Choosing "Green" Paint for Your Home and Your Health

When we are talking about "green" paint, we are not talking color-although green is a great color to splash on your walls! There are hundreds of paint choices lining the shelves, so you may want to take a bit of time and thoroughly read labels before you purchase. Typical paints can be extremely toxic to your health and to the environment-the EPA says that the concentration of pollutants inside your home can be several times that of the air outdoors. Especially if your home lacks proper ventilation, airborne chemicals can cause potentially serious damage to human bodies. While painting, after the paint dries and when it is removed are all times when airborne chemicals are released, potentially causing the type of indoor air pollution that can cause headaches, dizziness, fatigue, asthma, cancer and heart disease. VOC's are released in the highest concentrations during the application of paint, although most paints continue to emit harmful fumes for many years to come. In the past, natural paints were not considered a viable option because the colors faded and the walls could not be washed very successfully. The newer ecologically friendly paints are much more durable, washable and long lasting. There are several types of "green" paint to consider, all of which come in many colors-including green!

Clay Paint

One of the most common types of natural paints is clay paint, which is primarily composed of earth-based substances, and use mostly water for a solvent. If you are looking for an earthy or Southwest adobe look for your home, consider organic clay paint. You can find colors ranging from natural earth tones to blues, whites and orange tints. Clay paints are good for adhering to most surfaces, and, like most paints, require only two coats. Clay paints come with a caveat, however-they also work as effective odor absorbers. The downside to clay paints are that they are generally fairly expensive, and do not come in a very wide range of colors and textures. If you are looking for a bright neon color, clay paints would not work for you. Clay paints can also not be scrubbed, washed or wiped down without requiring touch ups to cover the damaged spots. You could use a low VOC sealer to cover the clay paint, but you will be adding even more money to your paint job.

Lime Wash

Lime wash can be a relatively inexpensive yet green alternative to traditional paints, and is made from limestone, a calcium based mineral, combined with water. You can use lime wash either indoors or out, however because lime wash sinks into the subsurface it can only be used with porous materials such as brick, wood, plaster and concrete. If you have drywall or painted surfaces, they will not receive lime wash effectively. Once applied, lime wash forms a type of glowing finish due to the coat of calcium crystals left behind which wear off over time leaving an antiqued sort of look. Lime wash must be applied in many thin coats to achieve the desired look. Oddly enough, though limestone is 100% natural, it is corrosive to eyes and skin, so goggles and gloves must be worn during lime wash application. The newer lime washes tend to be more durable and washable, making them a good natural paint choice.

Milk Paint

Milk paint is made from casein, a protein found in milk products. This substance is separated from the milk and mixed with water, clay and earth pigments, turning into a form of tempera paint. It is purchased in dry powdered form, then mixed with water. Like clay paints, milk is intended only as an exterior paint and comes in matte finishes only. Milk paint is fast-drying, and comes in a range of colors. Choosing one of these natural paints can help you go green-while not literally painting all your walls green.