how to safely paint a crib

Ok!  So we painted our crib.  It was a big job with all those spindles and we, of course, chose the hottest weekend ever to complete the project, but we did it and we love it! 

Today I am going to explain each step to you in case you are looking to do the same.  I'll share not only the process giving you the tools to create a beautiful, durable finish - but the knowledge you need to make sure you are painting your crib in a safe way for your baby... it's all in the materials! 


Let's talk about safety first.  The reason we chose to go this route is because so many of the finishes on cribs available now are not non-toxic.  Not only that, but the finishes are mostly really standard: white, off-white, and some various wood tones.  We wanted more color than that and we wanted to know exactly what was going on our crib.  If you plan to paint your crib, consider the following:


1. Is the paint (& primer) you are using safe?  Really safe?  

With our paints, I don't have to worry about this. I know and am 100% confident of the safety.  Our paint not only is free of all VOCs that might off-gas into the air our little one breathes, but it is free of ALL other toxins that might linger, off-gas or be potentially harmful should she chew on the crib.  When you purchase paint for this project, we highly recommend ours. Obviously.  But should you be going another route, you should read their MSDS carefully and look for any potential dangerous ingredients.  Even paints marked no VOC can still contain a small amount of VOCs and have few restrictions on other toxins.  So do your research! 


2. What are you painting over?

We chose this IKEA hardwood unfinished crib.  I originally thought the base was particle board which was a huge bummer, but when it showed up I found that IKEA has changed this and the base is hardwood also.  Wonderful!  There are a lot of unfinished hardwood cribs out there to choose from if you are going this route, but be sure to call the manufacturers and ask because a lot of them contain SOME hardwood and SOME particle board.  This isn't to say you can't paint over something other than an unfinished crib.  The unfinished crib gave us certainty that we knew each component, but if you have a crib that's been kicking around there is no reason you can't paint it - the process is the same and while our paint won't seal in any toxins from the previous finish, re-finishing an older crib is a nice, sustainable option.  


3.  The mattress.  Why bother going through all this effort to create a non-toxic crib if the mattress is going to be full of VOCs and other yucky stuff.  The mattress was a big point for us because a lot of the organic mattresses are super expensive.  I'm talking as expensive as our own mattress (which by the way is NOT organic...  sigh).  We registered for this mattress, after doing our research. It seemed to be the best choice that fit into our budget, but don't forget this piece.  If you are painting more for the color and less for the non-toxic piece this may not be important to you.  Just something to consider! 


Ok.  So you have your crib and your truly non-toxic paint in a fun color.  Now what?  Here are the details on how to get the job done:


1. Sand ALL pieces of crib lightly. 

We chose to do this before we set up a crib so we could really get into all the nooks and crannies.  If you are not sure what material your crib is made out of or what finish is currently on it, you may want to wear a mask during this part to avoid breathing in the dust.  No need to go crazy sanding. A light once over is perfectly adequate. 


2.  Wipe down all pieces with a damp cloth and allow to dry.  

It's important to remove all the dust you created by sanding, otherwise it will end up in your paint and create lumps. 


3. Assemble crib, if not already done. 

We chose to put our crib together to paint it.  You can definitely do it in pieces as well, we just felt like it was easier when the pieces could stand on their own rather than having to lean them on something and do each side separately.  Totally up to you! 


4. Prime. 

An important step.  The primer is the first layer and will create a great base for your choice color.  While it is important to cover the entire space, don't worry if it looks a little streaky or uneven.  

Tips:  Paint WITH the grain of the wood for each piece.  Even at this stage you want your brush strokes to be flat and even. Watch for drips and try to be neat.  You can easily fix anything as you will need to sand again anyway (sorry) but it's good practice time for the finish coat. 



5.  Allow primer to dry completely. 

We say overnight, but really - a few hours should be good.  


6.  Lightly sand.  Again. 

The whole thing.  

You will feel the difference immediately.  If you run your hand over the crib once you've primed it and it has dried you'll notice it feels a little rough.  A very light sand will smooth it right out and create the perfect base for your next coat.  COLOR! 


7.  Wipe off any dust. 

Again, you don't want this to end up in your paint. 


8.  Add your color! AKA paint it!

This is the fun part and when you can really start to see the transformation begin.  We chose to use our color Slipper from the Estate Collection.  It's a perfectly sweet pink.  

No matter what color you've chosen the process is the same. I like to start at the top of each piece and work my way down, that way I can catch any drips as I work and brush them out.  Again, you want to paint in the same direction as the grain of the wood for EACH piece. 


9.  Allow to dry completely. 


10.  Check for any drips/imperfections

Before doing your second (and final) coat, go over the crib and look for any drips you may have missed.  You can sand these down now.  Also look for any areas you may have missed all together (the undersides of the top rails were the culprit for us).  Make any adjustments before applying your final coat. 


11.  Add your second coat and allow to dry. 

The second coat goes much faster.  Be sure to follow the grain of the wood again and be as neat as possible.  Once it has dried, you're done!  


Now lets talk materials:

Paint: If you are using our paint, be sure to use our Satin finish.  It is designed for furniture/trim and is really durable.  It has a slight sheen which looks great on furniture.  You could also use our chalkboard finish which is durable enough for this project and could be fun if your crib has larger areas on the outside the kids could eventually draw on.  There is less sheen with this finish if that is what you are going for.   Again, we use Slipper

Primer:  We used our wood primer which has the same great non-toxic, zero voc, awesome qualities as our paint.  Try it!  

Sanding Block/Paper:  We used a relatively fine grit sanding block.  The boy, who did all of the sanding, likes to use sanding blocks as opposed to paper because his hand doesn't get as tired, but either will work.  Sometimes I like the paper because I can bend it around the spindles rather than having to run the block all the way around. 

Brushes:  A good angled paint brush will work best for you here.  If you have a crib with larger areas you could use a small foam roller as well, but be sure to brush it out after you roll it to create a flat finish. 

Drop cloth: We just used the box the crib came in, but a drop cloth, old sheet, blanket, etc. will do to protect your floors. 

Rags:  One for wiping dust and one for wiping any drips.

Good Attitude:  Am I so lame?  But seriously, painting all those spindles takes some time and can be annoying so go into it thinking about what a good thing you are doing for your baby and put on some nice music. Enlist your partner or friend if they are willing.  Company helps!  The boy and I started at opposite ends and worked clockwise.  


That Rigby, she can't resist a good photoshoot.  

We still have some things to finish on the crib.  We haven't attached the base yet, because I'm in the process of sewing a crib skirt for it (have I mentioned my obsession for my new sewing machine?).  I'll show you pics when I'm done, but I'm using these two fabrics:

It will be mostly the gold polka dots with just a peek a boo of the green...  can't wait to finish it! 

Then of course we need to add the mattress and bedding. I'm thinking pretty simple for the bedding - white most likely.  That's the last big project we have for the nursery.  Other small things Include hanging the curtains:

I had some extra sheers from IKEA and added this emerald ball trim which I found at etsy for $5! 


We also need to finish the room divider and then accessorize.  Time is running out - better get on it! 


So today I'll leave you with a photo of my belly - the little, growing person who will eventually call this room home...  taken by my seriously talented sister, Leigh Dameron.  Tomorrow I'm 31 weeks... 


If only she lived closer and could take pictures of the nursery for me.  She's so amazing... both behind the lens and in general. 


Thanks for following along.  The next post will be the completed nursery, so stay tuned for better photos, from real cameras...  


ps. sorry for all the iphone photos... my big girl camera is officially dead so until I get a new one I'm stuck with the iphone.