Choosing the right Eco-Friendly Paint

There are quite a few things to consider when choosing which paint to use, here are the some of the properties of paints that we think are most important:

1. Breathability

Limewash wallHaving a breathable wall structure is really important for the health of your home.   It stops damp problems in your house.  Solid wall houses, which most are, are designed to breathe – what we mean is that they are designed to allow moisture vapour to pass through.  The problem with a conventional paints is that you’re literally putting a plastic film on your wall, which blocks any moisture movement.

Moisture vapour needs to escape from the inside to the outside, otherwise you’re trapping it inside where it will condense on the coldest parts of the walls.  This can lead to mould growth on the walls or ceiling.

On the outside walls, a non-breathable paint will stop water getting into the wall, which is great, but if it the surface cracks it will trap moisture in the wall.  This may not only affect the structural integrity of the wall, but it also takes a lot more energy to heat up a wet wall.

What to consider
Use breathable paints inside.  Outside consider using a traditional Limewash or a Silicate Masonry Paint, such as this one, to protect the wall from rain while allowing moisture to escape.
For traditional breathable plaster choose lime rather than cement.

2. VOCs

Natural Paint IngredientsVolatile Organic Compounds – these are the solvents given off by paints. They’re what give paint its ‘paint smell’, and they are the ones that can give you a headache when you’re painting.  The really bad news is that exposure to a lot of VOCs can lead to serious health problems, and conventional paints can give off VOCs for many years after painting.  Not all VOCs are equal though, some paints use natural solvents like citrus oil which are much better for your health, and some paints use water as a solvent, with no VOCs at all.

What to consider
All paints are getting better – they’ve legally had to reduce their VOC levels.
Choose paints labelled Zero VOC, such as these Claypaints – they’re the best choice for your health.

3. Sustainability and Pollution

F&B_10This is a big one, and it’s a factor that you often don’t see.  There are emissions and waste involved with producing, packaging and transporting paints.  Since conventional paints contain petroleum based ingredients, they have a large carbon footprint.  Along with being healthy for you and your home an eco-paint should be good for the planet.  That means minimising the carbon impact and pollution created from mining the ingredients to recycling the packaging at the end of its life.

Eco paint manufacturers use low impact production methods (such as factories running on renewable energy sources), and source low impact materials (such as local, natural materials, with minimal use of petro-chemical based ingredients).

4. Coverage and Durability

Bear on BenchOf course, there’s little point using a paint that doesn’t cover well, or doesn’t last as long as you want.  Since eco-friendly paints generally contain a lot of clays and chalk, they usually have a really good coverage; they often cover in one coat!
There are also different grades of durability to choose from; from traditional lime and chalk paints, great for ceilings and low traffic areas; to scrubbable paints like these that contain natural oils, great for kitchens & bathrooms.

When choosing a ‘green’ paint, you need to be careful of ‘green-wash’.  Some paints claim to be eco-friendly just because they are water based. Others are labelled as green because they’ve reduced their VOC levels, or reduced the energy used to produce the paints.

At Celtic Sustainables we work with a few truly eco-friendly paint manufacturers which we’ve selected to provide the best paints for you, your home, and the planet.

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