With a well overdue move towards environmental consciousness of late, you’ll see lots of paint companies referring to Low VOC or VOC Free when talking about their paints. Let’s lift the lid (pun absolutely intended) on exactly what that means.
Firstly, What Is VOC?
So what is VOC at a glance? And what’s this got to do with paint, you ask? VOC meaning Volatile Organic Compound(s). They’re the unstable chemicals included in all paint recipes that emit nasty gasses. The good news is that the government regulates VOC content in paint products, so you needn’t be nervous about any products that you can buy online or in shops.
Since VOC paint is generally used in the home, it can eventually lead to problems with health. This includes damage to the kidneys and liver or central nervous system. Sounds freaking hideous, right? Breathing in VOCs can also cause respiratory issues, nausea, headaches, and a general feeling of lethargy and feeling quite shit. Choosing products with low levels of VOCs is always best. It’s just not worth taking the risk.
When paint that is high in VOCs is applied, especially indoors, the concentration can be up to ten times higher than if you painted outside. The fumes also take a fair while to drop off; the smell doesn’t just go. In fact, the process of dispelling can take a whopping six months after you have painted the walls. Minimising the number of VOCs entering your home is the only way forward. And choosing environmentally-friendly paint with non-toxic ingredients. At COAT, we were recently listed as one of Livingetc’s best eco paint brands, which we’re super proud of. Not bad for a new brand launched mid-pandemic.
What is Low VOC Paint?
Low VOC paints have reduced amounts of VOCs in comparison to other paint products. Most modern paint brands offer Low VOC paint products, with many having entirely Low paint VOC levels. Like COAT, which has a VOC level well below the minimum required standard.
What is No VOC Paint?
VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. It means the amount of solvents Paints claiming to be No VOC or Zero VOC just have an extremely low level. It’s a tenuous one, because all paint will contain some element of VOC - but these ones are so low it’s considered negligible. There’s no hard and fast rule on what that number is though, so saying VOC free paint can be a little misleading.
What Types Of VOC Free Paint Are There?
Despite the fact that paint can change the look of a room, some products can cause a host of adverse health effects. The good news is that better options exist, and they’re also easy to buy. Grab your laptop, and hit ‘add to basket’. Just watch out for those brands that claim their products are‘ VOC-free’. Some aren’t always entirely free of synthetic chemicals. If they are, they’re not always great to paint with, so just bear that in mind. Check out these examples of VOC free paint.
1. All-Natural Paint
All-natural paints are biodegradable and rely on the inherent qualities of minimally processed ingredients. This includes plant extracts, clay, chalk, and earth and mineral pigments that are not produced with petrochemical (oil-derived) or synthetic ingredients.
2. Vegan and Cruelty-Free Paint
Similar to natural paints, the vegan kind are made with naturally present compounds. The only difference is these are strictly plant-based. You won’t find ox gall or beeswax here. So, how will you know if it’s vegan? Actually, it’s not that easy to tell. Vegan paints don’t yet have to adhere to any form of legislation. And even if it is, it doesn't mean it’s chemical-free. There’s so much ‘greenwashing’ going around it’s untrue.
3. Clay-Based Paint
Clay-based paint is a VOC-free, long-lasting paint for interior walls. Naturally-formulated, it doesn’t contain any acrylics or oils and gives good coverage without any harmful effects. Similar to chalk-based paint, it has a built-in topcoat and primer so requires less prep and is more durable. As clay-based paint doesn’t contain any hazardous ingredients or toxins, it’s a bonus for your health and the planet.
4. Lime-based paints
Lime paint is naturally an eco-friendly paint and, when applied with a brush, creates a beautiful textured finish. Also known as limewash, this traditional paint has been used for thousands of years. Virtually VOC-free and very breathable too, limewash is so much better than paint filled with nasties. This paint is also a sustainable choice, as there’s nothing synthetic about it. It’s simply a mix of clays, minerals and pigments.
What Are The Benefits Of Low VOC Paint?
The obvious benefit of Low VOC paint is that it releases very little of the nasty VOC gasses into the air when drying, so working in close proximity with it is far less harmful. Because of that, it smells less too, with lots of Low VOC paints claiming to be Low Odour too.
Using Low VOC paints also means potential aggravation of breathing, allergies, or other reactions is less that products with high VOC content (e.g. traditional solvent-based gloss paint). In the grand scheme, low VOC levels mean less toxicity in the air and less contaminants that could potentially end up on groundwater or landfill.
We don’t want any paint to end up in landfill, so we run a recycle scheme. Send your empty or unwanted paint back to us, in the original packaging, and we’ll recycle everything sustainably.
Today, they also tend to dry quickly, provide good coverage, and offer a durable finish. Low VOC-paints, unlike their earlier versions when these paints were first introduced, have also come down in cost and improved in quality over the years. Additionally, they can be applied to many different surfaces and perform well in terms of coverage, covering flaws and cleaning. Best of all, low VOC paints are easy to find and are available in a great spectrum of colours.
Like with anything, however, there can be a downside. Some paints contain other additives that aren't obvious but are still harmful. For this reason, it’s always best to double-check the paint you are buying and read the label. You can’t beat a bit of research either.
What's The Best Low VOC Paint?
Honestly, most modern paint brands offer low VOC paint options. For many, like COAT, the entire range is low VOC. Using COAT Eggshell for example, vs a traditional oil-based gloss paint, will make painting your wood or furniture so much more pleasant - no smell, no nasty chemicals, and a great silky smooth water-based paint to work with.
One thing is for sure, we need to be backing Low VOC paints for the sake of the planet. So if we’re going to paint, do it right.