Low-VOC Indoor Paint Choices, 25 Things You Should Know

As we become more conscious of maintaining healthy living spaces, low-VOC indoor paint choices have emerged as a popular and safe option for our homes. Fortunately, the market now offers an extensive range of eco-friendly paints that improve indoor air quality and provide aesthetically pleasing results.

Low-VOC indoor paint choices:

Low-VOC indoor paint options include water-based, natural, and paint and primer in one product. These paints reduce harmful chemical emissions and promote better air quality. Recommended low-VOC brands include Sherwin-Williams Harmony, Benjamin Moore Natura, BioShield Clay and Casein, Earthborn Claypaint, Behr Premium Plus Ultra, and Valspar Simplicity. Check for Green Seal and GREENGUARD Gold certifications to ensure low VOC content.

Discover the world of low-VOC indoor paint options and transform your home into a healthy, eco-friendly space! I’ll explore top brands, colors, and considerations to make the perfect choice. Keep reading and unlock the fascinating power of low-VOC paint.


Indoor Paint Options with Minimal VOCs

What are VOCs?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that evaporate easily into the air at room temperature. They are found in a variety of products, including paints, solvents, and adhesives.

The use of low-VOC indoor paint is essential for improving indoor air quality, reducing health risks, and minimizing environmental impacts.

A comprehensive guide on low-VOC paint options can be found on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.

Importance of Low-VOC Paints

Low-VOC paints reduce the emissions of harmful chemicals, offering better air quality and reducing potential health problems, such as headaches, allergic reactions, and respiratory issues.

Moreover, they contribute to a more sustainable environment, creating a smaller carbon footprint and preserving resources.

Types of Low-VOC Paints

– Water-Based Paints

Water-based paints, also known as latex or acrylic paints, are solvent-free and have low VOC content. These paints are widely available, easy to apply, and have the advantage of quick drying times. Some recommended water-based paint brands with low VOC content include:

  1. Sherwin-Williams Harmony Interior Acrylic Latex Paint: With zero-VOC formulation, this paint also reduces odors and improves indoor air quality. The added antimicrobial agents help resist mildew and mold growth.
  2. Benjamin Moore Natura Waterborne Interior Paint: This premium quality, zero-VOC paint is available in a wide range of colors and finishes. It is also certified as asthma and allergy friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

– Natural Paints

Natural paints, derived from plant or mineral-based ingredients, offer low VOC alternatives to traditional petroleum-based paints. These paints are both eco-friendly and health-conscious options. Some examples of natural paint brands include:

  1. BioShield Clay and Casein Paint: This paint is composed of natural clay, casein (milk protein), and various earth pigments, guaranteeing a low VOC paint option. It is suitable for various surfaces, including plaster, drywall, and woodwork.
  2. Earthborn Claypaint: An eco-friendly and breathable paint option, this clay-based paint has virtually no VOCs and no odor. It is suitable for walls and ceilings and offers a unique, subtly textured finish with a blend of natural clays.

– Paint and Primer in One

Paint and primer in one product is a combination of paint and primer designed to save time and effort in painting projects. They generally have low VOC content and are suitable for a variety of surfaces. Some well-known paint and primer in one low VOC products include:

  1. Behr Premium Plus Ultra Interior Paint & Primer: With low VOC content, this paint offers superior stain resistance, excellent coverage, and durability. It is available in various sheens and a broad range of colors.
  2. Valspar Simplicity Zero-VOC Paint & Primer: As the name suggests, this paint has zero-VOCs and offers a one-coat paint and primer solution. It provides excellent coverage and is available in various finishes and a wide range of colors.

VOC Regulations and Certifications

Many governments and organizations have established standards and certifications to help consumers identify low-VOC paint options. In the U.S., the Green Seal Standard for Paints and Coatings (GS-11) sets strict VOC limits and environmentally responsible criteria for manufacturers.

The GREENGUARD Gold Certification also helps in identifying low VOC paints, ensuring that products meet rigorous criteria for chemical emissions and contribute to healthier indoor environments.

Final Thoughts

Choosing low-VOC indoor paint options is an essential step towards more sustainable lifestyles and healthier living environments. The variety of low-VOC paints available on the market ensures that there are suitable options for various surfaces, finishes, colors, and budgets.

By considering the brands and types mentioned above and validating their compliance with established standards and certifications, anyone can make informed decisions in selecting the ideal low-VOC paint for their needs.

Comparing Paint Types with Reduced VOCs

Introduction to VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are carbon-containing substances that easily evaporate at room temperature. VOCs can be found in various products, including paints, adhesives, cleaning supplies, and even some consumer products.

