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What's the Difference Between No-VOC and Natural Paints?

by Donald Woods

If you want an eco-friendly painting solution for your home, then you probably already know that going for a paint that doesn't contain too many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is a greener solution. Paint that contains VOCs releases these substances into the environment. They aren't good for your health or the planet.

As you research greener paints, you may have noticed that some traditional paints now claim to contain zero VOCs. Other paints market a natural and organic solution.

What's the difference between the two? Which option should you go for?

What Are No-VOC Paints?

In the past, paints often had a high VOC content. As the world become more environmentally aware and learned how harmful these compounds can be, manufacturers started producing paints that contained fewer of these substances.

Manufacturers often market these paints as low-VOC. However, some are producing products that claim to contain no compounds at all. This isn't exactly accurate.

A paint VOC classification is based on the gram weight of compounds on a per litre basis. While you might think that a no-VOC paint doesn't contain any compounds at all, this isn't the case.

Even a no-VOC paint can contain some compounds; it just won't have that much. For example, it is likely to have fewer than 5 grams of VOCs per litre. This does make it safer and a greener solution.

What Are Natural Paints?

Some manufacturers produce natural or organic paints. These paints don't contain any VOCs at all; they avoid using other harmful substances as well.

Typically, natural paints substitute organic materials for harmful ingredients such as chemicals. For example, this kind of paint might use water or vegetable oils as a binder and chalk as a thickener. Natural paints are also more likely to use plant dyes, minerals or earth pigments as colourants.

Which Paint Is Best?

A no-VOC paint is the best environmental option in traditional paints. You'll be using a negligible amount of VOCs.

If you want a totally green solution, then you might be leaning towards a natural paint. This is a good option for some jobs; however, this is a relatively new market, and you may have limited manufacturer or colour choices.

In some cases, natural or organic paints aren't the right fit for a project. For example, they don't always work well as exterior paints, as they can't give the right levels of protection outdoors.

At this stage, it's worth talking to local painters and asking their advice. They can assess the work you need to have done and help you choose the most environmentally friendly product for the job.