When you spruce up your home with a fresh coat of paint, the senses feel reawakened, and it can be so therapeutic as a fresh start. Painting your home doesn’t have to be a toxic mess of chemicals, and your family will breathe easier because of it. Eco paint options are beginning to swarm the painting market, and this guide will tell you exactly how that affects you!
Why you should choose eco paint and why it matters is based on what traditional paints have versus eco-friendly paint options. Traditional paint and primer possess strong VOCs which continue to let off sometimes toxic gas even after having dried. These traditional paints raise your short- and long-term health risks of dizziness, fainting, headaches, eye irritation, heart or lung damage, as well as cancer.
Since the painting experts are getting smarter and smarter, we can too! You don’t have to stay in the stone age and poison your family with toxic fumes because a more natural option is available, (and it doesn’t even cost a fortune). This guide will be your comprehensive look at the differences between the paint types, the benefits for you and the planet, as well as top-rated recommendations on the eco-paint market!
As to what Eco Paint is specifically, we cover that in full here.
Why You Should Use Eco-Friendly Paint
Ecofriendly paint will help your family in many ways and costs roughly the same. So why not do your part to keep your family protected? While simultaneously doing something for the one and only home we get – planet Earth!
Here are the benefits and reasons why you should convert to Eco-friendly paint include:
- Low to 0% VOC Concentration – the Volatile Organic Compounds are very commonly found in the commercial paint brands you look to. They leave being a chemical waste that is not biodegradable and not recyclable. The VOC percentage in clay-based paints is much safer for the environment and your health. Low-VOC oil-based paints should contain less than 380 grams of VOCs per liter.
- Healthier for Your Lungs – Which leads us to your lung health! The fumes emitted in conventional paints are slowly weakening your air passages. We never think about the walls around us affecting our health, but if you purchase paint with high VOC levels, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Eco-friendly paints have many options that have very low to zero percent VOC levels.
- Decreases Risk of Cancer – Going hand in hand with lung health, you lower your risk for cell mutations and premature cancer risk and stroke. Studies show that being continuously exposed to VOC paints will cause the patient to be more prone to lung cancer and pulmonary diseases. In contrast, Eco-friendly paints don’t produce unsafe emissions that effect one’s health.
Here’s a link to the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) information on the effects of VOC chemicals on one’s health – EPA Indoor Air Quality with VOC Health Effects
- Non-Toxic for Environment – Chemical-based paints hold damaging components, such as naphthalene, benzene, and toluene. Eco-friendly paints do not possess these chemical as they hurt the environment as well as people’s health. Lowering or eliminating these chemicals also produces less waste, so you’re simultaneously lowering the size of your carbon footprint on the earth!
- Color Retention: Eco-friendly paint holds color permanence for just as long as traditional brands with some brands lasting even longer than toxic paints. Some argue they don’t want the natural option as they believe it doesn’t last as long. But that is simply not the case. Research brands and do your homework on reviews. It will all come down the quality, reputation, and price of the brand.
- Cost Efficient – Like any industry, there are lower priced and high-end options available. This will come down to what you expect from your paint, primer being included, how rare the clay is, and if VOCs are lower rather than completely eliminated. Do your homework and know which attributes hold the most value for you. This will make shopping easier.
On average, savings come from the long color retention, ease to spread that makes a small concentration go a long way, as well as the savings on your health from VOC levels and money spent on hospital visits.
These are just some of the basic reasons to consider the switch to natural brands but don’t worry if I haven’t sold you on the lifestyle change yet. There’s more research to come which may sway your skeptical mind!
The Hazards of VOCs
You know that strong paint smell that makes your brain a little fuzzy?
That smell is caused by VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are the culprit for the fumes that cause that disorienting feeling. VOCs are in conventional paints, but environmentally friendly products are made with zero to low levels of the VOCs.
The worst part about these VOCs is that they’re emitted not just while you paint and it’s drying, but also after the paint has dried! The faint effects may last for months to years, emitting a silent and potentially deadly gas that can hurt your family and the environment.
You thought the difficult part of choosing the right paint brand was color, but it turns out there are many more factors to account for than that.
You don’t need to compromise your family’s health in order to put a fresh spin on your home. Many homeowners have no idea about the harsh effects of traditional paint brands because the market hasn’t loudly educated us on them yet.
Those who are aware take their health very seriously and research with a consciousness that will change the planet. If each of us were doing our small part, imagine how different the world would look. Not to mention the health of you and your families’ lungs from opting for a more natural and toxic free brand.
Using eco-friendly paint over conventional will be especially important in rooms like nurseries and children’s rooms.
