Best kind of paint/primer for a co-sleeper for a baby
February 28, 2014 8:36 PM   Subscribe

I've built a co-sleeper for our new-born infant (kind of like this). For reasons, I only had access to plywood and so that's what I made it out of. I'm now about ready to paint it, and have two questions in mind: since this is for a baby, I'd like 1) the paint to be non-toxic and 2) seal in whatever fumes the plywood might still be off-gassing. Does such a paint exist? Would I need to use a primer? Would milk paint achieve this goal? Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated.
posted by AwkwardPause to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Any paint is fine if it's not for like super immediate use. You can buy low VOC paint if you like, but it's mostly the same minus the smell time. If this is a planned thing, I'd air it out for a few days, maybe a week. Put a fan on it. After that everything that's in there has cured for sure and it's just like your walls.
posted by sanka at 8:40 PM on February 28, 2014

I'd probably use zero VOC for a co-sleeper. Since a baby can only stay in a co-sleeper until they can roll, you don't have to worry much about them chewing on the sides.

I looked up off gassing from plywood because I hadn't heard of it before, found the following suggestions:
- "Put the plywood in room or garage, gradually raise the heat to 95 degrees, leave at that level for three days and gradually bring it down to normal temperature. This will cook most of the formaldehyde out. You can also call a pallet manufacturer that does certified pallets and ask them if they will bake your plywood. This may cause checking in the faced but you can patch before you finish. This is the technique that was used years ago before everyone figure out it damaged the materials, mostly from rapid heat up and rapid cool down. Banding the edges will help with the off-gassing. "
"You cannot seal in the formaldehyde...coatings can reduce the rate of emission. I did not say that sealing will not reduce emissions. Sometimes one bit of misinformation can get spread to many others. The EPA indeed has it correct when they say a coating "might reduce" emissions (referring to the rate of emissions), but over a long time period, the total emitted will not change. The US CPSC is again referring to the rate and not the total emitted and they also indicate that uncoated has the "potential" to release more, implying that it is not for certain.

From a technical viewpoint, the movement of formaldehyde through a film is controlled by Fick's Law. In addition to the gradient of the chemical and the vapor resistance of the film, temperature also plays a role, as well as the thickness and integrity of the film.

The good news is that all the cancer studies that show a correlation (not cause and effect) between exposure to formaldehyde and cancer are for people with a high exposure level (such as workers in funeral homes and people working with the adhesives that use formaldehyde as a catalyst). Even the rat studies that showed a link between formaldehyde and nasal cancer were for very high exposure levels. In fact, smokers and people exposed to tailpipe exhaust get much more formaldehyde exposure than the wood products will be releasing in this case."
- There was more in the discussion but a lot of it was not useful information. This was the site with the discussion.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:51 PM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you are worries about paint fumes, you should also consider whether you really want your newborn to sleep in a DIY cosleeper. Actual cribs are designed up to industry specifications to make sure they have proper ventilation and don't pose an entrapment risk.
posted by yarly at 5:12 AM on March 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Being a very cautious person, I would be inclined to do what treehorn+bunny suggests to "cook out" the formaldehyde first. In terms of painting, you could use Safecoat Transitional Primer and then Zero VOC paint like this one, then probably also Acrylac on top of all as a final layer. I would then wait a few days to a week after doing all this before using the item.
posted by gudrun at 6:07 AM on March 1, 2014

Best answer: Even "safe" paint will be offgassing for at least a week. On the plus side, any newly-purchased paint will be lead-free, which is the only major toxicity to really worry about.

If you had the good fortune to end up with some attractive exposed wood grain, you could always try sealing it with tung oil or shellac, which are attractive and nontoxic (some linseed oil mixes have environmentally-dubious added drying agents, and the pure stuff takes weeks to cure).

Now, just to rain on your parade: some babies tolerate bassinets and co-sleepers, some don't. Ours kept making her displeasure quite clear in the first month, and I still keep waking up with her slumped across my head most mornings. After she finishes cutting those molars, it's back in the cage for her!
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 2:08 PM on March 1, 2014

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