What Is Low-VOC Paint and Why Does It Matter?

Freshly painted interiors have a wonderful smell. All the rooms seem brighter and cleaner. Most people cannot wait to get home and experience that wonderful new paint smell after they buy a new house, but just how safe is that paint? The truth is that it may not be as safe as you think.

In the last decade, more customers have been demanding paints that are eco-friendly. In response, many paint manufacturers have been developing paints with Low VOCs in them. Low VOC paints are also called green or sustainable paints because they contain less volatile chemicals that can be harmful to humans and the environment. These chemicals off-gas from a painting and can be toxic to children and adults, among other things.


What is VOC?

VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. These are compounds in paints and other building materials that have high solubility in the air and are harmful when breathed and/or touched. It is a catchall term for chemicals present in paints and other building materials that can be harmful when breathed and/or touched. They include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as methylene chloride, butyl acetate, toluene, xylene, benzene, and formaldehyde.

In recent years, there has been a push to decrease the number of harmful emissions from paints and coatings. This is because paint releases a lot of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the environment. VOCs can be found in paints, solvents, adhesives, and other related products. The health effects of these chemicals are still being studied but they have been linked to asthma attacks and cancer.

When you’re choosing paint for a home improvement project, you probably assume that the biggest factor will be the color you choose. However, there’s another component that can have a huge impact on your environment — low VOC paints.

Toxic chemicals are often used to produce traditional paints and stains. However, some issues with these chemicals have led to the development of “low-VOC” paints.


What Is Low-VOC Paint?

Low-VOC paints are less polluting than traditional paints, which is why they’re also referred to as “green” paints. Low-VOC paints make for a safer environment for everyone. Plus, the potential health benefits include reducing asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.

The main difference between low-VOC and non-low-VOC paints is that low-VOC paints contain fewer toxic compounds than traditional paints. These compounds include volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When you use traditional paint, the solvent evaporates quickly and the paint dries on its own. However, when you use low-VOC paint, the solvent evaporates more slowly and requires a longer drying time.

Low-VOC paints are designed specifically to reduce the amount of VOCs emitted during the painting process. They have a significantly lower emission rate than standard paints, which makes them safer for use in indoor spaces as well as homes with children or elderly people with breathing problems such as asthma.


How to Find Greener Options?

If you are looking to eliminate chemical-based products in your home and have found that most paint options on the market contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), it might be time to explore greener alternatives.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one of many organizations that has recognized the dangers of VOCs, particularly when they are used in combination with other chemicals such as formaldehyde. For this reason, many environmental organizations have begun to limit or ban the use of products that release high levels of VOCs. In fact, California’s Proposition 65 requires businesses to inform consumers about high-VOC levels in paint.

Plant-Based Paints

Occasionally, painting companies carry non-toxic paints created with natural materials such as plant oils, beeswax, essential oils, mineral dyes, resins, clay, talcum, natural latex, and other ingredients. Water-based paint, in particular, gives off no pungent odor and usually causes few (or no) allergic reactions in humans or animals. Such paints emit zero VOCs.


Zero-VOC Paints

To qualify as zero VOC, both plant- and non-plant-based paints must contain fewer than five grams VOC per liter. However, it pays to investigate. Some paints add fungicides and colorants that contain additional VOCs. Ask your professional painter for more information before you decide on a paint type.

Also, remember that the darker the color, the higher the VOC content. But if you start with a zero-VOC base paint, the additional color will add a lower amount of VOCs than if you purchased a higher-VOC paint, to begin with.

Low-VOC Paints

As explained earlier, low-VOC paint causes fewer emissions than normal solvent-based paints. Most low-VOC paint is made with water instead of petroleum solvents, and such paint features lower levels of formaldehyde and other chemicals.

To qualify as low VOC, a liter of paint shouldn’t exceed 200 VOC grams. Varnishes qualify as low VOC if they don’t exceed 300 grams.

Many paint manufacturers make low-VOC paints that have fewer than 25 grams of VOC per liter. Those who are sensitive or allergic should choose paints with the lowest VOC rating possible.

As an environmentally conscious homeowner, you may want to avoid using paints with high levels of VOCs in your home; however, you will also want a product that adheres well and covers evenly. Finding low or zero VOC paints is difficult because these products tend not to perform as well as their traditional counterparts. Fortunately, there are some companies that have created eco-friendly paints that perform just as well as those


How To Choose Low VOC Paints?

If you’re looking to buy low VOC paint, there are a few things you’ll need to know. The first is that low VOC paint is not necessarily better than regular paint. You want to look for paints that are “low in volatile organic compounds.” But what does that mean?

Toxic chemicals can be found in any number of products and the average home can have up to 1,000 different types of chemicals in it. While you may not be able to eliminate all your toxic chemicals, you certainly don’t want to add more into your home. When it comes to choosing paint with low VOC content, follow these tips:

1. Look for paints that are low in solvents

2. Choose water-based or solvent-free paints

3. Avoid paint with high levels of formaldehyde and ammonia

4. Paints containing styrene may be harmful over time, so avoid them if possible

5. Paints with a lower VOC rating are generally considered safer for the environment and healthier for those living in the home

Besides being safer for your family as well as the environment, low VOC paints also tend to be more expensive than paints with higher levels of VOCs. If you’re on a budget but still want your home


Why Do Low VOC Paint Matters?

Low-VOC paints are better for your health and for the environment, so if those two things matter to you it is worth it to use them. If you or someone in your household suffers from asthma or allergies, using low-VOC paints will drastically improve your quality of life since they do not contain any harsh chemicals that can make these disorders worse.

Here are just a few benefits you’ll receive by asking your painter to go green:

Cost – Most zero-VOC paints cost about the same as regular latex paints. Your painter will explain pricing when you call for a quote.

Health – Green paint causes few (or no) fumes during the painting process. Even those with asthma or allergies can breathe more easily after painters are finished.

Responsibility – Eco-friendly paints help everyone who cares about carbon emissions. When you ask for zero-VOC paint, you also lower your carbon footprint and protect the earth.

Color – Even green paints come in a wider array of colors than in the past. As manufacturing techniques improve, paint companies can ensure low-VOCs in virtually any color you choose.


Who can blame you for wanting your home to be a safe and healthy place to live? Luckily, the days of VOCs in paint are on their way out. Thanks to the growing popularity of low-VOC or zero-VOC paints, people everywhere are being exposed to less Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) when they paint. The results are almost immediate and there’s no wonder that more and more people are making the switch, thanks to these low-VOC paints.

Have questions about low-VOC, zero-VOC or regular paint? Contact your professional residential or commercial painters for more information today.