SymptomsLoss of vision, severe pain in the throat, severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue. Wood dye is toxic during the application and drying processes, but is not toxic after a 30-day cure. Most wood dyes are not tested for food safety and therefore cannot be labeled as food-safe, but are manufactured in accordance with FDA regulations. Wood stain poisoning is the accidental or intentional ingestion (through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact) of stains for wood.
Water-based wood stain is slightly more expensive than oil-based dye and often requires more layers of dye to achieve a robust color, but it might be worth it for a safer product. While you should plan to complete any type of staining in a well-ventilated space (open or outdoor windows and doors), you don't need to worry about wearing a mask while working with these stains and finishes. Varnishes and dyes are sealants or pigments for wood made from a combination of resins, oils and solvents. Ultimately, the stain is covered with another finish, and even if it wasn't, given a full cure time, the stains should be OK to come into contact with food.
If you used a rag to apply wood stain or to wipe off excess dye, you should leave the rag in a horizontal position to dry, otherwise it could burn spontaneously. Ventilation reduces the concentration of vapors in the air, making wood dye safer for the consumer. More specifically, there is a lot of talk today about VOCs (volatile organic compounds), a blend found in many brands of wood dyes. Again, this is not a problem after the stain is dry, but when in liquid form, the wood stain is highly flammable.
Whether you're about to embark on your first wood dye project or you're a frequent DIY dyer, it's a good idea to learn about the products you plan to bring to your home. Not only do low-VOC wood dyes protect your family's health, they're also much easier to clean afterwards, since only soap and water are required. This all sounds scary, but the risks are minimal since wood dye is used in a well-ventilated area. However, there are a number of edible products that can act as wood dye, if you want to use a truly food-safe wood dye.