Commercial painter beginning to paint a large blue wall.

When choosing the paint for your office, it’s important to consider more than just paint color. With the growing choices for paint types, finishes, and application, there are more options than ever for what to put on your walls. One thing that should always be considered is the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in your paint products and if your product is considered to be a zero-VOC paint.

What are VOCs?

VOCs are chemicals found in many common painting products, for example formaldehyde and acetone. As the paint is applied to a surface, these chemicals begin releasing into the air, making it unsafe for those within the area who don’t have a protective mask or equipment.

While VOCs are important to watch for in both indoor and outdoor settings, their potential impact on a person’s health is far more serious in an indoors where they can’t dissipate in fresh air.

To better understand how VOCs impact indoor air quality, think back to the last time you painted or were in a space that had recently been painted. Do you recall a smell of paint? Perhaps you felt light-headed after a brief period in the room or felt nauseous from the fumes. That smell was caused by VOCs which, in turn, enhanced your symptoms.

While the smell from VOCs is apparent during painting, it often lingers for days, meaning those chemicals are continuing to pollute the air for a long period of time. Even weeks later, some paints with VOCs will continue to emit odor-causing VOCs that can be smelled when you stand close to the wall.

Zero-VOC Paint Options

Because VOCs can have such negative impacts on a person’s health, it’s important for property managers and business owners to consider paint options that limit VOC emission. For this, zero-VOC paint is the most EPA-friendly option.

Zero-VOC paint refers to any paint with 5 grams/litre or less of VOCs. But, while a paint may be considered zero-VOC, it still may contain other chemicals that aren’t classified as a VOC. To help ensure you’re using a safe painting product in your interiors, it’s important to consult a professional painter that knows all the compounds to look for in a clean painting product.

In addition to containing little-to-no harmful VOCs, zero-VOC is an excellent option for commercial interiors because it has the least impact on your business operations. When working with a paint that contains VOCs, the area needs to be closed until the paint dries and the fumes have cleared. Not only does this allow time for the paint odor to dissipate, but it helps ensure that the majority of harmful VOCs have left the area. If you resume business operations too early, the odor may be overwhelming and your employees may notice side effects from the VOCs such as those mentioned previously.

With zero-VOC options, the turnover time is shorter, meaning your business can reopen sooner.

What About Low-VOC Paint Options?

In additional to zero-VOC paint options, many boast a low-VOC rating. While this traditionally refers to a paint with 50 grams/litre of VOCs or less, depending on the certifying body this definition may fluctuate a bit. Oftentimes, the readings on a paint can are taken prior to pigments being added. These pigments can add up to 10 g/L of VOCs, meaning your low-VOC paint isn’t necessarily low-VOC.

While these paints don’t take as long as their VOC-filled counterparts to dry, they still emit chemical fumes for a longer duration than a zero-VOC paint, causing additional closures for your business.

Consult a Professional

While zero-VOC paint is an environmentally-friendly, safer alternative to traditional painting sources, not every zero-VOC paint label should be treated equally. While a paint may be low- or zero-VOC, it may still contain harmful chemicals and additives that make it unsafe for your employees to inhale prior to fully drying.

To ensure that the zero-VOC paint option you’re looking at is truly environmentally-friendly and safe for your team, our team can help.