Side Effects of VOC in Traditional Paints
Scientists aren’t sure of the long-term effects of VOCs, but it doesn’t look good. I personally don’t want to use chemicals all over my home which scientists can’t prove are slowly killing me. It may not be, but are you willing to take that risk while they’re figuring it out?
There is research that proves VOC causes cancer in animals, suspicions made and a few VOCs that are known to cause cancer in humans, but they’re not sure about in paints. VOCs are cancerous, they know that much.
Some of the other side-effects of VOCs include:
- Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system
- Dizziness and fainting
- Conjunctival irritation
- Nose and throat discomfort, swollen passageways
- Trouble breathing
- Allergic skin reaction
- Declines in serum cholinesterase levels
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- loss of coordination
- Some organics can cause cancer in animals, known to cause cancer in humans
Studies have found that levels of VOCs on indoor paints are two to five times higher than on outdoor paints. The Environmental Protection Agency says that during and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels – EPA Volatile VOC Levels in Homes
Pigments that contain VOCs also lead to the breakdown of home materials that become breeding grounds for mildew. This causes even poorer quality of air for your family to breath in and raised risk for lung cancer.
The EPA sets a level of VOC emissions that they find ‘acceptable’ in paint products which paint makers must adhere to. But the EPA also warns that these paints can cause short and long-term effects on your health (see list and link above).
Protect your home and loved ones by switching to eco-friendly paint which is listed as low to non-VOC. This way, you’re not breathing it in for years to come and putting your family at risk.
What Makes Eco-Friendly Paint Different?
Eco-friendly paint is created using natural materials such as citrus, milk protein, balsam, and clay to create unique and earth-toned colors. Environmentally friendly paint offers the same quality as traditional paint while being superior in a variety of ways.
Besides, eliminating petrochemicals, VOCs, fragrances, and solvents, you’ll be improving the overall air quality in your home.
Just a few of the qualities that set eco-friendly paint apart from the traditional competition include:
Unlike larger, more corporate brands, eco-friendly brands will actually tell you the ingredients in the paint. They’ll advertise it right on the bottle in most cases because they are proud of their ingredient list as they should be. If not posted, request the information from the company, and they should have no trouble getting that to an inquiring consumer.
We all should know what we’re breathing into your bodies, and I would rather breathe in clay and citrus than dizzying chemicals that are slowly poisoning me.
Ability to Breathe
The big difference in the chemical make-up between the two variations of paint is that VOCs are trapped in the paint and exude for years to come. Natural paint has chemicals that can breathe and come from mother nature. You can breathe them in just like all creatures on the planet with above water lungs.
Traditional paints that contain plastic which creates a plastic barrier on walls when trapping air during the application process. This is what leads to mold and other breathing issues. Natural paints are breathable (especially with 0% VOC) as a result of their natural ingredients.
Another note here is to look for, ‘Micro-porous,’ on the label. This means it breathes on the wall and prevents condensation as well as other moisture issues that result in mold or mildew. This will reduce your family’s indoor allergens and also make the walls less prone to chipping off or peeling from the wall.
Paint is manmade, so it’s not going to fit in all your categories for being 100% eco-friendly. But working with a company that wants to do better, that wants to save the environment, and to slowly person by person – make that big difference. I’d rather work with that company that gives a darn, and often these are the most creative people.
There are companies that educate on how to recycle and give back to the earth in more ways than just wall color. Find a company mission statement that resonates with you, and it only brings more good energy into your fresh coat of paint.
This is why we as consumers purchase anything – to be proud that we have it. A brand that is reputable and well-intentioned earns our trust much more easily than the company more focused on profit than their customer’s health.
Not Hazardous/Toxic to the Planet
Not only will your home have cleaner air, but you won’t be contributing to what’s harming out atmosphere deeply, smog formation. This is increased with VOCs being emitted into the air and reacting with other gases in our ozone. This results in smog and added pollution to the planet which contributes to global warming. How many polar bears do you need to see losing their home before we stop melting their icebergs?!
With companies being more intentional in the production of their products, we can research the right brand that seems to actually be lowering their carbon footprint. Because of their natural ingredients, they do not have harmful emissions in their manufacturing as well as their application.
Other Unique Ingredients Found in Eco-Friendly Paint
Some other popular ingredients that painting geniuses are using for more natural paint include:
- Plant Extract
- Lemon Peels
- Seed Oil
- Red Clay
Think of your lungs as well as the lungs of your loved ones and pets. With similar color vibrancy, longevity, and price – I’d say the choice is simple.
How to Shop for Eco-Friendly Indoor Paint
I know the feeling of going to Home Depot or Lowes and shopping through the intense vortex that is – the paint aisle.
