Is Polycrylic Food Safe?

Last Updated on January 22, 2024 by Ernest Godia

Wooden surfaces in the kitchen require the best protection possible since they come in contact with lots of water, oils, chemicals, and other cooking products that can damage them. However, you must use food-grade finishes when protecting these surfaces.

Some finishes contain toxic compounds that are poisonous when ingested. So when choosing any oils, paints, and varnishes for surfaces that come into direct contact with food, ensure they are approved for food contact.

Polycrylic is one of the popular finishes for wooden surfaces. But is polycrylic food safe? 

Read along to learn whether polycrylic food is safe and whether it is safe for babies. You’ll also find everything you need to know about food-safe and food-grade products and which is best for you and your loved ones.

Is Polycrylic Food Safe?

Yes, polycrylic is food-safe only after it fully dries and cures at room temperature. You’ll have to wait approximately 20-30 days after applying it for it to be food-safe.

Polycrylic is generally considered food-safe when used correctly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. It is formulated to meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for indirect food contact.

This means it’s safe for use on surfaces that may occasionally come into contact with food, like cutting boards, coasters, and tabletops. However, it’s not recommended for surfaces with prolonged or direct contact with food, like cutting boards or utensils.

What Is Polycrylic?

Polycrylic is a water-based coating that leaves wooden surfaces with a high gloss or clear satin finish. The shine and sheen level depends on the wood type and brand used.

Polycrylic is easier to apply, less toxic, and is low-odor compared to finishes like polyurethane. Due to its water-based formula, polycrylic is best for indoor surfaces like kitchen cabinets, countertops, furniture, and doors.

However, polycrylic is less durable and less resistant to heat, moisture, and sunlight than polyurethane. Stay off polycrylic when finishing outdoor surfaces, floors, and areas with heavy traffic.  

Also read Best Stain for Outdoor Furniture.

Composition of Polycrylic 

Minwax manufactured polycrylic as a safe and less toxic alternative to polyurethane. The product consists of copolymers like methacrylic acid, acrylic acid, and their esters in its formula.

For a product to fall under the non-toxic category, it can’t have any of the 65 substances in the EPA’s list of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). In addition, it contains less volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which measure the level of toxic fume products.

Even though polycrylic is considered non-toxic, manufacturers recommend that you still wear your protective gear and work with it in a well-ventilated space.

The composition of polycrylic makes it eco-friendly and easy to clean with soap and water, unlike its oil-based counterparts.  

Types Of Polycrylic

Polycrylic is available in matte, ultra-flat, and gloss finishes. The formulations are available in two broad types depending on application and intent:

  1. Roll-on polycrylic

You can use a brush to apply the roll-on polycrylic, but use a paint roller to avoid visible brush strokes. Apply the roll-on polycrylic when working on smaller surfaces and have more time to focus on small sections.

  1. Spray-on polycrylic 

Spray-on polycrylic is the better alternative when working on large surfaces and needing to cover them quickly. Spray thin coats in consistent sweeping motions. Also, the spray-on polycrylic dries fast.

The challenge that spray-on polycrylic poses is leaving air pressure marks on surfaces. Hence you’ll need some practice to get the desired results working with spray-on polycrylic.

Is Polycrylic Food Safe for Babies?

Yes, but only after the polycrylic has dried and cured for approximately 25 days at room temperature. When the coat is still fresh and liquid, it could harm infants, so keeping the finished items away from children is best.  

You are never really keen on the type of finish you have on your furniture pieces till you have kids and notice they’ll eat off table tops or the floor.

Polycrylic is less harmful, and crafters use it on baby cribs, toys, and other wooden items. Once the acrylic component in polycrylic cures, it is odorless, colorless, non-flammable, and non-toxic.  

As much as polycrylic is considered food safe, you shouldn’t consume food that is in direct contact with the polycrylic or let the kids chew on it.  

How Long Does It Take For Polycrylic To Be Food Safe After Application?

Depending on the type of polycrylic, it takes roughly 20-30 days for polycrylic to be food-safe.

Polycrylic dries faster than other clear sealers. You should apply at least three coats. Each coat is dry to the touch within an hour, but give it two hours before adding subsequent coats. In 24 hours, you will have all the coats done.

Learn how to apply polycrylic without streaks or bubbles here.

