These Non-Toxic Paints Will Let You Paint Your Nursery Safely

5 min reading time

For a lot of new parents, putting together the nursery is one of the best parts. You get to exercise your creativity, pick out some super cute decor, and get your paint game on.

But hoooold on for a second, mama.

Typical house paint is essentially a big ol’ soup of toxic chemicals, and that’s not good for anyone, especially if you’re pregnant.

The main harm from paint comes from VOCs, otherwise known as volatile organic compounds. What in the world are these, you ask? Let’s find out.

What are VOCs?

Let’s take a little look at VOCs, otherwise known as volatile organic compounds. VOCs are common chemical compounds that evaporate in the home, compromising the air quality and creating a potentially toxic living environment.

You know the smell of fresh paint? It might actually seem a little pleasant, but the fact is that you’re most likely inhaling toxic VOCs.

Traditional paint is absolutely full of toxic chemicals, and as soon as you paint the walls, these chemicals start to evaporate into the air. These chemicals are VOCs, and not only can they be found in paints, but in crib mattresses, bedding and even some toys.

VOC emissions from paint are at the highest right after application and go down over time, but they can still be emitted over time for years.

Possible negative health effects from VOCs.

VOCs have been linked to a number of negative health effects. Here is a list of them from the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency):

  • Eyes, nose or throat irritation
  • Headaches, loss of coordination, nausea
  • Damage to central nervous system, kidneys, and liver
  • Cancer

And since babies are much more sensitive to VOCs than adults, it’s so important that we use a good, non-toxic and no-VOC brand to paint our nursery with.

The three options: low-VOC, zero-VOC & natural paint.

There are three option in the world of non-toxic paints, and really only two of them are worth considering.

Low-VOC paint: These paints have less VOCs, meaning that they give off less gasses. It’s important to know that this is only in comparison to other paints which doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe. There’s really no saying that just because it has less of these toxic compounds that it’s actually better.

Zero-VOC paint: Now we’re talking! These paints don’t actually have zero VOCs, but they have a low enough amount that it’s close to zero. Don’t be fooled, though: it doesn’t mean that the paint doesn’t have any toxic ingredients at all, it just doesn’t have VOCs.

It’s also true that the tints that are added to zero-VOC paint can have VOCs themselves. It’s really unfortunate, but it’s the best we have at this point.

Natural paint: An alternative that is typically called “milk paint”—it literally is made with milk casein. Since they’re made from natural ingredients, they don’t emit any VOCs whatsoever.

Milk paints can be a bit more tricky to use and apply well, but if used correctly, they will turn out just as good as a traditional paint.

The company BioShield also makes a line of clay-based paints that don’t emit VOCs either. However, since these are clay-based paints, they only come in clay-like earth tones. They are a good, safe and non-toxic paint alternative, though.

Zero-VOC paint list.

We put together a list of zero-VOC paints that you can rely on. This isn’t an exhaustive list and the paint world is actually difficult to navigate. Nevertheless, you can certainly find a good option here.

Zero VOC paints:

Natural paint list.

If a natural paint is more up your alley, there are a few alternatives you can look at. BioShield’s paints are clay-based and only come in earth tones, and the other three are all milk paints.

Safe painting, especially for pregnant mamas.

Zero-VOC paint isn’t perfect, and just because it’s labeled “zero-VOC” doesn’t mean it actually has no VOCs at all; it just has very little.

And when you mix pigment into the paint, the pigment itself might have VOCs.

It’s strongly suggested not to paint while you’re pregnant. If you’re trying to get the nursery ready, it would be a good idea to enlist your partner or a friend to pick up the brush for you. While it’s true that there is likely very little risk to your unborn baby if you’re using a zero-VOC paint, it’s usually better to err on the side of caution.

There’s also the risk of slipping, falling, or otherwise physically hurting yourself while you’re painting.

However, if you do decide to paint while pregnant, here are some tips:

  • Keep the room well-ventilated. Open the windows not only in the room you’re painting, but elsewhere in your home to get the airflow moving. You could even point box fans at the window to get the air moving. Air out the room for several days after you finish, too.
  • Wear a mask. Head over to the hardware store and pick up a good mask, or better yet, a ventilator. Make sure the packaging says it was approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health..
  • Don’t eat or drink in the same room. Your food or drink can get contaminated, so only eat and drink in a different room.
  • Cover your skin. Even if it’s hot, wear long-sleeved clothing and pants, gloves and socks. If You get paint splashed on you, quickly wash it off.

Do you have any comments on questions on non-toxic paint? Let us know in the comments below.

photo credit: @paigechristensen

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