Eco-friendly paint: a buyer’s guide

Be mindful when choosing a paint brand for your next project. Take a look at our buyer's guide to eco-friendly finishes.

By Becca Green | 27 May 2020

Get the perfect colour and great coverage, while safeguarding your health and the planet.

blue bathroom paint - buyer's guide to eco-friendly paint - home improvements - granddesignsmagazine.com

Image: Earthborn

Natural, organic, green and eco-friendly are all terms used by paint companies to describe their formulas, so understanding what makes one brand greener than another can be tricky. To reduce the possibility of indoor air pollution, choose a low-VOC (volatile organic compound) formula.

Clean air

VOCs are the gases from solvents in some paint formulas that are released into the air as the paint dries. The level of VOCs has decreased dramatically over the past decade and is regulated by the EU. But many companies go one step further and produce environmentally friendly ranges for every application.

In general, water-based formulas tend to have a minimal-VOC content of less than 0.2 per cent. Many brands have adopted the UK’s VOC-labelling system, which shows the level of VOCs emitted in one of 5 categories: minimal, low, medium, high and very high. The European Ecolabel flower accreditation is another reliable indicator of low-level VOCs.

Low-VOC paint is virtually odourless, tends to dry quickly and provides good coverage. However, this doesn’t mean that all low-VOC formulas are environmentally-friendly, as some contain vinyl and chemical pigments. Ask your retailer or do your own research into how the paint you’re considering is made.

If you need to remove old paint finishes before applying a fresh coat, it’s a good idea to choose a minimal-VOC, water-based strippe. It requires more work than standard chemical strippers but is less polluting and safe to use around children and pets.