What are VOC’s and why you should avoid them
The primary environmental concern surrounding hardwood finishes is their release of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) into the air. In addition to often being greenhouse gases, VOCs can cause long-term health effects if inhaled in excess or for extended periods of time. Oil and water-based polyurethane finishes both emit VOCs into the air during application and continue to do so for some time afterwards. Oil-based polyurethane releases significantly more VOCs than water-based. It should be noted however, that most of the leading finish manufacturers have reduced the VOC amount in their products to a safe, and nearly negligible level.
While there are now low-VOC polyurethanes available, natural oils run away with the title of Most Environmentally Friendly Finish. All natural oils release little to no VOCs, and many brands, such as WOCA Exterior Oil, are totally VOC free.