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Water based lacquer or water based poly?

Yuillbuilt's picture

Hi there. I'd like to know which is more eco-friendly and why: water based lacquer or water based polyurethane. They would be applied to wood flooring.

Thanks for looking.

Okay, well, I guess I'll give (post #180231, reply #1 of 3)

Okay, well, I guess I'll give it a shot. Just understand, that these are my opinions and understandings, they could be dated, or just plain wrong, okay?

First off, I question the label "water based lacquer". Here's why. The chemical composition of lacquers is such that when you apply a second layer over top of an already dried layer, the second dissolves the first and blends with it, creating a new single layer thicker than the first or second. Then a third can be applied, and a fourth and so on, creating a deeper and deeper single layer of finish.

Polyurethanes dry in layers. So one coat drys on top of the coat beneath it, resulting in a layered finish. This is true of both solvent and water based polyurethanes...maybe a linguist will happen along and explain "poly" portion of the word polyurethane, I'm not sure about that.

So anyways, that has always been one distinction between polyurethanes and lacquers, even before the water based revolution.

The other major difference is hardness. Polyurethanes of old were much harder than lacquers - they resisted abrasion and chemical damage much better than lacquers, so they were a better choice for high wear surfaces, such as floors, doors or kitchen cabinetry.

The advantage to lacquers was the clarity you could achieve with a deep finish, so it was a better choice for finer objects, and why we didn't used to set anything directly on a lacquered piece, for fear or damaging the surface of the finish.

Do I remember that lacquers are actually made of crushed bugs? Something like that.

As far as "which is greener"? Real lacquers emit very toxic fumes when drying. Definitely not green to my way of thinking. Polyurethanes are for all practical purposes plastic. Nothing green about that either.

Okay, let's see if I can post this...

Your knowledge and my question (post #180231, reply #2 of 3)

Hi there,


Thanks for clearing up some questions I had re: finishes.  Since you seem to know your stuff, I was wondering if you might be able to help me discover an eco friendly and vegan (no crushed ones or by-product of their existence) substance I can use to strengthen the integrity of cork and or Marmoleum


It's not for building per say, but rather for constructing pieces of art.  I have laser cut these materials but because they're so thin, they tend to break at certain spots.  I'm trying to figure out what I can use to coat them with before they're cut, adding a bit of a shield for them.


I'm very sad that shellac isn't really vegan, because that would be the ultimate product.  Ah well.
  Do you know of any kind of vegan shellac type product?  I'm having a heck of a time coming up with anything!  I obviously need to avoid anything toxic, even if I weren't vegan.  Just makes sense...


OK, enough rambling.  Thanks tons for any help you can provide!!



Yeah, I use Marmoleum every (post #180231, reply #3 of 3)

Yeah, I use Marmoleum every chance I get, I am pretty familiar with it (makes a great desk top surface, too).   

Hmmm.  Something to toughen linoleum and cork...I'm guessing you know about the water based floor finishes available today, right? I'm thinking if you coat the jute backing on the linoleum it could stiffen it up some...I don't know, though, you say you'd coat it before cutting?

These art pieces you make, does the cork and linoleum stay in a flat plane after you cut it?  If not, you might be better served coating them after shaping...

I don't have much experience working with cork, but it's been a popular green flooring choice for several years now.  There must be something especially made for toughening it up.  Have you checked all the manufacturer's (or maybe I should say "harvester's") websites?

It's an interesting question, for sure.