low VOC paint and zero VOC paint
If you’re looking for the right paint for your home, then you’ll need to look out for a few different aspects. More people are searching for smart, health-focused products for their homes, whether it’s food, paint, or other materials. Make the smart choice for your home by choosing a paint that’s better for your indoor air quality—which means no VOCs.
As the planet shifts to more environmentally friendly products, paint companies follow suit by offering paint labeled “low VOC” or “no VOC.” VOCs are volatile organic compounds or chemicals found in many building materials that give off gasses that can build up and harm people and the environment.1 When you smell that “new paint smell,” those are VOCs. The government regulates them in some household items as part of the Clean Air Act.
what are VOCs?
The acronym stands for volatile organic compounds, which are carbon-containing compounds emitted as gasses into the air. These gasses contribute to ozone pollution, which is bad for the environment, and also pollute the air inside your home, which can be bad for your health. VOCs are commonly present in a wide array of household products like cleansers, disinfectants, aerosol sprays, furniture and even paints. The EPA reports that VOCs can lead to adverse health effects like eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, allergies and may even damage your liver, kidneys and central nervous system.
What’s the difference between low VOC paint and zero VOC paint?
Many traditional paints are formulated to make your painting task easy—one or two coats may be all you need. The formula goes on smoothly, and evenly, and that’s big thanks to VOCs making that coverage easy.
No and low-VOC paints have been tweaking their ingredients to get smooth paints, even with lower VOC contents. However, you will need an extra layer or two to get the paint to look as even and not streaky.
VOCs are used in paint because of how easy they make the task of painting. Paint that glides on smoothly and evenly and looks great with minimal effort will always win over a thinner, streakier formula, especially if time and costs are a factor.
Standard VOC paints tend to be the most durable regarding washability, opacity, and scuff resistance.
No and low-VOC paints have been formulated to be as durable as standard VOC paints. If a no or low-VOC paint has the “Green Seal,” it meets paint durability standards.
The richest colors have more VOCs. The addition of colorants raises the VOC content of the paint.
Paints that have no color have fewer VOCs. However, if you are embarking on a painting project, such as a nursery, with hopes of keeping VOCs as low as possible, getting a no or low-VOC paint that has colorant mixed in brings up the VOC content.
Standard VOC paints are usually the cheapest option available. Also, you may need fewer coats of traditional VOC paint than a no or low-VOC paint.
No or low VOC paints cost more than standard VOC paints. The least expensive paints are usually the paints that contain the most VOCs.
If you’re sensitive to odor, standard VOC paints are known for their distinctive chemical smell. You can mitigate the smell by putting a HEPA-filtered air purifier in the room after painting. Other ways to get rid of VOCs or fumes that are off-gassing are to use a dehumidifier, open windows, and turn on fans to ventilate the area.
One of the biggest benefits to getting no or low-VOC paint is they have very low odor.
VOCs are harmful to the environment, so it stands to reason that higher VOC paints are likely worse than those with fewer VOCs. However, other ingredients in the paint can tip the balance.
VOCs increase air pollution and can enter groundwater, which affects plants and wildlife.5 No or low-VOC paints have fewer VOCs, so they are likely better than standard or high-VOC paints. Although, if the other ingredients are just as toxic, it’s a wash.