There are dozens of options for finishing your Kitizo Furniture, including oil, wax, stain, polyurethane, paint, shellac and lacquer. We recommend choosing finishes that are non-toxic and natural since the chair will be used (and probably even licked) by a child. Also, with children’s furniture, we advise using a product that can be easily re-applied, to repair the inevitable nicks and dings that will occur. And finally, you’ll want to be able to clean this furniture more often than you would clean furniture for adults. Depending upon your level of expertise, it’s also advisable to use a method that maximizes your chances of success.
For all these reasons, and because they enhance the natural beauty of the wood, smell good and are very easy to apply with a rag, we like natural oils, including Tung Oil, Linseed Oil or even Walnut Oil. In recent years, a German product, OSMO Polyx-Oil, has become super-popular among American woodworkers. In addition to natural oils, it contains several natural waxes, which produce a more durable finish than just oil alone. Key ingredients include sunflower, soybean and thistle oil, plus two hard waxes—carnauba and candelilla. This product does not off-gas or smell bad. It’s durable, easy to apply with a rag, and easy to repair, though it’s not inexpensive. It’s readily available online.
Another option, Poly-Whey® Furniture Finish, is made by Vermont Natural Coatings. It uses whey proteins (a renewable by-product of the Vermont cheese industry) to produce a grain-enhancing finish that’s durable and safe enough for application on furniture and toys. The manufacturer describes it as a “low VOC” product that dries in under 2 hours (that’s fast!) and is cleaned up with soap and water.
If, on the other hand, you choose to go with a polyurethane, pay close attention to the manufacturer’s stated “cure time,” after which the product is supposed to be safe for children. We say “supposed to be,” because it’s always possible that the polyurethane could flake off, exposing the child to ingesting very small flakes of it. For that reason, and despite the fact that they are very practical, we tend to steer clear of polyurethanes.
Polyurethanes, lacquers and other hard topcoat finishes typically come in 3-4 different sheens: flat, satin, semi-gloss or high-gloss. There’s no right or wrong in this department; it’s purely a matter of taste.
There’s something about children’s furniture that cries out for color, particularly our Baltic Birch pieces. Here your choices are similarly numerous. The safest paints are milk paints, as they are made from 100% organic material, dry quickly to a matte, velvet, chalky finish and stick to a majority of surfaces without any priming or sanding. For safety, color selection and ease of use, we recommend products from the Real Milk Paint Company. This same company offers a number of other child-safe clear products to apply on top of the milk paint to seal it in. Milk paint is opaque, however, so once you apply it the natural grain of the wood will no longer be visible.
To introduce color while preserving the visibility of the wood grain, you will need to apply a stain. Two products that we highly recommend are both made in Europe and both are substantially plant-based. Livos, a German company, makes Lanon 210 Toy Stain in 10 colors, some of which are bright and lively. Being plant-based, these stains appear more translucent than chemical-based stains. The green pieces that appear in photos on this website were stained with Livos Lanon 210 in Avocado.
A Belgian company, Rubio Monocoat, also manufactures a line of plant-based, brightly colored oil wood finishes that are recommended for children’s toys and furniture called Oil Plus 2C. This is a 2-component oil finishing system, consisting of Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus (A) and Accelerator (B). It takes 7 days to cure, which Rubio defines as “quick.” The Rubio products are much more color saturated than the Livos, but what you gain in color, you sacrifice in grain visibility. Both are beautiful in their own ways: www.rubiomonocoat.com.
Small samples are available from both companies and we recommend experimenting on wood scraps before applying them to your Kitizo Furniture.
Whatever finish you choose, please pay close attention to manufacturers’ instructions for application of the product and disposal of any brushes or rags you use to apply it, as rags soaked with many of the oils mentioned above can spontaneously combust.
A more complete discussion of child-friendly furniture finishes can be found at http://greenhomeguide.com/askapro/question/what-is-a-safe-nontoxic-sealant-for-a-wooden-highchair.
Finished hardwood is a living and breathing material that is naturally sensitive to the environment. You should expect that the color of your Kitizo Furniture will change with age, exposure and your choice of finish, giving it a beautiful patina. Your Kitizo Furniture will age most gracefully in places with balanced temperatures and humidity levels and away from direct sunlight. To clean, use a damp cloth with a mild detergent. Avoid harsh detergents and polishes.