Greener Paint Options - Natural, Low and Zero-VOC Painting

January 17, 2012 View all articles in General

Anyone with the task of repainting a room is familiar with the distinctly unpleasant smell of wet or drying paint. In an effort to make paints last longer, many paint companies will add any number of chemicals and metals to a paint in order to give it a specific color or toughen it up for outdoor use . A paint's VOC rating (which stands for “volatile organic compounds”) refers to the amount of volatile components found in these types of paint. Typically, paints with a high VOC rating will release more fumes into the air after they dry and use more chemical components (such as heavy metals or other similar toxins) than paints with a lower VOC rating. Individuals interested in using more “green” paints on their next remodeling project may want to consider lower VOC paints that create fewer fumes and are generally less harmful to both humans and animals.


These kinds of paints are made from naturally occurring raw ingredients rather than man-made chemicals. Typically, “Natural” paints use water, various kinds of oil from plants, wax, mineral dyes, chalk, clay, and other similar ingredients. And while the water-based “Natural” paints claim to give off very little (if any) odor, oil-based “Natural” paints are more appealing than their chemical counterparts in that they tend to have a more citrus-like or essential oil aroma. Some Natural paints include:


Low VOC paints qualify as “greener” paints if they use no more than 200 grams worth of VOC material per liquid liter of paint, or 300 grams per liter for varnishes. In order to achieve a “Green Seal Standard” any Low VOC paint must use no more than 50-150 grams of VOC per liter depending on whether or not the paint has a flat or non-flat sheen. Low VOC paints will give off fumes when drying, but tend to be less harmful than regular paints that use a great deal more chemical ingredients. Some Low VOC paints include:


According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if paint has 5 grams of VOC per liter or less, it qualifies as a “Zero VOC Paint”. These types of paints typically use different dyes and even fewer chemicals than their “Low VOC” counterparts, and have little-to-no odor after the paint is dry. Typically, Zero VOC paints are not as common for outdoor use, since the general lack of chemicals tends to keep the paint from lasting as long in direct sunlight, rain, and other weather. Some Zero VOC paints include:


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