Bay area color expert examines the low-down on low VOC paint

My latest issue of Dwell magazine has a mini review of several low to no VOC (volatile organic compound) paint lines, ranging from Benjamin Moore Natura (their top choice) to Mythic (their least favorite).

BM Natura, Yolo Colorhouse, AFM Safecoat, and Mythic are reviewed.

The review is by no means a complete list of environmentally-friendly paint available on the market today. The important thing to realize is that most low to no VOC paint have limitations with their color range.

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Why? Universal tints (the colorants that are added for pigment) are traditionally oil-based. Acrylic-based paints then have to add a solvent to the base in order to break down the oil so it can bind to the base properly, and not separate, like oil in natural peanut butters. The solvents add VOC, so this degrades its environmentally-friendly composition. The deeper the color, and the more pigment needed, the more solvent is used. So a lot of environmental paints only offer light to medium colors. Some brands have come up with their own proprietary tinting systems that are water-based, and so there is no need for solvents in the bases.

Apartment Therapy put together a great article on low VOC paints.

I am still learning more about environmentally-friendly paints, so I'd love to hear what you know about these products. Please share your knowledge!