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Many designers suggest that a quick and simple way to change the look of anything from a room to a side table is to change its color. But when you head to the local hardware store, you’ll not only see hundreds of brands and shades to pick from but also a wide variety sub-options – including eco-friendly paint. If you’re looking to protect your health and the environment, than choosing eco-friendly paint could be the best option.

What Is Eco-Friendly Paint?

Eco-friendly paint, or natural paint, is paint that has been specially designed to have lower levels of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs, for short). You know that generic paint smell you get when you open a new can or walk into a freshly painted room? It’s the VOCs you’re smelling. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs “may have short- and longer-term adverse health effects,” and “while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.” VOCs are the main reason painting instructions advise that you only work in well-ventilated areas.

Waste Management Inc. lists paint products that are latex- or oil-based as household hazardous waste and have a special service for disposing of them. The pigments used to create the colors can also be hazardous at certain levels since many are made from heavy metals.

Outdoor paints and paints designed for bathrooms or kitchens may also contain fungicides, while many paint brands include biocide to increase the product’s shelf life. According to Green America, “toxic biocides can be detected in the air five years after paint is applied.”

That said, traditional paints have to abide by specific legal requirements for toxic ingredients to be considered safe for human use. However, if you’re looking for more natural alternatives, you have some options.

Benefits of Eco-Friendly Paint

Environmentally friendly paint is made from a variety of natural materials, including clay, milk proteins, citrus, balsam and other minerals. One example is milk paint, which is made from the milk protein such as casein and a little lime. Milk paints have been used for hundreds of year and usually come in powder form. When mixed with water before use, it emits little to no order. However, it is intended only for internal use and doesn’t weather well if used outside.

Since eco-friendly paints are low in VOC chemicals, they’re much safer to use in your home. Additionally, the EPA and nonprofit groups like the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute set specific standards that environmentally friend paints must meet to qualify for the term.

Remember, when you’re at the store or looking online for eco-friendly paints, pay attention to these things:

  • Check that it’s labeled low or no VOC
  • See if it’s certified by GREENGUARD Environmental Institute
  • Look for a certified organic label
  • Check out what ingredients are listed (like heavy metal pigments or petroleum)

If you’re looking for some eco-friendly paints, here are a few brands to get you started:

Emerald Interior Acrylic Latex Paint

Eco-Friendly Paint: What Is It, and Is It Worth the Money? - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Image: SherwinWilliams.com

Although this brand does include biocides and fungicides, it has been certified by GREENGUARD for low chemical emissions. This brand offers hundreds of color options and four finishes, including matte, flat, satin and semi-gloss. They also offer exterior paints, which are low in VOCs but not certified.

KILZ Original Low VOC Primer

Eco-Friendly Paint: What Is It, and Is It Worth the Money? - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Image: Lowes.com

Although this brand isn’t certified, it is low VOC and has high reviews through Lowes. Intended to go underneath your color coat, this primer is designed to resist major staining and protect the walls of your home from damage.

Natura Paint by Benjamin Moore

Eco-Friendly Paint: What Is It, and Is It Worth the Money? - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Image: BenjaminMoore.com

This line of paints, including both paints and a primer, is zero VOC, asthma- and allergy-friendly, and gives off zero emissions after four hours of dry time. It also comes in a variety of colors but is limited in its distribution and can be hard to find.

Overall, eco-friendly paints, although better for your home and the planet, can be more expensive and harder to find, so be sure to keep that in mind when planning any projects for your home.

Have any tips and tricks for new painters out there? Share in the comments!

And don’t forget to recycle that paint can!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I need to paint a few wood doors and a steel garage door – normally enamel is used for this. Is there an enviro friendly option, and if so, are there Johannesburg outlets?
    Incidentally, used paint tins can be used as buckets

    1. Hey Dennis,

      The environmental-friendly option I know of that claims to work on garage doors is DuraSoy Pro Paint. According to its product sheet, it works on primed metal. I do not know if it is available to you locally, so I would recommend contacting a nearby hardware or DIY store to see about your options.

      Thank you.

  2. I’d like to know if there is a certain amount of time that I would have to stay out of my house because I have both allergies and asthma. I would be painting during the morning/afternoon so will I be able to return home that evening? Thanks in advance!!

    1. Hi Linda:

      It’s hard for me to give you an answer to that question. I’m seeing different things online and everyone’s body reacts differently. I think the best thing for you to do would be to get low or no VOC paint. If you’re having a professional do the painting, they may have recommendations in this area. You could also speak to your doctor. They would be most familiar with your condition and level of sensitivity.

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