Hazards of Polyurethane Floor Finish

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Polyurethane floor finish is a highly toxic, combustible material. Application of this material should only be performed under adequate safety conditions by or under the supervision of professional flooring installers. Professionals can employ the safety gear necessary to minimise the risks associated with installing this floor finish and still keep the product looking nice.

Eye/Skin Irritant

Polyurethane floor finish that contacts the eyes and skin can cause mild to moderate irritation. This is due to harsh chemicals present in the floor finish. Those with pre-existing skin conditions, cuts/abrasions or disorders may be at greater risk for irritation from polyurethane exposure. If the material contacts the eyes or skin, the National Fire Protection Association recommends flushing the affected area with water until the irritation stops. If the problem persists seek medical attention immediately.

Risks From Inhalation

Adequate ventilation is required when working with polyurethane floor finish to prevent damage to the mouth, lungs and the rest of the respiratory tract. The fumes caused by polyurethane can cause mild to moderate irritation, difficulty breathing and in some cases unconsciousness. According to the website for Clean & Healthy Floor Refinishing, volatile organic compounds in some kinds of polyurethane floor finishing have led to long term respiratory ailments.

Chronic Exposure

Chronic exposure to toxic chemicals in polyurethane floor finish can cause cancer, reproductive disorders and allergic reactions. To prevent these conditions from developing, the National Fire Protection Association recommends wearing protective clothing and respiratory gear at all times when applying floor finish.


Polyurethane floor finish is combustible. It may ignite with heat or fire causing its heavy vapours to catch fire as well. When this occurs it can lead to damage to property and of course it could kill you. This is why the room being finished must be adequately ventilated at all times to avoid vapour accumulation. Polyurethane finish should always be stored in a cool, dry place to prevent combustion due to heat.

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