The finished item is dry to the touch in a day or two, but the polycrylic fully cures in a month, and only then does it become food-safe.

Is Polycrylic food safe? An Infographic illustrating key facts about food-safe polycrylic
Facts About Food-Safe Polycrylic

Benefits Of A Polycrylic Finish 

Here are the advantages of using a polycrylic finish on your indoor projects:

   1. Polycrylic is quick drying 

Thin coats of polycrylic are dry to the touch in an hour, and in two hours, you can sand and apply the additional coats. Polycrylic takes less time to cure and dry than polyurethane.  

Even in its dry state, polycrylic is still sticky, so ensure you prevent dust and other particles from attaching to the surface before it cures.  

   2. Non-pungent smell

With the low levels of VOCs in polycrylic, it emits less toxic fumes that are odorless. It doesn’t leave a distinct smell lingering around like polyurethane.

   3. Easy to clean 

Polycrylic is water-based and cleans up easily with water, soap, and a soft, lint-free cloth.

   4. It lacks the yellowing effect 

Most finishes, like polyurethane, tend to turn yellow with age and sun exposure. Polycrylic has a non-yellowing effect on surfaces, which makes it the best choice for white-colored furniture. 

In addition, polycrylic doesn’t alter the appearance of lighter woods like birch and maple.

   5. It’s non-toxic 

Polycrylic is eco-friendly as it contains less hazardous air pollutants and is food safe after it fully cures.

   6. It’s non-flammable 

Unlike oil-based polys, you don’t have to be concerned about polycrylic being a fire hazard as it is non-flammable.

Is Wood Putty Food Safe?

The packaging on wood fillers and wood glues states they are safe for indirect food contact. You can patch holes in cutting boards or butcher blocks with wood filler, but don’t place food directly on the filler.

When filling holes and dents on food surfaces, use wood fillers with non-toxic natural resin or no microplastics.

What Is A Food-Safe Sealant?

A food-safe sealant is one that you can apply to surfaces with direct contact with food. The finish still contains a level of toxicity not safe for human consumption. So, it is best not to use a food-safe sealer on chopping, butcher, or charcuterie boards.

Sharp cutlery causes food-safe finishes to break and scratch. Also, kitchen compounds like vinegar or alcohol dissolve some of the sealers. Under the mentioned circumstances, you can consume the finish, which may cause harm.   

Are Food-Grade and Food-Safe Sealants Similar?

Not all wood sealers are regarded as food-safe. And those that are food safe aren’t necessarily food grade. Food-safe wood products and wood finishes still have an aspect of toxicity and shouldn’t come into direct contact with food. Food-grade finishes are a better option.

Food-grade products are mostly natural and are FDA-approved for direct food contact applications on pieces like:

  • Charcuterie boards
  • Cups and mugs
  • Butcher boards
  • Children’s wooden toys and cribs
  • Bowls and plates
  • Cutlery

Best Food Safe Polycrylic 

Examples of food-safe polycrylic products available on the market:

Best Food Safe Spray: Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish Spray for Wood

Minwax Polycrylic spray

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This Minwax Polycrylic finish is available as an aerosol, making it easy to use and excellent for those hard-to-reach areas. Once applied, it dries into a durable coat that protects wooden surfaces against moisture damage, abrasion, scratches, and wear and tear.  

Its clear satin sheen amplifies the beauty of bare light woods like birch, maple, and ash. You should be happy to know this water-based finish cleans easily with soap and water.

Best Water-Based Finish: Minwax Clear Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish 

Food-safe polycrylic water-based finish

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This Minwax water-based finish enhances the grain on your indoor wood surfaces and protects them against scratches, dirt, and spillage. 

Unlike its aerosol cousin, you’ll need a paintbrush to apply this product. However, it still boasts the same fast-drying property, drying to the touch and allowing for recoating in 2 hours. Be sure to use a high-quality synthetic bristle brush with this product.

You can choose satin, gloss, semi-gloss, matte, and ultra-flat sheen, depending on your preference.

Which Surfaces Can You Use Food-Safe Polycrylic On?

The water-based formula of polycrylic limits it to mainly indoor applications. Some projects requiring food-safe polycrylic include dining tables, cabinets, kitchen countertops, high chairs, chopping boards, decorative trays, and other wood surfaces in the house.

