You can treat the toys in the same manner you would for a cutting board, utensils or turned bowls – there are several options.
FIRST…DO NOT use vegetable oils they can become rancid after a period of time. You can use a specially formulated cutting board oil or salad bowl finish – they are safe for food contact after drying.
- Walnut oil: It is available grocery stores or some mail order woodworking supply stores. Nice thing about it is that is a true drying oil that reacts with the air and hardens. Oils are generally safe for food or toy use after they’ve dried for 30 days. I’m not sure Walnut Oil can cause a problem with “nut” allergies however..
- Pure Tung Oil. It has no driers or solvents. It is essentially just a vegetable oil but produces a nice finish that won’t go rancid. Use only Tung Oil that is “pure”.
- Watco® claims its oils are suitable for food or baby use if they’ve been allowed to dry for 30 days or more. They say it takes this time for full polymerization.
- Rockler’s Toymaker’s Finish
- Shellac: Those who think shellac is something that once coated furniture and has been replaced by polyurethane should think again. Shellac is one of the oldest substances for food coatings. A resin secreted by a tiny, female beetle as a means to hold her eggs to the bark of a tree, shellac is produced in India or Thailand. After shellac is harvested, it is used to formulate confectioners glaze, which lengthens shelf life by providing a glossy finish for pan-coated candies such as chocolate covered almonds. Pharmaceutical companies actually use it for pill coatings.
- Most water-based polyurethanes are often non-toxic when dry BUT check the label to make sure.
- Latex Paint. Some paints claim to be non-toxic when dry, but again–check the labels.
- You could just leave items unfinished.
In any event, if you are unsure about any finish you plan to use, contact the manufacturer and request the information. You can also request an MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheet).