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Your Guide to Non-Toxic and Eco-Friendly Paint

If you’re ready to spruce up your home with a fresh coat of wall paint, consider adding eco-friendly to the list of things you look for in a good interior paint. Aside from finding just the right color, you’ll want to ensure the paint you select will look good, is easy to apply, and will be durable for years to come. What many people may overlook is choosing a paint that is both safe for your health and better for the environment. There are many non-toxic and eco-friendly paint options on the market today, with more on the way every year.

As many homeowners know, especially those with older homes, pre-1978, lead paint was a preferred option because of its opacity, cost-effectiveness, and its durability. Once it was discovered to be toxic in the early 1900s, the industry did away with it and set strict standards on how to remove it from homes that may still have it to this day.

Since that time, latex, oil, and enamel paints have been the industry standards, but even those options aren’t necessarily better. We’ve broken down the basics here to help you make the most educated and informed decision possible when it comes to selecting the right eco-friendly paint for your home.

The Problem with Conventional Paints

Conventional water-based (latex or acrylic) and oil-based (enamel) paints are often made with harmful chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs can cause a variety of health problems for those who inhale the fumes, from irritating your airways to nausea to possibly damaging internal organs. If you do choose to use conventional paint, follow all instructions to ensure a safe working environment, particularly when it comes to personal protective equipment and ventilation.

Even if no one in your household has allergies or sensitivities, it doesn’t hurt to use a low-VOC paint. It may cost a few dollars more, but it will ensure that toxic smell doesn’t stick around. Off gassing from paint can last anywhere from a few weeks to many months.

Conventional paints also contribute to environmental problems including smog and air pollution. Besides fumes released during manufacturing and application, most conventional paint is derived from fossil fuels—the largest contributor to global climate change.

Lastly, dried conventional paint can chip off into micro-sized pieces that can pollute water streams when disposed of improperly. Just like microplastics, small amounts can add up into big health problems.

Types of Eco-Friendly Paints

Non-toxic and eco-friendly paints are exactly what their names imply: better for your health and better for the environment. These paints are made with natural ingredients and do not contain VOCs. What’s more is that they are also often made with recycled materials, which helps to reduce waste and environmental impact in the manufacturing cycle.

There are a variety of eco-friendly paints available on the market. While they may not be perfect, they are certainly better options. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Low-VOC acrylic latex paints: Low-VOC paintscontain less than 50 parts per million (ppm) of VOCs. These are a good option for those who are sensitive to VOCs (fumes/smells), but they may not be completely free of harmful chemicals.
  • No-VOC acrylic latex paints: No-VOC means it contains an undetectable amount of VOCs. This option is best for people who want to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals at all.
  • Chalk paint: Chalk paint is made with calcium carbonate (chalk), mineral pigments and water. It is a non-toxic, low-odor paint that is easy to apply and durable. It’s commonly used for shabby-chic furniture restoration, but also works on walls. Expect a matte finish. Chalk paint is no-VOC.
  • Limewash: Limewash paints are simply made with lime and water. It is a non-toxic, breathable paint that is ideal for use on walls and ceilings. Luckily, limewash has been having a renaissance in interior design!

When selecting a non-toxic and eco-friendly paint, be discerning and carefully read the label.  The paint itself should be made with natural ingredients that are free from harmful chemicals, or be clearly labeled as low or no-VOC. For a more specific list of healthy paints, The Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design has compiled a good list of interior paints.

When in doubt, trust the professionals. Paints of good quality will be certified by reputable organizations like the Greeguard Environmental Institute or the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Your interior designer or general contractor can also steer you in the right direction. Here at Model Remodel, we only use low or no-VOC paints, and stick to water-based stains and sealants whenever possible. The brands we use most often are:

  • Sherwin Williams ProMar 200
  • Benjamin Moore Aura

Benefits of Non-Toxic and Eco-Friendly Paint

Using eco-friendly paints in your home is a great way to prevent damage to both your health and the environment. Thankfully, the expectation of a healthy indoor environment is no longer a luxury. A healthy indoor environment has become an expectation of homeowners, so eco-friendly paints are much easier to come by and more cost-effective than they were in the past.

Some of the most important benefits of eco-friendly paints are:

  • Improved indoor air quality: Non-toxic and eco-friendly paints do not contain VOCs, which can contribute to poor indoor air quality. This can be especially beneficial for people who are sensitive to chemicals or who have respiratory problems.
  • Reduced exposure to harmful chemicals: When you paint with non-toxic and eco-friendly paints, you are reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals. These chemicals can be harmful to your overall health, and they can also contribute to air pollution.
  • Better for the environment: Non-toxic and eco-friendly paints are made with natural ingredients. This means that they are better for the environment than conventional paints and are less harmful when disposed of.

At Model Remodel, we take the approach that your home is your sanctuary. It should be good for your mind, body, and spirit. Non-toxic paint is just one of the many eco-friendly upgrades you can make it your home. For our remodels, we use low/no VOC products because we want to keep you, your family, your pets, and the environment at their very best.

Written by Model Remodel

Model Remodel is a design-build, remodeling contractor located in Seattle, WA. For over 20 years we’ve been building with purpose, craftsmanship and sustainability in mind. We are proud to continually make the list of top Seattle contractors for our beautiful interior designs and homeowner-focused remodeling process.

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