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What does “Low VOCs” Mean?

Today’s topic: VOCs! You often see “Low VOCs”, or “No VOCs” on paint and finish labels, which you know must mean something good, but what does it actually mean?


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are the solvents that evaporate into the air while the product is drying. Some of the solvents that evaporate can have an odor to them and will effect the quality of the air in your home.

Some paint companies will claim to have no VOCs, which may be true for the base of the paint. However if you add pigments to the paint the pigments are what  contain the VOCs. There are still companies out there that claim to use NO VOC pigments.

Sources of VOCs

What products around our homes have VOCs?

  • Paints
  • Spray paint cans
  • Strippers
  • House hold cleaners and disinfectants
  • Air fresheners
  • Pest Repellents
  • Automotive fuels
  • Hobby Supplies
  • Dry-Cleaned Clothes
  • Pesticides
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Markers
  • Printers inks

Health Risks

Short Term Exposure Symptoms:

  • Eye, nose throat irritation
  • Headache and or nausea
  • Skin reaction
  • Dyspnea
  • Emesis
  • Epistaxis
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

How To Lower Your Risk Of Exposure:

  • Keep paint cans closed tight and use lower VOC products in your home.
  • If you can, wait until you can open windows and doors to circulate air flow in the home when you are using high VOC products.
  • Wear a mask, read more on our safety when DIYing here and our mask recommendations.
  • Dispose and clean up rags, and brushes properly according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Don’t mix products! If you don’t know what is in the product don’t start a chemistry lab.
  • Make sure your kids and fur babies can’t get into your products!

Other things you can do:

  • Don’t buy more paint than you need, you would be surprised as to how far a pint of paint will go!
  • Contact your local waste company before disposing of any paint. Hint: Some other DIYer or Upcycler might be interested in a good quality paint so you can give it away too!  Better yet, host a paint swap!
  • Share this information!!!

Some additional stats for nerds like me! 

The federal government regulations are 250 grams per liter for flat finishes and 380 per liter for higher gloss finishes. However many companies have chosen to lower their numbers.

In 2007 the EPA estimated that about 65-69 gallons of paint was discarded!  That statistic is alarming; We need to be more conscious of our paint uses! Do you have any ideas on what we can do with left over paint?  Watch for a future post with our thoughts!

Worried about the air quality in your home and want to know how bad it is? There are products that will be able to tell you. Foobot will track the air quality along with humidity and temperature. You can also test your VOC levels with this bad boy.




Thanks for reading and stay safe from VOCs

Tara Lou

* This blog contains affiliate links please visit my disclaimer page.

Tara Lou

Mama, wife, furniture connoisseur, small business owner, nature-lover, homebody, hunter.

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