Benefits of Low and Zero VOC Paint

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound) are chemicals added to paint for a variety of reasons including color enhancement, increased adhesiveness and increased ease of spreading. Despite these conveniences, VOCs are extremely dangerous to humans, and the use of them in many paints results in indoor air being anywhere from 3-5 times more polluted and harmful than outdoor air.

What can you do to prevent this? Buy low- and zero-VOC paints, which are now available from almost every brand. Though the main, and obvious perk to using low-VOC paint is reducing the toxicity of your breathing air, benefits do go a bit deeper.

Lower Toxicity

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), VOCs are some of the environment's arch enemies and a huge risk to humans as well. One of the easiest ways to reduce this risk, both for our environment and our bodies, is to use paints with lower or no VOCs.

VOCs are even more toxic to those with high vulnerability to smells and chemicals as well as allergies. Using lower VOC paints reduces the uncomfortable side effects for this group of people as well.

High exposure to paints with excessive VOCs can result in a wide variety of complaints, from watery eyes to respiratory infections, and in some cases, even cancer. Using paints with a lower level of VOCs can directly reduce these health risks.

No Smell!

Low VOC, No VOC paint contains zero or a minimum amount of compounds, which basically makes the paint almost unscented when wet, and leaves it with no smell at all as soon as it is dried.

Better for the Environment

The toxins emitted from regular, high VOC paints end up in the atmosphere and ultimately the ozone, adding to an already colossal problem of greenhouse gases. Using paint with reduced VOCs significantly decreases the amount of toxins that are released into our ozone. In addition, these paints reduce toxicity in landfills and water, as excess, discarded paint is nowhere near as toxic.

Low or zero VOC paint is also very easy to clean and requires only soap and water, rather than heavy chemicals. One more point for low VOCs versus air-killing chemicals.

by Anjie Cho

What No One's Telling You About Paint and VOCs

What No One's Telling You About Paint and VOCs.jpg

We've shared plenty of information about paint, from how to choose the perfect color to why you'd want to look for paints with lower VOCs, but here's something not many homeowners are aware of: even paints labeled as "low-VOC" can cause significant damage to your health and the environment. Let's break it down. 

First of all, let's be clear. Opting for lower VOC count in paint is definitely healthier than just grabbing whatever color you like without checking the label. But as with many sustainable and eco-friendly options, lowering VOC levels in paint doesn't necessarily make it completely healthy. Though they do contain fewer volatile organic compounds, paints labeled as low- or zero-VOC do contain VOCs. What's more, the number used to classify these paints as healthier is measured before the addition of pigments and certain additives, which can contain additional VOCs. And some of the dangerous chemicals added to paints aren't considered to be VOCs, so they're not taken into account when determining the safety of the paint. 

Even when the paint you've chosen has the lowest possible levels of VOCs, those compounds will still off-gas into your internal environment. Though this small amount of toxicity may not show up immediately, this is another situation similar to that metaphor we use when talking about the commanding position and clutter. Even if you don't notice, like a stone that has water dripping on it for years, it will eventually begin to affect you in a negative way.  

And, as Joel Hirshberg notes in his article, The Truth About Paintreducing the level of VOCs in paint only does so much for the environment. It is not the most ideal solution. He mentions that when we reduce the use of VOCs, we only slow down the process of contaminating our environment, since our atmosphere can only completely absorb waste if it is healthy and biodegradable. As many of these chemicals are not, even in small amounts, they ultimately return to the atmosphere where they remain forever. 

With this information in mind, most experts agree that seeking out the healthiest possible paint option is worth the effort and cost. In most cases, this option consists of natural paints and finishes. These paints are composed only of natural ingredients, like water, plant oils and natural minerals. In these paints, manufacturers use 100% natural materials for each of the primary components, which would usually be chemicals. For instance, The Real Milk Paint, a popular option, contains casein, hydrated lime and plant-derived fillers, all of which are natural and non-toxic.

There are a number of companies who produce natural paint for healthier environments. This list from eartheasy is a great start, but as always, do your own research before choosing the best paint for your needs. In fact, if you're handy enough, you can even make your own natural paint! What better way to KNOW your indoor air quality is safe?

by Anjie Cho

Our 6 Favorite Neutral Colors for Apartment Walls


Painting the walls in your space, no matter how large or small, is one of the easiest ways to make your home more comfortable and personable. I've talked in general about some of the best colors to use in painting living spaces, but let's get a bit more specific on what exact colors work best in holistic spaces. These are my absolute favorite colors for painting walls (and one for ceilings) in any room. 

