I recently started reading a Greenie blog called Green Living Q&A. The owner and editor, Debra, posts on a wide range of topics and although I had never commented before I have been an avid reader for the past couple of months since my sister introduced me to the site.
While catching up on blog reading, I came across a post where a reader had requested information regarding Acri Soy Grout Sealer and people’s impressions of it as a low VOC option. The reader went on to discuss a paint selection they had made long ago and how it had touted a no VOC claim but stunk to high heaven after it dried. (You can read the original question post here.)
As a decorative painter and Greenie this fueled me to post back a fairly lengthy comment with regards to the differences between VOC and odor as they are not the same.
“I don't have any familiarity with the grout sealer but am very curious to hear if anyone else does as tile is something we've considered doing and have looked into these types of grouts.
What I do know is that low VOC does not mean no odor when it comes to paint. VOC is the chemical gas that is released after or during the drying process, the odor is a separate beast all together and is not necessarily related to the environmental function of an item. An orange has an odor, a strong one at that, but it is pleasant & natural so it doesn't bother us. Just as an example.
As a painter & decorative finish artist my preference on paint (after trying MANY believe me!) has been either Benjamin Moore Eco-Spec or Sherwin Williams Harmony. They do still have an odor but the harmful chemicals will not linger as it dries. Benny just came out with Natura (no VOC even in the tints, no odor) that I haven't tried yet but plan to include in my arsenal. More expensive, true, but a far better quality paint and less harmful overall. Anyway, good luck with it!”
I imagine it is a common misconception in the world of building supplies, paint in particular, for consumers to think that reading ‘no VOC’ on the label means it won’t smell bad. That is not at all the case all the time.
Please also bear in mind that tinting paint will generally add VOCs to the latex base. So even if you are grabbing a 100% VOC free paint base off the shelf, the minute you ask the person at the counter to turn it into that beautiful color ‘Wildflower’, not only the colorants but, VOCs are added.
From all I’ve read, Home Depot sells an exclusive line called Freshaire Choice. A zero VOC paint, that apparently also makes use of 0% VOC in the tint as well, it is a considerable eco friendly option (recycled materials, soy based inks, even the paint chips can be recycled!). It is not a no odor paint however so bear that in mind when using it and ventilate properly while applying.
If I use Natura or Freshaire Choice to tint my ECOglaze, a truly safe finish will be applied. That’s kind of rad, I will definitely check it out.
I hope that my explanation helps to debunk the no VOC = no odor myth and that those interested in painting with no harmful gasses released (and also a less stinky environment) will shop wisely with a firm eye on the label of the item they’re buying.
Are there other paint options you love that are no VOC, low VOC, no odor or low odor that I may not have discussed here? Please share!