Some people love the smell of a freshly-painted house. It’s kind of like a new car smell. But is it safe? In years past, typical paints used for a home interior painting project contained thousands of chemicals. Many of these were toxins, and some were cancer-causing. In fact, at one time paint was responsible for many of the pollutants released into the atmosphere, surpassed only by automobiles. In recent years, an increase in awareness about our effects on the environment has led to the development of low-VOC and Zero-VOC paints.
What Exactly Are VOC’s?
The term VOC is the abbreviation of “Volatile Organic Compound“. These compounds have low boiling points causing them to vaporize easily into the air. VOC’s can come from many different sources; flooring, furniture, plastics, fixtures, and much more, including paint.
With paint, this mostly happens during the drying process, though some paints can release VOC’s for weeks or even months. When released into the air, VOC’s react with other compounds to create ozone. This in turn leads to air pollution and can cause breathing issues, nausea, headache, and a host of other health issues.
In a closed environment such as for interior painting, these effects can be amplified hundreds of times, especially right after painting.
Oil-Based vs Water-Based Paint For Interior Painting
Since most VOC’s are released into the air during the drying process, it’s no surprise that the solvent-type of the paint is the cause for most VOC’s. Oil-based paints have solvents such as toluene and formaldehyde which are volatile chemicals. This means that oil-based paints tend to be high in VOCs.
In the last two decades, residential paints have moved mostly to water-based formulas. While not as durable as oil-based paints, water-based latex paint naturally has lower-VOC’s. It is also easier to use and cleanup, making it favorite of professionals and DIY painters alike and the top choice for most interior painting jobs.
There is still a limited role for oil-based paints, such as kitchen and bath cabinets and doors and trim. But the water-based latex is now the standard for large jobs such as walls and ceilings.
Some Low-VOC And Zero-VOC Paints
As we previously said, latex paints are naturally lower in VOC’s than their oil-based counterparts. However, cheaper paints can still have higher VOC’s depending on what was used for the pigment and binder. For customers concerned about the health effects of interior painting or those with chemical sensitivities, there are several excellent options… some of our favorites are from our friends at Sherwin-Williams:
All three are great choices for customers looking for a healthier paint option. Additionally, the Sherwin-Williams Harmony paint passes the strictest Greenguard Certification standards for health safety. It is “GreenGuard Indoor Air Quality Certified” and “GreenGuard Certified for Children and Schools”.
Will I Still Smell Zero-VOC Paints?
The simple answer is yes. Every paint has an odor, even zero-VOC paints. This is called “off-gassing” and is a natural by-product of the solvent as the paint dries. In Zero-VOC paints however, this byproduct is safe. The best way to speed the drying and off-gassing process is airflow. An open window and fans help, and air circulation is key.
There are also now products available which will actually help reduce other odors in your home. These special paints will not only cover previous odors but also absorb new ones.
Need An Estimate For Your Zero-VOC Painting Project?
In addition to helping you select your paint type, we also offer color consultation as part of our wide range of services. When you’re ready to paint your house with zero-VOC paints, just visit SurePro Painting to schedule your free estimate!