When we moved into our house four years ago, I couldn’t wait to paint it. After years of apartment living, I finally had walls I could paint! And I knew I’d be seeking eco-friendly options that did not contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
VOCs include a variety of chemicals with short- and long-term adverse health effects. They can off-gas for years, which is why interior paint is a prime contributor to indoor pollution. According to the EPA, even old cans of paints, solvents, stains, etc. sitting in your basement can leak chemicals and wreak havoc on your health.
Dump the VOCs. Below are five eco-friendly indoor paints.
Benjamin Moore Aura and EcoSpec
I began painting with Benjamin Moore Aura because my online research showed the brand had great coverage and lasted forever. PROS: (1) The coverage was good — the paint was rich and smooth, and I only needed one coat over the primer; and (2) The color choices were endless!
CONS: (1) Aura was pricey at about $60 a gallon; and (2) Even though it is low-VOC, there was a definite odor while painting. It dissipated within a day or two (and was not nearly as strong as your typical paint odor) but I’m very chemically sensitive and this was enough to send me looking into other eco paint options.
I used Benjamin Moore EcoSpec for my primer, which contains less than 10 grams of VOCs per liter. (50g/l is the Green Seal low-VOC maximum for flat coats; 150g/l for non-flat coats. Anything 5g/l or less is considered Zero-VOC). EcoSpec made some “10 Best” lists and worked great for me.
I discovered C2 at a local hardware store called Adlers. Their LoVo line is low in VOCs so I tried that for the living room—a warm brown color called Luxe. PROS: (1) Better pricing per gallon (plus a store sale, so I got it for $33 a can); (2) They offer 16-ounce samplers so you can test a color before investing in a larger supply; and (3) Virtually NO odor while painting. Yippee!
CONS: (1) Coverage was not as good as Aura. I needed two coats, which voided the whole price advantage. In addition, even though C2 has nearly 500 color choices, it seemed limited compared to the Aura. We couldn’t find a C2 color match for the Aura chip we’d chosen for the bathroom. But then maybe I’m just picky.
YOLO Colorhouse gets high marks for its eco qualities that include: no VOCs, phthalates or formaldehyde; 70-100% recycled plastic containers and labels; and a LEED Gold manufacturing facility. It can be found at Home Depot.
Sherwin Williams Harmony
Sherwin Williams Harmony line is an interior latex paint that has been GreenGuard Indoor Air Quality Certified® for children and schools. The zero VOC paint includes something called Formaldehyde Reducing Technology that improves indoor air quality (reduces VOCs from carpets, etc.) and anti-microbial agents that inhibit mildew growth.
Real Milk Paint
I’ve never tried this, but milk paint has been around for a while—like since ancient cave paintings. It’s a truly green paint made with no VOCs using iron oxide pigment, milk casein and lime. The amazing thing about the pharmaceutical grade lime is that it draws carbon dioxide in from the air as it dries. In that sense, you’re cleaning your air when you paint with Real Milk Paint. Use their powders and bases to mix your own perfect color.
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