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Using Zero VOC Red Paint in My Living Room to Reduce Hazardous Outgassing

Updated on August 23, 2012

My Inspiring Red Living Room

this came out even better than I expected
this came out even better than I expected | Source

Using Zero VOC Paint in My Living Room

Our homes are filled with products that are toxic, and one of the worst products is paint. Generally, the paint we use has VOCs - or volatile organic compounds. VOCs are vapors or gases emitted by various solids and liquids. They produce a breathable gas when applied, which diminishes air quality and can be detrimental to our health.

Since we are now more aware of toxic home products and the related health hazards of outgassing, there has been a consumer demand to reduce or eliminate the toxins in paint. Manufacturers have responded in recent years with the introduction of low VOC paint; now there are paints on the American market that have zero VOCs.

The mistake I made:

I made the mistake of using a paint about 14 years ago that made me sick. I bought some white paint locally before I moved into my new place. I figured the paint could freshen up the dingy walls. Instead, it gave me flu symptoms. I had no idea what was going on, except that I was knocked out flat on my bed. An elder cousin called and when I told her what was wrong, knowing that I was moving she asked if I had used cheap paint. I had. She told me such paint can give you flu-like symptoms. Truly, I had no idea. I can't help but to wonder how often we think we have the flu but it is in fact the outgassing of the many toxic products in our home. Vinyl flooring is one source of outgassing and another one of the worst is vinyl shower curtains (see the link below).

I decided it was time to paint my living room a 'writer-inspiring red' (see photo). However, finding a true red zero VOC was not quite as easy. I checked out the zero VOC Freshaire at Home Depot, and checked colors of Mythic Paint online. Many of the paint shades more closely resembled brick or burgundy - I wanted a true, clear, hot red. I thought I would have to use a Benjamin Moore low VOC paint that I used in the past but that line did not have the vivid red either.

Ultimately, the Benjamin Moore brand came through. They have added a number of zero VOC paints to their line with many different colors including a vibrant red; I finally decided on the shade known as Caliente. But then came the issue of which of the zero VOCs to buy. There were at least three kinds. I got my answer by going to a local store and not a chain.

While a major home shopping center was nearby - I did a bit of online research and went to what may have been called, in the past, a mom and pop hardware store. Benjamin Moore prefers to sell from privately owned stores and not massive chains. I'm glad they do because I got a lot of information - and saved money.

The best place to shop:

The paint I had planned to buy was the most expensive ($55.00) because it was a primer and paint in one. The two (good-looking) men at Park Lumber here in Brooklyn took the time to explain quite thoroughly the differences in the zero VOC paints. I wound up purchasing an eggshell finish from the BEN line - and saved about $20.00.

You will see in the picture that my walls have a kind of pattern and texture. This is exactly what I wanted but it came about by accident. I bought a tiny roller and began applying the paint. Because my walls are old plaster I got exactly what I wanted - that old world plastered look - with one coat of paint! If I wanted a smooth solid finish I could have used two coats - which was out of the question as the ceilings are 11 feet high and I had had enough stretching by then. But had I bought the more expensive paint it would have primed the wall and then I would have received a flat even look.

Quality pays - this gallon of paint costs about $35. - and for the two walls in the photo I used less than 1/3 of the gallon. I have more than enough paint in one gallon for my whole living room which is spacious with high ceilings - and will have paint leftover.

I will only use zero VOC paints now. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) our indoor air is three times more polluted than our outdoor air. Our indoor air is also considered one of the top 5 hazards to human health with paints and finishes being leading causes. These paints and finishes can release low levels of toxic emissions into the air for years after application.

Most conventional paint on the market still contain high levels of VOCs causing us to leave home after painting, opening windows for days, or as one colleague suggested - placing pans of water everywhere (I think it helped back when I used that cheap VOC paint).

Is it really zero VOC?

A paint can be labeled zero VOC if the VOCs are in the range of 5 grams/litre. Some colors like the red I used can bring the VOC level up to 10 grams/litre, but it is still quite low. I was quite satisfied although I did leave my windows open for the day. I never did detect an odor from the paint curing.

