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Green Paint Choices: A List

Updated on November 16, 2011

Zero Voc Red Paint

red in the living room
red in the living room | Source

Chose a Safer Paint

Nearly passing out some years ago when I painted my apartment, I knew that I could never make that mistake again. Fortunately, I had an elder in my life who told me the cheap white paint I bought - you know, just to freshen up the place before I moved in - was the cause of chills, fever and being flat on my back. It had never occurred to me way back then how dangerous paints regularly sold on the market can be.

I've since researched and chosen only what promises to be safer choices and have not felt ill since.

Most recently I decided to go red in the living room (see photo and link) and chose a zero VOC paint. Zero VOC, however, is not exactly an accurate definition, but manufacturers are allowed to get away with this deception. Still, it is far better than the traditional paints that are sold everywhere.

Note: You can also save a lot when using low and zero VOC paints by simply adding water and doing a color wash. See the link below on how to color wash cheaply - photos included.

Why choose a green paint?

Doing so will eliminate the harmful chemicals found in paints that are traditionally used, such as toxic pigments like cadmium, the biocides that are used to control fungus growth as well as the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that release toxic compounds like formaldehyde and benzene.

Manufacturers have responded to consumer demand and have made green paint choices that are longer lasting, durable and washable. Use of a natural paint alternatives reduce the environmental impact and little energy is used in the manufacture of these paints.

Here are some choices:

Zero VOC paints - Now available in all colors, these are the ultra-low VOC paints that are considered environmentally friendly because they must meet strict EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standards. According to the EPA, all of these paints must have less than 5 grams of volatile compound per liter in order to be labeled as zero VOC.

Low VOC paints are still available in a wide range of colors.

Paints that are most often used contain VOCs which, in turn, release airborne chemicals that may be carcinogenic both during the painting process and for years to come.

When I used these newer paints I did not feel ill after and it's been over two years since I last painted and still no problems.

The Lime Wash - is made from calcium-based minerals that are then added to water. The wash can be used both indoors and out, and is available in a a variety of colors. The lime wash provides an antique look by sinking into the subsurface and forming a glowing finish. The wash should be used on porous materials such as brick, wood, plaster and concrete.

Milk Paint (also known as Casein Paint) - is not new. In fact, it was used in ancient Egypt and is considered one of the few time-tested paint products. Milk paint is made by separating casein -- the protein in milk -- then mixing it with water, clay and earth pigments. This is an interior paint that creates a flat, matte finish. Milk paint is also used in various painting techniques such as ragging, sponging and color washing.

Clay Paints - are made from earth-based minerals that are then added to mostly water. The paint will readily adhere to walls - creating a natural adobe finish. Clay paints are offered in natural earth tones as well as orange, white and blue tints. This is the most common of all the natural paints. It also has the added benefit of effectively absorbing odors.

Flour paint - is a simple paint that can be made at home. Wheat flour is most commonly used. Clay is often used as the filler but other green fillers include chalk, marble, limestone, silica and mica. This type of paint can be used on most indoor surfaces.

Paint For Outdoor Use:

Exterior paints have biocides (a chemical used to destroy different types of living organisms) added to the product to control the growth of fungus and microorganisms - that will naturally grow in damp environments. Recently, manufacturers have created biocide-free exterior paints by using lime or zinc oxide as the active ingredient. This makes the exterior paints more benign to health and the environment.

See links below for zero and low VOC paint suggestions andother indoor healthy living suggestions.


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    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I'm with you keelytm - I love my gorgeous painted walls and wonder what new thing I can try - it is time to freshen up the bedroom. I can imagine what my poor cats went through when I used that cheap paint - we often don't think about them when we bring these toxins into the house. I'm going to check out your link. Thanks for commenting.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Love that low hubtivity. I'm with you there - hahaha. Whew! And I shudder to think of how many toxins I inhaled in all my many DIY projects. Good grief!

      Thanks for writing!