Some VOCs have been associated with various health issues, such as respiratory irritation, headaches, and dizziness, and long-term exposure can lead to liver and kidney damage and even cancer.

As a result, many consumers are looking for paint products with lower VOC concentrations to reduce their exposure to these harmful compounds.

The Basic Paint Types

There are primarily two types of paint: water-based (latex) and oil-based (alkyd) paints. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, but when it comes to VOC content, there is a clear winner.

– Water-Based (Latex) Paints

Water-based paints, also known as latex paints, use water as a primary carrier, meaning they have lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than oil-based paints. Latex paints have several advantages:

  • Lower-VOC content generally ranges from 5 to 50 grams per liter (g/l)
  • Faster drying time
  • Easy cleanup with soap and water
  • Lower odor and fewer fumes

I recommend using latex paints for most indoor applications, as they are safer, easier to work with and create less of an environmental impact.

– Oil-Based (Alkyd) Paints

Oil-based paints, also known as alkyd paints, contain higher levels of VOCs. In general, their VOC content can range from 150 to 500 grams per liter. While these paints have some advantages, such as a smoother finish and longer durability, they also come with some significant drawbacks:

  • High-VOC content, which can affect indoor air quality and contribute to outdoor air pollution
  • Strong odors and fumes
  • Longer drying time
  • Cleanup requires solvents or paint thinners

Due to their higher VOC content, I recommend avoiding oil-based paints, especially for indoor applications.

Low-VOC and Zero-VOC Paints

In recent years, paint manufacturers have developed low-VOC and zero-VOC paints to address the growing concerns about VOCs and their potential health and environmental impacts. These paints are formulated with fewer or no volatile organic compounds, making them a safer choice for consumers.

– Low-VOC Paints

Low-VOC paints are formulated to meet strict environmental standards, with VOC content typically ranging from 5 to 50 grams per liter. This is a significant reduction compared to traditional oil-based paints. Low-VOC paints offer many benefits:

  • Reduced odor and fumes compared to traditional paints
  • Better indoor air quality
  • Less impact on the environment

If you want to minimize your exposure to VOCs, I recommend opting for low-VOC paints for both indoor and outdoor applications.

– Zero-VOC Paints

Zero-VOC paints are the ultimate choice for those looking to reduce their exposure to VOCs. These paints are formulated with no volatile organic compounds or at least a negligible amount (less than 5 grams per liter). Zero-VOC paints offer the following advantages:

  • No detectable odor or fumes
  • The least impact on indoor air quality
  • Minimal impact on the environment

For the lowest possible VOC exposure, I recommend using zero-VOC paints whenever possible.

How to Choose the Right Paint

When selecting paint, consider the following factors:

  • Look for a low-VOC or zero-VOC paint
  • Choose a water-based (latex) paint over an oil-based (alkyd) paint
  • Always read the label and material safety data sheet to confirm the VOC content
  • Consult with a paint professional or retailer for advice on the best paint for your specific needs

In addition, you can visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website to learn more about VOCs and their potential health effects, as well as ways to reduce your exposure to these compounds.


When it comes to choosing paint with fewer VOCs, water-based (latex) paints are the clear winner over oil-based (alkyd) paints.

By opting for low-VOC or zero-VOC paints, you can significantly reduce your exposure to volatile organic compounds, thus promoting better indoor air quality and a healthier living environment.

Paint Type
VOC level
Water-based paint
Oil-based paint

Evaluating Sherwin-Williams Zero-VOC Claims

Understanding Sherwin-Williams’ Zero-VOC Claims

Sherwin-Williams, a well-known and reputable paint company, claims that some of its paint products are zero-VOC, meaning they do not contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOCs are chemical substances that can evaporate at room temperature, and they can pose health risks, including respiratory and neurological problems. They are commonly found in paint, adhesives, and various building materials.

The notion of zero-VOC paint may seem ideal for those who are concerned about their health and the environment. However, are Sherwin-Williams’ claims of zero-VOC paint true and accurate?

Scrutinizing the Definition of “Zero-VOC”

First, it is important to clarify the definition of “zero-VOC.” According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a product can be labeled as zero-VOC if it contains less than 5 grams per liter (g/l) of VOCs.

This means that a zero-VOC paint may still contain a minimal amount of VOCs, albeit at a level considered negligible by regulatory standards.

Sherwin-Williams’ Harmony and Emerald Paint Lines

Sherwin-Williams has two paint lines that boast a zero-VOC status: Harmony and Emerald. Let’s take a closer look at these products to determine their compliance with zero-VOC standards.

