Safe Paint for Your Home

Picture 3I love how a fresh coat of paint is such a simple way to transform your house more into a home. Whenever we have painted rooms in our home in the past, we have always been overwhelmed by the intense smell of fresh paint, to the extent that you just knew it was bad for you. Did you know that while adding color to a room, you are also slapping on lead, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and xylene-all potentially hazardous to your health? These neurotoxins are powerful enough to vaporize into the air you breathe. After automobiles, paint and its companions are the second highest source of VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions. The smells tend to stick around upwards of a week as the paint dries but can last up to three months. That is three months of exposure to toxic chemicals!

We recently painted our children’s bedroom and were thrilled to discover that there are several high quality chemical free paints on the market that are safer for your home and the environment. We were also pleasantly surprised to find these alternatives to be comparable in price to the conventional brands. Now that it is finally painted (it has been white walls for three years now!), we truly feel more settled in to our home and I love it!

What to Choose & Understanding the Labels

  • Natural paints and finishes: Using a paint that is made from natural raw ingredients will produce a paint that gives off no smell. This is the ideal and safest choice if you have access to it (see sources below), but will be more expensive than the other options. Ingredients include: plant dyes, oils and resins; minerals such as clay, chalk and talcum; natural oils and waxes such a bee’s wax; milk casein and natural latex.
  • Zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) : This paint meets the EPA Standard of 5 g/L (grams per litre) or less. It appears that it can still have some chemicals though (learn more about this debate here). Pigments will increase the VOC ratio.
  • Low-VOC: This paint meets the EPA minimum requirement of no more than 250 g/L and no more than 80 g/L for oil based paint to be consider low-VOC. These paints, stains and varnishes use water as a carrier, contain no petroleum-based solvents and have very low levels of heavy metals and formaldehyde. So it can still have an off-gassing effect, just not as significant as conventional paint. Look for paints with the Green Seal Standard (GS-11) certification or the Green Guard Air Control label. Pigments will increase the VOC ratio.
  • So next time you are considering doing a little redecoration in your home, check out these safer alternatives.

    Safer Paint Alternatives

    Acro Pure by Miller Paints (Oregon & Washington) is described by the company as being “free of anything inappropriate, contaminating, extraneous, polluting, or impure.” A buy 1 get 1 free coupon is available in the Chinook book, which was an incredible deal, saving us $30.  Acro Pure is green seal certified and contains ZERO-VOC. The label says absolutely 0 g/L. There was a very slight smell when originally applying but it went away within a few minutes. I was told the smell would be a result of the pigments but not the base.
    by Rodda Paint (Alaska, California, Idaho, Oregon & Washington) – A buy 1 get 1 free coupon is available in the Chinook book as well.
    Old Fashioned Milk Paint – All natural milk casein based paints with earth pigments. Completely natural option that I will be trying next time.
    Green Planet Paints – Another mineral based paint.
    Homestead House Paint Company (Canada)

    For a complete guide on 35 eco-friendly paints, visit Eco-Friendly Paint, The Complete Guide.

    Have you used any of these alternatives? What were your results?

    About Lindsay

    Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

    19 Responses to Safe Paint for Your Home

    1. Mandy September 13, 2009 at 5:17 pm #

      Both Home Depot and Lowe’s now also carry zero VOC lines, although I haven’t been in Lowe’s lately, the ad I saw claimed they started at $17/gallon, and their color selection may be better than HD?

    2. Crazy Charm August 31, 2009 at 6:16 am #

      I was a little disappointed with the review of Freshaire paint from “Eco-Friendly Paint, The Complete Guide”. I recently painted my entrance and another high traffic hallway with this zero VOC paint. I loved that adding their colorant didn’t add any VOCs unlike some other eco-friendly brands.

      I did not mind the smell at all. Honestly, the only smell I detected was a faint one, similar to Elmer’s Glue. The color turned out great and has held up very well. I’ll definitely be using it again!

      I really enjoy your blog and stop by often. Thanks for the links! :)

    3. Alison @ Wholesome Goodness August 29, 2009 at 7:42 pm #

      I’m so glad you posted on this topic! I did some research on zero- or low-VOC paints a couple of years ago, but I’ve never heard feedback from anyone who’s actually used the stuff. I wonder how well they hold up over time (e.g., fading). I’m about to start a few painting projects, and I would feel a lot better about them if I could use a healthy paint. I keep running across the Mythic brand. They can match any color and are zero-VOC. One thing I really want, though, is a spray paint. I wonder if anyone makes a healthy spray paint? Has anyone else seen one on the market anywhere? Some of these projects just can’t be done with a brush.

