What are VOCs—and Why Do They Matter?

VOCs, short for Volatile Organic Compounds, are a group of chemicals that are found in most paints and coatings. They’re not only found in paints—but they’re also in cleaners, disinfectants, dry-cleaned clothing, permanent markers, glues, air fresheners, and aerosol sprays. But because Freeland Painting is your locally owned painting company in Atlanta, we’ll focus on the VOCs in paint.

One reason VOCs are in paint is to keep the paint fresh while it’s in the can. Once the can is opened, VOCs enable the paint to spread smoothly on the wall or surface you want coated. Some VOCs give paint specific properties—rust prevention, for example. After we paint your walls, paint your ceiling, paint your business, or paint your house, VOCs evaporate into the air. That process is called off-gassing.

Health Effects of VOCs

We’re all familiar with the smell of fresh paint as it dries. For people sensitive to VOCs, that chemical smell can irritate their nose, throat, or even cause a headache. That’s because the paint is off-gassing VOCs, which can have health consequences if you’re exposed to paint fumes for lengthy periods of time. Leaving a door or window open for increased ventilation is a best practice during your interior paint job and while the paint dries. Latex paint dries fast, which is why Freeland Painting uses latex paint for most of its painting jobs, both big and small.

Most VOCs in paint are off-gassed as the paint dries in the first few hours, though a small amount of VOC off-gassing can continue for about 6 months.

Reducing Exposure to VOCs

The US Environmental Protection Agency recognizes that high levels of VOCs can have a negative impact on health, so they regulate the level of VOCs in paint to minimize exposure. According to the EPA, the levels of VOCs inside of homes and businesses are an average of 2 to 5 times higher than VOC levels outdoors. In addition, during the painting process and for several hours afterward, VOC levels may be hundreds of times higher inside than outside. That’s why good ventilation and a fresh air source are critical as paint dries.

Low-VOC Paint Options

In addition to practicing good ventilation during the painting and drying process, the paint you choose can significantly impact the VOC level that is off-gassed in your home or commercial building. Paint manufacturers offer choices in the levels of VOC in paints, with both low-VOC and no-VOC options.

Latex paint has a significantly lower level of VOCs than oil-based paint. At Freeland Painting, we typically use latex paint that the EPA has rated as “Low VOC,” meaning it has a low content of VOCs. Specifically, Low VOC paint has less than 250 grams per liter of VOCs.

Some paint manufacturers, including Sherwin Williams, offer both Low-VOC and No-VOC paint options. For interior painting, we suggest Sherwin Williams Harmony® Interior Acrylic Latex Paint for interior wall and ceiling painting because of its innovative technology and Zero VOC formula that contributes to better indoor air quality one coat of paint at a time. That’s right: Harmony paint not only has a Zero VOC rating, it can also help neutralize other sources of VOCs in your home or business, such as carpets, new cabinets, or fabrics. It can also reduce the odors from smoking, cooking, or pets. Now that’s a high-performance paint!

Best Low-VOC Paint for Exterior Painting

Do you need to repaint the outside of your business, home, or commercial property in the Atlanta area? For exterior surfaces, Freeland Painting recommends Sherwin Williams Emerald® Exterior Acrylic Latex Paint, which is a Low VOC paint with less than 50 g/l of VOCs. That’s five times lower than the EPA standard of 150 g/l of VOCs to qualify as a Low VOC paint. Emerald paint’s long life and resistance to blistering, fading, peeling, and mildew makes the product a high-performance paint that we’re proud to use to beautify your home or commercial property.

And, did you know that Freeland Painting will paint your business or commercial property after hours, so we don’t interrupt your flow of customers? That’s right: We’ll arrange to paint after normal business hours so you don’t have to close or lose revenue to refresh your curb appeal with a professional paint job.

Did we mention that we offer free estimates for painting your business, commercial property, or home? We do! Call us today at 678.679.3126 to discuss how Freeland Painting will beautify your home or business (or both!) with a fresh coat of Low VOC paint.

Let’s get rolling!