Food-safe Polycrylic Alternatives  

Here are alternative options that are food-safe:

  • Watco Butcher Block oil and finish: It works well on wood surfaces like butcher blocks, cutting blocks, and bowls. It’s non-toxic and easy to apply.  
  • Walnut oil: It is an extraction from pressed walnut. It is 100% natural and has waterproofing qualities.
  • Shellac: The lac insects on trees secrete the resin used to make shellac. The liquid finish consists of lac flakes dissolved in alcohol. It is non-toxic and often used to coat vitamins and candy. As a finish, shellac is smooth and glossy, protecting the wood surfaces against moisture damage.  
  • Pure Tung oil: Tung oil is derived from the Tung tree and is used to waterproof boats. The food-grade oil protects wood surfaces against water, alcohol, and oil damage.
  • Coconut oil: You might have used coconut oil on your hair or skin but never as a finish. It isn’t the most permanent of the lot and needs a wax coat for extra durability; however, it is food-safe and a suitable finish for wooden items.
  • Raw Linseed oil: This is entirely natural and can also be used on outdoor surfaces. However, linseed oil takes longer to dry than the other alternatives.
  • Food grade Beeswax: The product is collected by beekeepers, purified, and made available in liquid, paste, and block forms.

Is Polycrylic Food Safe: FAQs 

Here are answers to the frequently asked questions concerning polycrylic food safety:

Is polycrylic safe for food surfaces?

Polycrylic is generally considered food-safe when used correctly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. It is formulated to meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for indirect food contact.

This means it’s safe for use on surfaces that may occasionally come into contact with food, like cutting boards, coasters, and tabletops. However, it’s not recommended for surfaces that will have prolonged or direct contact with food, like cutting boards or utensils.

Recommended Read: Is Tung Oil Food Safe?

Is polycrylic toxic?

In its liquid form, polycrylic is toxic and can cause health issues if ingested. However, polycrylic contains lower levels of VOCs than polyurethane, and it’s considered food safe after 30 days of drying and curing.  

Is polycrylic toxic when dry?

No, polycrylic is not considered toxic when it is completely dry and properly cured. While it may emit some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during application and drying, these vapors dissipate as the finish cures. Once fully cured, the polycrylic film itself is considered chemically inert and safe for handling, even with incidental contact.

Can you put food on polycrylic?

Yes, but not recommended. You can apply polycrylic to surfaces that don’t touch food directly. Polycrylic is food-safe but not food-grade. For direct contact with food, use the polycrylic alternatives above-mentioned.  

What clear coat is food safe?

The best food-safe clear coats include shellac, Minwax water-based polycrylic clear coat, or wax finishes. Use coconut, walnut, linseed, or tung oil for food-safe oils.

Is polycrylic good for a dining table?

Absolutely, polycrylic is an excellent finish for dining tables and other kitchen surfaces that don’t touch food directly. Let the dining table dry and cure for 30 days at room temperature before it is food-safe. 

You’ll still have to protect the surface from heat damage and water rings using coasters and place mats.   

Can you apply a polycrylic finish on wooden cups, plates, spoons, and bowls?

It is not advisable to apply polycrylic on utensils as they touch food directly. However, you can use polycrylic for your decorative pieces. For your wooden cups, plates, spoons, and bowls, apply the food-grade polycrylic alternatives.

Which wood filler is food-safe?

Epoxy is the best wood filler for fixing food preparation surfaces like cutting, serving, and charcuterie boards. After fully curing, food-safe wood fillers don’t emit toxic fumes or ooze resin.

Another alternative for fixing small cracks is wood glue. However, be cautious about using these products, as tiny parts can chip off into food and get ingested by family members or pets.

Is Polycrylic Food Safe: Final Words

The issue of food safety isn’t as daunting as it sounds because brands indicate whether their products are food safe or food grade on the containers.

Polycrylic finish protects wood surfaces from abrasion, moisture damage, and wear and tear while leaving them with a glossy, matte, or ultra-flat finish.

Polycrylic is food-safe once it dries and cures for 30 days under room temperature. In its liquid state, polycrylic is unsafe. Keep away newly painted items till they are completely dry and cured.

For surfaces that directly touch food, use the polycrylic alternatives as they are food-grade. Food-grade products are FDA-approved as safe for human consumption without the risk of health complications in the future.

Be careful when buying wood varnish. Go for food-safe products; it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Happy Woodworking!

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