It can be absolutely overwhelming, and the task of distinguishing between the many brands and their slight differences can be daunting. They all look quite similar and beautiful, but it’s hard to know just from the paint can what will be the best for your family’s health and wellness (as well as the Earth’s!)
Here are some tips to make the paint aisle less of a decision-making-nightmare and more of a fun trip of color research! The text you’ll be looking out for includes:
- Low to Zero level VOC – Very important! Don’t skip on this one. We know how dizzying that indoor paints can be to the smell, but that’s always the effect of high VOCs.
VOC labels indicate the content of VOCs using one of five classifications: Minimal (0-0.29%), Low, Medium, High and Very High (VOC content greater than 50%). Some argue it’s impossible to get paint to zero level VOCs. But I would recommend aiming for the low to minimal levels.
If you purchase with the low to minimal levels, they will have a higher water concentration as the solvent/carrier instead of petrochemical solvents. This is why the emissions are lessened (AKA – cleaner air).
- Certified Organic – You have to be careful with this one as regulation on labeling ‘Organic,’ ‘Natural,’ ‘Whole-Ingredients,’ and so on, are not well standardized. This means that the government has not set respective regulations on these labels, so basically, any brand can print that on their food, water, paints, or whatever they please.
With the lack of government regulation and FDA approval, you always have to be careful and do the research on the ingredient list to be 100% confident. Go for brands that say ‘Non-toxic,’ and it is a plus if they’re odorless or odor-free.
- Certified by Organizations – Since the government was being lax about these regulations and it’s caused a great misuse of marketing that is, at its core, false advertising, various ecological labels have been created by different countries to signify that the paint has fulfilled certain environmental requirements. This was developed to help consumers make informed decisions on their paint purchases, in accordance with each’s respective government regulations.
Most of the companies were in European nations and took the matter into their own hands. Companies which are reputable in creating and regulating truly clean products include:
- Green Guard Environmental Institute
- Scientific Certification Systems
- Green Seal
These are reputable stamps of naturality that you can believe. They may not be available in your country, so be sure to read the ingredients list or look online. If they have nothing to hide it should be publicly posted and easily accessible.
How to Shop for Eco-Friendly Outdoor Paint
I’ll be brief with this one and say for exterior paints, you’re looking for similar qualities and an ingredient list you can actually decipher. The large difference is you’ll be looking for something that is weatherproof and can withstand the elements.
You’ll need to be quite careful in the choice you make here, or else you could risk water seeping into the wood of your home, penetrating the foundation with mold (which is very expensive to fix once happening), which would leave your family slowly being poisoned by mold’s cancer-inducing emissions.
Consumer paint comes in mainly two forms: latex (or water-based) and alkyd (or oil-based). It’s important to know which kind you have because the disposal options are different for each.
Be sure you’re securing your home in a natural paint, a real obvious starter point based on all the warning signs you’ve read above! Once shopping for your outdoor paint, on the labels you’ll be looking for:
- Low VOC to Zero VOC – same as with indoor. Reference section on VOCs above.
- Recycled Water-based Paints – Opting to make the switch to natural paints and using 1 gallon of recycled paint instead of new paint will save the planet approximately 100 kilowatt-hours of energy. It will also keep 115 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air, according to Earth 911.
You can also follow their link for tips on how to recycle almost anything you can dream up! Which includes your paint can – Earth 911
Water-based paint is the most commonly accepted product at ‘Household Hazardous Waste’ events nationwide, despite the EPA not even considering the product to be hazardous. Most hazardous waste is incinerated instead of recycled. Keep this in mind for recycling the can.
- Latex Paints – Latex paints that are labeled as being low VOC should contain less than 250 grams of VOCs per liter of paint.
Latex-based exterior paints are usually the best option for outdoor painting projects like a home’s walls and trim. This is because latex paints fast dry time, ease to clean throughout the year, and imperfections are simple to swipe away and start over. It is the easiest paint to use and very user friendly.
Latex paint has the amazing ability to expand and contract with the seasons and temperature. That’s some pretty smart paint! Which will keep weather and foundation issues at bay with a paint that’s protecting you year-round.
You’ll want to avoid oil-based options because they are known to have very high VOC levels and also contain fungicide. This is what they use on non-organic plants, while they’re in the field looking like aliens in giant masked suits – because even the guys spraying it don’t want to breathe it in!
Families with children, pregnant women, elderly, people with asthma or respiratory problems as well as pets are highly encouraged to consider a more natural type of paint. Don’t make this mistake when your loved ones are involved and choose an option that is absent of oil as well as low in biocide.
