Friday, August 12, 2011

Eco-Friendly Non-Toxic Deck Stain: TimberSoy Review

When we first moved into our new house a few months ago, we weren't very happy with the deck.  It was weathered, gray, and dingy, and the wood was warped.  I would've preferred to just get rid of it and plant more grass!  

I could see that gray ugly thing out the window every time I did the dishes.  Not a pretty view!  So I decided to just buckle down and stain it.

But then I took a look at the Material Safety Data Sheet for several different exterior stains.  

Let me just tell you what I saw on the MSDS for Olympic Semi-Transparent Deck Stain (here):

"Materials such as cleaning rags, paper wipes and protective clothing, which are
contaminated with the product may spontaneously self-ignite."

"Contains material which may cause cancer..."

"Contains material which causes damage to the following organs: brain."

Okay HONESTLY?!  How stupid!  My husband and I looked at each other, and looked at the deck, and decided that it was better to leave it ugly than to risk working with a deck stain that can spontaneously combust, cause cancer and/or brain damage.

Doesn't it make you mad that companies make products that have all these horrible effects, and you can just walk right into Lowe's or Home Depot and pick up a can of it and unless you take the time to read the size 5 font on the back, you'd have no idea.  Why are companies allowed to market this stuff?  

Okay anyways getting off the bandwagon, I searched and searched online for non-toxic deck stain.  I was able to find a few, but I could find hardly any reviews.  Even though this isn't kitchen related, I wanted to post a review of the non-toxic deck stain I found so that hopefully others who are in the same boat can find this review and see how the stain looks on a real deck.

I decided to just pick one and go for it, figuring that anything would look better than that gray, weathered, warped wood.  I chose one called TimberSoy, which is made by a company called EcoProcote and can be purchased at

Here is a chart from EcoProcote's website:

Bio-Based Technology
Rapidly Renewable Resource
Ultra-Low VOC <25 g/l
Virtua:lly Odorless
Will Not Chip
Will Not Flake
Will Not Peel
100% Solids Pigment-Zero VOC
Does Not Alter Surface Friction
Natural Oils Replenish Wood
Beautiful Natural Colorization
Mildew Resistant
Water Resistant
UV Resistant
Stain Resistant
Smooth & Easy Application
Excellent Wood Protection
Extends Wood Life
Lap Mark Free Installation
Unlimited Applications
Custom Color Palette
Drastic Reduction in Install Time
True Penetrating Stain
Easily Repairable
Easy Soap & Water Cleanup


Plus, when I looked at TimberSoy's MSDS, the WORST thing I could find was that if you swallowed too much of it, it would cause "gastric distress."  :)  Well, that sure is a lot better than Olympic's worst-case scenarios.  In fact, it's probably no worse than the gastric distress that some of my failed cooking has caused my poor husband.

TimberSoy doesn't come in a huge range of colors, but who cares.  You can find a lovely little color chart here.  And, you can order 2-ounce samples for $2.75, which I highly recommend doing so that you can see how the colors actually look in real life.

I ordered 5 samples and tried them out on a spare piece of wood we had.  You can see in this picture how weathered the deck was compared to that newer piece of wood.  I couldn't find an inconspicuous-enough spot on the actual deck to try out the colors so I used that spare piece of wood even though it was a different color than our deck.

From left to right: Cedar, Cherry, Maple, Natural, Redwood.

We chose the Maple.  The Cedar wouldn've looked nice too, but the Natural didn't look dark enough to cover the gray.  The Cherry and the Redwood honestly looked kind of fake.  

Now, one gallon should be able to cover 400-600 square feet.  Our deck is only about 200 square feet so I figured that one gallon should be plenty.  I ordered a gallon of the stain, and a gallon of their Acri-Soy Sealer.

I sanded the deck by hand (what a pain!), which I don't think even made much difference.  I don't know if the previous owners had ever stained or treated the deck at all so thankfully I didn't have to do any stripping. 

When I applied the stain, the wood absolutely SOAKED it up because it was VERY porous.  I had to order another gallon!  And with the second gallon, I was able to finish the rest of the deck and even go over some of the boards that came out lighter the first time.  Except, when I got to the bottom of the can, the stain started getting darker and darker and the boards I was staining were looking much darker than the earlier boards I'd stained.  And then I realized that I had forgotten to follow the directions:

STINK!  The colored part of the stain had sunk down to the bottom, so the first 3/4 of the can had been so watery that it didn't really add a lot of color.  ARGH!  How did I not notice that at first?!  I could have just left it the way it was, but it was pretty noticeable that some boards were darker than others:

Do you see how the boards on the perimeter are lighter than the inside boards?  

I placed one more order: a quart and several samples sizes of the Maple.  Those were just enough to go over all of the lighter boards.  In the end, most of the boards got about three coats.  After I waited a few days for that to dry completely, I put on two coats of the Acri-Soy Sealer.  

I LOVE the result.  I LOVE that I didn't have to worry about negative health effects while working with the stain and the sealer, and every time we sit on the deck, I don't have to worry about inhaling toxic vapors.  There was slight smell to the stain, I won't lie, but it wasn't heavy and chemically and it did go away after a week or so.  

One gallon of the stain is $39.95, and one gallon of the sealer is $34.95.  The shipping was definitely not cheap.  Especially since I had to place three orders and pay that hefty shipping charge each time! (Not counting when I ordered the samples; they were very light so the shipping wasn't bad.)  However, it only took a couple of days to get my orders in each time.

So this project was a lot more expensive than I'd planned, because I made the mistake of not mixing the 2nd gallon, and because I didn't know how much stain the wood was going to soak up.  I do think that three coats of stain looks a lot nicer than just one coat would've, because the color is much darker and richer.  And it was more expensive than just picking up a gallon of Olympic at Lowe's.  But to us, it's worth it to avoid those possible negative health effects.

I highly recommend the TimberSoy wood stain!  Read the installation guide and the FAQs on the website if you plan to use it.  It's so nice to have been able to find a non-toxic, eco-friendly deck stain that won't kill us and that made our deck look amazingly better than it was to begin with.

One more time, the before and after, because I'm so proud of how it turned out!