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  #1  
Old 07-22-2009
zAr zAr is online now
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Varnish Fumes!

Ok, so I just bought a new 30 foot boat, my first, two weeks ago. I'm having a real problem with it because the previous owner put so much varnish on the interior wood the fumes are driving me nuts! He did this probably 4 weeks ago and I was sure the fumes would go away, but they just don't seem to. The can is some really old antique wood wax varnish, complete with poison symbol and "use only in ventilated area, do not inhale".

It's so bad that if I sit in the boat for an hour, even with hatches, companionway and portlights open, I get a headrush and the rest of the day I'm dizzy and spaced out.

What can I do to get rid of the darn fumes?! Any advice?

Thanks!

PS: I should mention I'm moving aboard next week, so I'm desperate.

Last edited by zAr; 07-22-2009 at 11:24 PM.
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Old 07-22-2009
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A big fan??

Maybe some fabreeze on the fabrics.

I dont consider any paint or stuff to be cured untill all the solvents have evaperated and the smell is gone.
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Old 07-23-2009
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Crack the hatches and leave an electric fan/heater or just fan if it's warm out running 24/7. That should accelerate the solvent evaporation. My guess is that the boat has been closed up pretty airtight since varnishing.
Brian
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Old 07-23-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mitiempo View Post
Crack the hatches and leave an electric fan/heater or just fan if it's warm out running 24/7. That should accelerate the solvent evaporation. My guess is that the boat has been closed up pretty airtight since varnishing.
Brian
Yeah, if only it would stop raining.

What do you think about using a blow dryer or heat gun on the varnish to accelerate the curing? If I'm careful I won't cause any fires, but I wonder about cracking...
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Old 07-23-2009
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Heat guns are a good way to remove varnish so I wouldn't. If it's raining crack hatch and use canvas to keep rain out.
Brian
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Old 07-23-2009
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This past winter I thought I would varnish the plate holders and magazine racks, all the different items mounted to the inside of the boat. I brought them home to my apartment and sanded them to prepare to varnish. I had 7 items and I put the first coat of varnish on. Holy crap batman, I got such a bad headache from the smell of the varnish. I did everything to get rid of the smell. Opening windows and doors, sprays, nothing seemed to work but time. I feel your pain.
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Old 07-23-2009
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Lots of ventilation

Zar,
Varnish can be VERY slow drying, especially in humid conditions. If the boat is in a slip crack the forward hatch and rig some plastic or canvas to keep out rain. Rig a box fan in the companionway, also covered with canvas or plastic to keep out rain. Set the fan so it's blowing out the companionway and pulling air through the boat. Now go get a beer, some pizza, watch a movie and come back in 12 to 14 hours. That may be enough air movement through the cabin to dry it out (this assumes the boat is in a location where you're not worried about someone breaking in). .

That's the simple solution. There are lots of different varnish types. Some of the old ones have some nasty chemicals, and some when they get old and outdated won't dry properly - meaning you'll have to strip the varnish off to get rid of the smell, or seal it with a coat of shellac.

Depending on what he used and to what extent it did or didn't dry, stripping could be anything from wiping it with rags soaked in thinner to using chemical strippers.

What brand and type of varnish did he use?

The good news is rigging a fan has a pretty good chance of drying the varnish, but you'll probably have to wash the cushions and carpet to get rid of the residual odor.

Don't even think about moving aboard if there is still a strong odor. Solvent fumes can make you VERY sick or even kill you in high enough concentrations. Long term exposure will definitely cause long term problems.

Jim
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Old 07-23-2009
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Varnish takes a long time to cure. The smell will go away, but it can take a long time. I wonder if part of the problem is the soft stuff in the boat like cushions, curtains etc. have ablsorbed some of the stench. Perhaps pulling all that out and ventilating it will help.
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Old 07-23-2009
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It could also be a wood preservative like Cuprinol.

Quote:
Originally Posted by baboon View Post
Varnish takes a long time to cure. The smell will go away, but it can take a long time. I wonder if part of the problem is the soft stuff in the boat like cushions, curtains etc. have ablsorbed some of the stench. Perhaps pulling all that out and ventilating it will help.
Creosote, bitumen paint and cuprinol wood treatment products

if it is a wooden boat. Some of this stuff is POWERFUL and takes 6 months to fade inside. It smells outside for months.
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Old 07-24-2009
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Solar powered vent fans will help a lot.
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