A Look At Contemporary
Eco Friendly Paint Choices

More Colors And More
Eco Options Than Ever Before

Roller laying down eco grass paint Why Switch To Eco Friendly Paint? Being environmentally conscious when selecting paint and related products isn't just important for the environment. They can have a big impact on your health as well!

A 2002 study by the National Cancer Institute found that people working as painters had a significantly increased risk of cancer, due to the VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

VOCs are potentially carcinogenic, carbon-based chemicals found in conventional paints that are released into the air when new paint is put on, old paint is removed, and to a lesser extent, continually throughout the life of the paint job.

Common VOCs include formaldehyde, pesticides, and cleaning chemicals. VOCs evaporate slowly at room temperature. While they outgas (a process that can take weeks) they may cause health problems such as dizziness, irritation of the eyes and trachea, lung, heart, or kidney damage, or cancer.

VOCs are most concentrated indoors, but they can affect outdoor air quality as well, so finding eco friendly exterior paint is important! According to the California Air Resources board, more than 66% of the 176 million pounds of VOC emissions generated annually in California come from paints and other surface coatings.

Oil-based paints often contain more VOCs than water-based paints, usually making up 60% of the content of the paints.

Eco Friendly Paint Comparison

Early on in the development of paints without VOCs, many natural paints had a tendency to fade and created a difficult-to-wash surface. Eco paint colors were limited and often washed out-earning them a negative, and now outdated, reputation.

Paints with little or no chemical outgassing come in a wide range of textures and finishes, and an unlimited range of colors to meet any painting need.

Contemporary low-VOC eco friendly paint for inside use is created with a water base, rather than traditional petroleum-based solvents. According to the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency, low-VOC materials must have less than 200 grams of volatile compound per liter of paint, or 300 grams per liter of varnish, as typical conventional paints have more than twice that amount.

An even stricter standard for VOCs is set by Green Seal, an independent non-profit certification organization, which limits VOCs to 50 grams per liter. Green Seal approved paints can be identified by the Green Seal stamp on the label. If you can afford to pay just a bit more, you can even get eco paints that are labelled "zero-VOC", which contain less than 5 grams of volatile organic compound per liter.

Most conventional paint strippers are not only petroleum based, but contain the particularly harmful chemical methylene chloride. While there are some methylene-free paint removers on the market, they still contain other strong chemicals. Particularly if you have specific health concerns, eco safe paint removal is best done by a professional.

Remember that regardless of what kind of eco friendly painting you do, it is best to keep the space well ventilated when you're painting. Don't remove old paint that may contain lead yourself...

Especially not with a sander!

Lead paint use in homes came to an end in the late 1970's. If you are not sure, have yours tested first and if it does contain lead, you may call a certified professional to deal with it.

If you know it probably does contain lead and it is in decent shape, you may simply paint over it without scraping or sanding the lead paint. This will help seal the lead in and make it more difficult for kids to become contaminated.

When you dispose of your unused paint, save it carefully, making sure there is a tight seal around the lid.

Shopping for Eco Friendly Paint

Scene of a room being painted with eco green paint Low- and zero-VOC options include many kinds of eco friendly paint, including clay paint, lime wash, and milk paint. To do an eco friendly paint comparison, you first need to understand the available choices and where and how you might use them.

Organic clay paint comes in an assortment of natural earth tones and blue, white, and orange tints.

While the color range is fairly narrow and the cost is high relative to standard paint, clay paint has beautiful, natural tones and functions as an effective odor absorbant. Clay paints are for indoor use only.

Lime wash is a fairly affordable, eco friendly, limestone-based alternative for use on porous materials such as wood, plaster, brick, and concrete. Lime wash penetrates the subsurface of these materials, coating them with calcium crystals for a unique and attractive appearance.

Lime wash is not effective on drywall or previously painted surfaces. It is essential to wear protective gear during the application of lime wash, as limestone is an alkaline corrosive.

Milk has been used as a base for paint for thousands of years, for a good reason... it works! It still seems to be a solid eco friendly paint choice today as well. Casein, a milk protein, is mixed with clay, natural pigment, and water to form a thick, VOC-free paint.

This paint is manufactured as a powder, to be mixed with water immediately prior to use to prevent clumping. Milk paint is only appropriate for indoor surfaces. All milk paints have a matte finish.

Several low-VOC outdoor paints have come on the market in recent years. There are also many eco friendly stains available, including all-natural choices such as beeswax and carnauba wax.

In general, darker stains and sealants are more eco friendly than light colored ones, because of the way that eco stains interact with sunlight.

Now that you know what some of the options are, you're probably wondering where to buy eco friendly paint.

How do you pick the best one?

Actually, there isn't a single best eco friendly paint on the market, although there may be a best one for your personal tastes and priorities!
Here are a few of the most exciting eco friendly paint brands and eco paint options available on the market today:

  • American Formulating and Manufacturing (AFM) manufactures Safecoat eco friendly house paint, stains, cleaning products, and sealers with no toxic chemicals. AFM products are safe even for chemically sensitive people.
  • Environmental Building Supplies is the US seller for AGLAIA natural paints and finishes. AGLAIA is a British company specializing in historically accurate traditional colors of the British Isles.
  • Med Imports offers an alternative to paint called Terramed, which is an all-natural, historically accurate, indoor wall coating made of Mediterranean clays combined with sand and cellulose. It is chemical- and VOC-free and available in 12 colors.
  • The Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company, one of the oldest eco friendly paint brands around, is a family-run company from Groton, Massachusetts, which creates eco friendly interior paint from milk protein. Old-Fashioned Milk Paints are available in 20 colors, or you can mix and match to create your own shade. The company claims the paints are safe enough to drink—but maybe you should just take their word for it.
  • Timber-Tek UV Wood Finishes sells oil-based, water-born exterior wood finishes. This is a great source for eco friendly wood finish that creates a natural but professional appearance.
  • Noopy offers an eco friendly paint stripper which uses natural ingredients to lift paint more gently and slowly than other products containing methylene chloride. This eco friendly paint remover uses a different process than conventional paint strippers, one that the company argues is actually more effective!
  • Krylon Eco Guard Paint is an eco friendly spray paint with a latex base. One of the only eco spray paints available in a spray, Krylon Eco Guard is an eco pro painting necessity!
  • Yolo Colorhouse offers the Little Yolo Sprout Collection, chock-full of Green Seal Certified earth friendly paint products are designed especially for nurseries and other kid-friendly applications. Their products are packaged in 100% post consumer recycled plastic. Yolo belongs to the SmartWay Transportation program, which ships in the most eco friendly ways possible (usually rail or biodiesel).
  • Earth Safe Paints is an online eco friendly paint store that offers many of the eco paint options customers want besides house paint, their products include eco friendly craft paint, eco friendly fabric paint, and eco friendly acrylic paint.
  • Sherwin Williams eco friendly wall paint, Harmony interior latex, is one of the most widely available eco friendly paints on the market today. They can match just about any color. Sherwin Williams eco paint is zero voc, the can is created from 100% post consumer recycled plastic, the can label is made from recycled fiber, and the writing is printed with soy ink.
  • Benjamin Moore eco friendly paint, which goes by the product name Aura, is Green Guard and LEED certified and also comes in a virtually unlimited color selection. They offer a new zero-voc paint line, called Natura. Moore eco paints are available for exterior and interior applications. They are available everywhere Benjamin Moore paints are sold, making them an especially convenient choice.