When it’s time to refresh the look of your home with a new coat of paint, you should choose an interior paint that’s stylish and safe for your family and the environment.

Many conventional paints emit harmful VOCs that can cause health issues, especially for children and the elderly. Thankfully, paint manufacturers offer several excellent low-VOC options to give your home a colorful makeover without toxic fumes.

This guide discusses factors to weigh when selecting eco-friendly paint and highlights four top options that will brighten up your home’s interior spaces in a sustainable way. 

What To Consider When Choosing Paint

With so many paint options on the market, it can be difficult to choose an interior paint that’s non-toxic and eco-friendly. The following are several key factors to evaluate when selecting an environmentally-friendly paint:

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are chemicals that evaporate from paint as it dries. Exposure to VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, and other short-term symptoms. Long-term effects from consistent exposure aren’t entirely clear but may include an increased risk of certain health issues, especially for children and seniors. When shopping for interior paint, check the manufacturer’s information for a low or zero VOC certification. This certification ensures the base paint and any tinting pigments used are free of VOCs and other toxic ingredients.

Many paint manufacturers now offer plant-based color pigments to tint their zero-VOC base paints. These natural pigments keep VOCs out of the final colored paint with natural tinting options that include pigments sourced from seeds, clay, fruits, vegetables, and minerals.

Low-VOC paints don’t contain the harsh chemical smell you might be used to with traditional oil or latex paints, so there should be little or no odor when the paint is wet or drying. A low odor makes these paints ideal for sensitive groups like pregnant women, children, and anyone with respiratory issues.

While early eco-friendly paints lacked performance compared to traditional options, the durability of modern paints has improved tremendously. Today’s top green interior paints offer great hide and coverage with a smooth and consistent finish. They’re scrubbable and stand up well to repeated cleanings, and many even contain mold and mildew inhibitors for extra protection in humid environments.

Top Eco-Friendly Interior Paint Options

Here are four of the best low-VOC and no-VOC interior paint options to give your home a safe, sustainable makeover. Prices and availability for these paint brands can vary by retailer.

1. Mythic Paint

As a certified B-Corp, Mythic Paint balances purpose, transparency, and performance. Their zero VOC paint contains no toxins or carcinogens and has a low environmental impact. With excellent hide and coverage, Mythic Paint gives walls a beautiful and healthy finish.

2. ECOS Paints

For ultralow VOCs and natural plant-based tinting, ECOS Paints is a great eco-friendly brand. Their interior paints contain no added formaldehyde, phthalates, or biocides. With low odor and easy soap and water cleanup, ECOS Paints are ideal for households with children or chemical sensitivities.

3. Milk Paint

Usually sourced from natural ingredients like milk protein, clay, and earth pigments, milk paint offers a sustainable, non-toxic formula. These paints emit zero VOCs as they dry, and you can even dispose of them via composting. With a unique matte finish, they work beautifully in kids’ rooms and nurseries. While milk paint is a type of paint and not a brand, there are several milk paint manufacturers that offer environmentally friendly paints.

4. Clare Paint

Clare Paint aims to offset 100% of its carbon footprint through investments in solar and wind energy. In addition to zero VOCs, the company uses only ethical and sustainable practices. Offering good coverage and a ceramic-fortified formula, Clare Paint gives walls a smooth and durable finish.

Tips for Applying Non-Toxic Paint

When working with zero-VOC and low-VOC paints, follow these tips for best results:

  • Properly prepare surfaces by cleaning, patching, and priming. Primer helps the paint adhere to surfaces, and eco-friendly paints perform best on properly prepped walls, especially if changing colors dramatically. See our paint primer guide for more details.
  • Closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and drying time. Compared to traditional paints, some zero-VOC options may dry more slowly.
  • Apply two coats for full coverage and vibrancy of the color. Lightly sand between coats to ensure proper adhesion.
  • Minimize waste by mixing only as much paint as needed for each coating session. Properly seal and store any leftover paint.
  • Enable proper airflow and ventilation as the paint dries. This ventilation allows any residual VOCs to escape.
Today’s Homeowner Tips

Be aware that darker colors may show some brush marks based on the paint’s formulation. Applying with a microfiber roller can help minimize visible brush strokes. Check out our professional painting tips for more helpful painting techniques.

So, Is Eco-Friendly Interior Paint Right for You?

If you’re concerned about indoor air pollution and want to avoid exposing your household to toxic VOCs, eco-friendly low-VOC or no-VOC paint is an excellent choice for your home’s interior walls and ceilings.

The top green paint brands offer outstanding durability, vibrant colors, and a smooth application comparable to traditional paints. With innovations in formulas and tinting processes, you won’t have to sacrifice performance for sustainability.

Not only do eco-friendly paints create a healthier indoor environment, but they also have less impact on outdoor air quality. By choosing paints with plant-based ingredients and avoiding VOCs, you can give your home a beautiful new look in a way that’s gentler on the planet.

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FAQs About Eco-Friendly Interior Paint

Is zero-VOC paint worth the higher cost?

While eco-friendly interior paints often cost slightly more up-front, they’re worth the investment. The higher price reflects the care manufacturers take to formulate paints without VOCs or other toxins, which provides health benefits that make green paints well worth their price.

How long does no-VOC paint take to dry?

Drying times vary across zero-VOC paint brands. Most take one or two hours to become tack-free and around four hours for a full dry and recoat. Check the manufacturer’s instructions, as some may take up to 12 hours to cure fully. Proper airflow helps accelerate drying.

Does low-VOC paint have an odor?

There may be a very faint odor, but low-VOC and zero-VOC paints lack the harsh chemical smell of traditional paints. Any mild odor dissipates quickly once the painting is complete. Those with chemical sensitivities can paint safely with low-VOC options.

Can you tint zero-VOC paint?

Yes, you can tint zero-VOC paint to achieve custom colors. Reputable brands use natural plant-based colorants or other non-toxic tinting methods that maintain the paint’s zero-VOC status. Be sure to ask about VOC-free tinting before buying.

Is milk paint a truly zero-VOC option?

Milk paints contain zero VOCs and are formulated using natural ingredients like milk protein, clay, and plant pigments. Milk paints are an excellent, non-toxic choice for interior walls.

Editorial Contributors
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Mitchell Layton

Mitchell Layton is a former professional mover who currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mitchell spent years packing and moving for REAL Rock N Roll Movers, a commercial and residential moving company based in Los Angeles that’s primarily staffed with up-and-coming musicians. That gave him plenty of experience navigating box trucks up and down the winding streets of LA. In addition to moving hundreds of happy customers into new homes and apartments all across Southern California, Mitchell has also performed corporate moves on company lots for Nickelodeon, Warner Bros, Universal Studios, Paramount, and more. After pouring blood, sweat, and tears into his profession, Mitchell has all the helpful tips you need for your next move.

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Lori Zaino

Lori Zaino is a freelance writer and editor based in Madrid, Spain. With nearly two decades of editorial experience, she’s written and edited for publications like Forbes, CNN, Insider, NBC, Newsweek, The Points Guy, The Infatuation, and many others. Having just completed her first home renovation, she’s more interested in home improvements than ever, dedicated to bringing you fresh and accurate content to help you update your living spaces.

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