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Formaldehyde-Free Kitchen Cabinets for Your Kitchen Renovation

Updated: Oct 2

Choosing Formaldehyde Free Kitchen Cabinets for Your Next Kitchen Remodel

Unfortunately, kitchen cabinets you are considering for your kitchen could be full of formaldehyde. While a very small amount of formaldehyde won’t do too much harm, larger quantities could have harmful effects for you and your family. The worst part though will be the odor that you will smell for quite some time after the cabinets have been installed.

Commonly Used Materials for Kitchen Cabinets


Melamine

Melamine cabinets are made from particle board and then covered with melamine paper. Every type of particle board that is available contains formaldehyde. Some particle board has low levels of formaldehyde emissions and even beats the standards in place for the CARB2 boards, which used to have the lowest levels of formaldehyde emission.

MDF

MDF is a material to create both veneered and laminate boards used for kitchen cabinets. Almost all MDF contains formaldehyde. But there is one MDF brand available that is considered formaldehyde free. That MDF is made using soybean glue instead of the typical formaldehyde-based glues.

Plywood

Plywood is a common material for kitchen cabinets, but you must be aware that not all types of plywood are formaldehyde free. Plywood that is made over in China is full of formaldehyde, thanks to the cheaper formaldehyde-based glue they use to make it. The plywood from Canada, labeled Canadian maple plywood, offer a pure bond core that ensures it is formaldehyde free. The soybean glue that is used to make the Canadian maple plywood is both eco-friendly and non-toxic.





Commonly Used Materials for Kitchen Cabinet Doors


The materials used to make kitchen cabinet doors are not always the same as the materials used for the cabinets themselves. Therefore, you must make sure you are being diligent with what you are choosing to purchase when you are looking at new kitchen cabinets.

MDF

MDF is often used for cabinet doors that will ultimately be painted at the end. You must keep in mind that most MDF does contain formaldehyde, but there is one that uses soybean glue instead of the harmful glue. MDF is also used for veneering and laminating.

Particle Core Board

Particle core board is the material used for both laminated and veneer doors. All particle core boards contain formaldehyde; therefore, the emissions will be there as soon as they are installed.

Wood

All wood is practically formaldehyde free, since there is no glue used to hold it together. The tiny bit of formaldehyde emissions present in some species of wood can usually be avoided inside your kitchen if the room is well ventilated. This makes wood your best option when you are looking for formaldehyde-free kitchen cabinet doors.





Paint Used for Kitchen Cabinets


While you may think that paint is simply brushed onto kitchen cabinets, that is not always the case. A lot of people prefer to spray-finish for their kitchen cabinets, because of the smooth look of the finished product. In those scenarios, the paint used is considered pre-catalyzed and post-catalyzed. The catalyzed paint ensures the paint is applied easily and stays looking good a lot longer.


The conversion varnish is the newest option and it is the one more factories are going with. This paint option ensures a durable finish at the end. Conversion varnish and post-cat lacquers, is what most commonly used in woodworking industry.




Unfortunately, pre-cat and post-cat lacquers, and conversion varnishes contain formaldehyde and the fumes are horrendous. While the odor might dissipate in a few weeks , you will be inhaling small portions of formaldehyde for years- check this study by https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019311146



Thankfully, there are safe alternatives when it comes to spray finishing kitchen. Polyurethane and acrylic 2-components lacquers are both extremely durable. They are Greengard certified and neither one contains even a trace of formaldehyde. I use these finishes to create safe environment for me and my employees, because I don`t want that terrible formaldehyde smell in my shop or on the job site – as a bonus, polyethylene lacquer provides a superior finish (compared to traditional varnishes and lacquers)




The Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI published a book called the Architectural Woodwork Quality Standards. There is a chapter “Factory Finishing”, contained a chart that compared the performance characteristics of various topcoats that used the “TR & OP” code rating system from 1 to 8

What do the ratings mean?

TR-1/OP-1 Standard Lacquer contains the least amount of solids and the greatest amount of solvents. This finishing system is being phased out in many parts of the country because of its high volatile organic compound (VOC) content.

TR-2/OP-2 Catalyzed Lacquer contains less solvent and more solids, and is acceptable in certain areas of the country under the existing air pollution standards. It is more durable than standard lacquers, and is widely used in the cabinet industry.

TR-3/OP-3 Water Reducible Lacquers contain fewer organic chemicals, and are not in general air pollutants. However, the clarity of water-reduced finishes is sometimes less than that of solvent-based finishing systems. This in part is caused by microfoam which develops in the water-based finishes.

TR-4/OP-4 Conversion Varnish is a higher solids varnish used by the kitchen cabinet industry. It is durable, easily repaired, yet not as clear as lacquer or vinyl.

TR-5/OP-5 Catalyzed Vinyl is the first group of finishes which has more than 50 percent solids at the spray gun and it meets most states' environmental requirements. It may be sprayed in both light and heavy coatings and is very durable, resistant and clear.

TR-6/OP-6 Catalyzed Polyurethane (and Acrylic) pain is an extremely durable, clear finish. It is used on hospital casework and doors, and may be rubbed to a high gloss finish. Formaldehyde free.

TR-7/OP-7 Polyester is the densest and hardest of the coatings, but it may fracture and crack if it is damaged.

OP-8 Polyester/Polyurethane is a combination finish which is used mainly in production industry. It is more elastic than polyester, extremely resistant, clear and durable.

TR-7 or TR-8 is mostly used in high end yachts, jets, and cars.

If you are looking to avoid all types of formaldehyde in your kitchen, then you must choose the proper materials when ordering kitchen cabinets. There are plenty of safe options out there, so you are not stuck with the old tried and true cabinets filled with all levels of formaldehyde. I recommend any of the kitchen cabinet materials, as well as kitchen cabinet door materials, that are formaldehyde free.


With safer alternative paints and stains that are formaldehyde free and safe for you, your family, and the environment. You won’t regret your decision to avoid formaldehyde in your kitchen, especially since you won’t need to deal with the fumes for months into the future.

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