Low VOC paints

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Carbon-containing molecules that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature are referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Low levels of VOCs in paints, adhesives, caulks, carpets, etc. normally makes one think that the material does not off-gas. This is not technically correct in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated a list of volatiles organics compounds that can can lead to eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, damage to the central nervous system, and cancer, but many compounds have received exemptions (see VOC page). To qualify as low-VOC under currently accepted standards, interior paints (or primers or other coatings) has to have fewer than 250 grams per liter, while non-VOC products have less than 5 grams per liter (California Air Resources Board 2022). Most paints that qualify as low-VOC (see table) are latex or water-based. Some smaller companies provide natural, non-toxic options that contain water, plant oils, plant dyes, milk protein, and minerals such as clay.

Manufacturer Paint line VOC Emission level* Paint base Description Applications and Working Properties Collection Risks Personal Risks Notes:
Benjamin Moore Aura Interior 1.7 acrylic latex Designed for smooth, fast application with excellent hide greater durability so supports easy maintenance even thought price is a bit higher acetic acid emitter testing after 2 weeks of dry time
Benjamin Moore Eco Spec 0 acrylic latex Greenest interior paint; quick drying with low emissions can spray but mixture must be correct or get clumps; softer cure, does not dry completely but passes Oddy testing, fabricators hate using it in display cases, but on walls it may work well (may be harder to touch up in some applications), saturated colors (dark reds or blue/greens) finish tends to be much shiner than expected from gloss level (aesthetic concern since it shows any marring easily) marketed as only emitting water
Benjamin Moore Natura 0 replaced March 2021 by Eco Spec marketed as only emitting water testing after 2 weeks dry time
Benjamin Moore Regal Select interior 47.9 acrylic latex Applies easily and smoothly for a uniform finish,; mildew resistant, low odor
Benjamin Moore Ultra Spec 500 0 acrylic copolymer Professional quality, quick-drying, washable; less expensive requires frequent repainting, poor durability, may have less hide value acetic acid emitter testing after 2 weeks of dry time
Benjamin Moore Advance Interior Paint 46.5 waterborne alkyd Durable high-end finish for doors, trim and cabinetry
Benjamin Moore Super Spec p42 Waterborne Epoxy HC-80 application - reproduction corner cabinet used to store silver was coated coated silver objects in wooden cabinets have not corroded
Golden Paints Mural Paints < 50 acrylic latex Artist grade coating for interior and exterior use with strong opaque colors; increased color vibrancy and workability; great for blending, hard edges or minute details good opacity and coverage, sheen can be modified for specific surface aesthetics,
can be used for inpainting mounts and/or objects
should not have plasticizers, may need more testing prior to use in galleries softer resin, traditional coalescent, more surfactant to keep things softer, but then use a solid - mineral solid to create durability, abrasion resistence, and hardness
Sherwin Williams EcoSelect Zero 0 vinyl acrylic Uniform final appearance with washable surface
Sherwin Williams Promar 200 Zero 0 vinyl acrylic Excellent durability, with anti-microbial agents
Benjamin Moore Floor and Patio 45 aldehydes that could react to degrade objects, acetic acid, too
Matthews two part system with a catalyst - automotive applications, but best for spray not painting, VOC are often higher with automotive paints
KBS Diamond clear topcoat one part system - isocyanate delivered in solvent High UV resistance, moisture cure so thin application to allow drying, sticky & stinky - hard to handle, when dried forms a very hard surface, very clear use PPE https://www.kbs-coatings.com/diamondfinish-clear.html
  • Note: These numbers only apply to compounds that are federally designated as VOCs (i.e. harmful to humans). Some volatile compounds that can be harmful to objects (such as acetone) are not in the federal list.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Eco-friendly paints; no VOC; zero VOC

Resources and Citations

  • California Air Resources Board: Coatings (Accessed April 2022)