Whether you're redecorating your living room, covering up the screaming Pepto pink you once painted the bedroom, or just doing a little touch-up, there's more at stake when you repaint your home than color, What you choose affects your health and the environment, too. Here's how:
Conventional paint contains toxic chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that go airborne as soon as you open the can and start rolling the walls. VOCs contribute to smog when they hit the outside air. Indoors, VOCs in conventional paint have been linked to respiratory and nervous-system disorders, and contribute to the fact that indoor air can be ten times more polluted than it is outside. You know that headachey, cranky feeling you get when a room is being painted? It's usually due to the VOCs.
Fortunately, virtually every paint company in business has now developed a no-VOC, environmentally friendly paint. Most of these work like a charm. They roll on smoothly without polluting the air, and because they're water-based, they clean up easily with soap and water. I recently re-painted my entire home indoors and out with no-VOC paints, and I couldn't have been happier with the finished colors or the fact that I could work and sleep in my home while it was being painted with no ill effects.
Note that no-VOC paints can be somewhat more expensive than the conventional options. I justified the added cost with the peace-of-mind I had knowing my family wasn't getting sick breathing polluted air.
Some brands you should be able to find easily online or in your community include:
Sherwin-Williams carries a Harmony Interior Latex paint that contains zero-VOCs and is practically odorless. Its water-based, anti-microbial formula gives a durable finish that is washable and prevents mildew growth. The paint is available as both a primer and topcoat in eggshell, flat and semi-gloss finishes.
Benjamin Moore's Natura line is another no-VOC, low-odor option that can be tinted to match any color. Water-based, fade-resistant, and washable this "green" paint dries in 30 minutes and can be recoated after only one hour.
American Pride Paint contains zero-VOCs and is practically odorless. Its interior latex and acrylic enamel paints come in over 1,200 colors that are spatter resistant with a washable finish.
BioShield Clay Paints are made from naturally occurring earth borne clays, these paints are available in a range of down-to-earth tones and textures.
Green Planet Paints are made from plant resins and mineral pigments, containing zero-VOCs and are easy to apply. These natural paints come in a palette of 48 mineral and clay based colors that are extremely durable.
The Real Milk Paint Company produces paint made with milk protein, lime, clay and earth pigments. This paint not only consists of 100% organic material but also consists of zero-VOCs. It can be mixed with pigment powders to create virtually any color you desire.
If you feel you must choose a paint that contains VOCs, make sure you read the label. VOC content, which is usually listed in grams per liter, can range from 5 to 200. Choose the product containing the least amount of VOCs. Ask the retailer for guidance if you're not clear on your options.
Want to know exactly what you should be looking for when you shop? Check the products that meet the independent standards for health and safety set by Green Seal, a non-profit research institute.
By the way, painting with no-VOC paint is just the first step. To get the most out of every gallon of paint you buy, follow these Paint How-To tips.
And if you're inspired to green up other parts of your home, check out these eco-friendly home renovation resources.