– Harmony Interior Acrylic Latex Paint

Harmony is marketed as a zero-VOC paint that contains minimal VOCs and helps improve indoor air quality by reducing airborne concentrations of formaldehyde and other aldehydes. Here are the Harmony product claims:

  • Contains no VOCs (less than 5g/l) according to EPA Method 24
  • Formaldehyde-reducing technology that reduces formaldehyde levels emitted by other building materials
  • Antimicrobial agents that inhibit mold and mildew growth on painted surfaces
  • Allergen, asthma, and third-party GreenGuard Gold certification
  • Meets strict guidelines for low chemical emissions

Based on this information, Harmony has been recognized as a legitimate zero-VOC paint.

– Emerald Interior and Exterior Acrylic Latex Paint

Emerald is another Sherwin-Williams paint line that claims to be zero-VOC. It is designed for both interior and exterior use, with the following product features:

  • Contains no VOCs according to EPA Method 24
  • Outstanding durability, washability, and resistance to stains and burnishing
  • Qualifies for LEED and GreenGuard Gold certification, meeting strict guidelines for low chemical emissions
  • Antimicrobial agents that inhibit mold and mildew growth on painted surfaces

Like Harmony, Emerald meets the criteria for being considered a zero-VOC paint.

Selecting the Right Zero-VOC Paint

Having chosen to use zero-VOC paint, it is crucial to select the appropriate product for your specific needs. Here are some recommendations for choosing the best Sherwin-Williams zero-VOC paint for your project:

  • For large commercial spaces, Harmony Pro is an ideal option due to its formaldehyde-reducing technology, which helps mitigate the high levels of formaldehyde common in larger, commercial buildings.
  • For residential interiors, Harmony or Emerald are both excellent choices, as they are designed to meet strict guidelines for low chemical emissions and offer antimicrobial properties to inhibit mold and mildew growth.
  • For exterior surfaces, consider using the Emerald Exterior Acrylic Latex line, as it is designed with durability, washability, and resistance to stains and burnishing in mind.

Adding Colorants Can Change VOC Content

It is essential to mention that adding colorants to your paint can affect its VOC content, as colorants may contain VOCs themselves.

To maintain the zero-VOC status of your paint, ask the paint supplier for zero-VOC colorants that are compatible with the base paint. Some zero-VOC colorants can still result in slightly increased VOC levels in the final mixture, but they should remain within acceptable limits.


While it is true that Sherwin-Williams’ Harmony and Emerald lines are zero-VOC, it is important to remember that this means they contain less than 5g/l of VOCs, not that they are completely devoid of them.

Nevertheless, these paint lines have been recognized for meeting strict guidelines for low chemical emissions and provide an excellent choice for environmentally and health-conscious consumers.

Keep in mind that adding colorants can affect the VOC content, so be sure to select appropriate zero-VOC colorants when customizing your paint.

Ideal VOC Levels for Safe Interior Painting

When selecting paint for your home, you need to consider the impact of the paint’s volatile organic compounds (VOCs) on indoor air quality. VOCs are toxic chemicals that can have adverse effects on human health.

Understanding Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids, including paint, cleaning supplies, and building materials. VOCs are responsible for the strong odors typically associated with new paint, and they may cause a range of health issues.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to VOCs can lead to eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, and even more severe long-term health effects. Therefore, it’s essential to use paints with low VOC levels to maintain a healthy living environment.

Safe VOC Levels in Paint

– Zero-VOC Paint

A paint labeled as zero-VOC typically contains no more than 5 grams of VOCs per liter. Some industry experts assert that paint with VOC levels below 5 grams per liter is considered safe for all environments.

However, even zero-VOC paint could release some VOCs as it depends on the colorants added to the paint.

I recommend using zero-VOC paints for interior painting projects, as they contribute to better indoor air quality and pose fewer health risks.

– Low-VOC Paint

Low-VOC paint contains 50 grams or fewer VOCs per liter for flat finishes and 150 grams or fewer for non-flat finishes. Low-VOC paint is another safe option for interior painting, though it may still emit some VOCs.

– VOC Levels to Avoid

The rules for VOC levels can vary by region, with stricter requirements in some areas. For example, California, which has some of the toughest regulations, mandates that paints cannot contain more than 50 grams of VOCs per liter for flat finishes and 100 grams per liter for non-flat finishes.

In general, I recommend steering clear of high-VOC paints for better air quality and reducing potential health risks. Look for products with lower VOC levels, bearing in mind that zero-VOC and low-VOC options are usually the safest choices.

