical ingredients, the potential safety hazards to installers, and recommended practices for installation.

Other
Learn More
Category Sub-category Manufacturer Product Ingredient Disclosures

Purified Raw Linseed Oil

Linseed Oil is a natural, solvent-free finish coating derived from flax seeds. Not only does it perform better than petrochemical alternatives - it is also much healthier. Linseed oil is free of toxics such as isocyanates and bisphenols, which are found in polyurethane and epoxy resins. Allback manufactures their Purified Linseed Oil in Sweden. Their Purified Raw Linseed Oil is non-drying, it needs to be absorbed into the wood surface. It is ideal for reconstituting old linseed oil paint, storing paintbrushes after using linseed oil paint, and as a first coat on extremely dried out wood.


Category
Sealant , Linseed Oil
Manufacturer
Allback
Product Website

Material composition *

Linseed Oil 100%

*As reported by manufacturer and product SDS

AVAILABLE SIZING

1 Liter

CERTIFICATIONS & DISCLOSURES
Health Product Declaration (HPD)
Declare Label
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)
Safety Data Sheet (SDS) icon-pdf Created with Sketch.
Other
Last Updated

July 30, 2019

Download data sheet icon-pdf Created with Sketch.

Purified Boiled Linseed Oil

Linseed Oil is a natural, solvent-free finish coating derived from flax seeds. Not only does it perform better than petrochemical alternatives - it is also much healthier. Linseed oil is free of toxics such as isocyanates and bisphenols, which are found in polyurethane and epoxy resins. Allback manufactures their Purified Linseed Oil in Sweden. Their Purified Boiled Linseed oil is a drying oil, making it ideal for a final finish on wood and metal.


Category
Sealant , Linseed Oil
Manufacturer
Allback
Product Website

Material composition *

Linseed Oil <99.01%, Manganese Drying Agent <0.09%

*As reported by manufacturer and product SDS

AVAILABLE SIZING

5 Liters

CERTIFICATIONS & DISCLOSURES
Health Product Declaration (HPD)
Declare Label
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)
Safety Data Sheet (SDS) icon-pdf Created with Sketch.
Other
Last Updated

July 30, 2019

Download data sheet icon-pdf Created with Sketch.

Pure Tung Oil

Tung oil (sometimes called chinawood oil) is an all-natural hard drying wood oil that provides a tough, flexible, highly water-resistant coating or wood finish. Tung oil is available in 3 grades. The Real Milk Paint’s Pure Tung Oil is Grade 1 yellow, the highest grade available. This means that it offers faster drying, superior color, and a long-lasting finish. This product is free of VOCs and other harmful additives. Some prefer it over linseed oil because it dries faster and does not darken as much with age.


Category
Sealant , Tung Oil
Manufacturer
The Real Milk Paint
Product Website

Material composition *

Tung Oil 100%

*As reported by manufacturer and product SDS

AVAILABLE SIZING

Available in 1 oz (sample), 8 oz, 16 oz, 32 oz, 1 gallon, and 55 gallon bottles

CERTIFICATIONS & DISCLOSURES
Health Product Declaration (HPD)
Declare Label
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)
Safety Data Sheet (SDS) icon-pdf Created with Sketch.
Other
Last Updated

July 30, 2019

Download data sheet icon-pdf Created with Sketch.

DIY Boiled Linseed Oil

A Healthier Affordable Building Product

Try this DIY boiled linseed oil that we tested on our metal furniture at the HML office! The recipe comes courtesy of Heechan Kim, an object maker, educator, and Faculty Researcher at the lab. This finish works best on metal. To make, heat a 1:4 mix of beeswax and linseed oil until beeswax melts. To apply the product, heat the metal structure with a heat gun. This helps the wax penetrate into the metal. Apply the oil with a cloth, allowing the finish to spread out and melt into the metal.

*Note: this finish is intended for indoor use only.


