The following paints are the best non-toxic options for painting cribs and other nursery furniture.
With cribs, the paint needs to be safe to be chewed on since babies can chew on crib parts. So for this area we need a Certified Toy Safe paint which has gone through ingestion simulation tests.
We also want the lowest offgassing options out there, either zero-VOC or we know that it will finish offgassing in a reasonable amount of time.
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Non-Toxic Paint for Wooden Cribs and Furniture
This first list is baby safe paints for painting raw wood furniture.
1. Milk Paint
Milk Paint is an exceptionally beautiful finish on raw wood. This is the application for which it works best. This all-natural paint is a safe option as it doesn’t offgas any VOCs even when wet since it’s only minerals, clay (in one brand), and casein.
It does need a sealer over top like hemp oil (which darkens the colors a little), or a synthetic clear coat (those are outlined here).
Only some colors are Toy Safe (by European regulation) so if this is being used on an object that kids could chew on (including cribs), be sure to use the Toy Safe colors. (I like to use the European Toy Safe standard EN-17 because it is more stringent than the American one).
The following colors by Old Fashioned Milk Paint are certified Toy Safe (EN-17): Scarlett (pure red), Marigold Yellow, Mustard, Pumpkin, Salem Red, Barn Red, Bayberry Green, Tavern Green, Lexington (dark green), and Pitch Black.
The Real Milk Paint brand contains no clay but it does contain Titanium Dioxide and iron oxides. The green colors contain Chromium (III) which might not leave it Toy Safe by European standards. (Their paints are not tested against European Toy Safe standards). They are certified Toy Safe in the US by ASTM F963-17 – Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety.
If your crib is solid wood, Old Fashioned Milk Paint would be the top choice for paint.
Buy Old Fashioned Milk Paint on their website and on Amazon.
2. ECOS Paint Semi-Gloss or Gloss
ECOS Paint in Semi-Gloss or Gloss can be used on furniture and this is a zero-VOC option (zero-VOC at 11 days officially). The only downside is this is not quite as durable as oil-based paint or alkyd paint.
It is certified Toy Safe by European standards so it’s great for a crib and any other furniture pieces that aren’t super high wear surfaces (like a table). I would use the semi-gloss on cribs, cots, dressers and shelving.
They have a number of zero-VOC primers that can transition from raw wood and previously painted or factory painted surfaces.
Buy ECOS online here.
3. Linseed Oil Paint
Natural Linseed Oil Paint is durable enough for furniture. This all-natural paint is made with only linseed oil and natural pigments. There is no solvent here and all the odorants are natural. The finish is very flat.
You need to make sure your humidity and temperature are well within a normal range or this just won’t cure.
It would (probably) not be considered Toy Safe by European stands due to the manganese drier, so it would not be suitable for a crib that might get chewed on. For other types of furniture, including tables and desks, this is a great option since it’s all-natural and durable.
It can go over just about any existing finish.
Allback and Earth+Flax are two brands available in North America, you can purchase them through their websites.
4. Benjamin Moore Advance
This water-based alkyd paint is the conventional choice for furniture because it’s a lot more durable than water-based acrylic (latex) paints but it’s way healthier than conventional oil-based paints (the ones with solvents).
Ben Moore doesn’t make any paints for cribs, the reps said over the phone. Furniture, yes, but not cribs, because it’s not Toy Safe if chewed on.
Benjamin Moore Advance is 48 g/l when wet and takes 2-3 weeks to fully cure and to finish offgassing, a rep said on the phone. Documents also say it could take up to 30 days to reach optimum hardness and final sheen.
Buy Benjamin Moore paints through their stores.
Officially, Sherwin-Williams paints are also not considered Toy Safe or Food Safe, so they are not for cribs, if the cribs can be chewed on.
Non-Toxic Paint for Melamine Furniture (And Other Tough Factory Finishes)
Melamine is one of the trickiest surfaces to paint over but there are three options of paints that can stick to this plastic. All three will also work on other factory finishes. (Though they can’t go over a natural oil finish that isn’t cured yet or a wax finish).
1. Chalk Paint
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is a super low-odor, non-toxic option for painting any type of furniture. It sticks to melamine and other factory finishes. (There is hardly anything it won’t stick to).
It is certified Toy Safe by European standards so you can use this on a crib, toys, and other furniture in a baby’s room.
The reps recommend ventilating the room while painting and for a few days afterwards before your baby occupies the room.
It does require a sealer on top, and you can use a natural wax – I would use the non-toxic versions from Real Milk Paint (not the solvent-filled wax from Annie Sloan, personally) or you can use a synthetic clear coat. Annie Sloan’s clear Lacquer needs 14 days to cure before your baby occupies the room/uses the furniture, the reps said in an email.
The wax coatings are actually very durable despite being natural, though it does make painting over in the future much more complicated.
Buy Chalk Paint through their website or through their stockists.
2. Linseed Oil Paint
Linseed Oil Paint, mentioned above, can easily go over melamine furniture and any other factory finish. You can buy Allback and Earth+Flax brands through their respective websites.
3. BIN Shellac Primer
This is a more conventional route but it is also non-toxic once cured.
BIN Advanced Shellac-Based Primer (water-based) and BIN Shellac-Based Primer (alcohol-based) can both bridge between a plastic coating (like melamine) or an oil-based paint (and really just about any factory coating), and your regular latex paint of choice like ECOS, and it seems that Farrow and Ball might be able to go over it too (F&B usually can’t go over other brands primers).
The alcohol-based version is high in VOCs but that is because of the ethanol. Alcohol is very volatile and so it offgasses very fast. It only needs 3 days for full cure, the reps said on the phone, when using this in a baby’s room.
The BIN Advanced, which is water-based, needs 7-10 days for a full cure. (And it starts at 96 g/l which is fairly high for a water-based paint/primer).
These not only prime difficult to paint surfaces but they block odors and offgassing from below (like formaldehyde, fragrance, etc).
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.