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baby in crib hand holding crib bars

Painting baby furniture requires the proper paint and techniques. Here’s how to make sure your baby furniture is safe for the little ones.

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Surprise: Our family is expecting two little bundles of joy this fall! We’re ready for the challenge, but our house? Not so much. We’re still working on figuring out the nursery, which includes the usual variety of furniture: Cribs, changing table, dresser and more.

In searching for the best cribs for our needs, we quickly found that even the most expensive ones looked all the same! Besides some fancy bells and whistles here and there, most of them were drab colors, which simply will not do for our colorful new additions.

So we decided to go with simple, straightforward furniture and paint all of it.

Simple, right? It seems so, but we quickly learned that painting baby furniture is not like painting anything else in the house. Here are a few tips we learned along the way.

Transitional Nursery by Auckland Interior Designers & Decorators indi interiors

Making sure your baby furniture is safe

If you’re planning on painting a brand-new crib, you won’t have much worry about safety issues. A second-hand crib is another story. Make sure that any crib you use is no older than a decade, and that it meets the standards of safety issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Safety must absolutely come before anything else — no exceptions.

While you’re at it, look at the safety requirements for all other types of baby furniture in your nursery. It doesn’t take long to look it up, and the peace of mind is an amazing thing.

Contemporary Nursery by West Hills Interior Designers & Decorators Amber Interiors

Once you know your crib and other furniture is safe, it’s time to look at the paint. If your crib has been painted in the past, make certain the paint does not contain lead. Pick up a test kit at your local hardware store and test the existing paint before you put your own on top of it.

Remember, your baby (or babies!) will be gnawing at their furniture as they get older and begin teething — like biting down on that crib railing while they wait for you to come pick them up — so make sure what they do choose to chomp on is safe.

Got past those hurdles? Now it’s time to paint your way to a colorful new nursery.

Choosing and using the right paint

paint can in a rowWhen preparing a room for your littlest ones, it is vitally important to choose paints that are as free of harmful substances as you possibly can. That means choosing low-VOC paints, or better yet, paints with zero volatile organic compounds, known as zero-VOC. Look for paints that also have a low number of additives. These paints are almost always going to be much more expensive than others on the shelf, but they are worth it for the peace of mind.

Remember: Just because a paint says it has “no odor” doesn’t mean it has no VOCs! It simply means that the manufacturer chose to use chemicals that don’t have as much of a discernible odor as others do. Read the label thoroughly to know exactly what is in the paint. When it comes to tints and specially-mixed paint, remember that the tint itself might contain VOCs. The darker the color, the more chemicals you will probably find in it.

Think about timing

Paint the furniture many months before your bundle of joy is expected to arrive, to allow more than enough time for the paint to settle into the furniture and any off-gassing to complete. You don’t want the room or furniture to smell of paint at all when it’s time to bring the baby home. And no matter how much you want to, don’t paint anything when you’re pregnant, let someone else take over those duties.

Sanding

Lightly sand all surfaces of the furniture to help the paint adhere, but don’t roughen up the surface. You want something that is just slightly rough to the touch. When painting, allow at least six hours between coats, more if you want to be absolutely safe and sure the paint is dry. Apply at least two coats, making sure to cover every last millimeter of the surface — you don’t want to make it easy for paint to chip in the future.

Good air flow in the nursery

During the painting and for several weeks afterward, ventilate the room. Even if you aren’t smelling the odors of paint, you still want to make sure the air is as fresh as possible. Open a window and place a fan in it to draw the air out. Let this run for at least two or three days, or longer if you can.

And that’s it! Sit back and enjoy all that beautiful furniture while you wait for your little one to arrive.

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.