Zero VOC paint suggestions

happygardener23January 5, 2013

I have a lot of painting to do in the near future with some already underway. I have 3 young children in the house and am a cancer survivor myself so keeping toxins to a minimum is especially important to me. I'd prefer to use zero VOC paints but I don't want to waste time/money on inferior products. I've used Olympic Premium Zero VOC paint with good performance results, but I hate their tiny swatch cards and I've had some lack of success getting the paint reasonably accurately tinted to match chips from other paint lines. It also is not easily available at times (only carried at Lowe's and they sometimes don't have the base that I need in the finish that I want for the color that I desire). Can folks recommend other zero VOC paints and primers for that matter that they've been happy with? Any that you would suggest I avoid?


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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

Here you go

Here is a link that might be useful: mythic paint

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 5:27AM
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Thank you for the Mythic paint suggestion. It looks great in terms of "ingredients" but I have no sense of performance, and I can't find any color swatches on their site other than spending $140 to order a set of color chips. The dealer locator on the website shows the closest dealer at 30 miles away, so I'm not sure that it's a practical option as I go room by room, but maybe I could try to work around that. Is it likely that the website is not up to date and the paint is more widely available than it looks? Can you comment on your experience using the paint?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 9:48AM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

I have never used it but you seemed overly concerned with VOC's and this came to mind. All paint brands have zero voc paints. I would go to the local Ben Moore or Sherwin Williams and ask

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 5:57PM
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We used Mythic and like it a lot. I don't know whether this is a company thing or specific to particular stores, but the Mythic dealer we go to is able to match any Ben. Moore color.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 4:14PM
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I just read that as of June 2011 Benjamin Moore's Aura lost its Greenguard rating, so I am not going to be using it.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 3:59PM
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Benjamin Moore Natura

Here is a link that might be useful: Benjamin Moore Natura

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 11:15PM
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How can anything made of a mixture or organic chemicals emit no volatile organic compounds? I suggest that you look into the standards for these coatings and see what the difference is between low and "zero". Also consider the fact that organisms have the capability to deal with environmental toxins and your exposure will be short-term.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 11:33AM
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zero VOC paints have 0 VOCs. Low VOC paints have 50 VOCs or less per whatever the unit of measurement is (I can't recall at the moment). I realize that VOCs at the time of measurement is not the be all end all standard of paint safety, but it is a start and I am starting there (I also check to make sure that the pigment added to tint the paint is also 0 VOC).

As it happens, I (and some of my young children) have a genetic blood disorder that inhibits our ability to process and remove toxins from our bodies, and as I mentioned I am also a cancer survivor. In addition, not only will I be doing the painting, we will also be living in the house, so I do not consider the exposure to be short term.

I appreciate the information that people have to offer, but I don't appreciate being judged as to why such an issue should or should not matter to me and my family. If it doesn't matter to you, that is just fine. It does matter to me.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 12:10PM
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I neither meant, nor do I care to offer any judgment. I don't doubt that some people are less able to process chemicals than others. The specifics of a blood disorder that might do that are not firmly in my grasp. Then I am not a toxicologist. It sounds very interesting, but kidney and liver disorders that cause problems with chemical processing make more sense to me.

I can expand on my comments a little and maybe you will understand the points that I was trying to make. In order to avoid organic building materials, you would have to live in a structure made of stone, metal and glass. Unfinished wood gives off a lot of volatile organic compounds. With some woods, like cedar and "pines", it is particularly noticeable. No houseplants would be allowed either since they give off lots of volatile organic chemicals. (Especially those darned flowers that you can smell. Otherwise, you could not smell them.)

There is no such thing as zero volatile organic. Any zero standard is arbitrary. it depends on the measurement method and the background level in the environment you are measuring in. For example, what do your 0 and 50 mean if you are breathing in 100 in your otherwise everyday environment?

Any volatile organic materials given off by paint is given off in a rate that decays exponentially. To anyone in the immediate environment, there is relatively high exposure initially. The rate of release decays, but never, ever reaches zero. That is why any exposure that a typical DIY homeowner has would be considered transient. Someone who paints daily or frequently (or works in paint manufacturing or sales) is chronically exposed.

Lastly, very analogous to allergens, the only way to rationally avoid chemicals that someone is sensitive to is to figure out what chemicals cause problems. Only then can you avoid the ones that are important to you. Everything that you eat and breathe are chemicals. Life is chemicals, mostly organic and lots of them volatile.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 6:32PM
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I would definitely avoid Benjamin Moore Aura and their other low VOC paints. Benjamin Moore had a class action suit filed against them because of lingering odors with their Natura paints and I've had the same problem with Aura. I've been a Benjamin Moore fan for years. Most of my house is painted with Regal classic, but like you, health reasons made me decide to use a low VOC paint in the bedrooms. I painted the guest bedroom and bathroom with Aura. The smell was initially quite strong but it dissipated more quickly than their regular paint, so I decided to use the Aura again a year later when painting the master bedroom and bathroom.

