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Thread: How do I eliminate varnish odor.

  1. #1

    How do I eliminate varnish odor.

    A couple of years ago I built a blanket chest for the foot of our bed. It turned out great except for the varnish smell in the inside of the chest that will not go away. My wife won't put anything in the chest because of the smell. I used a poly varnish. I have left the lid open for several weeks and I thought that the smell was gone, but it came back after closing the chest.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Clermont County, OH
    Sounds like an oil base varnish. Anything oil base will have residual odor...and there is not a whole lot you can do about it. You could, however do the following ideas:
    - strip it off and re-seal with a water base varnish or lacquer(lacquer will linger for a little bit..but will go away). Or you could seal with shellac.

    -You could strip the varnish off and line the inside with cedar..and leave that unfinshed.

    It is my understanding(and someone please correct me if I am in error here) that you can not do away with the oil smell by top coating right over the oil base varnish(shellac or water base over top the existing oil blend).

  3. #3
    The varnish was a mistake! That odor will linger for years!

    About the easiest way to get rid of it - or at least minimize it - would be to scuff sand it, then apply a couple coats of shellac over it to seal the odor in. The shellac's odor will dissipate in a few days, as the alcohol evaporates completely.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2004
    N Illinois

    Shellac it!!

    Understand Shellac works well in these cases, Sand it down first and then shellac and give it a few days to dry thoroughly

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    20 miles NW of Phila, PA

    How do I eliminate varnish odor.


    Don't know if this will help, especially after a couple of years but there are some ideas on removing varnish.

    From Understanding Wood Finsihing, Bob Flexner:



    CONS: Very slow curing, causing severe dust problems. Tends to yellow over time.


    Problem: The varnish doesn't cure. It remains tacky.

    1) The air is too cold

    Warm the room or wait for a warmer day

    2) There is uncured oil in the wood. Many people make the mistake of thinking a coat of linseed oil under the varnish helps things.

    Allow more time for the varnish to cure. If it still doesn't, trip it and the oil off the wood, let the wood dry thoroughtly, and start over.

    3) The wood is an oily wood such as teak, rosewood, cocobolo, or ebony. The oils in thses woods retard the curing of varnish

    Allow more time for the varnish to cure. If it doesn't, strip the varnish off the wood and wash the wood with a non-oily solvent such as naphtha, acetone, or lacquer thinner before reapplying the varnish.


    Regards, Joe

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Lancaster, PA
    I would also try shellac. worse case if it doesn't work is it gets stripped off with the varnish. Make sure you check the date on the can - or make fresh from flakes.

    Good luck, Wes

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