What’s the Difference Between VOC Paint vs. No-VOC Paint?

Sep 16, 2021 | Home Improvement, Painting Contractor

VOC Paint vs. No-VOC Paint: At Robinson Painting of Colorado, our customers often ask, “What are zero-VOC paints?” Low-VOC and no-VOC products, also known as “zero-VOC paints,” have become increasingly popular as homeowners search for nontoxic alternatives for their living spaces.

However, many homeowners don’t know the difference between the two products or if zero-VOC paint products are worth it. So, to make the painting process easier, our staff created this guide to explain the differences between zero-VOC paint, low-VOC paint, and VOC paint products.

What Are Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Paints?

VOC paints are products that contain toxic chemicals known as VOCs. “VOC” stands for volatile organic compounds, which turn into vapor at room temperature and enter the atmosphere through off-gassing. In turn, the VOC off-gas process creates the “new paint” smell that homeowners know so well.

However, as the products vaporize, they can impact the air quality in your home. Further, the toxic air contaminants can sometimes correlate with severe health conditions, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Respiratory issues
  • Worsened asthma
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • Cancer

The low-level toxic emissions were more common decades ago when most paints were oil-based. However, government regulations, state laws, and increased awareness have led companies to produce more water-based paints.

The nontoxic paints without VOCs reduce or eliminate harmful chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, and ethylene glycol, resulting in low chemical emissions and improved indoor air quality. That said, companies can still use up to 250 grams of VOCs per liter of latex paint and 380 grams of VOCs per liter of oil-based paints, so we highly recommend reading labels carefully before purchasing a product.

What Is No-VOC Paint?

Zero-VOC products contain few or no volatile organic compounds. Some no-VOC products contain trace amounts of harmful chemicals. However, the zero-VOC formula must meet certain requirements. The standards limit the use of VOCs to less than five grams per liter of paint, reducing the risk of material harm to users.

Zero-VOC products are often more expensive than conventional paints. In addition, homeowners often find that zero-VOC paint doesn’t provide the same amount of coverage as other interior paints. Because of this, they often need to buy more paint to complete a project.

That said, the paint industry has continued to evolve, and many manufacturers claim that their no-VOC or low-VOC paint brands today offer as much coverage as traditional interior paint.

Paint with Low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) vs. No-VOC Paint

Low-VOC paint and no-VOC paint share many similarities. However, the building materials differ in one significant way: the amount of VOCs included in their formulas.

As mentioned above, to qualify as no-VOC products, paints must contain less than five grams of VOCs per liter. On the other hand, “low-VOC paints” can contain up to 50 grams of VOCs per liter of paint.

Types of No-VOC Paints

Years ago, finding nontoxic paints for your next paint project required far more effort. Fortunately, most major paint companies have recently added a zero- or low-VOC paint line to their product lineup.

Some of the most popular zero- or low-VOC paint lines include:

  • Clare Paint
  • Sherwin-Williams No-VOC paint
  • Sherwin Williams Harmony
  • AFM SafeCoat
  • Behr Premium
  • Benjamin Moore Natura Interior paint
  • BioShield paint
  • ECOS Paints
  • Real Milk Paint

Many eco-friendly paints contain natural pigments as well, resulting in a unique, durable finish. Further, companies even offer low-VOC wood stains in a matte, satin, or semi-gloss finish, making it easy to update every surface in your home with effective, nontoxic products.

How to Apply Zero- or Low-VOC Paints

Low-VOC products have countless benefits and can result in a stunning final result. However, homeowners and contractors should always remember that the products differ slightly from other paints.

Our team at Robinson Painting of Colorado has years of experience using eco-friendly, low-VOC, and no-VOC paints. As a result, we can help you select the best product for your home and achieve the perfect tint and number of coats absent of VOCs. We’ll even schedule extra time to let the paint dry, ensuring that your walls receive even coverage, and take the time to touch up any thin areas before we leave the job site.

We’ll take additional steps to protect your paint, too. Because low-VOC products don’t contain fungicides, they’re more susceptible to bacterial contamination in the can. We will pour the paint into a separate container before inserting a paintbrush or roller to minimize the risk of microbial contamination. In addition, we will carefully seal the paint and store it in a cool, dry location as quickly as possible, helping to reduce waste and decrease extra expenses.

Pros and Cons of Zero-VOC Paint

Choosing between traditional paint and low-VOC products isn’t easy. Many homeowners want to decrease the number of chemicals in their homes and improve indoor air quality. However, there are several downsides to low- or zero-VOC products that you should consider carefully before buying paint.

Pros of No-VOC Paint

Environmentally Friendliness

VOCs can negatively impact the environment when off-gassing. The paint releases toxic vapors into the air during the off-gas process, resulting in potentially severe health conditions.

Low-VOC products lessen the number of toxins released into the atmosphere. In addition, the eco-friendly, sustainable solution limits the number of chemicals your family is exposed to daily.

Low Odor

As mentioned above, VOCs create the “fresh paint” smell that every homeowner recognizes. However, large amounts of those paint vapors can create intolerable living or working conditions. Further, it could take days for the smell to dissipate.

Many companies market their zero-VOC products as low-odor paint. Unlike traditional paints, zero- and low-VOC paints help reduce common indoor odors associated with a commercial or residential paint job.

Safety for Family and Employees

Low-VOC products release fewer toxic vapors in your home or office, making it safer for our contractors to complete your paint job. In addition, your family members or employees can return to your property without worrying about exposure to harmful chemicals.

Cons of No-VOC Paint

Zero-VOC Paint Cost

As manufacturers such as Real Milk Paint and Sherwin-Williams continue to expand their low-VOC paint lines, prices have decreased. However, the eco-friendly options typically cost more than their traditional counterparts. Further, low-VOC products often require multiple coats to achieve full coverage.

Additional Chemicals and Solvents

While you can find completely natural paint, many companies add chemicals or solvents to their zero-or low-VOC products to improve their performance. As a result, the added chemicals used in some products may negatively impact people or the atmosphere. Be sure to research the ingredients before choosing a paint brand.

Potentially Shorter Lifespan

Fewer VOCs may result in a shorter lifespan for your paint, which means you may need to touch up low-VOC paint more often than other products.

Zero-VOC Paints from Robinson Painting of Colorado

At Robinson Painting of Colorado, we know that you want the best for your home, family, and workplace. So if you’re ready to upgrade your interiors with zero- or low-VOC paints, we can help. For more information on our services or to schedule a consultation for your nontoxic paint job, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team today at 866-528-8938.


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