If you're looking to make some home improvements either indoors or out, you probably want to use eco-friendly paint, not only for the sake of the environment, but for your own health. And, although this might come as a surprise to some, it can be good for your wallet as well.
Reasons to Use Eco-Friendly Paint
Although we have come a long way from the potentially deadly lead paints of the past, there can still be a number of health hazards involved in the use of paint. The chemicals in some paints can cause headaches, or trigger asthma attacks. Worse, some have been linked to carcinogens. And because it is more difficult to ventilate an indoor area, the chemicals can linger long after the smell is gone.
The pollutants release into the air during painting, after the paint is dry and when it is removed, are called Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs). These can also be found in pesticides and some cleaning materials. They can be as much as ten times more concentrated indoors. Furthermore, while they are most potent during paint application, they may continue to be emitted for years.
Improvements in Natural Paints
In the past, eco-friendly paints may have been better for people's health and the environment, but they weren't great paint. Colors faded quickly and if you wanted to wash the walls, a touch-up was soon required. This is a total disaster for anyone who had small children around the house!
Fortunately, new eco paints are more durable and long-lasting. And what with stronger environmental regulations and consumer demand for healthier options, even name brand paint companies are trying to reduce the amount of VOCs in their products.
A Few Good Options
Many paints may say that they are safe and free of harsh chemicals. When you begin shopping for eco-friendly paint, the first thing you must do is look for those that are Green Seal Certified. If they don't have the Green Seal logo, they should be left on the shelf.
One of the most popular brands of VOC-free paint is AFM SafeCoat. The paint, primer and sealer are all free of VOCs, solvents, heavy metals, chemical residues and formaldehyde.
Established paint company Benjamin Moore has a line of VOC-free eco-friendly paint called Natura. It will be available nationwide beginning in Spring of 2009.
Made from milk protein and lime, Milk Paint is getting a lot of interest. It is free of VOCs, plastics and petroleum products. It comes as a powder, so you just add water, stir and start painting. It will have a distinctive flat finish that is old-fashioned and appealing to craftsmen - it is ideal for anything you want to have a "country" look, especially toys and furniture. While natural paints are sometimes criticized for their minimal color options, milk paint does have a nice range. You can experiment with color variations as well. Be aware, however, that it can only be used indoors.
Clay paint is an excellent natural paint, especially if you want an earthy look or have an adobe home. It's easy and safe to work with. It is also only appropriate for indoor painting and comes in very few colors.
Another old-fashioned option is lime wash. Limestone is a calcium-based mineral that, when combined with water, makes a natural paint. It can be used indoors and outdoors, produces a glowing finish and comes in a number of colors. It must be used on porous surfaces such as brick, wood, plaster and concrete - you can't use it on drywall or anything that has been painted. It can take a while to apply, as it must be done in several thin coats, but once on it will look great. One point to bear in mind - when wet, it is corrosive to eyes and skin, so you must wear gloves and goggles during application.
As yet, there are fewer low-VOC paints available for exterior work. Lime wash, as mentioned, works well, as will stain or finish. As customers continue to expect more environmentally sound options, companies will rise to the challenge.