This does not apply with indoor paints that say oil-based and are natural brands. This is because the oil might be lemon oil, lavender oil, or other natural oils derived from eco-friendly sources that are not toxic for you to breath in.
This goes back to understanding your ingredients and not relying on the label. Doing your research will be your greatest strength in understanding what you’re breathing in. Not all oils are bad, and not all oils are good. Know the difference because knowledge is your friend.
Best Eco-Friendly Paint Options
Hopefully, I’ve got you on the natural-paint gravy train, and we can ride this all the way to a healthier planet! If I’ve sold you on the good life, then here are some brands I recommend. Check them out and research what is the best brand for your home.
My recommendations include:
- Emerald Interior Acrylic Latex Paint – Great for outdoor painting and indoor, this brand is certified by GreenGuard for low chemical emissions. There is great variation in the color spectrum, a variety of finishing including matte, flat, satin, and semi-gloss. The outdoor options do have low levels of VOC but are not certified.
- Natura Paint by Benjamin Moore – This has always been my favorite paint brand, even when I was still ignorantly purchasing colors with high VOC levels. I wish I knew what I know now! But moving forward, I will purchase the Natura by Moore. This line not only includes the primer within the concoction, but is zero level VOC, asthma and allergy friendly, and zero emissions released within four hours of application.
- Nutshell Paints – a company that prides itself on being non-toxic and not tested on animals. They use ingredients like oils, herbs, and minerals while avoiding all petrochemical solvents, vinyl resins, and formaldehyde. Along with all this bliss, their packaging is recyclable, and the paint is breathable. Sold!
- Kilz Low VOC Primer – a great option for the first coat and priming. Not certified but low in VOC and has great reviews from its user. A good place to start if you’re wary of using natural paint and want to be sure your home is getting protected sufficiently, especially with outdoor paint and weather conditions. Start with a coat or two of this natural primer and go from there.
These are just a few options, but there are so many to choose from. Filter all of this data through what you know you want out of a brand, what your family needs, and what is best for the earth.
Recycled Paint Options
If you’ve made it this far, I know you care about doing things ethically. This is why you should recycle the paint can or purchase recycled paint.
Some reasons why you should consider purchasing recycled paints are that:
- They’re cheaper – often sold at substantially lower prices than virgin paints, studies have proven that this paint is of comparable quality to virgin brands. Which leads us to –
- Comparable Quality – for the same quality and huge savings, you’ll also be helping the planet and reducing your carbon footprint. If you’re worried about your paint being outperformed by the virgin brands, see a link here to an Evaluation Study of the Performance of Recycled Content Latex Paint in Connecticut – Recycled Paint Quality Study
- Avoid Landfilling – By opting for these recyclable brands and then recycling your paint can again, you’re ending a vicious cycle. In California, unless latex paint is reused or recycled, it is considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of in a Class I hazardous waste landfill.
Recycled paints are not any less viable in quality, and each can is tested for pigment to correct any color changes. The color will be exact, and the ammonia levels are tested to guarantee the pH levels are comparable to virgin paints as well.
Whether you choose virgin paint or not, at least recycle the canister. Paint can be toxic and dangerous to the environment if not disposed of properly.
Disposing of Your Paint Can the Eco-Friendly Way
Do not simply toss these unwanted products in the garbage can. Because gases can leak even from closed containers, this single step could raise concentrations of chemicals in your home. You’ll want to reference these steps for safely getting rid of that extra paint that you wish to throw out.
- Latex Paints – Add equal parts cat litter and paint to the can. Stir it up until thick and allow it to sit for one hour. Once dried, throw it out, and it won’t emit toxic chemicals now. You can also use paint hardeners instead of litter.
- Oil Based Paint – Oil-based is considered hazardous waste so it must be taken to a recycling center. Find one in your area and be sure it’s properly sealed for the journey.
Consider donating the paint to a local community center, church, or someone who has a small space to freshen up. This way, it’s not going to waste, and some could really use extra supplies.
If there’s not much left in the can, you can just remove the lid and allow the paint to dry out on its own. Recycle at your nearby facility and be thoughtful in how you dispose of your waste always.
Paint the Town Green!
I hope this article has been useful to you in steps to shop for the right brand, what to look for on the label, how you’re helping the planet and most of all your lungs! These small acts add up to a large effect on your family’s health and the status of mother earth.
Doing your small part to reduce your carbon footprint is a wonderful way to give back. I hope you enjoy your new home color and all the good energy that comes with a fresh start. Choose the eco-friendly paint that’s right for you and take the necessary steps to finish the job without harming the planet.
Paint the town green or even your house! And don’t forget to recycle the can too!