Looking to spruce your home up with a fresh coat of paint? Before you dip your brush into that can of paint, take a close look at what it’s made of. Conventional paints release nasty chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the environment that can trigger a host of health problems. Choosing a natural or low-VOC paint is far safer for your household and the environment.
Most of the big paint names now produce low-tox paints, which contain low levels of VOCs. Alternatively, choose an all-natural, toxin-free paint. You’ll find eco paints for just about every interior application, including eggshell, emulsion, and hardwearing, wipeable paints for the kitchen and bathroom. Quality and pricing are now more in line with conventional paint now too.
What are VOCs?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the toxic fumes emitted by conventional paint – recognizable by that ‘freshly painted’ smell. VOCs can cause a range of health problems, including headaches, nausea and dizziness, and have even been associated with cancer. They can be released into the atmosphere for up to five years after application.
This term describes giving a subtle white-wash effect that can be used on timber furniture, walls and floors. It also gives timber a naturally aged appearance. Check out or .
Cool roof paint
This specialist roof paint is designed to reflect up to 90% of heat away from your roof, keeping your interior naturally cooler and reducing your reliance on artificial cooling. Dark colours were once considered unsuitable for roofing as they absorbed too much heat, but this new technology works with both light and dark shades. Try or .
Low-VOC and low-tox paints
All the major paint names now produce low-VOC or low-tox paint finishes, which are better for the environment and the health of your home. Be aware, however, that the labelling can be misleading – the base paint might be low in chemicals, but the colourants used to tint the paint could contain high levels of chemicals. As a rule of thumb, the darker the colour, the more VOCs. Check out or .
Natural and plant-based paints
Natural and plant-based paints are made from all-natural ingredients such as egg whites, vinegar and essential oils. They are low odour or odour free, and generally safe around those with allergies or respiratory conditions. Natural and plant-based paints are produced with little or no carbon emissions, and as the ingredients are biodegradable you can even compost any leftovers. As they don’t produce a plastic film like conventional paints, these paints allow walls to breathe, which helps prohibit the growth of mould in moist areas such as bathrooms. They’re not as hardy as synthetic paints, and will take longer to dry when applied to walls. Try , or .
Eco – painting tips
- Cleaning your brushes: Water-based paint can be rinsed out in a bucket of water and tipped onto the lawn – never down the drain. Oil-based paints and stains should be cleaned in turps. Contact your local council to find out about proper disposal of turps.
- Disposing of old paint and cans: It’s a good idea to hold onto leftover paint for touch ups – paint can be stored for up to 10 years if it’s properly sealed. If you need to dispose of paint or cans, contact your local council to find out about local collections or recycling stations.