Is No-VOC Paint the Best?

Let me share a personal story with you in my battle to find the best paint.

I've been creating a healthier, more non-toxic home for nearly two decades. And it hasn't been easy!

More than a decade ago, my husband and I moved into a new rental home. I, of course, wanted the home to have the least amount of chemicals possible. But I also wanted a fresh new yellow coat of paint on the walls.

(I truly believe that color affects your mood. And you should surround yourself with whatever colors make you feel happy!)

I did all of my research. And back then, there were VERY FEW options. And I didn't have the money to pay for fancy products.

I found out that Behr sold a low-VOC paint. BUT, they only sold it by the case at that time. 

That's right. I had to buy 6 gallons of the stuff. All in the same finish.  And have it shipped to my door by the company. Then I'd have to bring it to Home Depot and have them tint the base for me. But I had done so much research at that point that I knew that the tint was one of the biggest problems when it came to VOCs. 

Needless to say, I didn't buy a case of paint. And I was very frustrated by my options.

Fast forward more than 10 years and today you can go in just about any major retailer and get paint that claims Low-VOC or No-VOC. And you'd think that would be a good thing.

It depends.

No-VOC Claims Are Sometimes Only Half True

Okay, here's where it gets tricky.

And where I found so many problems myself.

A paint can be considered Low-VOC or No-VOC and still be toxic.

Shocking, but true.

AND, a paint can be called Zero-VOC but still contain VOCs by law. Federal guidelines state that Zero-VOC paint can have up to 5 grams of VOCs per liter (5 g/l)

There are two different reasons for this:

  • The paint base could be Low-VOC or No-VOC, but the tint and coloring is not.

Manufacturers can sell a paint and claim that is is Low-VOC or No-VOC. However, that might not include coloring the paint. Which, of course, is the whole point of paint.

The tints used to make paint colorful can actually pack a pretty hefty punch of VOCs into the product.

So when you look at paint labels, see if the marketing claim refers to just the paint base or the paint plus coloring.

  • The paint and color could be considered Low-VOC or No-VOC, but the product uses a variety of other toxic chemicals.

It's easy to remove VOCs from a product only to add other toxic chemicals instead. 

Companies know what phrases and keywords consumers are looking for. And they know that many people are now aware of the dangers of VOCs in their indoor air.

So if they use a marketing term that proudly states Low-VOC or No-VOC, they wouldn't be lying. But you might be mislead into thinking that the product is not toxic at all.

It makes sense to look at a company's overall commitment to your health through the products that they sell.  

But no one wants to do that much research when they just want to paint their little girl's room with pink walls this weekend.

Which is why I suggest sticking with the products from the companies that I recommend in the next section if you don't want to spend hours investigating chemical claims on a can of paint.

Ultimate Home Detox Guide

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