DIY Crafts Paintbrush and paintcan

Published on July 16th, 2014 | by Becky Striepe

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Polyurethane Alternatives that are Less Toxic (reader question)

Paintbrush and paintcan

Reader Lara sent in a great question about finding polyurethane alternatives. Here’s what I was able to find out, and I’d love your suggestions too!

Lara asks:

Do you have any recommendations for a polyurethane coating substitute that is more natural?  I am making a paper mache product and I need it to be covered with something just in case someone takes it home and lives in a rainy environment, I want it to hold up.  Or if they place it in their bathroom on the wall where there is steam, the paper mache needs to be more durable.

Lara also mentioned that shellac is not an option for her, because it’s not vegan. I hadn’t heard that about shellac before, but a quick search revealed that this is totally true! According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, shellac is a resin made from the secretions of the lac bug.

With shellac off the table, I started by trying to find a zero- or low-VOC polyurethane for Lara. While polyurethane is still not the greenest craft supply, choosing a low- or zero-VOC option at least eliminates some of the health concerns that come with conventional polyurethane. VOCs are volatile organic compounds, and they can be very harmful to our health.

From that initial search, I was able to find a few polyurethane alternatives that look like contenders. They’re listed below.

Related Reading: Zero VOC Paint Review, What are health product declarations?

3 Polyurethane Alternatives

Since a couple of these products are for flooring, I would definitely test them out before applying them to something you lovingly created for a friend or customer. If you guys have other suggestions for polyurethane alternatives, drop them in the comments!

1.  AFM Safecoat – This is a low-gloss sealant recommended for wood or particle board.

2.  Monocoat Natural Oil. This is a plant-based oil blend that claims it works where polyurethane coatings would come in handy. I would definitely

3.  Candelilla Wax – Candelilla wax is a plant-based alternative to beeswax. Wax helps repel water naturally.

Do you have any suggestions for how Lara can naturally seal her paper mache creations without toxic polyurethane or using animal-based products? Share your ideas in the comments!

Image Credit: Can photo via Shutterstock


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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



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