It's been a complete nightmare. ThereâÂÂs an odor that wonâÂÂt go away and has made the rooms uninhabitable for close to 10 months. I tried to sleep in the bedroom about 3 months after it was painted but I woke up in the middle of the night with a pounding headache and feeling suffocated by the smell. Now I go in the room as little as possible.

Benjamin Moore was initially somewhat responsive. They admitted the smell was caused by the paint and promised to fix it. But when it became clear that sealing the paint hadn't worked and drywall would need to be replaced, they started to backtrack and now blame my plumbing. I am so disappointed in this company. I guess because I used their paint for so many years, I expected more ethical behavior. I have never been reimbursed for the "fixes" they promised to pay for (over $1000) and now they say they'll only reimburse me if I sign a waiver. Why would I sign a waiver when they still haven't fixed the problem?

I've done a fair amount of internet research and my sense is that the low VOC paints are just less stable. Some people have a great experience with little smell. Some people say it smells more than regular paint but goes away quickly (as happened with my guest bedroom) and others experience a nightmare situation with a smell that wonâÂÂt go away and nothing works but removal of all painted surfaces. In the future, IâÂÂll stay away from Benjamin Moore paints. Great colors but not worth the risk.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 5:36AM
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Don't forget that paint odor is not always directly related to VOC content. Just because something smells bad doesn't automatically mean it's harmful to breathe. Everyone has different sensitivity levels.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 12:21AM
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Perceived odors & VOC-levels AREN'T EVEN REMOTELY related. I've asked many chemists/paint-lab staff on this point!

Some people love the smell of Lilacs...

The ACE/Valspar C+K paint is now totally 0-VOC, with the new 0-Voc Acrylic colorants that are being phased-in over the next year. We've sold a lot of it.
C2 is now 0-voc in both paint & colorant. Their paints have been near-zero for years.
We've not had ANY "odor-complaints" on these lines...EVER.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 11:43PM
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Whether or not you like the smell of lilacs, it is undoubtedly an odor. I certainly wouldn't want an overpowering smell of lilacs emanating from my bedroom walls unless that's what I had chosen.

Benjamin Moore Natura is marketed as virtually odorless and Aura is marketed as low odor.Yet, do a google search and you will see many people complaining of odors that will not go away even after sealing with Kilz. Ultimately, they end up having to remove the drywall.

This is not a personal sensitivity and yes many people have very good experiences with the paint. I painted another room with the same type of paint a year earlier and did not experience a lingering odor.

A professional painter on another site said he has started to notice a smell in some Benjamin Moore batches and suggested that in order to cut the voc's, they might have taken out additives that kill mold and bacteria. I don't know if that's the cause, I just know that it smells and I've been sleeping in the guest room for almost a year. Thank God I didn't paint my whole house with that stuff.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 3:02AM
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It's too bad that so many people have "odor issues" with some lines of newer paint!

As I've mentioned in my post above here...and many times in the recent past...the lines of paint I've been involved with over my 12 years, may be "under some peoples radar", but we've NEVER had odor complaints on ANY of them.

So...they may be worth your consideration!


    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 12:06PM
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We just finished painting our master bathroom with BM Aura Bath & Spa. It was my first experience with Aura paint. Although I'm not a professional painter, my father was, and he indoctrinated me into painting at age 6. Thus, I've been painting for over 60 years, and would have to say BM Aura is the best paint I have ever used. We painted over a recent application of Olympic One due to my wife's dislike of the original choice of color, and Aura went on like nothing I have ever used before. More importantly, neither of us are bothered by the odor. Some folks are however seriously affected by paint odors and VOCs. No problem with Aura here however... I acutely remember the odor, and lingering odor, when using oil-based interior paints years ago, and the vast majority of latex paint is light years ahead in terms of odors and VOCs.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 5:41PM
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Oh goodness I am another one with a horrible experience with Aura. I painted a week ago and the smell is just as strong today. It is HORRIBLE. Please Lazeer let me know if you are making any progess. I am terrified I am going to have to tear down drywall.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 9:23AM
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Oh goodness I am another one with a horrible experience with Aura. I painted a week ago and the smell is just as strong today. It is HORRIBLE. Please Lazeer let me know if you are making any progess. I am terrified I am going to have to tear down drywall.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 9:25AM
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Have you looked at AFM Safecoat paints?

I don't know about their performance, though.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 6:05AM
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