A Comprehensive List of Non-Toxic Paints For All Uses

When it comes to painting your home, you may think the only things you need to worry about are choosing the color and putting it on the walls. But you also should consider the consequences of choosing a paint. Certain paints can be dangerous.

Read the label and choose the safe paint. Here are 9 paints that are non-toxic.

  1. Benjamin Moore Pristine EcoSpec
  2. Harmony Interior Latex
  3. Bioshield Clay and Casein
  4. Green Planet
  5. Dunn-Edwards EcoShield
  6. Wonder Pure Interior latex odor-free paint
  7. Olympic Premium
  8. Anna Sova latex wall paint
  9. Homestead House paint

In planning the transformation of your home, painting is usually at the top of the list. But keep in mind that some of these beautiful paints can be hazardous to your health. Fortunately, there are non-toxic alternatives available.

1. Benjamin Moore Pristine EcoSpec

This paint contains less than 10 grams of VOC per liter. It has a low odor. EcoSpec is an acrylic latex paint that comes in flat, eggshell and semi-gloss. You buy it as a based white and get it mixed with color. It doesn’t include the darker and brighter colors. It can only be mixed with whites and neutrals.

2. Harmony Interior Latex

This is a Good Housekeeping choice. It uses materials like soy, and sunflower oil in its formulation. By doing this, it keeps solvent content low and VOCs in the zero range. It is mildew and bacteria resistant.

3. Bioshield Clay and Casein

This is a powder that you just add water to. It’s made with natural ingredients.

4. Green Planet

This is organic paint. It is Soy-based and has clay formulations with mineral pigments. They also disclose all the ingredients on their can.

5. Dunn-Edwards EcoShield

This low odor paint was originally created for closed ventilation buildings. For example, it’s found in schools, hospitals and hotels. It’s ethylene glycol free. EcoShield is also an MPI Green Performance Standard rated product.

6. Wonder Pure Interior Latex odor free paint

The Devoe Wonder Pure line is odor free. It can be applied without sanding.

7. Olympic Premium

Olympic has a green seal certification as a Class “A” paint. It was also awarded the Home Safety Council’s Commendation Award.

8. Anna Sova latex paint

The Anna Sova contains 99 percent food grade ingredients. It’s branded as eco. This is a good choice for pregnant women and children’s rooms.

9. Homestead House paint

A 100 percent acrylic paint. It’s formulated to perform well in covering up previously painted walls.

What is Toxic or VOC paint?

Most household paint contains VOCs which are harmful to humans and pets. VOC paint is toxic paint. It stands for volatile organic compounds. It is has a gas that is released in the air the moment you open the can. That so called “wonderful” new paint smell is caused by these toxic compounds.

However, they actually perform a necessary function. VOCs solidify paint. When paint is spread on a wall, these chemicals help in evaporation. They make a wet wall dry. Don’t just blame the walls for the bad fumes. Painted furniture is also a culprit.

VOCs are linked to carcinogens. Some of these chemical compounds are:

  • Benzene
  • Methylene chloride
  • Xylene
  • Glycol
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phenol
  • Acetone
  • Carbamates
  • Touluene
  • Sulfur
  • And many more

VOCs also cause headaches that can develop while painting. Although many VOCs evaporate once they’re painted on the wall, some hang around for years. This can put your family members at a higher risk to develop allergies and asthma.

A lot of VOC paints also include preservatives such as methylisothiazolinone, and methylchloroisothiazolinone. These are potent biocides that control or destroy microorganisms like bacteria and microbes. While this seems like a great idea, the chemicals used are just as harmful as the microorganisms.

Why Are There VOCs in Paint?

VOCs are solvents used in paint. Solvents dissolve or disperse different components such as pigment and resin. They also make paint the desired consistency for application. Once the paint is applied, the solvent evaporates. Therefore, allowing the resin and pigment to produce a film of paint and dry quickly. The use of solvents provides durable and decorative coatings as well as glossy paints. They can be used inside or outside.

What is Non-Toxic Paint?

Unfortunately, household paint contains up to 10,000 different chemicals. Approximately 300 of these chemicals are toxins and 150 of those have been linked to carcinogens. Alarmingly, studies have shown that the indoors have 2 to 5 times higher VOCs than the outdoors. This is due partly to paints on the wall. Don’t just blame the walls and furniture for the fumes. You are most vulnerable both during and hours after painting or stripping paint. During this time, you’ll be breathing in these toxic chemicals.

