Eco friendly paint, often referred to as zero VOC paint or low VOC paint, can play a significant role in improving the air quality inside a home.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) are found in a wide variety of products found in a typical house, including paints, stains and cleaning products.
VOCs come from solvents used in the manufacturing of paint (and other household products). As paint cures and dries, the solvents are released into the atmosphere through evaporation creating an unhealthy environment.
Paints and stains are one of the leading causes of unhealthy indoor environments.
VOCs from paint can negatively impact the air quality inside a home for many years. If you have ever experienced the fumes of a freshly painted house then you have experienced the negative impact VOCs have.
It is important for consumers to educate themselves as to what products should be classified as eco friendly paints.
Zero/No VOC paint or Low VOC paint make much less of an impact on air quality than conventional paints do.
The challenge is, with no set industry standards as to what should classify as Zero/No VOC and Low VOC paint, some manufacturers takes liberties with how they market their paints and/or not all products are created equally.
By learning the issues involved with environmentally friendly paint, you can make some purchase decisions that helps the environment and improves your immediate air quality.
Important Points to Remember with Low and Zero VOC Paint
When looking for an eco friendly paint, please consider these points:
- When manufacturers refer to low and zero VOC paint, they are often referring to their white untinted paint. Paint colorants can add significant VOC levels to a paint. Ask to make sure that the colourants used also contain zero/low VOC levels;
- Generally speaking, the lighter the color of the paint, the fewer VOCs it will have. Dark color paints require more paint colorants thus increasing the potential levels of VOCs in the paint;
- The flatter the sheen of the paint, the lower the VOCs will be;
- oil based paints will have a higher VOC level than water based paints;
- Different certification organizations might have different criteria for “low VOC paint” and “zero VOC paint”. As well, different types of paints will have different thresholds for VOC levels to classify them as an “eco friendly paint”;
- keeping windows open and your work area well ventilated when painting is always a good idea regardless of the type of paint you are using!
Eco Friendly Paint Options
Milk paints are organic, biodegradable and have zero VOC. The typical ingredients in milk paint include clay, limestone, casein (a milk protein) and natural earth based pigments.
Some other points on milk paints:
- milk paint can be used for both interior and exterior applications;
- milk paint can dry in as little as 30 minutes;
- milk paint needs to be applied to porous surfaces… do not apply a primer first as this would prevent the milk paint from absorbing;
- use a milk paint bonder to allow adhesion over previously painted surface;
- as milk paint is a “nautral” product, there can be subtle color variations between batches. Make sure you purchase enough paint to finish your painting project;
- milk paint on walls and high traffic areas should be sealed;
- check with your milk paint manufacturer before painting new drywall and plaster. These surfaces might be too porous and could require a pre-treatment to ensure proper absorption of the milk paint;
- milk paint gives you the opportunity for a customized look… add a little more water and you can have a “wash” effect
Clay paints are VOC free and are made from plant and mineral based ingredients such as oils, clays and pigments.
The performance specifications for clay paint varies drastically from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Make sure you read the label to ensure the paint you purchase will work for your application.
Some other points on clay paint:
- clay paint is highly breathable. This make it ideal for applications such as new plaster that might have a high moisture content that need to “dry out” compared to traditional paint that might seal in the moisture causing possible health problems and poor performance;
- due to this high breathability, clay paint is more susceptible to stains from items such as fruit juices and wines. Check with the manufacturer for recommended washing procedures;
- clay paint be applied with a roller, brush or spray application;
- some manufacturers highlight the benefits of using clay paint in higher humidity areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. Because clay paint is breathable and moisture absorbing, it can help control condensation which could cause mildew and mold. Other manufacturers recommend against using their product in these sort of high humidity areas;
- clay paint can be applied to surfaces such as plaster, stone, concrete, wallpaper and drywall;
- clay paints will typically have a “matte” finish;
- clay paint should be VOC free and have minimal to no odors;
- clay paints are now available in a wide variety of colors. You can also create custom colors by mixing together stock colors and/or you can mix color pigments with white or off-white clay paint to create custom pastel colors.
Lime wash is an eco friendly paint alternative is typically made by combining a calcium based mineral (calcium oxide, slack lime or hydrated lime) with water.
- lime wash is an effective surface covering for a wide variety of water absorbent surfaces such as stone, brick, concrete block, clay, lime and cement based mortars, plaster, timber and rusted steel;
- lime wash needs an absorbent surface to allow the lime wash to penetrate the substrate and bond with material;
- lime wash can be acidic and can damage skin, eyes, other tissue and clothing. Proper safety procedures should be followed at all times;
- it is imperative your lime wash is a milk-like consistency before applying the lime wash. Lime wash that is too think make appear to provide better coverage at first but will crack upon drying and you will not be happy with the appearance. Many layers of thinly applied lime wash will create a superior and more durable finish;
- lime wash can be applied by a spray application, but a brush is recommended;
- when first applied, lime wash is translucent but as it dries, it will become opaque;
- it is important to understand the heat and humidity levels in your geographic region before applying lime wash. Different pre-application treatments can be required depending on your climate;
- subtle and pale pastel shades are the best colors for lime wash. Darker colors are possible, but lime wash is typically intended to be a bright and light finish;
- If lime wash is properly applied, surfaces should not “chalk”
There are a number of 3rd party independent certification organizations that you typically see in the marketplace associated with eco friendly paint.
