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What Is Low VOC Paint? ( Is It Good Or bad? )

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I find it very difficult to select the perfect and safe paint for your family and help to enhance the air quality at your home. In that aspect, low VOC paint would be quite useful here. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. These contain carbon, and they would become vapors or gasses quite easily. You could find VOC usually in paints, coatings and in cleaning products as well.

People tend to use environmentally friendly products, and many opt to go ahead with paints that are labeled as low VOC or as no VOC and they have created a positive image among the buyers. So, from this article, we are going to elaborate further on what low VOC really means and how you precisely choose the right paint which would suit you.

What Is Low VOC Paint

What is VOC?

As above-mentioned, VOC literally means volatile organic compounds and many of the building materials contain those. Besides they result in a unique paint smell as well. It is noteworthy that these elements let off gasses which would be really harmful to both people and for the environment. Due to these factors, governments tend to introduce some regulations on the usage of those paints.

VOCs are present in the paints. Hence, chances are that the people living in the homes may also go through these repercussions. For example, if you happen to inhale them, it could cause multiple health-related problems. For example, it would contribute to irritations in your airways, headaches, and nausea. Further chances are that it could even damage your crucial organs such as the liver, kidney and central nervous system as well. Hence, it is always wise to use products that contain a low amount of VOC so that you do not have to go through these issues.

Ideally, low VOC paint should comprise less than 50g per liter of a volatile compound as per green seal standards. This is more like the common standard for architectural flat paints. Furthermore, there would also be paints that are categorized as zero VOC paints. However, they may still contain a small amount of VOC such as 5g per liter. For example, we can consider paint types such as milk paint, and chalk paint as no VOC paints.

To further elaborate on VOCs, they are unstable carbon-based gasses that would release from the paints as the drying takes place. Keep in mind that VOCs can arise even after several years of painting. Further, VOC can create a negative impact on the ozone layer too. In fact, they would result in ozone layer depletion which would be so unhealthy for the environment.

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What are the chemicals included in VOCs?

Most of the VOCs include the following chemicals.

  • Formaldehyde
  • d-Limonene
  • Toluene
  • Acetone
  • Ethanol

Low VOC paints

In simple words, low-VOC paints contain fewer amounts of volatile organic compounds. Consequently, they would not off-gas as the ordinary traditional paints would do. Low VOC paint literally means they contain less amount of VOC compared to other paints. Most of the low VOC paints usually have greater components of water instead of petroleum solvents. Besides, they would consist of lower levels of formaldehyde and other chemicals too.

You cannot really specify a particular measurement to categorize it as a low VOC paint. However, we can consider products such as Behr, Farrow, Balla, and Para as low-VOC paints. Generally speaking, the paint would get the low VOC label given that one liter of paint doesn’t exceed 200 VOC grams. 

Besides, you could consider varnishes as low VOC only if they don’t exceed 300 g. If you are someone who is very sensitive and allergic, the best would be to go ahead with the lowest VOC paints possible. If we consider many paint manufacturers, they will categorize a paint as low VOC paint if they have fewer than 25 g VOC per liter.

No VOC paints

The non-VOC paints don’t have any VOC compounds in the paints. That being said, they may still have some harmful chemicals. For example, once the paint goes through the paint tinting process, it can add some VOCs. AFM safe coat, Behr, Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams are considered as no VOC paints.

What Is Low VOC Paint

Important factors to note

Irrespective of the fact that whether you use low VOC paints or no VOC paints, it is important that you use proper ventilation when you paint especially in interior spaces. It is very crucial to keep this in mind. Once there is proper ventilation it would allow you to respirate properly and make the paint dry faster.

Pros and cons of using paints

In terms of the advantages of using the low VOC paints and the no VOC paints, the most important benefit is that they would help to improve the air quality. If there is poor air quality it would badly impact public health. Furthermore, it will make a negative impact on the environment as well. VOC evaporates faster and consequently, it would transfer harmful chemicals into the air as well. So, if you happen to use products that contain high VOC levels it would turn out to be dangerous.

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Additionally, as per some reports, the effect of carbon-based pollutants indoors is much higher than outside. So, it is vital that both consumers as well as manufacturers be cautious about this factor and choose the right paint type for usage.

The usage of high-VOC products would badly impact public health and it is a known factor. However, in addition to that, it could also create some damage to the environment. So, I urge everyone to use products that contain low VOC elements so that it would help you to minimize air pollution both indoors as well as outdoors. Hence, It is the utmost responsibility of the manufacturers, retailers and consumers to choose low-VOC products as much as they can.

Not only that but also, low VOC products have a subtle odor too. if you happen to use high-VOC products they would release a strong odor. For example, if we consider fresh paints or extra-strength cleaning products they would tend to release a strong odor. One might find these odors too strong and chances are that they may even result in headaches as well. Thus, the buyers would also tend to go ahead with products that do not emit any strong scent and it is very likely that they will go ahead with low-VOC paints in the end.

Apart from the above factors, low VOC products would dry out quite faster too. in addition to that, it would provide good coverage and give a perfect finishing look as well. Besides you can apply these products to multiple different surfaces too. Moreover, you can easily find these products and they come up in a wide array of colors as well.

In addition to the above-mentioned benefits, low VOC products are quite affordable too. Many of those low and zero-VOC products have reduced their prices to become more competitive and to maintain the quality of traditional paints. For example, low VOC paint would cost around 40 USD to 50 USD per gallon. On the other hand, zero VOC paint would cost around 50 USD – 60 USD per gallon.

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In addition to the aforesaid benefits, there are some downsides to using low-VOC products. For example, they may contain some solvents and additives which would be harmful. So, ensure that you first learn what it contains and then makes the purchase of paint. Ideally what you could do is you can either simply ask the retailer or do research on your own on those products and then make the purchasing decision.

How to find the greener options to paint your house

You might find it somewhat challenging to decide on what paint you need for your home. However, there are painting specialists and you can obtain advice from them. Then you can decide what paint type you need to select to paint your house or the building. They will have a better idea of the chemical makeups of the multiple paint brands and they would be able to assist you with this decision-making on choosing the right paint type. If you wish you may also ask for an ingredient list of those paint products as well.

What type of roller sleeve would suit the low VOC Paints?

If you end up using synthetic roller sleeves for low VOC paints, they will provide a uniform firm thickness and a perfect look for the surface. In other words, it would give a smooth and attractive appearance to the applied surface. 

However, if you use lambswool roller sleeves for the low VOC paints, they would deposit a low and less uniform film thickness which would enhance the texture of the surface. Further, it would scatter the light irregularly.

What Is Low VOC Paint


To recap, using a low VOC paint type would be quite useful in many aspects. In fewer words, it would be helpful in terms of the safety of the public and the healthy existence of the Ozone layer. So, if you haven’t thought this through, I hope you found this article useful and that you have comprehensive knowledge of this subject. If you are a retailer, consider trying low VOC products as it would help you to expand your business as well. So, as you may understand there are so many benefits to choosing a low VOC product for your painting and I am sure it would be the right choice for your household as well as for the earth.

Credit to : IEN TV

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I'm Dr. Chamika and I'm a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. Our highly qualified team is trying to educate you in various aspects of the day to day life in many ways. Their mission is to help others to enjoy their life to the fullest.