Your backyard swing set can seem like endless fun for your kids, but it’s also endless work for parents. Swing sets require regular maintenance to prevent deterioration from water damage, cold, and insects, and even the sun. To do that, wooden components need to be regularly stained and sealed or painted. Not only does irregular maintenance reduce the life of your swing set, it can also be a safety concern. Chipping paint is often unsafe to ingest, and wood components that are left to rot will weaken and play host to all kinds of insects, potentially including wasps or bees.
While painting a swing set seems like a fairly simple task, it can quickly become complicated. Besides picking out the right sealants and stains, parents need to carefully store the often toxic materials and prevent kids from going near or touching the equipment until it’s properly dried. During the summer, this can particularly be a problem. It can be very helpful, then, to learn more about the materials you use in maintenance to manage these issues.
Wood stains are considered toxic because of the petroleum-based solvents like acrylic and urethane, which the pigment is typically dissolved in. By simply avoiding these solvents, parents and kids can breathe much easier when it’s time to re-stain the swing set.
Natural oil and water-based stains contain far fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are much safer to be around. While these still shouldn’t be ingested or touched with your bare skin unless they’re explicitly labeled as safe, they are far better suited for use in a space that’s primarily meant for use by children.
Traditional water and oil based wood sealants use polyurethane, which is very effective, but also gives off toxic fumes that can cause headaches, nausea, and respiratory issues. These are popular because they’re long-lasting and effective, but they need to be handled carefully, and kept out of reach of children. There are, however, other options that are completely safe around children.
Mineral oil, tung oil, shellac, beeswax, carnauba wax, and linseed oil all make effective sealants that are considered food-safe. Each, however, needs to be reapplied regularly to prevent moisture from seeping into the wood.
Paints, like wood stains, are primarily toxic because of the solvents used. Modern water and oil based paints are largely considered safe, though oil bases can cause skin irritation on contact. While latex paints can cause upset stomach and vomiting if ingested, they are also not considered poisonous.
By simply avoiding petroleum-based solvents, parents can greatly reduce the risks of keeping paints, sealants, and stains around the house. More importantly, parents can do swing set maintenance at any time without worrying the complication of keeping kids well away from the equipment for a full 24 hours.