When I left off last time, I was finishing sealing the sill boxes in the basement when I ran out of crack filler with a half dozen boxes to go. My initial instinct was to run to the store for one last can. Instead, as I am trying to do with everything, I decided to further look into the product and see if there was a better alternative lurking somewhere else in the store or online.
Like with so many home improvement products, the insulating foam does not come with a discernible ingredients list that provides clear useful information for the consumer. What I found were the complications that typify green home improvement.
I began by searching for the ingredients in Great Stuff and came across this Report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Though the article applies more to larger projects where the spray foam is the main insulation, it focuses on the ingredient methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI). My next step was to see if Great Stuff contains MDI.
This research led me to the Household Products Database from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the department, the Great Stuff line, including the Crack Filler, does contain MDI. Therefore, I sought to find an alternative product.
A search for a green and sustainable foam sealant yielded nothing. My next step was to search for something that was at least not explicitly toxic. That search led me to Touch ‘N Foam Easy Fill.
The Easy Fill is latex based (which can be a natural, even organic, product, though it is unclear where Touch ‘N Foam sources it). I ran it through the Household Products Database and the EWG websites, which both returned no results. At a minimum this led me to conclude that the product contains no known dangerous chemicals according to the two sites’ standards.
This is the main difficulty for the average consumer. Researching just one product like this demands a lot of time and does not always provide conclusive results. The article from the EWG does point out that California is trying to fill the regulatory gap. Still, with a plethora of certification systems and a very uncertain future for EPA and government regulations, consumers bear the burden of the work and research.
Nontoxic seemed better than a known toxin, so I decided to try the product. However, I could not find it on the shelf anywhere near by and had to order it online to pick up at a local hardware store.
As far as using the product, it was better than the Great Stuff. It sprays from the can and expands at about the same rate. Though it is a bit less sticky, it still adheres to the surface without dripping. However, it does not set as quickly so it runs slightly more than the Great Stuff. There was a little sagging at the upper seam, but not enough to draw it away from the crack or make me doubt the seal.
The best difference, though, was the clean up. If you have ever used Great Stuff you know that it is a constant exercise in anxiety. If it touches anything you only have a few seconds to remove it before it permanently sticks. It also continues to expand from the nozzle when you have stopped spraying. Not so with the Touch ‘N Foam. Due to the latex base a quick clean up it can easily be wiped off of a surface. I tested it on my skin (I’m not advocating self product safety testing) and it easily washed off.
The research proved worthwhile, so for now, I will use the Touch ‘N Foam until proven otherwise.