Category
Sealant , Linseed Oil
Manufacturer
DIY

Material composition

Linseed Oil 75%, Beeswax 25%

CERTIFICATIONS & DISCLOSURES
Health Product Declaration (HPD)
Declare Label
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)
Safety Data Sheet (SDS)
Other
Last Updated

July 31, 2019

Download data sheet icon-pdf Created with Sketch.

Hemp Oil

Hemp oil is a healthier finish and works particularly well on wood. The Real Milk Paint’s Hemp Oil is free of additives, preservatives, solvents, and VOCs. It is thinner than tung oil, making it easier to apply without the addition of a solvent. However, hemp oil is less durable and waterproof than tung oil. Hemp oil is food safe and works especially well on lightly used items.


Category
Sealant , Hemp Oil
Manufacturer
The Real Milk Paint
Product Website

Material composition *

Industrial Hemp Oil 100%

*As reported by manufacturer and product SDS

AVAILABLE SIZING

Available in 1 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 32 oz, and 1 gallon bottles

CERTIFICATIONS & DISCLOSURES
Health Product Declaration (HPD)
Declare Label
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)
Safety Data Sheet (SDS) icon-pdf Created with Sketch.
Other
Last Updated

July 31, 2019

Download data sheet icon-pdf Created with Sketch.

Oil Plus 2C

Rubio Monocoat's Oil Finish is a healthy option for wood finishing. A single layer of this product will protect wood from water, heat, and daily wear and tear trough molecular binding with the wood fiber. It is great for use on hardwood flooring, wood furniture or any other wood product. This product creates a finish that is easy to maintain, and it is free of VOCs and solvents.

*Note: This product is sold in two components. Component A is the oil finish and Component B is an accelerator, which speeds the drying process. Although it helps with convenience, we recommend the product to be used without the accelerator as it contains isocyanates, listed as asthmagens and potential carcinogens by OSHA


Category
Sealant , Linseed Oil
Manufacturer
Rubio Monocoat
Product Website

Material composition *

Linseed Oil, Carnauba Wax, Beeswax, Plant Based Pigments

*As reported by manufacturer

AVAILABLE SIZING

Available in 350 ml, 1.3 L and 3.5 L cans.

COLORS

Available in 14 colors

CERTIFICATIONS & DISCLOSURES
Health Product Declaration (HPD)
Declare Label
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)
Safety Data Sheet (SDS) icon-pdf Created with Sketch.
Other
Last Updated

August 01, 2019

Download data sheet icon-pdf Created with Sketch.

The products in this collection have all been evaluated holistically for their contents and performance. To be considered, a product must disclose at least 75% of its ingredients by weight and avoid the biggest health concerns, as indicated by their disclosure documentation. For finishes, this means that they are free of heavy metal drying agents, toluene, xylene, PFCs, n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP), isocyanates, and phthalates.

Spec Guidance

Prefer oil finishes without harmful additives. Products like purified linseed oil and tung oil are healthier alternatives to water-based synthetic finishes. But check the SDS! Some manufacturers sell products under these names that aren’t completely natural and include carcinogenic petroleum distillates.

Pure tung oil cures more quickly than linseed oil so does not require drying agents.

Look out for toxic drying agents. Raw linseed oil has a long curing time. To accelerate this, manufacturers add drying agents to create polymerized or boiled linseed oil (BLO). Historically, carcinogenic heavy metals (e.g., arsenic, beryllium, chromium, cadmium, nickel, and lead) have been used. The alternatively used cobalt is an aquatic toxic and should be avoided.

Avoid accelerators. Typically offered as one part of a 2-component formula, accelerators shorten curing time. However, they may contain toxic ingredients like isocyanates.

Avoid water-based finishes. Low disclosure rates for water-based finishes, e.g. lacquers and varnishes, make tracing hazards difficult. Especially concerning are high VOC levels and the presence of phthalates, flow aids containing PFCs, and n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP), which is common in polyurethane and is a fetal toxin. These products commonly require high VOC solvents. They may contain xylene or toluene, which are carcinogenic.

Consider alternative finishing methods. Shou Sugi Ban, a Japanese technique, creates a beautiful, durable finish on wood by charring it with fire.

Updated August 1, 2019
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