How And Why To Choose Low/No VOC Paint.


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You know that smell – that freshly painted room that looks great but gives you a headache. In fact, if I am gone all day long and it’s warm out, when I get home I can still smell the paint in my house from 4 months ago when the landlord repainted it prior to us moving in. That is how long the chemicals in “regular” paint can last! That is why when I painted a room in our old apartment in California, the last time I painted much of anything, I used a Low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paint, and I was amazed at the lack of overpowering smell. I was painting my home office with this paint and when I was done I actually went right to work, surrounded by drying paint. No headaches, no nothing. It was tremendous. Some VOCs are greenhouse gases and therefore contribute to global warming and others are just bad for your health. While a few VOCs occur naturally from cows and trees, many come from manufactured products such as paint thinners, paints and varnishes and dry cleaning solvents. These VOCs contribute to illnesses and have been determined to be a cause of ”˜sick building syndrome’. The EPA has found concentrations of VOCs in indoor air to be 2 to 5 times greater than in outdoor air due to paint and other products. Lucky for us, major paint companies are now making low or no VOC paints we can use, which really reduce our exposure to these chemicals. Here are a few companies that make these paints, which you can find at most major home stores now.

Mythic Paint

– This low odor, zero toxicity paint from Mythic Paints is a non-toxic, ultra low odor paint that provides the durability and coverage you expect from a premium paint without the off-gassing VOC’s and cancer-causing toxins that emit years after drying.

Benjamin Moore Natura

Natura interior waterborne paint is a zero VOC, virtually odorless formula.

AFM Safecoat

– Zero VOC Pearl from AFM Safecoat is a premium quality, fast curing paint designed for interior surfaces where a soft sheen and superior film formation are needed. SCS Certified & LEED Qualified.

Bioshield Natural Paint

The BioShield collection of paints, stains, thinners and waxes is made primarily from naturally-derived raw materials including citrus peel extracts, essential oils, seed oils, tree resins, inert mineral fillers, tree and bee waxes, lead-free dryers and natural pigments.

While there are many other products available, the most important thing you can do is pick any one of them over your “standard” paint. The low-VOC product I used, from my local Ace Hardware, worked great – so I imagine these “name brand” paints would work well too. Picking one of these products is safer for you, your home, and our environment, so choose wisely next time you go to paint. Have you had experience with any of these paint brands? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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  1. Excellent article. My wife and I just used low v.o.c. paint for the first time about a week ago. Our local Home Depot didn’t have the color we wanted and couldn’t order it, but our local family owned hardware store could! Even better yet!

    The difference between traditional and low v.o.c. paint is astounding, and it was nice to be able to sleep in the freshly painted room the same night.

    Looking forward to the day when the demand becomes so high for these paints that they will become the new standard.

    Thanks for the article.

    1. Typical paint takes a long time; as I mentioned, I still smell ours 4 months later if I am gone for an extended period of time and come back. I don’t smell it on a daily basis though. And no, it doesn’t make a difference, as the “regular” paint has probably already mostly finished off-gassing anyway.

  2. I’m also a fan of Dunn Edwards No-VOC paint. Though it was $10 more than a gallon at your big box hardware depot, it required half as much paint because it’s a quality product and there was no odor that i could smell at any point.

  3. Trying out American Pride on the rec of guy at green building center. Says better than AFM Safecoat + 1/2 price of Ben Moore Aura. Haven’t done more than primer so far tho. (no VOC)

  4. One thing to remember about low voc paints is once the tint is added it can smell. We used EcoSpec which is the first Benjamin Moore eco paint and the yellows smelled terribly. The smell went away quicker than normal voc paint but it something to be concerned with if you are sensitives to smells. AMF is made for people who are chemically sensitive. I used their primer and it was amazing and made painting so much easier.

    I have used bioshields stains but if I recall (this is five years ago) the stains were transparent. They could have changed. AMF low voc water based stains are great. Loved their polyurethane as well.

    There is alot to choose from now which is great. I love the fact that you can paint using a dark low voc or no voc paint now such as Aura, Sherwin Williams, etc.

    I have heard good things about American Pride as Jess had mentioned above. It is important that you can source your paint easily because nothing is more frustrating then needing more paint and you can’t go and get it.

  5. I painted child’s room with BM Natura a year ago. Still smels very badly. Any advise what to do? I am keeping the rest of the paint i original can.
    Never use BM Natura!!!!!

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