"A Revolutionary Product?" Finally, a company that delivers on that statement!
Do you like to stain those pallet projects but get tired of the mess, the powerful odors, and the hours of dry time? There’s now a better way to do a stain and finish. I didn’t think it could be done, but you can now use a non-toxic, pet/child safe product indoors without needing respirators and an Haz-Mat unit standing by or taking days to do it.
Pure Color Inc. has a line of wood stains that are safe to use indoors, and around pets and children. They’re non-toxic and don’t give off those horrible VOCs that make traditional stain products unbearable to work within a closed area. The products dry quickly, enabling you to apply a finish coat in around 30 minutes. Plus, they’re non-flammable and just as easy, if not easier, to use than ordinary stains and sealants. They’re shipped in eco-friendly, recyclable packaging that is not only easier, but neater to handle than traditional round quart cans. And they clean up with ordinary tap water. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
Well, it gets better.
You can also use them like paints to create unique and blended colors on wood.
You can also dilute them down to soften the intensity of color so that you can get a functional stain by stretching one quart out to one gallon!
Plus, they’re competitively priced.
A quart of Minwax stain runs, on average, 15-20 dollars at Amazon.com at the time of this article. A quart of Pure Color’s Stain-in-a-Box will run about 25 dollars. Yes, a little more money, but I absolutely cannot dilute Minwax with water down to 1 part of stain to 4 parts of water and get a functional product. That means that if I want a softer, less intense color, I can end up paying around $6.25 per quart by using Pure Color products. And would you dare do any staining indoors around kids or pets? Not with traditional products. Pure Color’s products didn’t trigger migraines in my chemical-sensitive husband, and even bugs didn’t avoid the product like traditional stains!
I bet you think that I’ve either inhaled too many VOCs myself, or I’m pulling your collective legs. Nope. I’m not making any of this up. This is what the Pure Color representatives told me, and I didn’t believe them until I recently tried their products out at my home. Around my pets. Around my husband who complains about even my shampoo scents.
So Why Would I Switch? The Beginning:
Pure Color Inc. asked me to try out some of their Stains-In-A-Box and provide my opinion on them. They told me I could be honest if I liked – or disliked their products. That confidence definitely intrigued me. Their package insert had me snorting at their “claims.” I’ll explain why that’s in quotes shortly. Here’s some of what is on their insert, and their website as some of the highlight points:
- Non-toxic and odorless makes it safe around children
- Fast-drying technology allows top coating in less than 30 minutes
- The transparent finish highlights the natural wood grain
- Non-flammable and non-hazardous means no special handling or storage
The short-and-simple summary if you have no further time (or interest, haha) is simply... YES. It’s all true! 100% and I was NOT paid to say that. I approached this as a stain agnostic at best. After all, I’ve been using traditional brands found at the Big Orange and Big Blue boxes for years. They’ve all worked okay. They have their shortcomings, but I’m used to them, and there’s a certain comfort level. So why would I try something new just because they asked? Because, like many of you, I know we’re all around enough chemicals already. I don’t want to dump toxic products down the drain or have to wait for hazardous pickup days once a month. This old dog is willing to learn a new trick or two, in other words.
Pure Color Packaging:
I’ll address their claims momentarily, but first, let me share with you my first impressions. This stains-in-a-box really is sort of like those wine-in-a-box kinds of packages. It’s a recyclable cardboard box, about the size of a thick hardcover novel, and when you open it, you find a squishy, pillowy plastic bag with a large twist cap. Intriguing. And, very user-friendly for a variety of reasons. You also get a very simple pictogram-style set of directions, as well as the written directions below. I think mine came in both English and Spanish. Ok. I read the directions. I was now really ready to give it a try and be able to toss my brush to the ground in triumph and say, “Ha! It doesn’t work!”
Mixing Pure Color Stains-in-a-Box:
But before you dispense, you do need to mix. Of course, you have to mix these stains, just like any other brand, but that’s actually a fun step now, instead of a mess riddled chore. Grab your stir stick…. Um…NO! Gotcha! Now you can turn that stirring stick into a garden label or something truly useful. No more of that for you, I say! No, you don’t shake them, either. All you have to do is to pick them up and simply squeeze the bag, sort of like when you’re marinating a steak in a zipper bag. It mixes in seconds, and you’re ready to go!
