TIP: Durable Finish for Enclosed Spaces
A key factor in choosing a finish for an enclosed space such as a drawer, cabinet interior, humidor or a small room such as a wine or liquor cellar is residual odor. All types of varnishes and lacquers outgas smelly solvents for many days or weeks depending on the thickness applied, the temperature, and the air movement. If you can’t allow that much time, you need to choose another finish.
The two that will leave the least residual odor are shellac and water-based finish. Both contain solvents that evaporate fairly slowly (alcohol in shellac and glycol ether in water-based finish), but they leave almost no odor.
It’s still best to allow adequate time for the finish to dry completely. A way to test is to press your nose up against the finish and take a whiff. If there’s absolutely no odor, the finish is dry.