I'm making a set of drawers that will be used to store food. I'm using plywood and to seal it and make it easier to clean I'd like to use either varnish or if that's not possible, paint. Is there a food safe option for either that I can look for at my local hardware shop?

Apart from anything else I'm after something that won't make all my food smell and taste like paint.


In parts --

The smell from any paint or varnish is a result of outgassing. Leave the doors open and that should disappear in a week or less. If it doesn't, or the paint remains "tacky" then strip and redo with fresh paint.

Unless you are storing foodstuffs unbagged, there's no direct contact between food and the drawers, so it's a nonissue. If you are storing loose items (onions? ) I still strongly doubt any significant material transfer can take place. If worried, peel and/or wash before use.

  • Talking about off-gassing, most people worry about using oil-based paints because of how bad they initially smell, but they "finish" off-gassing much quicker than a latex acrylic so can actually be a better choice for a situation like this.
    – JPhi1618
    Oct 18 '19 at 17:50
  • Thanks Carl and JPhi, good to know.
    – stib
    Oct 19 '19 at 3:15

2-part epoxies mixed in the correct proportion are what is used on the interior of food cans, and in factory tanks which handle food grade materials.

  • They cure quickly, because they don't need to interact with air or moisture to cure, which means they aren't curing slowly while air moves through the layer.
  • Epoxies cure by interaction with each other, not air. This is why they can't ship epoxy in one can.
  • They also don't rely on volatile reducers to remain liquid, so they aren't boiling off chemicals for days or weeks.
  • The surface cures very hard, and so, isn't nearly as subject to spallation and mechanical wear as a soft "latex" paint might be.

However, this is above your local hardware store's pay grade, unless you want to try to wing it with their packs of 5-minute epoxy (pro tip: get the 12+ hour epoxy or you won't have nearly enough working time), or trusting their garage floor paint.

I would go for West System 105 epoxy, myself, and if you do any kind of woodworking or fabrication work, it's rather nice to have in the shop for anything from fiberglass to glulam to bondo.

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