There are now alternatives to VOC paints. Non-toxic or natural paint is available to the general consumer. Zero VOC paint usually has only 5 grams of VOCs per liter. It may still have a little VOCs but is significantly lower than toxic paint. It does have a slight odor during application but once it’s dried the smell only lasts for an hour, so you don’t have to leave for hours until the odor is gone.

Most non-toxic paints contain natural products. Some of these natural products include:

  • Vegetable oils
  • Plant dyes
  • Natural minerals

Binders in paint, which are the substances that hold the particles of pigment in paint, are also in non-toxic paint. Some natural binders are:

  • Linseed oil (from flax seeds)
  • Clay
  • Lime
  • Milk protein

Until recently, non-toxic paints didn’t perform as well as paint with VOCs. However, this is no longer the case. Non-toxic paint is now easy to apply. It also dries quickly and has no or little odor. One past complaint was that it did not cover completely. This is no longer the case. Cleaning non-toxic paint was once difficult, but today’s painted walls and furniture are easily cleaned and maintained.

What Are the Side Effects of Toxic Paints?

There are several side effects to toxic paints. Most of them are short term. But because they have carcinogens in them, there are also some long-term effects. Some effects include:

  • Irritation to the eyes, skin, nose, and throat.
  • Drowsiness
  • Staggering gait
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dermatitis
  • Anorexia
  • Incoordination

Some organs and systems are also negatively affected by toxic paints. Some of them are:

  • Eyes
  • Respiratory
  • Central nervous system
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Liver
  • Blood
  • Kidneys

What and When to Paint a Nursery

If you’re having a baby, you’re probably making plans for the nursery. You may be excited about choosing the right color. But you need to also pick the right paint. You’ll want a paint that’s safe for your baby’s health.

There are three types of paint you should choose from:

  1. Zero-VOC paint
  2. Natural paint
  3. Milk based paint

1.Zero-VOC paint

Although zero-VOC paints are safer than regular paint, they still contain some VOCs. They have to contain some VOCs, or they would not bond to the wall or furniture. But zero-VOCs contain 5 grams per liter as opposed to toxic paints that have VOCs of 150 grams per liter. That’s significant. Zero-VOC paints will reduce your baby’s exposure to VOCs by 96 percent if you live in the United States. The VOCs in zero-VOC paint are not listed in the U.S. Clean Air Act. This means that zero-VOCs are made with exempt VOCs.

Even though these VOCs that exist don’t fall under the Clean Air Act, paint can have VOCs that are exempt but have some toxicity. They also might contain undetected levels of VOCs that can still be problematic.

2.Natural paint

This is paint that is made with natural materials such as:

  • Chalk
  • Linseed oil
  • Soy
  • Citrus
  • Minerals
  • Plant pigments

However, some natural paints can still give off VOCs. Do your research. If you’re not sure, ask the manufacturer for a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS sheet). The MSDS provides detailed information on a controlled product related to:

  • Health effects of exposure to product
  • Hazard evaluation to the substance’s handling and storage
  • Measure to protect those at risk of exposure
  • Emergency procedures

3.Milk based paint

Manufacturers of organic paint from good old-fashioned milk paint claim to be the greenest paint there is. It just might be. Ingredients in the base paint are used in the food and pharmaceutical industries. They are completely biodegradable. And they include milk proteins and minerals.

Milk based paint is completely non-toxic and safe. In fact, they have been used for thousands of years and were popular until acrylics entered the picture. They are made from casein and don’t contain petrochemicals. Milk paints don’t emit any VOCs.

The downside, from a decorating perspective, is that you don’t have many colors to choose from. There are just 20 that you can mix with white for various shades. The paint has a very traditional look and is especially appropriate for antiques and other classic pieces. But they are difficult to mix and use. Although, it may be worth the work to you from a safety standpoint.

Potential baby allergies

Your baby may have a propensity to have allergies if they run in your family. Digestive issues may also be inherited. You may not even want to paint your baby’s nursery. You also should be wary of natural based paints. A baby spends a lot of time sleeping in their crib. They will be exposed to the plants that make up a lot of the natural paints. This potentially could cause problems.

Milk based paint may be the alternative. The Real Milk Paint Company claims they haven’t had reported case of an allergic reaction to their paint in 25 years. Regardless it’s not a bad idea to avoid painting your nursery. If you must paint. Make it a point to paint months before your baby comes. This will allow fumes time to dissipate.