Advantages of the new style of packaging:
If you have any weaknesses of the shoulder, arm, or hand, you know how hard it can be to grip and move those darned cans around. Plus, they’re terrible when you try to pour them into a smaller container. It always means lots of cleanups – even if it’s the rim, so the metal lid doesn’t bond permanently. Then there’s the issue of opening a metal can. If you don’t have one of those keys, you’re prying it at it like a crazy person with a screwdriver. The lid always manages to sort of uncurling but doesn’t open because it glued itself shut when you slopped, poured, or just wiped the brush off carelessly. With Pure Color packagings, you get to actually handle a product in a dignified manner. Twist the cap, aim the little spout and simple tip. Dispense what you want. It even seems to let you get the last drop off into your little container so that when you close the cap, it’s just closed. No drama. No-fuss. No more hammers to close the lid, and splattering yourself with lid remnants.
But I rave about the packaging because at the time I am writing this review, I’m dealing with two torn tendons in my left shoulder, and the easy-to-handle quart bags were truly appreciated. Yeah – it’s what you think. I wrestled a bear and won. Of course! Well, insert any type of heroism you want for my shoulder injury. It’s much cooler than a simple trip/fall and a rolling chair incident. That lacks the style that I long to portray!
A tip the pros at Pure Color gave me was to gently “burp” the bag when you’re done. Why? To prevent that disgusting, product-consuming skin that forms on a half-empty container. Remove the air, and save the product. Brilliant! When the container is empty, it’s recyclable! You don’t have to wait for a hazardous material disposal day in your city! Hot damn, someone thought this through... finally.
…But Stains Have to Have a Strong Aroma to Be Effective…
But even though the packaging is awesome and innovative, it’s still a stain, so that means it’s gonna stink. After all, it’s impossible to make a stain that works well without all that chemical stink that makes your eyes water and gives you a headache if you aren’t in a well-ventilated room, right? Finally, I can say, WRONG! It doesn’t burn if you accidentally get some on a torn cuticle. It doesn’t make you feel like you’re climbing a mountain and need an oxygen tank. It doesn’t make you dizzy or nauseated. It’s almost completely odorless. Again – they’re telling the truth! This product line sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Hell yes.
To me, Pure Color stains have almost a nostalgic smell, sort of like those old sets of watercolors that you’d get in your holiday stocking where it had ten colors and a cheap, plastic brush. You could absolutely use their stains indoors and have no fear of making the family sick in my opinion. I’m not susceptible to headaches from traditional stains, but my husband gets migraines, and if I dared use a traditional product in a closed space, such as my “Old Bat Cave” (my hobby shed, haha), he wouldn’t be able to be in there with me at all. And the smell would linger... and linger... Well, if you’ve used a traditional product, you know.
Fast-Drying? Psh. It MUST need specialty equipment to apply.
Fast Drying? I bet you all are crying out that this is an impossibility. I did. Stains seem to stay tacky for a while. They make a mess. You try to move them or bump against the project, and you’ve got stain everywhere. I did a test stain on sixteen small pieces with a boring, cheap chip brush that gives you zero control as far as tiny amounts of stain, and by the time I was on the last one, the first piece was already dry so that you could wipe your finger across it. The grain didn’t get that wet, lifted look that it sometimes does (such as with Redwood). It is super-easy to apply. I used a cheap, disposable chip brush, and then another test with just a cotton swab, and both worked equally well. You apply it like any other stain and wipe the excess away just like you do any other stain, but you don’t have to let it dry overnight. It’s dry enough to apply a topcoat in thirty minutes, and they’re NOT exaggerating.
There MUST be something wrong with it, right?
I think their stains are basically transparent, but darker colors are going to hide more, of course. However, you can still see the grain. The light colors let you see all the details. But that’s fairly consistent with any stain on the market. I do think these are more true to the color samples – and maybe a bit more vivid than they show. Hang on – that’s not a bad thing! It’s just... Different than what I’m used to. I’ve used some colors, like Minwax’s “Golden Pecan” color, and on pine, it really did... nothing. It just seemed to make it look a smidge duller, almost like it had an old layer of dust. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing Minwax or any of the other major brands. The Golden Pecan color looks great on oak (and I think that’s what I bought it for when I got it).
What I mean by “more vivid” is my first impression. I set up practice pieces and initially tested three colors on Poplar, Redwood, Oak, and Pine. I picked some variegated pieces of Poplar since it’s notoriously difficult to stain according to the major woodworking sites. I picked very resinous Pine because it doesn’t seem to take stain hardly at all because it’s so oily. I chose Redwood because it aggressively sucks up stain AND the grain lifts. Oak... Well, it does what Oak does. Takes some stain and leaves that classic Oak zebra-striping, except on the end grain where it goes black. Even if you use an antique white, haha! Seriously, I did choose the wood I did because those are common pallet materials and their different staining behaviors that I personally fight against.
