NEWS

Paint Buying Guide

Date: Jan. 14th, 2010
Contact: The Green Guide - National Geographic Phone: 800-NGS-LINE (800-647-5463)
What to Look For

A new coat of paint can do wonders to liven up a room. When you decide to redecorate, opt for an eco-friendly, low-VOC paint won’t pollute your indoor air.

Type:
If you need a synthetic paint, opt for water-based latex paints, which have lower volatile organic compound levels, over oil-based alkyd paints.

Natural paints aren’t synthetic and are usually made from citrus and other plant ingredients, milk protein or clay. They’re also free of preservatives and biocides. Natural paints are best suited for drier areas, as they are less resistant to mildew and molds.

Milk paints are virtually odorless and are made using the milk protein casein and lime. They contain no solvents, preservatives or biocides, though some do have synthetic ingredients like acrylic and vinyl. They come in powdered form and once opened or mixed with water, they should be used quickly, as they can mold if left to stand for a few weeks.

Whitewashes, which only come in white, contain only lime paste, water and salt. They are a low cost alternative that, like milk paints, are more fragile and are best applied to plaster, cement or stucco walls.

Recycled paint is created when a few types of paints are consolidated into one. Because of the mixing of colors and tints, recycled paint is best suited for areas where consistent color is not required.

VOCs: Check the back of the paint can for VOC levels (you can also look online for the “Manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheet”). An ideal paint has fewer than 150 grams per liter. These are often labeled “low-VOC” or “no-VOC.”
Usage Tips

*Buy only the amount of paint you’ll need to complete a project. If that’s not possible, store it safely or dispose of it according to your local municipal regulations.
*When painting indoors, open all windows and use fans to vent fumes.
*Pregnant women and people with allergies or asthma should not paint and should stay out of the area for at least 48 hours.
*Keep all paint products in their original containers. Cover the top with plastic wrap, and store it upside down, which keeps the paint fresh.
*In pre-1978 homes, test painted surfaces for lead before sanding. If lead is found, contact a professional for remediation. For more information, see "Testing for Lead in Peeling Paint."
*When sanding or removing paint, wear a dust mask or respirator and keep the area well ventilated since this process generates carcinogenic crystalline silica dust.
*Donate unused paint or exchange it with someone who can use it.