    4. Carrie August 29, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

      We have used primarily zero voc paint in the house and I love that there is no lingering smell. I also have used Milk Paint from our MAB paint store. I love that paint, but it is pricey. We painted our entire living room with it and it smelled like coconuts and bananas! My husband kept questioning if it was really paint that would last. Well 2 + years later it resists stains and has held up very well. If you can afford the extra cost, it is a great paint.

    5. Shannon Hazleton August 29, 2009 at 12:26 pm #

      PIcs, pics, pics!!! (Please) :) I love the sound of that “vintage green” and want to see your boy/girl room. Thanks for all the info.


    6. Melody Joy August 29, 2009 at 8:21 am #

      I was just talking to my husband about this! We’re painting the house that we’re moving into and – especially b/c we’re ttc but I want to be able to help with the painting and such- We searched diligently for low-to-no V.O.C. paints. The only problem we ran into was the price. Not being in the Portland area (we’re all the way down and over in GA), we don’t have the Chinook book, but I’m on the lookout for other types of coupon books. Considering it an investment, we spent it anyway. I was wondering, though, do you know of any less expensive Zero V.O.C. paints? How do these ones that you list price out?

    7. Shannon August 28, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

      Important information – thank you for the links :)

    8. Michelle @ Find Your Balance August 28, 2009 at 10:25 am #

      Great info! This is one area I had not looked into yet. I really do abhor the smell of paint…and the way it gets all over your skin and sometimes you don’t see it and it dries…ugh!

    9. Emily August 28, 2009 at 10:23 am #

      I have to ask: what color did you paint the kids’ room?

      • Lindsay August 28, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

        It’s like a light vintage green. Its really cute and works great for gender neutral! I will post some pics once we get some decor on the walls. I found some cute frugal ideas that I want to pass on. ;)

        • Kate August 28, 2009 at 3:46 pm #

          Too funny I was going to ask if you could post pics!

    10. Carla August 28, 2009 at 9:54 am #

      I wish I had thought this through before beginning our garage-painting project. I’m basically doing it myself, using conventional paint of course, and kind of struggling with my asthma a little bit. Too late now. Odd how you can know something but still not think of it at the right moment. And you say the low VOC price is comparable to conventional? I didn’t think it would be.

      • Lindsay August 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm #

        The Acro-Pure brand that we purchased was $31 per gallon and all the other conventional brands ran anywhere from $25-35 depending upon the quality, so it was definitely comparable.

    11. Sarah August 28, 2009 at 9:31 am #

      Oh, what great timing. I was just going to look into that this weekend. Thanks for doing the research for me! :)

    12. Kika August 28, 2009 at 9:23 am #

      Have any of you found low or no VOC paints in bright colors? This summer, when choosing paints for my daughter’s room, we were so disappointed that the only no VOC paints to be had in our region offered very pale, pastel-like colors. So we went ahead and used normal paint because my daughter had been dreamin of a bright blue and green room for ages. I want to do more painting but would prefer to find less toxic alternatives but won’t be satisfied with pale color.

      • Lindsay August 28, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

        Hmm…the paint we purchased from Miller Paint was just the flat base (white) to which we added whatever color we desired, so it did not come pre-colored. They had a whole wall of color swabs that we were able to chose from. I understand that to be the standard method at most paint stores. You may want to look into the online stores linked to above. There was a very wide assortment of colors and many of the companies offered samples.

    13. allison August 28, 2009 at 8:20 am #

      Just a quick “Thanks”, Lindsay, for putting a Canadian company in there!! :)

    14. Ellen R. August 28, 2009 at 7:58 am #

      We recently painted our large living room using the Sherwin Williams Harmony line (I think it’s zero VOC) and there wasn’t a smell at all from it. Great paint and it covered the wall well.

    15. Heidi August 28, 2009 at 7:57 am #

      I have used the Harmony paint from Sherwin-Williams several times in the last 6 months. It is a fantastic product. We’ve put it in a bathroom and a bedroom. It is a zero VOC paint. It covers well, and it is wearing well in these high traffic areas. I highly recommend it.