It's safe to say there has been a revolution in the way people paint. Knowing that every choice we make will affect the environment in some way, consumers are demanding paint companies to be more environmentally responsible. Conventional paints are full of harmful chemicals, usually Volative Organic Compounds (VOCs) and sometimes heavy metals. It's no wonder the smell would drive the painter out eventually unless they were wearing a quality mask. Conventional paints aren't good for us, why would they be good for the planet?
Thankfully, many paint companies have come to the same realization and are offering more natural alternatives. You're probably aware of Low-VOC or No-VOC paints. They've been showing up on the shelves in your local hardware stores, but you might not have understood why they were bad for you, and bad for our planet. So here is your complete guide to the most natural paint products on the market, what you should be watching out for, and everything in between.
So let's begin with VOCs. You're probably wondering what VOCs are exactly. Well, Volative Organic Compounds (VOCs) are organic chemical compounds that are able to vaporize and enter the atmosphere. The most common VOC is methane, a relatively potent greenhouse gas with a high global warming potential 25 times greater than carbon dioxide. With the capability to weaken your air quality, VOCs may be harmful to your health. Many VOCs are found in your home, leading to a concentration of 2 to 5 times greater VOCs compared to outdoor air. This can get up to 1000 times greater than the air outside depending on your activities. And VOCs will continue to be released even after the paint is dry.
Made to be better for our health and our environment, natural paints are non-toxic and made without the VOCs. Simply reading the labels you'll see the difference; plant dyes, milk proteins, clays, resins and essential oils. But being a responsible shopper can still be difficult because the labeling doesn't always tell the truth. For example, zero VOC paints can still contain VOCs. EPA regulations allow paints with less than 5 grams of VOC per liter to qualify as a zero VOC product. And low-VOC labels are correct, they will contain less harmful chemicals, but they still contain them. They will also have less odor and be a little safer than normal paints.
Now that you have a basic understanding on why it's best to avoid VOCs in your home, let's talk about the different types of natural paints available on the market today. You'll be able to color your home while minimizing your carbon footprint. Without the dubious chemicals, toxins, and VOCs, these paint products contain naturally occurring elements. This is especially helpful to people with respiratory problems, like asthma, and allergies. Many manufacturers of natural paints, or non-toxic paints, are online companies – so expect to have it delivered.
Milk Paint by The Real Milk Paint Company is 100% organic and completely natural. Based on the old fashion way of making paint with curdled milk; Milk Paint is made from powdered purified milk protein, lime and pigments. That's right, an organic paint – so you know it's environmentally friendly. And Milk Paint goes through a process that absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, so this paint will actually improve your air quality.
Organic Linseed Paints by Solvent Free Paint are made from Allback, Sweden. They offer a 100% organic paint product containing cold pressed flax seed. It's chemical and lead free, but will fade over time. You'll need to maintain the paint every 5 to 10 years with a linseed oil wax, but it's said to last 50 years by doing so. This is a wonderful product for older homes because this type of paint was used in the past.
The Freshaire Choice is certified by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI), a non-profit organization providing verification for low-emitting products. Not only is this environmentally friendly paint, but the packaging, color chips, and even the can are all environmentally safe. They truly went above and beyond.
Green Planet Paints are different in that they use a sustainably produced soy-based alkyd resin as the starting point for their paint. They also fully disclose the ingredients in their clay paints; natural mineral and plant-based. Extremely community driven they are dedicated to natural paints and hire locally to support the local job market.
BioShield's paint collection is made mostly of naturally-derived raw materials. This includes citrus peel extracts, seed oils, essential oils, inert mineral fillers, tree and bee waxes, lead-free dryers, natural pigments and tree resins. And the green living extends into BioShield's business ethics as well.
ECOS Paints are organic. You'll find non-toxic pigments, mineral fillers, waxes and water in these paints. With no solvents present, there are no VOCs. Ecos products are also free of pesticides, herbicides and 100% non-toxic. The owner actually demonstrated this by eating a spoonful of paint from a random container in the factory in front of HSE. Ecos has been around since 1988, so you can see they are doing something right. They specialize only in natural paint and natural varnish.
When it comes to cost, it's difficult. Some non-toxic paints will cost more than conventional paints, while others are surprisingly less. You'll have to shop for specific products (i.e. indoor, outdoor, colors) to see the differences in cost. Another aspect of painting with natural paints that can be an annoyance is finding the right color in the brand with the ingredients you want. Companies are coming out with more and more colors, but you might want to have a back up choice or two.
Not everyone will be able to purchase 100% natural paints, for one reason or another. That's why we're including a quick list of Nationwide Retailers who are approved by the Green Seal organization. They are much stricter than the EPA, but will still allow 50 grams per liter (g/L) of VOC levels in paints (compared to 250 g/L with the EPA). It's better than choosing the conventional paints. For a more complete list, please visit Green Seal's website here.
Benjamin Moore, EcoSpec Interior Line (Latex Primer Sealer, Flat, Eggshell, Enamel, and Semi-Gloss Enamel
Dutch Boy, Clarity Interior Latex line (Primer Sealer, Flat Wall & Ceiling Paint, Satin Wall & Trim Enamel and Semi-Gloss Wall & Trim Enamel
Vista Paint, Carefree Earth Coat line (Primer, Flat, Velva Sheen, Eggshell and Semi-Gloss)