Painting in an Environmentally Friendly Manner
Spring is just around the corner and one way many people choose to freshen up a room, or totally change the overall look, is to apply a new color of paint. Fresh paint makes you feel as though the room is brand-new again, but before you head out to the paint store to choose your colors, remember that many of the older paints and paint thinners can have toxic effects on you and your family, most especially when you are painting interior surfaces. There are many newer, environmentally responsible paints on the market right now, which contain no VOC's-volatile organic compounds-effectively reducing exposure to toxic fumes. If you are not using paints with no VOC's, then make sure you not only leave the windows open while painting, but also leave them open for a few days afterward. While painting, use window-mounted box fans which can exhaust the vapors from your work area. Either wear a mask, or take frequent fresh air breaks while painting, and if at all possible, do your painting in the fall or spring, when windows can be left open.
Low VOC Paints
There are several types of non-toxic paints and finishes, and even those labeled "zero-VOC" can contain small amounts of toxins. Paints made from natural ingredients such as plant oils and resins, plant dyes and oils, natural minerals, water, earth, bees' wax and mineral dyes. If you are looking for a paint with virtually no offensive smell at all, choose a water-based natural paint. If you are set on using oil-based paint, the oil-based natural paints will usually have a citrus-y smell, which is quite pleasant. It is rare for these types of paint to cause allergies or any type of sensitivity. Low VOC paints, stains and varnishes incorporate water as a carrier rather than solvents which are typically petroleum-based. Many low VOC paints will still emit a slight odor until they are dry, so keep those windows open. There is a specialty paint which actually absorbs VOCs such as formaldehyde, then those compounds will remain trapped within the product indefinitely. This type of paint includes Atmosphere Purifying Wallpaint, Anti-Formaldehyde Radiator Paint, and MDF Passivating Primer. If you happen to have new carpet or furniture which are emitting toxic gasses, you can use the Atmosphere Purifying Wallpaint on the ceiling to trap the fumes, and render them safe.
How to Achieve the Lowest VOC Levels
Make sure to always read labels prior to purchasing paint. Look for the VOC content, which is generally listed in grams per liter and can range from 5-200. Try to choose a product with the very lowest VOC rating possible. Check for the pigment concentration of the paint-it will range from 25%-50% by volume, and the higher percentage the solids are, the fewer volatiles in the paint. When figuring how much paint you need for your job, calculate the area to be painted by multiplying height x width in order to get the total square footage. One gallon of paint usually covers 400 square feet. Use the least amount of paint thinner or turpentine you can get by with, and keep used paint thinner to re-use. Make sure it is in a tightly closed, label container. The paint and dirt particles will settle to the bottom, then you can pour off the clear liquid to re-use. If you are done for the night, but will be painting again tomorrow, simply wrap your rollers and brushes in a ziplock bag, zip shut and store away from the light. If the air can't get to the brushes and rollers, they won't dry out and you can re-use without having to clean with lacquer. Turpentine made from the resin of coniferous tree, and is a natural brush cleaner for oil-based paints. With a little extra planning, you can paint in a totally environmentally-friendly manner, ending up with a freshly painted room that is safe and non-toxic.