Food storage finish work questions

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Forum topic by A.W. "Pappy" Ford posted 10-17-2007 08:59 PM 1247 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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A.W. "Pappy" Ford

98 posts in 3848 days

10-17-2007 08:59 PM

Topic tags/keywords: food finish stain poison pantry storage polyurethane

I’m in a bit of a conundrum. Tried searching the forums but didn’t see anything with this particular topic, so I apologize if this is a repeat.

I recently finished a vegetable storage box for my wife’s pantry. I finished it with 2 coats Varithane cabernet stain inside and out, and 3 coats Minwax poly on the exterior surfaces. After the whole thing was done I let it sit for about a week, lined the interior with burlap, and gave it to her to use. Nothing in the product warnings or labels made me believe there was a problem with this.

Then last night I go in the pantry and the smell from the finish is so strong I cant stand it, and when I open the lid it was even worse. I didnt trust anything we’d put in there as it all smelled like it had been soaked in the stain so threw it all out. Call me a stupid newbie, but I hadn’t even thought about the chemical impact of finishes on food storage.

Did I not let it “cure” long enough? Use the wrong finish products for foods? Is the whole thing a wasted project? Time to strip it, or worse just throw it out? The last thing in the world I want to do is poison my family. It kinda freaked me out I guess and has me scared to do anything else on the projects I’d had lined up to rebuild her pantry…

Any pointers, corrections, guidance, tongue lashings, beatings, etc. are greatly appreciated.

-- --==[ Pappy ]==--

6 replies so far

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4128 days

#1 posted 10-17-2007 09:48 PM

I would say the box has not have enough time to cure. The finish depends on how thick the coats are, the humidity, the temperature, etc. If your project was sitting outside while finished, and they brought inside, it might not have had enough time to dry thoroughly. I have read that you should hold off waxing a product for at least a week after it is finished, to allow adequate drying time. If the temperature and humidity levels outside were much different than inside (like lower temp and higher humidity), then it is still drying out. This would explain why it is smelling up the pantry, and is stronger inside the box than out.

Try letting it dry more before putting anything in it. Also, open the box up to help the inside dry. What I have read says the varnish is safe once it drys, and you are not actually trying to eat it. The various ingredients in the varnish need more time to dry out first.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14171 posts in 3949 days

#2 posted 10-17-2007 10:31 PM

Shellac the inside of the box. It will provide a vapor barrier from the petroleum finish.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3929 days

#3 posted 10-17-2007 11:27 PM

My thought as well, Dan. Shellac is so safe they use it to coat pills. It also is odorless.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View A.W. "Pappy" Ford's profile

A.W. "Pappy" Ford

98 posts in 3848 days

#4 posted 10-18-2007 01:33 AM

More drying time and shellac: many thanks.

I was horrified after the fact that I hadn’t even thought of asking the question before making something for use with foods…

-- --==[ Pappy ]==--

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4127 days

#5 posted 10-20-2007 03:39 PM

and now you have new information to draw upon. Next thing you know – you’ll be our resident expert on food storage :0

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View wheresmytools's profile


11 posts in 3659 days

#6 posted 04-22-2008 07:07 PM

I haven’t made any storage containers, but I do turn bowls. I use a 50:50 mixture of true Tung oil and orange solvent. Once the orange smell is gone, the Tung oil has pretty much cured. And pure Tung oil is food safe.

-- Charlie in TN, looking for his tools...

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