Your go-to guide for choosing safe paint for your home and DIY projects

There’s nothin’ like a drab to fab makeover using one of the simplest material: paint!

Or how about that “new paint smell” to make you feel accomplished? Thing is, that new paint smell is actually not all it’s cracked up to be. Did you know that there are compounds in paint that absorb into the air creating smog and contribute to chronic health problems like asthma and allergies, kidney damage, headaches, loss of muscle control, dizziness, and irregular heartbeat? (1) (2) 

But don’t be alarmed, there are still options! What’s even better, is if you pick the right kind, paint can do it’s real job like protect against mother nature, toddler finger prints, dog tail dirt, fire and germs!

So here’s what to look for: 

  • ZERO or NON-VOC paint: Even low VOC is not a great option because it is defined by each company on their own criteria. There’s lots of talk about VOC’s but what exactly are they? Volatile organic compounds used to bind paint. These compounds are what pollute your air. You can find lots of alternative paints made with natural substances (soy, milk and water) colored with clay-based pigments.
  • Water Based Paint: You’ll come across two types of paint in your search: Oil-based – strong odor, yellows over time and discharge lots of damaging gases (VOC’s) into your air Water-based is less toxic, more affordable and just as durable.  
  • Beware of labels: make sure you do your research on any sort of “eco-friendly seal” label to be it’s a sure independent company and not just false advertisement.
  • Animal testing policy: Be sure that no animals are harmed in the process of making these products! Don’t forget to ask about the companies they source their ingredients from as well.

Here are some suggestions to get you started: (but don’t forget to check back once in a while because this list will be a running list as I discover new eco-friendly cruelty-free paints!) 

  1. Ecos Paints // Around for 25 years, cover more surface area than traditional paints, has a primer that actually absorbs toxic chemicals from MDF and Particleboard, another that blocks radiation and one that blocks radiation and air purifying paint that absorbs up to 98% of VOC’s, and even a PET FRIENDLY paint! You can even head over to the website and chat with a specialist and ask them any questions you may have. I did so and was so pleased with their response time! Here’s what they had to say about animal testing:

“Dave Anderson 7:28 pm      We do not test on animals, and as far as we are aware, our raw materials are not tested on animals by our suppliers. It is difficult to speak for them in absolutes, but we prefer to purchase from animal-friendly suppliers.” ….and another response to their products containing animal ingredients…  “Bruce King 9:52      Thanks for waiting. Our paints, varnishes do not contain animal products. We only use safe raw materials such as medical and dental-grade acrylic resins, as well as various food-grade and cosmetic-grade ingredients, combined with tested formulations for our products. This allows us to manufacture a quality, yet safe line of products that have been used for over twenty-five years by people with newborns, cherished pets, asthma, allergies and multiple chemical sensitivities”

The downfall? One gallon can run around $65. However, worth it for your health. Ally brands: Air Pure Paints and Lullaby Paints.

 

 

Benjamin Moore Natura  // Non-toxic, Zero VOC, zero emissions after 4 hours, quick drying, certified allergy and asthma friendly by Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and Allergy Standards LTD,  Around $56.99 per gallon.

A response email from the Benjamin Moore Team:

Benjamin Moore does not conduct any animal testing on our products. Benjamin Moore is known for an unwavering commitment to industry-leading quality, innovation and environmental responsibility. Our 1,750 employees in the U.S. and Canada work hard every day to make sure that reputation endures. From developing innovative paints that are safer for your family and the environment, to manufacturing them safely and efficiently, to helping out in our communities, we care about the impact of our products and our actions. Natura is Benjamin Moore’s greenest paint. It is available in thousands of colors and three premium finishes: Eggshell, Flat and Semi-Gloss. Natura has met or exceeded some of the strictest industry environmental standards including CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools) and MPI Green Performance™, Product of the Year, Good Housekeeping Green Seal, Cradle to Cradle Silver, certified asthma & allergy friendly.”

 

Colorhouse Paint // Oregon-based, no-VOC interior and exterior paints with a beautiful color palette, quick dry time (30-60 minutes per their website), 350-400 square feet per gallon, 
Even beyond their paint, their packaging is recycled content containers, 100% PCW chlorine-free labels, they operate as a LEED Gold facility, recycle your leftover paint among other certifications as well.  
One gallon of Eggshell paint is $45

From the website: “Colorhouse untinted base paints are not tested on animals and they do not contain animal ingredients.  However, raw materials suppliers are required by law to determine the potential toxicity of chemical substances. Unfortunately, as a result, some of the raw materials used in making paint have been tested on animals. There is no latex-based paint product available on the market where the components are not tested on animals prior to the manufacturing process.”

 

 

Green Planet Paints // Non-toxic, zero VOC, sustainable products that are plant and mineral based, improves air quality up to 50%, even safe around kids, pets and people with chemical sensitivity. 

1 gal is $49.99

We are a Service Connected Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. A couple specifics, what makes your brand eco-friendly?(Paints, stains and sealers are made from Plant oils, Tree sap, Clay’s, Minerals, most materials are recycled from waste streams, we have the highest bio-content and lowest C14 tested VOC counts =0.08g/l) We even make our own tints from minerals. What is your animal testing policy? Zero. Do your products contain animal ingredients? NO

 

 

 

EnviroSafe Paint // No VOC, low odor, custom color matching, no toxic fumes, 350 square feet per gallon, indoor and outdoor, interior paint has less than one hour dry time and re-coat in 4. 

I received an email back very promptly explaining that not only does the company stand behind green living, the employee’s personal lives are geared toward leaving the least negative impact on the environment as possible.

So we certainly contain no animal ingredients and all of our products are cruelty free. In fact, please see if you can discover the first product made in America containing the phrase “Cruelty Free”. We offer that product. Our paint is different because it emits no harmful fumes when wet and is odor free when dry. Just one basic difference includes the water used to produce our paint. Most all paint today is made with city tap water. Tap water in large municipal areas contains over 200 known pollutants the EPA allows because they cost too much to remove. It also usually contains VOCs! But our paint is made with water obtained from a private well that taps the aquifer. It’s very pure; pretty much pollution free.” They offer other green products as well!

 

Unearthed Paints // 100% non VOC, have all but one product that is Vegan, biodegradable, shipped via carbon-offset transport, and provide full instructions on their website to get the best results. There is a limited color selection, but they are beautiful, rich colors and start at $39 for the material to make a gallon.

 “We ship using carbon offset transport and all of our paints are accompanied with our “Rainforest Pledge” where for every square foot of paint a square foot of forest in the Chaco Forest in Paraguay is bought and donated back to indigenous people.  All of our paints are completely VOC free, made with minimally processed natural ingredients, and biodegradable.  Our products are not tested on animals.  The products are vegan with the exception of our Safflower Wax which contains beeswax and recently the formula for our Vega Primer has changed and now uses a milk derived casein as binder.”

 

 

 

Things to keep in mind:

  • Yes they are a bit more expensive but it is worth it!! What do you use more every single day than the air you breathe? Just remember to budget for it**
  • Some zero-VOC paints dry fast so keep that in mind while you’re working with them.
  • Wear a respirator mask, open the windows and flush the home with fresh air for a couple days. (2)
  • When it’s time for cleanup, DO NOT pour the leftover paint down the drain! Recycle or donate your leftover paint – local salvage yard or hardware store may take back your remaining gallons. If this isn’t an option, let the paint dry before discarding.

 

 

Sources:

  1. Lori Dennis, Green Interior Design (2010)
  2. NYIAD Complete Course in Interior Design 
  3. Eric Corey Freed, Green Buliding & Remodeling for Dummies (2008)

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