There are many benefits to using zero VOC paints:

- they have little or no hazardous fumes and no odor once the paint finish is cured

- the reduced toxins benefit people with allergies and chemical sensitivities, and everyone else

- being water based there is easy clean up with soap and water thus avoiding toxic cleaners

- they reduce contaminants in landfills, in groundwater, are less damaging to the ozone, and disposal is greatly simplified

For more information about the many toxic chemicals in our home, our personal care products and the dangers of a home demolition and renovation - see the links below.


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    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      The ceilings too - how brave and creative. I have heard of milk paint but not used. Milk paint doesn't seem to be easy to find in the US but it does exist. When I visit my cousin in England I can find it easily but still not used. I'm going to have to research this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    • savvyMama profile image


      5 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

      I love, love color (I even throw it up on the ceilings, too!)! However, we just moved and as one can imagine, all the walks are white and taupe... Not my cup of tea. So, here I am starting all over and grateful for so many environmentally friendly choices but was curious if you had ever heard of used milk paint? Just wondered if that was a consideration at all as I haven't connected with anyone who has and it sounds cool!

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thanks for writing no voc paint. I still can't believe how many toxic products are sold to the public.

    • profile image

      no voc paint 

      6 years ago

      The Painting our interiors was synonymous with toxic air and home evacuation. I remember all of my painting events very clearly

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Hilarious Jo, Go all out with color and then change it back to white/beige the following week - or sooner.

      Would you believe I'm not even aware of the color anymore? When I first did it - oh, wow, yeah, love it - but I don't even see it anymore. Yet, I saw the white walls constantly. This must mean something. Hmmmmm.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting, but I am a beige/white/brown person.......I know it boring, but I am old school, and it is hard for me to change.

      But I do admire the colors, I just figure I would do this one week and change it to white the next week......

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thank you william.fischer29! I love this room where I am right now. It inspires me. I thought I'd get tired of it but I like it more each day - it's the best background color for lots of art.

    • william.fischer29 profile image


      7 years ago

      You have a beautiful room, BK.I love the color because it is not boring to look at.Nice hub!

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Lord Bryan - your mother was a very, very wise woman! And cheap stuff, we are bombarded with it and are suffering the consequences. So glad you wrote.

      I'm so glad you love it theherbivorehippi! Actually, I am not even aware of them anymore unless I stop and look for a moment. But I'm so happy you love it with exclamation points!!!!!

    • theherbivorehippi profile image


      8 years ago from Holly, MI

      Oh my!!! Those red walls are amazing!! Love it!!!!

    • profile image

      Lord Bryan 

      8 years ago

      This is interesting. I suppose it comes down to, ya get what ya pays for. Cheap is usally not good. Your cousin mentioned that it was cheap paint, interestly, my mother used to say the same thing. Good article. And I like the red room.

      Lord Bryan

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      So true mecheshier - we buy whatever is sold to us with corporations bearing no responsibility - and we are left to suffer the consequences. And we all do.

      Thanks for your opinion!

    • mecheshier profile image


      9 years ago

      Great article! It is a lot cheaper to by toxic free paints than to pay for a medical bill later. Love the color...

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      And thank you EdenvaleShoppes!

      Glad you like the ideas!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Exciting ideas.


    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      You know gwennies pen, I'm glad you knew enough to quit that job.

      These toxic fumes are destroying our health - yet they are constantly produced and marketed to us - leaving us to suffer the consequences - and we do. Often severely, even fatally.

      Thanks for reading and sharing the info about the plant. We need to know this about our jobs.

    • profile image

      gwennies pen 

      9 years ago

      BkCreative, thanks again for a good hub full of important information. I know I have always been allergic to strong paint fumes. I had to quit my job at a molding injection plant because of it. Good to know of this VOC paint though.

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thanks fastfreta!

      You know I have two walls in my bedroom painted red - and this too, is long before the zero VOC paint. I really like them too.

      I do think it offers a bit of inspiration. But odd, I'm really not aware of the color as I was the first couple days when I said - WOW! But as I sit here and write, every now and then I look up and say - ahhhh! I love it and glad I did it!

      Hey aren't we the bold ones!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      BK, that room is gorgeous. That's the color of my bedroom, however I used regular paint, I wished that I had known about zero VOC paints. Oh well, I still like my room. So that's why I'm writing, huh, (inspired by the red). LOL! Good hub.


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