Sure, it’s important that your home looks good, but an even bigger concern should be that it’s healthy. Pollutants exist inside your home and one of the biggest culprits contributing to indoor air pollution are VOCs.
Wait, what are VOCs?
The acronym stands for volatile organic compounds, which are carbon-containing compounds emitted as gasses into the air. These gasses contribute to ozone pollution, which is bad for the environment, and also pollute the air inside your home, which can be bad for your health. VOCs are commonly present in a wide array of household products like cleansers, disinfectants, aerosol sprays, furniture and even paints. The EPA reports that VOCs can lead to adverse health effects like eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, allergies and may even damage your liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Yikes, right?
Why you should keep VOCs out of your home
According to the EPA, air inside our homes can be up to ten times more polluted than the air outside, which is why it’s more important than ever to minimize the use of products made with high polluting chemicals and focus on ones that support healthier indoor air environments. That includes paint. If you’re searching for a better paint for your home, choosing a VOC-free paint is a great first step. At Clare, all of our interior paint is zero VOC.
What’s the difference between low VOC paint and zero VOC paint?
VOCs are released during paint application and while it dries, but can continue to off-gas at low levels for years. This means that even paint marketed as “Low VOC” can off-gas and contribute to indoor air pollution. VOC contents are measured in grams per liter (g/l). Low VOC paints are required to have less than 50g/l per liter and may include VOC containing chemicals that are intentionally added whereas zero VOC paints are required to have less than 5g/l with no intentionally added VOCs (although trace amounts of VOC may be present as residual components of other ingredients).
You’re probably wondering: Are trace amounts of VOCs still harmful? According to the FTC’s guidance on zero-VOC claims, a "trace level" means:
- VOCs have not been intentionally added to the product.
- The presence of VOCs at that level does not cause material harm that consumers typically associate with VOCs, including but not limited to, harm to the environment or human health.
- The level of VOCs is no more than that which would be found as an acknowledged trace contaminant or background level in the ambient air.
Avoid harsh chemical fumes with zero VOC paint
You know that dizzying chemical odor that's often associated with wet paint? That’s the result of VOCs off-gassing into the air. Even low VOC paints still off-gas and emit noticeable fumes. If you have no other option than to use a low-VOC paint, be sure to paint in a well-ventilated area using a respirator, and let the paint dry completely before moving back into the room. If you want to avoid this altogether, only buy zero VOC paints which generally have little noticeable odor because they’re formulated without the VOC containing solvents commonly used in other paint formulas.
"We love our Clare paint for so many reasons: it doesn't stink up the house with chemicals (so much better for us and our baby), it covers extremely well, and the colors are fantastic!" – Susan D., Minneapolis, MN
What about zero VOC colorants?
In addition to our zero VOC paint, the colorants we use to create our paint colors are also zero VOC, so they won’t add VOCs when the paint is tinted. Traditional paint brands have a history of misleading consumers by marketing zero VOC paint, only to sneak VOCs back into the can with the use of colorants that are not zero VOC. At Clare, we know transparency is important because it helps you feel confident about the quality and safety of the products you bring into your home.
There’s no such thing as non-toxic paint
Be wary of any brand that touts it’s paint as being “non-toxic” or “child-safe”. No-toxic by definition means it's safe to ingest. No matter how a company tries to spin it, paint is a chemical product and we’re pretty sure you’d never want to slather it on your baby’s skin or let your child put it in her mouth!
Paint ingredients matter
Most household paints these days are water-based but it’s really important to think of what else is or isn’t in your paint. Beyond VOCs we’re proud that our paint is free of toxic air contaminants, hazardous air pollutants, and anything on the EPA chemicals of concern list.
Look for trustworthy green certifications
Always look for paint backed by a top tier green certification that validates certain green claims using standardized, scientific test methods conducted by an independent third party. At Clare, all of our paints are GREENGUARD Gold certified which offers assurance that our paint meets the world’s most stringent standards for low chemical emissions. The highest tier of GREENGUARD certification available, GREENGUARD Gold requires extensive testing for over 360 VOCs and other hazardous chemicals to validate that products contain fewer pollutants and contribute to healthier indoor air quality. In addition to verifying that products designed for indoor use meet strict chemical emissions limits, the GREENGUARD Gold standard considers additional health-based criteria for chemicals to ensure that products are acceptable for use in more sensitive environments like schools and healthcare facilities. The testing is performed by UL - a global independent safety science company with more than a century of expertise. To remain certified, our paint will undergo comprehensive certification testing on an annual basis, so you can have peace of mind that our products support healthier indoor air.
Times have changed
Since the majority of us spend more time indoors than out, why settle for low-VOC? You should reduce VOC exposure, skip paints that are low-VOC and only choose zero VOC paint with a top tier green certification that supports healthier air quality for your home. Now that you’ve brushed up on these basics, you know it’s important to consider more than just color before starting your next paint project!
Related article: 6 Ways to Create a Healthier Home