Low VOC Paint – Reduce the Fumes and Reduce Your Risk

Low VOC Paint – Reduce the Fumes and Reduce Your Risk

To Reduce the Fumes and Reduce Your Risk – Use Low VOC Paint

What about Low VOC Paint?  Should I use that in my home?  What is it and does it really matter?

All of us at Legacy Painting Contractors are frequently asked these questions, so we decided to put our heads together, do a little research, and come up with an article on the topic…here it is!  Just one more to add to the never-ending online list!

What’s the first thing that you think of when you prepare to paint the interior of your home?

Is it the mess, the cost, what colors to choose, that stress… the fumes?  The first 4 items are inconvenient enough, but the 5th one can be a minor irritation or possibly harmful to your health!

One type of Low VOC paint you can purchase.  (Permission to use photo by Sherwin Williams)
One type of Low VOC paint you can purchase. (Permission to use photo by Sherwin Williams)

Varnishes and paints can emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).  This is a normal chemical reaction that occurs as paint dries.  When applying paint to your home, VOCs are trapped and they can build up and cause minor problems, such as the irritation of the eyes, ears and throat or headaches.  In some cases more serious health problems can also result from the build up of VOCs.  Link to US EPA VOC standards.

So when choosing your interior paint colors, does that mean you’re stuck with “builder beige” for every room in your home?  Absolutely not!  There are many things you can do to reduce your exposure to VOC’s and still get the color you want on your walls.  Here are a few steps you can take prior to interior painting:

1.  Use Latex paint.  Because it’s water-based it starts off with fewer chemicals and it’s also easier to clean up!  Read that label too – all latex paints are not Low VOC.  The U.S. EPA created a standard which measures the amount of  VOC’s in the paint prior to any additives or pigment being mixed in, and it regulates which products can be called Low VOC.

2.  Each coat counts.  By applying multiple coats of paint (primer counts too!), you increase your exposure to VOC’s.  Each coat has to dry, and as it dries it releases the VOC’s.  These additional coats/dry times will add to the VOC levels inside of your home.  When possible, limit the number of coats of paint applied.  Just as an example, if you want a dramatically dark color on your wall, start with a tinted primer.


3.  Watch out for those add-ons.  Some paints claim to reduce mold growth.  But in order to do this they add additional additives to your paint.  Guess what – those additives emit additional VOC’s to0!

4.  Storing unused paint or primer.  VOC’s can continue to be emitted by that leftover paint in the container.  Begin your project by purchasing the amount of paint you need, then only store enough paint for those occasional touch-ups.  When storing paint, keep it in a tightly sealed container, and store it an area with a mild temperature.  A cool closet or garage is fine, as long as your garage temperature does not drop below freezing.

5.  Dispose or your paint properly.  If you have more paint than you need to keep for a touch up, or you no longer need to keep the unused portion, don’t just toss it in the trash!  One way to dispose of paint is to first add kitty litter to the can and then allow the paint to dry.  Once dried,  you can then put the can in the trash.  Or better yet, look at our previous post on local recycling areas to find one nearest to you.

6.  Hire professional painting contractors, like us of course!  But at the very least, look for someone with years of experience choosing the right paint for the job, and let them know you prefer to have them use Low VOC paint products.  Then let us do the clean up and take care of the mess!

So what does everyone mean when saying “Low Odor paint?”  For those in the painting industry, “Low Odor” and “Low VOC” are used interchangeably.  The fumes in traditional paint are the evidence of VOC emission.  When you reduce the VOC’s, you reduce the odor!  When painting, we hope these above steps will help you to get the results you want in obtaining a healthier environment for your family.

We hope this article has been informative, but if you have a comment or further information on this issue please let us know.  We are happy to add any important information we may have missed.



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