Nitrocellulose is toxic to humans

Nitrocellulose lacquers (alternative names Nitro, NC- or CN lacquers) are a family of lacquers (or, in a broader sense, paints) which are named after the binder used, cellulose nitrate - which is often incorrectly referred to as nitrocellulose.


Nitro lacquers based on synthetic resins synthesized from cotton were developed in the USA in the early 1920s as quick-drying paint for automobile production. Until then, the only paint that would dry in a reasonable time (approx. 48 hours) was the so-called Japan Black, which led to the famous statement by Henry Ford that you could get your cars in any color as long as it was only black - other colors were previously reserved for real luxury cars. This paradigm only changed with the introduction of a blue, Duco True Blue named, DuPont nitro paint in 1923, first used on 1925 Oakland-branded General Motors models. Nitro lacquers were then used in the automotive industry until around the 1950s.

The German chemist Alfred Kraus (1899–1979) carried out fundamental research and extensive development of nitrocellulose varnishes.


The so-called is used for thinning, loosening or cleaning the brush Nitro thinner or -solution; it usually consists of hydrocarbons and esters, is usually very flammable and often harmful to health. Therefore, ensure that there is good ventilation when using it.

Alternatively, you can also use universal thinner, here too, good ventilation must be ensured.

Use, benefits

Nitro lacquers have good mechanical strength and are therefore primarily used to refine wood indoors, in particular furniture or musical instruments, as well as for metals indoors.

They are easy to process and dry quickly due to the high solvent content; For the same reason, however, they are difficult to paint over with nitrocellulose lacquers, because the solvent in the fresh layer dissolves the old layer underneath.

Contraindications, balance of benefit and harm

In addition to being difficult to recoat with nitrocellulose lacquers, these lacquers are considered to be comparatively sensitive to weathering (i.e. more suitable for indoor use), not very lightfast, and not very resistant to chemicals, water and heat.

Because of the overall negative benefit-harm analysis, alternatives such as B. Consider acrylic paint.


In addition to nitrocellulose, nitro lacquers consist of synthetic resins, pigments or dyes (except of course for clear lacquer), thinners and solvents, as well as plasticizers, matting agents, abrasives and light stabilizers.

Disposal, environmental, health aspects

Due to their high solvent content of up to 70%, there are health risks for the processor, and disposal is problematic: residues or waste must be disposed of in the hazardous waste and must not end up in the sewage - or even the groundwater - under any circumstances.

Solvent pollution is also a problem for the processor.

See also

Categories: Coating (building material) | Coating material | Substance group