Benjamin Moore- Super White Flat

I've mentioned this paint and color before, as I find it to be the best option for ceilings. Many people choose to paint their walls with varying colors ranging from calming blues to off-whites and more, but from a feng shui and interior design perspective, it's important to stick to a pure white for ceiling space. Flat finish Super White paint reflects light better than any color, thus giving your space a more open, well-lit quality than other colors. 


Benjamin Moore- White Dove OC-17

White is an excellent color for walls, especially if you make the conscious decision to use white, rather than simply leaving your walls as blank slates, but the bright white color we use on ceilings is not appropriate for walls. Instead of pure white, which can overwhelm the senses, much like a field of fresh snow, opt for a warmer white, like White Dove. This is an excellent option for warm white walls that provide a soothing, rather than harsh and sterile environment. 


Benjamin Moore- Decorator's White PM-3

If you're looking for a slightly cooler tone, try Benjamin Moore's Decorator's White. Where White Dove provides a warm, welcoming white, Decorator's White PM-3 moves toward the cooler end of the light spectrum, offering a more open upbeat shade of white without the overwhelming purity of Super White.


Benjamin Moore- Simply White OC-117

If you've taken a look at these white color options yet, you may have noticed how warm and creamy the White Dove option is. While this is an excellent choice for a relaxing, low-key room, it may be too creamy for some tastes, and that's where Simply White comes in. Still on the warmer end of the color spectrum, Simply White provides a perfect balance between the stark white of Super White and the creamy complexion of White Dove. 


Benjamin Moore- Mt. Rainier Gray 2129-60

If you're thinking of going a more colorful direction with your walls, don't worry: white isn't the only option! In fact, one of my absolute favorite neutral tones for wall colors is Benjamin Moore's Mt. Rainier Gray, a beautifully calming combination of light blue and grays that creates a perfectly livable, yet not-so-white shade! 


Farrow and Ball- Ammonite 274

Benjamin Moore isn't the only option for sprucing up walls either. For an elegant option with hints of neither blue nor white, Farrow and Ball has created perfection in the elegant gray shade of Ammonite. Not too bright to overwhelm and not too dark to depress, Ammonite is the ideal color for a living space, bathroom or the like. 


Don't forget, no matter what shade or brand of paint you choose, aim for an eco-friendly, low or zero-VOC option. Not only will this reduce the negative environmental impact regular paints so often have, it will also greatly improve the quality of the indoor air that you and your family breathe on and everyday basis. 

by Anjie Cho

Eco-Friendly Paint Shopping

By now, you may know the importance of paying close attention to VOC content when purchasing paints for the interior of your home. That can be easier said than done though, with extensive labels and new terms that aren't always clearly understood. 

If you're looking for indoor paint, get a good idea of what your ecological goal is within the room you will be painting, and keep an eye out for these terms when shopping for paint


Paints and finishes classified as "natural" are composed of only natural ingredients and contain no man-made chemicals. Paints in this category can be plant-based, milk-based or created with all-natural minerals. Notably, these natural paints are the healthiest for any indoor use, as they contain no chemicals and give off little to no smell, often pleasant at that!

Zero VOC

Take note here that the "zero" in this classification is not actually zero. Based on established EPA standards, certain low levels of VOC substances can still be legally called "zero," despite the fact that the paints do, in fact, contain some VOCs, albeit a much lower, healthier level when compared to traditional paint. It's also worth knowing that adding a color tint to paint increases the VOC level, but in paints with already low VOC, this number is still much safer. 


For the most part, the characteristic that makes a paint "low VOC" is that, rather than being produced with petroleum-based oils, the paint has been produced with a water base, therefore lowering the VOC level due to lack of those additional chemicals. These types of paints usually contain no more than half the VOCs present in traditional paints, and can sometimes be as low as 25% of the VOCs in an average can of paint. Keep an eye out here for "Green Seal Standard" paints, as these are certifiably some of the lowest "Low VOC" paints available. 

Green Seal

Paints with the Green Seal have a more detailed list of requirements than other low VOC paints, which makes them a safer, more environmentally friendly option. In addition to requiring a lower VOC concentration, Green Seal paints are also prohibited from using a select list of harmful ingredients and must meet certain performance standards including washability and abrasion-resistance. 

Making the choice to use a healthier, less toxic paint for home design is absolutely commendable. Just be sure that, when purchasing paint, you keep in mind what you need from your paint and ensure that the paint you select meets your, and the EPA's, criteria for lower VOCs. 

VOC Absorbing

If you're concerned about the VOCs already present in your home, try hunting down VOC absorbing paints, as these paints are equipped with a substance aimed at removing harmful VOCs from the atmosphere in your home. Once these gases have been absorbed by the paint, they remain trapped there forever, which is certainly a better place for them than in your family's lungs.

For best paint colors check out these articles:

by Anjie Cho