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!

What’s the Difference Between Oil and Latex Paint?

We get this question a lot when customers select paint for their residential, commercial, or multifamily painting projects. Since Freeland Painting does both interior paint jobs and exterior paint jobs, we thought we’d share the answer.

There are a lot of differences between oil and latex paint. The short answer to the question is: The two types of paint are different in their properties, composition, environmental impact, and ease of use.

Latex Paint

Latex paint is a water-based paint. Because it’s water-based, latex paint dries quickly through the process of evaporation. Because it’s quick-drying, your paint project will be completed faster than it would with other types of paint. Latex paint typically dries in a few hours and takes up to 48 hours to thoroughly “cure” and adhere to the painted surface.

Why do so many people choose latex paint? For one thing, it offers a lot of advantages. The benefits of latex paint include that it resists cracking and chipping. As a result, it is an excellent choice for both interior and exterior paint jobs. Another advantage of latex paint is that it comes in such a large variety of colors and sheens. Whether you want your paint sheen to be matte, eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss, latex paint has it in every color imaginable.

Latex paint and VOCs

Another significant advantage of latex paint is that it is low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). That means it doesn’t have as many chemical additives as other types of paint, including oil-based paint.

What are VOCs? VOCs are emitted or “off-gassed” in gas form as the paint dries. These harmful VOC gases can linger inside your home and negatively impact indoor air quality. VOCs are part of the reason why paint has its smell, and are often associated with that “new home” smell. Paints with low VOC levels are better for indoor air quality and the environment overall.

The US Environmental Protection Agency limits the VOC content of latex paints to a maximum of 250 grams per liter (g/l) for flat paint. That explains why latex paints don’t have as strong an odor as oil-based paints, which often have VOC levels as high as 500 g/l. Paints with VOC levels under 250 qualify as “Low VOC,” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Freeland Painting typically uses latex paints with a Low VOC rating of 50, which offer excellent quality with minimal off-gassing.

Because it’s water-based, latex paint clean-up is done with water. Just rinse your brushes with water, and the wet paint will come right off. The clean-up with latex paints is much more environmentally friendly than with oil paint, which requires dangerous chemical solvents for clean-up that are harmful to the environment.

Water-based latex paint with Low VOC levels is an environmentally friendly painting option that Freeland Painting is pleased to offer its customers.

Oil Paint

Oil paint―also called oil-based paint, solvent-based paint, or alkyd paint―goes on very smoothly, covers most surfaces exceptionally well, and is water-resistant. It takes a long time to dry—so long that you might need a “Wet Paint” sign so people won’t accidentally smudge the surface. Oil paint covers thoroughly in one coat and holds up well in high-traffic areas.

What are the disadvantages of oil paint? It tends to “yellow” over time and is more likely than latex paint to fade and crack. As mentioned, it has a lengthy drying time: It can take 6 to 10 hours for oil paint to dry to the touch, and up to a month to dry or “cure” completely, which can be inconvenient for both residential and commercial painting customers.

Because it is solvent-based, oil-based paint contains many chemicals, which is why it takes much longer to dry than latex paint. Oil paint dries by the process of oxidation, a chemical reaction, which is why it takes so long to cure completely.

Oil-based paint and VOCs

Perhaps the most significant disadvantage of oil-based paint is its high level of VOCs. Typically ranging from 250 to 500 g/l of VOCs, oil-based paint can negatively impact interior air quality while the paint dries (which takes up to a month)―off-gassing VOCs during the entire drying process.

There are also environmental and health hazards with oil paint. Its fumes can overwhelm people, causing headaches and eye irritation, so it’s critical to have a source of fresh air while painting and drying. In addition, clean-up from oil-based paint jobs requires chemical solvents that are harmful to the environment.

Painting with oil-based paint requires harsh solvents or mineral spirits to clean the brushes. Such hazardous chemicals can have a negative impact on both your health and the environment.

Latex Paint Is Our Go-To Choice

At Freeland Painting, we recommend latex paint for most residential, commercial, or multi-family dwelling paint jobs because of its high quality and long-lasting performance. In addition, latex paint offers a lower environmental impact than oil paint because of its lower VOC content and the fact that clean-up is done with water rather than dangerous chemicals.

When you’re looking for a company to provide you with a paint job that looks great and is environmentally friendly, call Freeland Painting. We’ll provide a free estimate on your commercial, residential or multi-family painting project.

Give us a call today at 678.679.3126 to schedule your free estimate!