Ways to reduce risk when painting your nursery

  1. Adding color to your paint can increase the VOCs. Dark colors, in particular, have high VOCs. Choose a low pigment. Color can add on average 10 grams per liter to paint. Some color will add as much as 100 grams per liter.
  2. Before choosing a brand request the MSDS from the manufacturer.
  3. When painting, keep the windows open as long as you can. Use an air purifier.
  4. Choose only zero-VOC paint or better. Double-check that any paint you use only has 5 grams per liter of VOCs or less.
  5. If you are pregnant. Don’t paint the nursery. Hire a professional or have someone else do the painting.
  6. Paint the nursery way ahead of your due date.
  7. Even better, don’t paint the nursery at all.

Do Non-VOC and Natural Paints Cost More?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Non-VOC paints do cost more than their counterparts. In fact, non- VOCs can be significantly higher in price than high-level VOC paint. Some non-VOC paint can be 60 to 80 percent higher than high-level VOC paint. A moderately-priced alternative to non-VOC paint is low-level VOC paint. This is not much more expensive than the high-level VOC paint. However, it’s much healthier. To give you a price comparison, a brand that sells a gallon of high-level VOC paint for $20 to $30, might sell a gallon of low-VOC paint for $40 to $50. They will probably sell the non-VOC paint for $50 to $60. You need to decide if the price difference is worth it.

Homemade Paint

Because low or non-VOC paint usually costs more, some people are looking for other alternatives. They have started creating recipes of homemade paint. A lot of these recipes contain chalk or animal products. However, there are some strings attached to making your own paint. They can be a hassle. For instance, you’ll have several issues to worry about like:

  • Amount of humidity in the room
  • Number of layers needed
  • What ingredients to use.
  • How long will it last

Sometimes, albeit more expensive, it’s easier to go with the natural paint.

There are 3 inexpensive, non-toxic paints you can make at home.

  1. Milk paint
  2. Flour based wall paint
  3. Chalk paint

How to Make Milk Paint

Milk paint can give furniture an antique almost translucent look. Because the texture is thinner than other paints it produces a vintage look. It’s not a paint you’ll want to use to cover walls. According to Bob Villa, these are the steps to making milk paint.

  1. Start with fresh lemons and limes and squeeze to get 1/2 a cup of juice.
  2. Mix with a quart of skim milk in a pot to curdle overnight.
  3. The next day pour the liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. This will separate the curds from the whey.
  4. Rinse off the curds in water to keep them moist and place them in a mixing bowl. The curds are the solid chunks and the whey is the liquid.
  5. Sprinkle in dry color pigment until you achieve the desired hue. Dry color pigment can be found online or in an art store.
  6. Apply it to your wood immediately. Do not wait or it will spoil.
  7. If necessary, paint a second coat. Keep in mind, it will dry lighter than anticipated

Don’t worry about the odor lingering. The smell will leave once the paint is dry.

Flour Based Wall Paint

This is the simplest and most versatile of all the homemade paints. Flour paint can be applied to most interior surfaces. You don’t have to be exact on your measurements as you do with other homemade paints.

Although you can use many types of flour as the binder; wheat flour is the most common.

These are the steps to making flour-based paint.

  1. Take 16 fluid ounces of cold water into a bowl. Combine the water with 16 ounces of flour. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
  2. Pour about 1 and 1/2 cups of water in a pot and boil it.
  3. Once it has boiled, turn the heat down and add the flour mixture. Stir the mixture continually with a whisk or another mixing tool. The mixture should turn into a paste within 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Once it’s a paste, remove from the heat. Check the paste’s consistency to ensure it’s thick. If it seems runny, place it back on the stove and give it more cooking time.
  5. Slowly pour 16 fluid ounces of cold water into the paste. Make sure you stir the entire time. The water will thin the paste to a paint-like consistency as you stir. Only use cold water or the paste will thin out too much. Be aware that adding the water too quickly will also thin out the paste too much. Therefore, it won’t be thick enough to cover your walls.
  6. In a mixing bowl, combine about 8 ounces of screened clay filler with around 4 ounces of a powder filler such as mica or iron sulfate. This will give your paint color and stability. It also prevents peeling and cracking on your walls. You can purchase screened clay from a landscaping company or online. Fillers are available online or from a home improvement store.
  7. Slowly add the clay mixture to the paste stirring continually. Mix the ingredients until the paste reaches the desired consistency. If needed you can thin the paint further by boiling if for up to 30 minutes, then mix about 32 ounces of linseed oil. Let it cool before using it.
  8. You are now ready to paint.

