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Eco Friendly Paint - Choose Non-Toxic Paints for Your Home

eco friendly paint

You wouldn't let your car idle in the middle of your living room, so why saturate the walls with paint that contains equally dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as found in vehicle emissions? In fact, of all the substances we are exposed to in our daily lives, only automobiles emit more VOCs than paints, stains and other architectural coatings, inside and out. Not only do these VOCs evaporate at room temperature, but they react when exposed to sunlight, creating a ground-level ozone layer that we need to eliminate or minimize at all cost.

Choose Natural Paints

If you think you may be limited in the quality and color selection of natural paints, think again. You don't need toxic chemicals to create the colors you want or the performance you need. The same main elements of conventional paint -- pigment, carriers and binders -- all have eco-friendly alternatives.

1) Pigment gives paint its color, made naturally from minerals and plant-derived compounds.

2) Carriers give paint its liquid consistency, made naturally from citrus oils, and pine and balsam-derived terpenes.

3) Binders give paint its stickiness, made naturally from linseed oil and soy oil.

Select Your Colors Carefully

More than an opportunity to set the tone of a room, the color of your walls helps control how much light fills your home. So choose colors that reflect light rather than absorb it. After all, the more light your walls reflect, the less electricity you'll lose lighting your home artificially. Plus, lighter walls create the illusion of a bigger space.

If Your Opt for Conventional Paint, Go With Latex and Acrylic

Natural paints will run you 20 to 80 percent more than conventional paints. If you can find a way to work it into your budget, it is well worth the investment in your family's health. However, if decide to opt for conventional paints, go with latex and acrylic. Latex paint is water-based, not only containing fewer VOC's than oil (petroleum) based paints, but it's easy to clean too, requiring no harsh solvents. Water-based latex won't hold up real well up to moisture though so choose acrylic paints for the kitchen and bathroom.

Avoid These Common Paint Ingredients

You need not worry about the following substances in natural paint, but if you are going the conventional route be sure to choose paints that are free of:

  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Mercury
  • Lead
  • Formaldehyde
  • Toluene
  • Xylene
  • Benzene
  • Fungicides
  • Petroleum (oil paints)

Try to avoid VOC's, too, or at the very least, choose paint labeled "Low VOC."

Know Your Eco Friendly Paint Brands

When shopping around for green paint alternatives, you have three main categories to choose from -- natural paint, Zero VOC paint and Low VOC paint. has done a fabulous job of categorizing dozens of paints accordingly, saving you tons of time. You'll also find there a list of eco-friendly alternatives for wood strippers.

Follow Eco Friendly Painting Practices

Though it is the most important part of greening the painting process, choosing eco-friendly paint is just one of a number of green painting practices you should following, from preparation to clean-up:

  • Invest in quality supplies (made from sustainable materials) instead of cheap products that wear out.
  • Use non-toxic cleaners to prep surfaces and clean up messes (i.e., no ammonia, bleach or other harsh synthetic chemicals).
  • Clean brushes and rollers in a bucketful of water instead of the sink.
  • Dump the bucket of dirty paint water into the toilet, as it is best processed by the sewer system.
  • If you're working with surfaces that could be coated in lead paint, wet the surface before sanding, as sanding dry paint releases particles into the air that you will inevitably inhale.
  • Dispose of empty paint cans responsibly according to your city's guidelines for potentially toxic waste.

Just remember, being careful is equally important to being creative. Have fun with your color choices and combos, creating eco-friendly rooms that not only reflect light but also plenty of your personality.