Paint is paint, right? Wrong. It isn’t just the color of the paint that matters anymore because there are dozens of different paint options out there. There is latex vs oil-based paint, which is a big one.
But it’s still not as big as VOC paint vs non-VOC paint. So let’s talk about the differences between these two key paints. You may find out you’ve been using paint that is doing you more harm than good all these years.
What Is VOC?
VOC stands for volatile organic compounds and they are what causes that chemical smell in paints that make you lightheaded. The most common VOC is formaldehyde, a toxic chemical that can cause problems both environmentally and healthwise.
The health risks of VOC paint compared to the health risks of non-VOC paint have been compared but a conclusion has yet to be made. After all, VOCs are added to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
This is a known health concern. But when it comes to VOC paints, there are unknown health concerns, most likely related to the lungs. It is believed that VOCs can even cause cancer if prolonged exposure occurs.
Low-VOC Paint Or Zero VOC Paint
If you want the best of both worlds, you may be thinking that low-VOC paint is your best option. Honestly, that may be the case because you can still prevent mold with just a little VOC without overwhelming your body.
The problem is that “low-VOC” isn’t readily defined by any federal organization. In fact, low-VOC means a different thing to different companies and organizations. Most of them have a “danger” number to stay under.
In general, it is much safer to use zero-VOC paint than VOC paint. Don’t believe that non-VOC paint isn’t effective because if you prep correctly and finish up properly, then it definitely can be just as effective.
Colorant VOCs Vs Base VOCs
Colorant VOCs are added to give a richer color to paints. These are pigment toxins that aren’t part of the base VOC so it is easier for companies to label their products as non-VOC when there are actually pigment toxins.
In order to find out if the company is using toxins in their pigment, you’ll need to do specific research on that. You can contact the company directly or you can research online to see what others have found out.
Base VOCs are added to make the paint mold-resistant. These are chemicals that are added to the base and can be found in any color of paint. So they are harder to spot unless they label the can of paint as non-VOC.
Other Toxic Ingredients
VOCs, in general, are toxic but making a list of the ways that paint can be toxic can help you spot the loopholes that companies take in order to make their paint appear non-toxic. Let’s break that down now.
- APE stands for Alkylphenol Ethoxylates and they are chemicals in acrylic paint. They help the paint create tension between the liquid and solid form as it dries. It is not a safe ingredient and there are safer alternatives.
- AntiMicrobials are often added to paint to prevent bacteria from growing and to protect surfaces that aren’t meant to be painted from staining. But that doesn’t mean it is a good thing. These can be very harmful to children.
Both of these can cause serious health problems so ask specifically about these two toxins if you talk to the company. They both can cause birth effects, reproductive problems, and other unknown health issues.
Alternatives To Painting
When it comes to painting, there is only one choice, right? Choose the least toxic paint that you can and deal with it. But there are other options that are much less toxic, and strong stains isn’t one of them.
Wallpaper is becoming extinct because people are afraid to use it. But that’s because once upon a time it was very difficult to apply and soon after that it became dated. But it’s all about finding the right wallpaper.
Some wallpapers are dated but some are modern. There are plenty of wallpaper options for you to choose from and you can even create your own wallpaper. Consider choosing a popular one or creating your own design.
Wall murals are similar to wallpaper but they are temporary. You can get cloth, canvas, or stick-on wall murals. They are temporary ways to dress up your wall without using anything toxic in your home.
So consider hanging one of your choices on your wall to not only live a more natural lifestyle but because it gives you a peek out of any window in the world. Take a look at Paris, Italy, or have a beachside view every day.
Limewash is a natural and environmentally safe way to “paint” your walls or furniture. It resists fungal growth and insect damage, not to mention it can last a lifetime as it never peel off as other paint does.
We have an entire guide on limewash that is definitely worth it. So take a look at it and you can find out how to make your own limewash and how to use it. As well as the pros and cons of choosing it over paint.
Best Non-Toxic Paint Options
If you don’t know where to start with non-toxic paint then you are in luck because we have some solid options that you can buy. Always do your own research before committing to a certain paint even from a trusted source.
After all, very, very few paints are 100% non-toxic. It is nearly impossible for one to be so, but it really is all about finding the least harmful paint that you can. So always do your research before you commit.
Chalk paint is a naturally non-toxic paint with a primarily natural base. Since Rust-Oleum is a trusted brand, of course, one of the best non-VOC options is Rust-Oleum chalk paint. Though there are some tips for chalk paints.
You may need to apply a couple of coats of chalk paint for it to cover well as it is thinner than most other paints. However, when finished, it offers a wonderful texture that you can’t find with standard paints.
While we are on the subject, we should mention Rust-Oleum’s milk paint. Milk paint is very similar to chalk paint. It literally has a milk and lime base and oftentimes, VOCs are left out entirely in the paint.
But with this paint, a small amount of VOCs are added, but it is considered low-VOC. Milk paint in general is a wonderful choice when looking for non-toxic paints and this is one of the best milk paint options.
This paint not only looks old-fashioned but the method is old-fashioned too. In the package, you will find milk and lime powder. When you add water, it turns into paint which can be used just like standard paint.
This paint is non-toxic and low-VOC. It is great to have around too because it isn’t pre-mixed. This means its shelf life will be longer than the shelf life of a non-toxic paint that you buy in a liquid form.
A wonderful way to make sure that your paint covers better and to add even more non-toxic elements is to get a non-toxic primer. Rust-Oleum has a great non-toxic primer that still works very well for priming before you paint.
But this primer isn’t low-VOC it is actually non-VOC. It shouldn’t be used as paint but it does add an even base layer so that you can use a thin non-VOC or low-VOC paint for your project and still have full coverage.
Magnolia Home paint is a mildew-resistant, low-VOC, and 100-percent acrylic paint by Joanna Gaines. It is definitely a revolutionary paint that has a formula that will be used more in the future in other paints.
But for now, it is primarily available in this paint. Acrylics aren’t often used for interior wall paints but this paint is unique and can be used both indoors and outdoors. We look forward to even more from this collection.
Finding Your Own Non-Toxic Paint
Now if you can’t find any of the above paints or you want to find your own, then you still can. Just look for works like non-toxic and non-VOC on the can. Then do research to find out if there are any hidden toxins.
Remember, the company won’t lie to you if asked directly because it could be a lawsuit if they do. So don’t be afraid to call and ask. You will get your answer if you ask them directly and then you can feel safe using their product.
If they are transparent and say that they use low-VOCs in their products but that they use under 50g per liter, then you can probably trust that they used a safe amount. But never be afraid to go all the way when it comes to your health.