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Are Rub 'n Restore® Products Safe? Facts & Handling

Posted by Lesandre on

In late 2017 we implemented new labels for our vinyl and leather restoration products. These labels include the Global Harmonized System (GHS) of hazard information required by law. Suddenly we're getting many concerned inquiries, “Does Rub 'n Restore® cause cancer?”

Rub 'n Restore® Color & Clear Prep+Finish™ Labels

While our products do contain chemicals “suspected of causing cancer,” you're not going to develop cancer from using Rub 'n Restore® products once in a while, especially considering the ubiquity of other chemicals in our daily lives. CC and I have been using these products every day since 1987 when she started a mobile repair business. We both have clean bills of health. 

Let's look at the suspected cancer-causing ingredients.

  • 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene – Often paired with gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil and products with petroleum distillates, it is also used in protective surface coatings. Our products contain less and half a percent of this ingredient. And this is probably not the first time you've encountered it. It's also used in aerosol or liquid insect pest products and furniture polishes.1
  • Ethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether - Also known as 2-butoxyethanol, this common ingredient is found in liquid soaps, sterilizing and cleaning products, and cosmetics. “It is the main ingredient of many home, commercial and industrial cleaning solutions.” You'll be surprised to learn that “it is also approved by the US FDA [United States Food & Drug Administration] to be used as direct and indirect food additives, which include antimicrobial agents, defoamers, stabilizers, and adhesives.” 2
  • Solvent Naphtha – More commonly known as mineral spirits, you may have a can of this common paint thinner in the garage.3
  • Titanium Oxide – Used as pigment for paints (like ours), “it has UV resistant properties and is therefore used to act as a UV absorber.”4 This makes it great for the marine vinyl on your boat or the leather sofa in your south-facing window, but it is also the main ingredient in sunscreens, cosmetics, and skin care products. Like our paint, it is also used in salad dressings and cake icings to enhance color. 
  • Quartz (SiO2) – Also known as silica, it is the most abundant mineral in the Earth's crust. Quartz is an ingredient in the white pigment used in many of our Colors. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) assumes the Color will be sprayed, not sponged. Spraying silica creates a fine dust. Extended exposure to airborne silica causes progressive lung injury or silicosis.5 Long before the purchase of the formula behind Rub 'n Restore® (and the creation of the MSDS), CC and I were unaware of this and sprayed a lot of it during our Vinyl Lady days restoring aircraft, RV, and auto interiors. Thirty years later CC is in good health and attributes this to a diet free of processed food. Speaking of processed food, you may also be surprised that quartz is used as a drying agent and occasionally as a fining agent used to bind and filter impurities in alcohol and juices.6


You can read the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for our products here:

  • Clear Prep+Finish™ (85% water and the base ingredient for our line of Colors)
  • Color I (all Colors containing white pigment, titanium oxide and quartz)
  • Color II (all Colors without white pigment)


It's likely that you have recently touched, inhaled, and eaten the aforementioned chemicals. It's very unlikely that you would develop cancer as a result of occasionally using Rub 'n Restore® on your furniture, car or boat interior. It's no worse than the latex paint on your walls and is a far cry from the chromium used to tan leather, the PVC used to manufacture vinyl, and the flame retardants used on carpets and other upholstery.

What can you do to minimize your exposure from the chemicals in Rub 'n Restore®?

1) Don't eat it! 

2) Stick with a sponge for applying our products. If you need to spray a surface, try to do it outdoors or ventilate the area. If you're particularly sensitive, wear a respirator (though CC and I never did working inside RVs and found our stuff was much more benign than SEM SureCoat and other competing leather/vinyl restoration products).

Lastly, we encourage you to be aware of the other endocrine-disrupting and cancer-causing chemicals in your daily life:

  • memory foam mattresses (where you spend 6-8 hours every night)
  • non-stick cookware
  • microwave ovens, WiFi, cell phones
  • triclosan (the active ingredient in antibacterial soaps)
  • air fresheners and scented candles
  • pesticides and herbicides
  • laundry and dish detergents
  • cosmetics, sunscreens, lotions, body washes, and hair products
  • food and water packaged and stored in plastic or styrene (Styrofoam®)
  • genetically modified and processed foods
  • even coffee which contains acrylamide and is now labeled as cancerous in California!


On the topic of food again, check out this shredded coconut. It contains propylene glycol to maintain freshness. 

This same synthetic chemical, though not deemed cancer-causing, is used in antifreeze and vape pen liquids.7 And yet in 2012 our pigment supplier in California had to eliminate it from our universal colorant as part of their zero VOC reformulation. The coverage and opacity of pale colors containing white have suffered ever since. Zero VOC is required for paint and coatings but not for your e-cigarette or your macaroon? Go figure that one out. 

Your exposure to carcinogens is already far greater due to chemicals in your home than the occasional use of Rub 'n Restore®. The vast majority of these toxic substances are unnecessary and can be easily eliminated from your daily life without compromising the protection of your skin and the cleanliness of your home, laundry, baby, and body. When it comes to painting the living room or restoring your couch, you make an exception and don’t lose sleep over it. Remember, stress causes cancer too!


1 “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Commonly Used Products.” New York State Department of Health, December 2007, https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/voc.htm.

2 “2-Butoxyethanol.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Mar. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2-Butoxyethanol#Commercial_uses.

3 “White Spirit.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Feb. 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_spirit.

4 “Titanium (IV) Oxide.” Allergic Contact Dermatitis Database, Contact Dermatitis Institute, www.contactdermatitisinstitute.com/titanium-iv-oxide.php.

5 “Silicon Dioxide.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Silica#section=Top.

6 “What Products Contain Silicon Dioxide?” Reference, IAC Publishing, www.reference.com/health/products-contain-silicon-dioxide-35e27a2e93b125cc.

7 “Propylene Glycol.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Mar. 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propylene_glycol#Applications.

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