Here is a summary of the most common certification organizations for low and zero VOC paint
GREENGUARD Environmental Institute
The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute was found in 2001.
GREENGUARD’s mission is to protect human health and quality of life by improving indoor air quality and reducing chemical exposure.
GREENGUARD’s certification program allows consumers to easily identify interior products and materials that have low chemical emissions.
In 2011 the Underwriters Laboratories acquired GREENGUARD.
Paint manufacturers that have zero VOC or low ZOC paints and stains certified by GREENGUARD include:
· AkzoNobel/Devoe Paint;
· Dutch Boy;
· M.L. Campbell;
· Kilz Pro-X;
Click here for a complete list of zero VOC and low VOC paint and stains certified by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute.
Paints and Stains that carry the Green Wise label have been tested and certified by Coatings Research Group, Incorporated (“CRGI”)to meet environmentally determined performance standards to meet or exceed the VOC requirements of LEED.
Green Wise certified products are free of certain chemicals which have been determined to be harmful to humans and the environment.
CRGI has 30 paint manufacturers which are members.
CRGI is dedicated to the benefits of shared research and development in current paint technologies.
Paint manufacturers that have zero VOC or low ZOC paints and stains certified by Green Wise include:
· ACE Hardware;
· California Products;
· Cloverdale Paint Inc.;
· Diamond Vogel Paints;
· Dunn-Edwards Paints;
· Hirshfield’s Paint Manufacturing;
· Home Hardware;
· Kelly-Moore Paint Co.;
· McCormick Paints;
· Mobile Paint Mfg. Co.;
· O’Leary Paint Company;
· Pinturas Osel S.A. de C.V.;
· Rodda Paint Company;
· Southern Diversified Products LLC;
· United Gilsonite Laboratories;
· Vista Paint Corporation;
Click here for a complete list of zero VOC and low VOC paint and stains certified by the Green Wise Environmental Institute.
Green Seal is a non-profit organization that uses science-based programs to empower consumers, purchasers and companies to create a more sustainable world”.
Green Seal was founded in 1989.
Green Seal’s goal was to create a tool to help shoppers find truly green products.
Green Seal’s standard for paints and coats is referred to as Green Seal GS-11.
Paint manufacturers that have zero VOC or low ZOC paints and stains certified by Green Seal include:
· Akzo Nobel Canada Inc.
· Al-Jazeera Factory for Paints Co.
· Everlasting Coatings & Paints, LLC
· InPro Corporation
· Master Paints and Chemical Corporation;
· Masterchem Industries, LLC (Killz)
· Miller Paint
· Randolph Products Co.
· Rust-Oleum Corporation
· YOLO Colourhouse
Click here for a complete list of zero VOC and low VOC paint and stains certified by the Green Seal.
MPI (Master Painter’s Institute)
MPI was established in 1996 to develop quality standards and quality assurance programs in the painting and coating application industries in the U.S.A. and Canada.
The MPI Green Performance Standard (GPS 1-12 and GPS 2-12) is MPI’s standards for environmentally friendly paints.
MPI has also recently created “X-Green” (Extreme Green) environmental performance standard to complement the MPI Green Performance Standards.
The X-Green environmental performance standard is MPI’s most stringent eco friendly performance standard.
The MPI Green Performance Standard focuses on the performance, chemical component restrictions and maximum allowable limits of VOCs.
MPI currently has 173 different categories for paints and coatings with some categories having multiple sub-categories.
Paint manufacturers that have zero VOC or low ZOC paints and stains certified by the MPI Green Performance Standard include:
· Akzo Nobel (Canada)
· Akzo Nobel (US)
· Anchor Paint
· BASF Building Systems
· Behr Paint
· Benjamin Moore
· Beauti-Tone Paint
· Cloverdale Paint
· Columbia Paint
· Comex Group
· Conco Paints
· Consolidated Coatings Co.
· Convenience Products
· Coronado Paint
· Davis Paint
· Diamond Vogel
· Duckback Products
· Durant Performance Coatings
· Duron Paints
· Euclid Chemical Co.
· General Paint
· Genesis Coatings
· Hallman Lindsay
· Hirshfield’s Paint
· ICI Paints (Canada)
· KCC Corporation
· Life Paint Corp.
· M.A.B. Paints
· Masterchem Industries
· McCormick Paints
· Messmer’s Inc.
· Micca Paint Inc.
· Miller Paint
· Modern Masters
· Monopole Inc.
· No-Burn Inc.
· NoFire Technologies
· Old Masters
· Para Paints
· Parex USA, Inc.
· Peintures MF Inc.
· Pratt & Lambert
· Rainguard International
· Richard’s Paint Mfg.
· Rodda Paint
· Saver System
· Samhwa Paint Ind. Co. Ltd.
· Scott Paint
· Southern Diversified Prod.
· Sto Corp.
· Sun Paints & Coatings
· TriCom Coatings Inc.
· True Value Mfg
· Verda Paints
· Vista Paint
· X-I-M Products Inc.
Click here for a complete list of zero VOC and low VOC paint and stains certified by MPI.