The Pros and Cons of Low VOC Paints in Your Facility

“Low VOC” and “No VOC” paints are trending upwards right now, and for good reason. With a universal shift towards more environmentally friendly products, the paint industry is naturally looking for more ways to make products that are traditionally toxic to the environment more sustainable. However, as with any new product that comes on the market, there are pros and cons to these seemingly positive paints. 

What are Low VOC Paints? 

The meaning of “low VOC paint” is pretty straightforward: These paints contain a reduced amount of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), compared to traditional paints. Volatile Organic Compounds can easily become vapors or gasses, and can be toxic to inhale. These gasses are lead to the “fresh paint” smell that your nose can usually detect when there’s wet paint nearby.

While occasional exposure to fresh paint for a few seconds is unlikely to hurt people, frequently inhaling VOCs can cause numerous health risks. In the short term, people may experience nausea. Long term, VOC can damage nasal passages and airways, and even cause central nervous system complications. VOCs are also extremely toxic to the environment, which is why they have been regulated by the government for several decades. 

Low-VOC Paints vs. Regular Paints

Recently, many paint companies have also begun producing “low VOC” paints. These are paints with no Volatile Organic Compounds present. However, it is important to note that the term “low VOC” does not mean that the paints are safe or that they lack VOCs. In fact, there is no set quantitative amount that makes a paint a low VOC paint, so the term should be looked at as “less VOCs than usual.”

Pros of Low VOC Paints

Environmentally Friendly

As we mentioned, VOCs are harmful to the environment. Naturally, a paint with lower VOCs will be a more sustainable solution, and is less harmful to the environment than traditional paints. However, this does not mean low VOC paints are completely harmless. VOCs are only one of several toxic compounds that can be found in paints. 

Minimal Odor

Odor is a big advantage that low VOCs paints have over traditional paints. If you have just recently painted your industrial/commercial facility, it could take days for the smell to clear away. This can be off-putting and even harmful to employees, as well as clients that visit your facility.  Reduced odor is a big benefit to low VOC paints.

Safer for Employees

Going hand in hand with the odor, low VOC paints release less toxic fumes in the workplace. They are safer to use for the commercial painting contractors that paint your facility, as well as the employees that work inside. Less toxicity is the focal point of low VOC paints, and perhaps the biggest benefit in support of the new formulations. 

Cons of Low VOC Paints

Higher Price

As with any product, the newer thing can cost more. Historically, low VOC paints cost more than traditional paints. This is most likely due to the extra processes involved in reducing the amount of VOCs in the paint. 

Shorter Longevity

Though low VOC and no VOC paints are relatively new, one common finding is that the reduced VOCs result in a decrease in the longevity of the paint. This means you will most likely need to re apply the paint more often, costing you more money. 

Additional Solvents and Chemicals

A majority of low VOC paints on the market today contain additional solvents and chemicals that have various purposes. These additional solvents and chemicals may be toxic to people and the environment, defeating the purpose of purchasing the low VOC paint. 

Are Low VOC Paints Worth the Cost? 

Now that we have gone over the finer points, we come to the final question: are low VOC points worth buying? Well, the answer truly depends on what you are using the paint for, your budget, and a host of other factors. However, some traditional rules of thumb when it comes to buying low VOC paints include: 

  • Buy a low VOC paint with less than 5g VOC
  • Buy paints labelled “non-toxic” or “no toxic solvent added”
  • Avoid cheap knock-offs. Cheaper does not always mean you’ve found a bargain. 
  • Test the paint. Only buy a small sample, and ensure the paint works well on your facility surface

So, are low VOC paints worth the price? Maybe, maybe not. If you have the budget to experiment, low VOC paints have a ton of potential, and are a more sustainable option for the future. However, there is still a great deal of tweaking that needs to be done before we consider low VOC paints the best paint for every job.