Benefits of Using Low-VOC Paints

  • Improved Indoor Air Quality: Low and zero-VOC paint options prevent the release of harmful chemicals into your living environment, resulting in better air quality.
  • Reduced Health Risks: With fewer VOC emissions, there is a lower likelihood of experiencing the potential health issues associated with VOC exposure, such as headaches or respiratory irritation.
  • Environmentally Friendly: By using low or zero-VOC paints, you are minimizing your impact on the environment and reducing your carbon footprint.
  • Faster Return to Normal Activities: Low-VOC paints typically dry faster and produces fewer lingering odors, allowing you to return to normal activities inside your home sooner.

Tips for Reducing VOC Exposure When Painting

– Choose Low or Zero-VOC Paint

Selecting paint with low or zero-VOC levels is one of the best ways to reduce VOC exposure during home painting projects.

– Proper Ventilation

Ensure the painting area is well-ventilated by opening windows and doors or using exhaust fans to disperse VOCs from the paint and maintain a safe indoor air quality.

– Select Low-VOC Building Materials

Aside from paint, other materials like adhesives or furniture may also release VOCs, so opt for low-VOC products whenever possible.

– Dispose of Leftover Paint Responsibly

If you have leftover paint, be sure to dispose of it responsibly. Many communities have designated waste disposal facilities for hazardous materials or organize paint collection events.

In conclusion, choosing a safe VOC level in interior paint plays a pivotal role in maintaining indoor air quality and reducing the potential health implications of VOC exposure.

Opting for low or zero-VOC paint is a wise investment in your home and health, creating a safer living environment for you and your family.

Potential Drawbacks of Low VOC Paints

Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint is an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional paints because it releases significantly fewer toxic emissions into the air.

However, despite its numerous advantages, there are some important downsides to consider when using low-VOC paint for your home or commercial projects.

Limited Color Range

One common downside of low VOC paint is the limited color range available. These eco-friendly paints typically use natural pigments, resulting in fewer options when compared to traditional paints that offer a more extensive variety of colors.

This may limit your creativity and make it harder to find the perfect shade for your project, but it’s worth considering the environmental benefits when weighing your options.

I recommend exploring various low-VOC paint brands to find the one with the largest color selection. Websites such as Green Building Supply offer various low VOC paint options with a wide range of colors.

Less Durability

Low VOC paint can be less durable than its traditional counterparts. This could result in the need for more frequent touch-ups or repainting, especially in high-traffic areas.

In some cases, low VOC paints may also have poorer adhesive properties, causing paint to peel or flake away from walls more easily. To minimize this issue, it is crucial to adequately prepare surfaces and select a primer specifically designed for use with low VOC paint.

For increased durability, I recommend using a high-quality primer and paint together. Some popular low VOC primers include Benjamin Moore’s Natura and ECOS Paints.

Longer Drying Time

Low VOC paint generally takes longer to dry than traditional paint. This could slow down the overall painting process and require you to wait longer before applying additional coats or hanging artwork, curtains, or other decorations.

To expedite drying times, consider using fans or opening windows to increase air circulation in the room.

It is important to follow the manufacturer’s drying time recommendations when using low-VOC paint, which can typically be found on the product’s label or website.

Potential Performance Issues

While low VOC paint has made significant advancements in recent years, some users may still experience issues with application, coverage, or overall paint performance.

These issues can vary significantly depending on the brand and specific paint formulation, making it essential to follow the manufacturer’s application guidelines and consult user reviews before selecting a particular product.

I recommend conducting thorough research on low-VOC paints available in the market to identify the best option for your specific needs. Websites like EPA’s Design for the Environment can provide information on environmentally friendly options.

Higher Cost

In some cases, low VOC paint may be more expensive than traditional paint options. This added cost could be due to the use of natural or organic materials, more extensive research and development to achieve high-performing, less toxic paint formulations, or the smaller-scale production of low-VOC products.

It is important to balance this increased cost with the benefits of using eco-friendly paint that is healthier for the environment and occupants of the space.

Despite the higher cost, I recommend considering low-VOC paints as an investment in the long-term health of both your home’s occupants and the environment.


Low VOC paint has its drawbacks, but it also offers significant benefits for the health of our planet and its inhabitants. When considering whether to use low-VOC paint, it is essential to weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision based on your specific needs and values.

To ensure a successful project, take the time to research various low VOC paint options, follow application guidelines and best practices, and be prepared for a potentially slower drying time and the need for touch-ups or repainting in high-traffic areas.

By making informed choices, you can still achieve beautiful results with low VOC options while contributing to a healthier environment.

Low VOC paint can be more expensive than traditional paint.
Limited color options
There may be fewer color options available for low VOC paint compared to traditional paint.
Less durability
Low VOC paint may not be as durable or long-lasting as traditional paint.
Application challenges
Low VOC paint may require more precise application techniques and might take longer to dry.
Even though low-VOC paint is less harmful than traditional paint, it can still produce an unpleasant odor.

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