How to Paint Wooden Toys Safely
Painting a wooden toy adds to its personality and even gives the toy a new lease of life. However, since toys are for children, whose sense of exploration often starts or ends with items in the mouth, safety is paramount. If the finish on the wooden toys is toxic, your little one will end up ingesting it, and it may lead to numerous health complications. Thus, while painting or any other finish presents an opportunity to create something fresh, you should do it safely to prevent any health hazards.
All aspects of safe painting all boil down to the kind of finish you use. Knowing the risks in each option and the safety alternatives is a significant part of ensuring you paint wooden toys safely. Here are a few guidelines to help you paint toys safely.
What to Avoid – How to paint wooden toys safely
With many options available in the market, it is far easier to start by knowing what to avoid when it comes to your toy finishes. If the toy is intended for a younger child, you should observe all the precautions since older children are more likely to be wary of placing items in their mouths.
Oils often serve as a base for paints and other wood finishes. However, if the oils are vegetable oils, then there is a risk of them spoiling and becoming rancid, which is not healthy.
BLO (Boiled Linseed Oil)
Avoid paints and finishes that use boiled linseed oil since it contains chemical driers that are toxic and could harm your child.
Different forms of treated wood
At times the issue is not the finish but rather the wooden material you are using for the toys. Usually, lumber and pallet wood that is pressure treated contains poisonous chemicals. The pallet wood could also be fumigated or exposed to other toxic chemicals. Composite wood like plywood and MDF are also prone to be toxic due to their treatment. Should you have to use them, ensure they are properly smoothed and have a proper sealing and safe finish.
Lead is a poisonous substance, and thanks to an extensive awareness campaign, most lead paints are no longer in the market. Still, some unscrupulous manufacturers may have lead and ingredients in their paints. If you are not sure about the lead purity of the paint, there are several lead test kits you can use for testing.
Choose VOC-free paints.
Some of the most toxic substances are Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. These are compounds that contain carbons that are used as driers and solvents. These compounds evaporate at normal room atmospheric pressure and temperature. Their biggest threat is thus intoxication from inhalation. While some VOCs will have been released by the time the finish fully cures, some can keep on releasing the gasses over the years.
VOCs are dangerous since not only can they be toxic when ingested but also through the fumes and may harm even older children who may not necessarily put them in the mouth. The best option is to go for VOC-free products. If that’s not possible, then the next best option is to buy paint low in VOC and paint in an area with good ventilation. It is also important to remember that VOCs are just one type of hazardous material. Even a VOC-free product could contain other toxic material so ensure you check the ingredients.
The Safe Options
The good news is that you do not have to worry much about your safe options, as they are several. What you are looking for are paints and finishes that are food contact safe grade. The safest grade for any substance is to be food grade, but no paint or finish is ever truly edible. That’s why you will be looking for options that are graded as safe to use for food-contact items. Some of the safe options include;
1. Food Coloring
A simple and easily available painting option is food coloring. It is made to eat, so there is no risk of poisoning. You only need to dilute it in water and then apply it to the bare wood. For better and long-lasting results, you should seal the product with a safe, clear finish like baby-safe wax.
2. Liquid watercolors
Kids love bright colors, and nothing is as bright as watercolors. They provide you with more options than food coloring, and they come with already diluted in the right proportions. The liquid watercolors are simple to use, toxic-free, and allergen-free.
3. Certified Safe Paints
There are specialist paint makers who create non-allergic paints. These include milk paints or specialized toy paints from makers like ECOS-Paints and Rust-Oleum paints.
Once you have the right paint or finish, the next step is application. The first step is prepping your workplace and the toy. Here are some pointers to use.
Protect your workspace from stains and other dirt by using old newspapers or any other covering like a rag.
Sand the toy’s surface lightly, allow the paint to stick on it better and smoothen any dents or bulges.
Clean the toy after the sanding with a damp rag.
Ensure the wood is totally dry before you start applying the paint.
When it comes to applying to the paint, it is straightforward. Use the following tips for better quality;
Apply the paint thinly, just not scrimpily so that you can attain an even application.
You can add a semi-gloss or full gloss finish to allow easy cleaning afterward.
Once the first coat is dry, you can apply the second coat.
If you want a translucent coat, you should dilute the paint further in the water.
Give the paint 7-10 days to fully dry and harden before you give the toy to your child to play with.
You should follow these same precautions when getting toys for donation. In most cases, the organization may prefer unpainted toys, so be sure to ask first. Painting toys is an exciting DIY project and also allows you to ensure the safety of your children.
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