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Bona Australia
Bona Australia

Solvent vs Water-based Floor Finishes

Protect your own and your customers health by choosing water-based finishes.

The toxic health effects associated with occupational exposure to solvents have long been recognised. Solvent-based timber floor coatings are toxic, carry serious health risks and are harmful to the environment. They are classified as poisons and are dangerous not only to those who apply the coatings, but also home owners and other ‘passive’ users who come into contact with these products.

Despite solvent finishes now being illegal in Europe, and greater health and safety awareness around timber floor finishes in general, contractors in Australia still use solvent finishes, placing themselves and their customers at direct risk.

Water-based coatings are non-toxic and environmentally responsible. Bona Sweden pioneered the development of water-based floor finishes in 1979 and is now the recognised world leader in non-toxic water-based coatings for timber floors.

What are the health risks of solvent-based finishes?

Solvent finishes pose serious health risks. Some of the health effects related to short and long-term solvent exposure include:

  • • Chronic and Acute Asthma
  • • Sleep Apnea
  • • Clinical Depression, Aggressive Behaviour
  • • Impaired Fertility, Birth Defects, Neurocognitive Development
  • • Memory Loss, Brain Damage
  • • Peripheral Nerve Conditions
  • • Increased Susceptibility to Cancers
What is a solvent-based finish?
Solvent-based polyurethane finishes were the standard choice for coating timber floors back in the 1950’s. The technology is based on chemical formulas which use solvents as the carriers for the polyurethane. Solvent finishes are classified as poisons and pose serious health risks.
What’s the main difference?
The main difference between solvent-based and water-based finishes is the amount of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) which are emitted as gases during the curing process of the coating. VOC gases are toxic and flammable. Solvent coatings release high levels of VOC’s posing serious health risks, with off-gassing continuing up to months after application. Water-based finishes emit such a low level of VOC’s they are considered harmless.
How much VOC is in Bona finishes?
Most Bona finishes are below 80 grams per litre (g/Lt) VOC and none exceed 90g/Lt, well below the strict EU standard of 140g/Lt. Solvent finishes contain toxic VOC’s of between 300-850g/Lt
What are the regulations?
In Europe, where the EU controls VOC levels in building supplies, solvent based finishes are illegal to use by commercial contractors. In Australia, there is no such legislation in place. Solvents can be used by contractors with no health warnings required to protect home owners. This exposes the contractor to risk and the threat of litigation.
Which type of finish wears better?
The technology of water-based finishes provides equal or better wear resistance to solvent-based and better retains the natural colour of timber, with no toxic fumes or health risks.



  • 300-850g/Lt VOC
  • Solvent-based polyurethane
  • Toxic hazardous chemicals & Isocyanates
  • Classified as a poison


  • Toxic fumes and Isocyanates
  • Asthma, Headaches, Nausea, Respiratory irritation
  • Impaired fertility, Nervous System Disorders, Insomnia, Depression, Anxiety, Fatigue
  • Contaminates foodstuffs in fridge & pantry
  • Requires toxic chemicals for clean-up
  • Home owners should vacate home for up to 14 days due to toxic fumes off-gassing


  • Plastic unnatural appearance
  • Yellows
  • Old technology, Designed for yesterday



  • 40-90g/Lt VOC
  • Water-based polyurethane
  • No hazardous chemicals
  • No health risk


  • No toxic fumes
  • GreenGuard Gold Certified
  • No effect on fresh or stored foods
  • Easy clean-up in water
  • No need to vacate premises, Home owner can remain throughout application


  • Beautiful, natural looking finish
  • Non-yellowing
  • Hard-wearing protection proven on millions of square metres