The paint will dry on your wall in about an hour. It will take 24 hours to cure. You can give it a second coat if necessary. Store any excess in a sealed container. It can be stored in your garage or any area like it. Keep in mind this is non-toxic paint so you can safely dispose of it. Merely let the excess paint dry out and place it in the trash. Do not dispose of any other paint (natural, low-VOC, high-VOC, etc.) in this manner.

Flour paint is too thick to use with a roller and tends to be hard on brushes. Buy inexpensive brushes with natural bristles. Don’t get fancy, you’ll just ruin them. Make sure you stock up. When you first apply the paint the brush marks may be evident. To remove these marks, allow the paint to dry slightly then smooth over with a damp sponge or clean damp brush. Going over the paint when it’s leathery will help reveal the mica or other filler.

Chalk Paint

This is an inexpensive way to give that aged or distressed look to your furniture. This paint is non-toxic but don’t swallow it. You may feel ill temporarily.

Steps to making chalk paint include:

  1. Pour 1.5 fluid ounces of cool water into a mixing bowl. Use tap water below room temperature.
  2. Add 4 ounces of baking soda.
  3. Stir the mixture in a bowl using a spoon or other utensil. Continue mixing until baking soda dissolves. The mixture should look smooth.
  4. Pour 8 fluid ounces of any color latex paint (latex paint is non-toxic) into a paint bowl. Add the baking soda mixture. Stir. Do not use oil-based paint.
  5. The chalk paint will come out smooth. Apply it to your furniture immediately with a brush. It will give it a chalky distressed appearance.
  6. Once the paint dries, sand it even with 180 to 220 grit sandpaper.

For more texture, you can also make this paint with Plaster of Paris or unsanded grout instead of baking soda. Us 4 ounces of either substance.

Is Old Paint Hazardous?

All oil-based paints are under the label of Hazardous Household Waste (HHW). They are not suitable for reuse after long storage. If you wonder if the paint in your garage is oil-based, read the label. It will say “oil-based” or “alkyd”.  If it instructs you to clean brushes with mineral spirits or turpentine, it’s oil-based. These paints are flammable and toxic. Any paint made before 1978 may also contain lead.

Oil-based paint cannot be disposed of in your trash. These paints must be taken to a disposal facility. Most communities simplify this by holding annual or semi-annual HHW collection days.

Latex paints can be easier to dispose of because they are water-based. They’re not toxic. But before you start thinking about how to dispose of them, you might want to think about how to store them. That way you can use them again on small projects or touch-ups on finished jobs. You can also use light-colored latex paint as a primer. That will save you money.

Below are steps to take in order to store latex paint.

  1. Cover the opening of the paint can with plastic wrap.
  2. Put the lid on securely. You don’t want it to leak.
  3. Store the can upside down. This will allow the paint to create its own seal.
  4. Make sure it’s out of reach of children. Don’t store it in a place that can freeze.

If you insist on disposing of your latex paint, there are several ways to do this. Remember, wet latex paint can be hazardous so it must be dried.

  • If there’s only a small amount of paint at the bottom of the can, leave it opened in the sun. That should dry it up. Make sure to keep it far away from children and pets.
  • When there’s more than the sun can handle, add kitty litter or newspaper to soak up the paint and speed up the drying process.
  • You could also paint cardboard and then throw the cardboard away when it dries.
  • If there is a lot of paint, purchase a paint hardener. You can find it at your home improvement store.

Once you have taken one of the above actions, you can throw the latex in the trash. Never throw oil-based paint in the trash. It is toxic.

However, another key to avoiding the disposal of old paint is to not over buy it in the first place.

How Much Paint Should You Buy?

If you measure your room accurately, you won’t over buy. You can save money and eliminate the need for disposal.

Take the following steps to measure your walls.

  1. Add together the length of all the wall and then multiply that number by the height of the room from floor to ceiling. The total number is the room’s square footage.
  2. Because you use a different paint on the doors and windows, subtract those areas from the rooms total. That equals 20 square feet for each door and 15 square feet for an average size window.
  3. A gallon of paint covers a square footage of 350 feet. Do the division. If it comes out to an extra .5 or so, just buy a quart.

The following formula will estimate the amount of ceiling paint you’ll need. Just double the amount if you need two coats

  1. Multiply the length of the ceiling times its width. This will give you the area.
  2. Divide the total number by 350 to figure out the gallons you need. Remember a gallon covers 350 square feet.

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