    • J Burgraff profile image

      J Burgraff 6 years ago

      Loved your hub. I wish I had had it about ten years ago when I was taking wallpaper/paint off my daughter's wall and repainting it. I'm sure all of the detrimental effects account for my low hubtivity.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Glad you found the article helpful RunAbstract. Thanks for commenting!

    • RunAbstract profile image

      RunAbstract 6 years ago from USA

      This is a very helpful article, well explained and a great green way to go!

      Thanks too for the links!

      Love the red livingroom!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thanks for the kind compliment Hello, hello.

      We have to make this choice sweetie1 - and I worry about how it all affects children. If it can knock me out - then what about a baby. There's no excuse for these toxic products. If it was not for my elder I would have thought I had the flu - or who knows what. Yikes.

      Thanks for the comments!

    • sweetie1 profile image

      sweetie1 6 years ago from India

      Hi BK, you are right that we should choose green paint because paints usually are full of chemicals which can be very harmful and can lead to cancers and other respiratory problems. Nice and beautiful hub..voted it up

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      You are an absolute expert. Great detailed hub.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thank goodness for the elder in my life because I just never made the connection. I thought I had the flu and I am a person who never gets sick. Imagine what this toxic stuff is doing to our children and pets. We are living in a toxic soup. No wonder there is so much illness.

      Thanks for commenting.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks much for tracking down this info and sharing it with us. If I don't have a couple kinds of paint projects in the works I've got the flu or worse so I need to give this close attention.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I too am surprised TheListLady that the amount of toxic paint on the market is still out there and is sold everywhere. Then what happens to left over paint? More toxic material down the drain.

      It's true CCC - we have choices now and I find the zero VOCs have superior coverage - a little goes a long way even if the initial cost is higher. If I can't afford a good paint then I will just put off painting. There are just too many indoor toxins.

      Thanks for the comments!

    • CountryCityWoman profile image

      CountryCityWoman 6 years ago from From New York City to North Carolina

      There are so many zero VOCs on the market and I have been very satisfied. Lots of colors now to choose from and a lot of companies making these.

      I would like to try the others like clay paint and the lime wash. I've heard of milk paint but have never tried it.

      Thanks for all the information. How horrible, all the toxic paints allowed on the market. No wonder we are all so sick - especially children.

    • TheListLady profile image

      TheListLady 6 years ago from New York City

      This is an absolute must. The typical paint on the market is horribly toxic. I, too have been through a sickening experience when using a paint. We have come to accept the smell having been used to it for so long - but it is time to stop that madness.

      I'll like to try that lime wash. Thanks a million!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      You're welcome Om Paramapoonya! I'm glad you found the hub useful! Thank you!

      It just didn't occur to me all those years ago Paradise 7 - that the paints were so toxic - how could this be allowed knowing that it could be so harmful to children?

      There are so many beautiful colors out there - but still I do it during cool weather so I can open the window. Certainly there is low odor but still I like to be as safe as possible.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      Interesting... I didn't know the chemicals in paint could make you sick. I'm going to re-paint my own apartment soon, this summer, so this was a very useful hub. Thank you!! I have to stay with very neutral colors, though--I wish I didn't, I really like the look of the red.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 6 years ago

      Thanks for the useful info! I have no plans to paint anything anytime soon but will bookmark this for future reference. :)

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      You're welcome marellen - and thanks for the vote.

      I do remember too timorous and we somehow accepted it as a way of life. I remember when lead-based paint was outlawed - but still we were left with other dangerous toxins - whew! Canada and other countries were far ahead of the U.S. on this. Thanks for writing.

    • timorous profile image

      Tim Nichol 6 years ago from Me to You

      Hello B.k. Paint formulations have come a long way in the last 20 years. I can recall using some of the most vile smelling stuff imaginable. I eventually got a professional respirator, which works amazingly well. Still, I've been getting away from the horrible stuff.

      In fact, it's getting harder to find paint that has VOC's in it, here in Canada. I also find the paints these days give a much longer lasting finish. Mind you no one around here smokes... Nice article.

    • profile image

      marellen 6 years ago

      Thanks for the informative and helpful hub. Voted up....