Is there a reason to paint over non-eco-friendly paint with low-VOC paint?

Asked by Eva
Denver, CO

We are moving into a new home that has two stinky fresh coats of regular paint on the walls. As we paint the walls over time in the colors that we want, will we be doing any good by using low-VOC paints?


Yes, after you’ve off-gassed your VOC paint, it would be worthwhile to repaint with a non-VOC product. If you don’t want VOC off-gassing, then purchase non-VOC paint.

Note that not all "non-VOC" paints are the same -- many contain toxic substances. You’ll need to read the labeling before you select a product. That said, there are many good green paint options available on the market.

Handling the new "stinky" paint in your home

Next, how to address your newly painted home: The fresher the paint, the more off-gassing there is. Two factors can accelerate off-gassing --

  • low humidity and
  • air flow.

Some people suggest vacating the home, turning on the heat for four days, and opening the windows for three days. Using fans can help, too. You’ll find a number of strategies described on the web.

There are a couple of philosophies on what to do with VOC paint. Some say go ahead and seal it and others suggest that sealers don’t work and walls need to breathe. It is challenging to separate marketing from fact. There are a number of articles on paints available from the EPA, such as this one.


For more information:

Read Debbie Sek's Q&A "Our painter used traditional paints instead of non-VOC. Should we strip the walls and start over?"

Also, read Steve Rush's Q&A "How do you remove or encapsulate non-green wall and floor finishes?"

Tagged In: home air quality, low voc paint

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