So, I applied the stains and, “WOW.” A good wow. Then, a more hesitant “WOW”, as I saw how intense some of the colors were when I wiped them off – and then more vigorously rubbed them off to remove more color if possible. I followed the directions, but I just wasn’t used to seeing colors actually showing up like they were represented. I was a bit intimidated by it at first. I started to think, “Crap! These are bright!” So I finished up and put them away for the night since I had to go to work – even though they were dry to touch already. The next day I brought the boards back out and found that they had mellowed a bit – or I’d grown to like them. I don’t care which happened, but I was really diggin’ some of the colors. Of course, not all colors may be aesthetically pleasing on all types of wood, and personal preferences come to play too. But, I liked the vast majority of the colors! Score! If Word lets you put little emojis in beside a smiley, I’d have an old-lady dancing here.
Comparison after drying:
24 colors on the stain-in-a-box line. But there’s more…
So now that I’m starting to really love the colors because of the variety, I learn another factoid from the Pure Color guys. You can PLAY WITH COLORS! You can use them almost like paints and layer stains. You can mix them into a custom color. You can dilute them with ordinary tap water to the softness you want. I now have the same powers the Stain Gods have! Mwahaha! Yes, you’re hearing me twist a classic evil villain handlebar mustache at this point. I tried it, and it worked. I used their gorgeous blue stain and layered it with the alabaster white to easily create a weathered look. I was in love! Not quite enough to give up chocolate, but I was pretty darned thrilled.
If you tried to mix the traditional stains, you end up with the well-known, and frustrating, an unidentifiable shade of dark. It’s not Brown exactly; it’s not black. It’s not even bold charcoal. Nope. Just... dark. I had an old Scout pickup that ended up about that same color, but it wasn’t any more desirable on a vehicle than a pallet project.
Test with semi-gloss:
Sure. The colors are great. Then the sealer must be the beast, right?
So, the stains rock. But what about the sealers? Those are usually disgusting at best. The skin over easily. They obtain levels of stink previously unknown to Man. They can be officially called STANK.
It was with trepidation that I cracked the seal on that squishy bag of semi-gloss after mixing in the same sensual way. I breathed within three feet of the bag. Huh. I was still living and conscious. I risked a careful sniff by wafting my hand the way I learned in chemistry class about a billion years ago when there were only three known elements. Still not stinky. Freaked out at this point, I risked a big sniff – like Ribeyes on the grill sniff. Come on, you all know that one. Still conscious and haven’t lost more brain cells. “Then it must suck and not work at all,” I muttered to myself as I poured a bit out. I applied them using the same cheapie chip brush that I’d used the day before. It went on smoothly and was dry-to-touch in minutes. What else I noticed was that it wasn’t bubbling up. It just dried. And to a nice, semi-gloss sheen. The only downside for me was that it is an INDOOR sealant. I don’t know if they have multiple gloss levels. I received the semi-gloss and asked the question. I’ll update as I find out.
CLEANUP – Just need tap water!
Cool – we’ve had fun. But cleanup must be bad since everything else is good. Nope! I was even foolish and forgot to wear gloves on the 2nd day. I made my hand blue. Not something that is a look, unless you’re going as a Smurf for Halloween. I was worried that I’d have blue cuticles for weeks as you have with traditional stains. I used Lava liquid soap, and in under a minute, my hands were pristine. No cuticle brushes until I’m about to bloody. No Scotch-Brite pads. Yes, I’ve had to resort to that. No one wants a nurse with dirty hands. The one cup that I slopped some of the blue colors into rinsed almost perfectly clean, and just took gentle sponging to get fully clean. Now, I’m not saying I’d drink out of it, but I don’t have to throw it out. It’s perfectly usable for the foreseeable future.
So that’s my summary. 99% thumbs-up. I’m just waiting to find out if they have an outdoor version of the sealant. Even with that mystery, I’d absolutely, and without hesitation, switch to Pure Color’s line of stains. Give ‘em a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know there are corporations who actually tell the truth.
Now if only I can get them to make a Presidential candidate who can do that. . .
I decided to try their stain out on a piece I'm restoring and REMODELING to accommodate a 1960's sewing machine I restored - this is a 1940's typewriter desk - mostly oak with Redwood 2ndary wood - and I used PureColor's Roasted Cherry color on the lifting top portion - which was the most damaged. You can see some pictures below.
See part 2 of this review: Think Outside The Box With Purecolor's Sustainable Fine Finishes