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According to the EPA, our indoor air is up to 3 times more polluted than our outdoor air and paints and finishes are among the biggest contributor. Just about all of us have a shelf in the basement or a cabinet in the garage containing paint cans leftover from past projects. But how many of us are aware that the VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) in regular commercial paints and finishes release low-level toxic emissions into the air for years after we apply them? The type of paint you buy and how you dispose of it can adversely affect your health as well as pollute your local streams and groundwater.
The recent demand for less harmful paint along with new environmental regulations have led to the development of three classes of less toxic paint: Low-VOC, Zero-VOC and Natural paints and finishes. These new paints are durable, cost-effective and less harmful to human and environmental health.
Here is how they breakdown:
Low toxic paints (low-VOC and zero-VOC paints) are better for you than regular paint, although they still contain a certain amount of toxins. Non-Toxic (Natural) paints are best. They lessen your exposure to toxins, reduce landfill waste, reduce groundwater and ozone depleting contaminants, clean up easy with soap and warm water, emit low odors during application, greatly simplify cleanup and perform as well as their commercial counterparts.
Buy Only as Much as You Need
If you're painting a room, write down the measurements (including the doors and windows) and whether the surfaces being painted are smooth or textured. (Height x width = total square feet). Buy the best quality paint you can afford. High quality paints last twice as long as regular paint if applied properly. Follow the directions for surface preparation and prime first if necessary. This isn't a ploy to sell you more paint, it will actually increase the lifespan of the product.
Paint Storage Tips
Wipe excess paint from the rim before replacing the lid, and then store the can upside down for at least three days so a seal forms around the top of the can.
Keep the paint in a dry, frost-free area to avoid rust and freezing. Place cardboard under cans stored on the floor or place paint on shelves. Don't store paint on bare ground or unsealed concrete, in unheated garages, wet basements or in glass jars or other unmarked containers.
Testing Old Paint for Freshness
Properly stored paint will remain usable for 12-15 years. To determine if paint is still usable, paint a test area and allow the paint to dry for 48 hours. Place masking tape over the area and then quickly pull it off. If paint comes off with the tape the paint is no longer suitable for use.
Tools used for latex paint can be washed in the sink if you're on a sewer system, not outside where paint can pollute the ground water. Clean oil-based paint tools with paint thinner or turpentine and reuse both by pouring into a labeled container and letting stand until the sediment has settled. Gently pour off the clean thinner or turpentine back into the original container.
Avoid cleaning brushes and rollers until you're done with the entire job. They can be used without cleaning for up to a week if wrapped in plastic and not exposed to air (this doesn't work with varnishes or lacquers).
Proper Paint Disposal
If you can't use your leftover paint, recycle it. Give it to friends and neighbors, community service programs, parks and recreation departments, theater groups or local hazardous waste paint exchanges.
Where to Purchase Healthier Paint
Due to considerable consumer demand, more and more major paint manufacturers are now offering lines of less toxic paints:
Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.
Has anyone tried the new Martha Stewart low VOC paints being sold at the Home Depot? How is the coverage? How is the consistency? How is the finish? How does it wear? Any special tips on how to use it?
By Lori from Queens, NY
I have never used the paint but a friend of mine who is a house painter tells me The paint does not cover very well. He tried it because that was what the home owner wanted. He uses Sherwin Williams. For my painting usage I have found the regular Home Depot works well. I also like Benjamin Moore paint.