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VOC Free Paint Reviews - Choose Healthier Paint for You and Your Family

Updated on March 16, 2012

What Is Zero VOC Paint?

Thankfully, the growing zero VOC trend has made it possible to buy household paint that's much less toxic than in the past. Every major paint company, including Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore, carry VOC free paint. The price difference really isn't much and protecting your health is well worth the added cost.

In case you didn't know, traditional house paint, which contains much higher levels of VOC's (volatile organic compounds), is actually really bad for your health. Long-term exposure to harmful paints and stains can cause horrible health problems including kidney and liver damage, memory loss, mental illness, confusion, respiratory illness and cancer.

Paint is the most damaging to human health during application, but even a dried coat of paint releases harmful VOC's into the air several years after application. It is said that only 50% of the VOC's in paint are released into the air in the first year. If you are painting a room for your children, absolutely paint the walls with VOC free paint. Regular paint can cause asthma and even brain damage in young children.

Regular water-based paints contain fewer VOC's than alkyd (oil-based) paints, but both include harmful chemical compounds. Oil-based paints are probably the worst because these coatings take longer to dry, which prolongs exposure to the fumes. Water-based paints contain ethylene glycol, a component of anti-freeze, which can cause liver damage.

Is VOC-Free Paint Really Zero VOC?

Most of these paints are advertised as containing zero VOC's, however, most of them still include VOC's, but extremely low levels that are way less than the advertised low VOC paints. According to the EPA, VOC-free paint is 5 g/L or less and low VOC paint is no greater than 250 g/L.

Read the label on the paint can when you go to the store. The label indicates the VOC level, but keep in mind that the VOC level will increase when the store adds tint to mix your paint color. Also, shiny paints, such as satin, enamel and semi-gloss, contain higher levels of VOC's than flat (non-shiny) paints.

There are paints that are natural and truly 100% zero VOC, but most of these aren't readily available at the store and must be special ordered. Natural paint is formulated using raw ingredients like plant oils, water, bee's wax, clay, milk protein and natural minerals. Bio Shield and Livos are two companies who sell organic paints that are safe and contain natural ingredients.

Personally, I use zero VOC paints from Sherwin Williams most of the time. These paints aren't natural, but the VOC levels are extremely low and safe to use.

ProMar 200 Zero VOC Interior Paint

ProMar 200 is a popular Sherwin Williams paint, but its zero VOC version was recently introduced. I use this paint frequently and I have been happy with the quality, coverage, and most importantly, not having to be exposed to toxic paint fumes.

This paint covers exceptionally well and it doesn't have a strong odor like other paint. The odor doesn't linger for very long and it also dries fast, so you can apply the second coat no more than one hour after applying the first coat. One thing that I also really like about this paint is that it's compatible with any Sherwin Williams color, no matter how dark the color is.

Harmony Interior Paint

Harmony is another quality VOC-free paint from Sherwin Williams. I have mostly used ProMar 200, but I have used Harmony a few times and found it to be a very good paint. Even though it's called a low-odor paint, it has less of an odor than "odorless paints" on the market.

The main advantage of Harmony, other than the health benefit, is the durability of the paint finish. After painting two coats, the surface is very smooth and easy to wash without ruining the new paint job. Harmony is a good paint to use for walls in a children's nursery or bedroom.

Benjamin Moore Natura

Natura is a popular zero VOC paint manufactured and sold by Benjamin Moore. I have never personally used this product before, but based on what I've read, I don't recommend buying it. Natura paint gets mixed reviews and even complaints from consumers who claim the paint smells horrible after application. There was even a recent lawsuit relating to the same complaint. Natura is sold as a premium paint that is supposed to resist fading and staining and contains zero VOC's.


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