Most of us don’t really think about what paint is and yet we cover practically every inch of our homes in it. In this article we look at the downside to standard paints and list the eco paint brands available in Ireland and the UK. Some are quite expensive but others compare very favourably with brands you’d buy in your large DIY stores.
Let’s talk paint …..
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In reality most commercial paints are simply a form of cured liquid plastic that coats your walls. Most of you will be familiar with that freshly painted smell, this is by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the paint. Some people are very sensitive to these VOCS and standard paint can be a trigger for some asthmatics.
We have a history of asthma in our family and I always suffer with flu-like symptoms after I paint with standard paint, and so I’m on a personal quest to find something that won’t have a negative impact on our health.
There seem to be mainly two types of eco paint that are low in VOC’s; those made primarily with natural materials and those made primarily with synthetic ingredients but with low VOCs. I haven’t divided the brands under these heading because it’s not always 100% clear from the website just what percentage of the paint is natural. Instead I’ve chosen to give you all the information that I think is relevant so you can make a decision that best suits your needs.
Before you purchase, it’s worth checking if you’ll need to partially or completely remove any existing paint before using it.
Eco Paint Brands
Auro paints in the UK make paints and finishes for walls, ceilings, floors, wood, metal based on organic and mineral raw materials, which are compostable. You can buy their paint through Ecological Building Systems in Meath, Healthbuild in Sligo or Ecohub in Westmeath. I found this page on organic paint by The Organic and Natural Paint Company, a UK agent for Auro Paints very useful.
Dubron paint is made by the German company Livos, who has been making plant-based paint for over 40 years. They say their paint is only coloured using plant and mineral colours, is free from odour, uses a minimal amount of chemicals, and is suitable for people with allergies and Their paint is permeable to water so good for older properties where the walls need to breath. You can buy their paint in Ireland from Fruithill Farm.
UK-based Earthborn Paints (see photo above) make eco paints that have negligible VOCs. They are also free from acrylics, oils and vinyls, and other than their casein paint and furniture wax, are vegan friends. None of their products are tested on animals. They state that the breathability of their paints, in particular the moisture absorbing qualities of claypaint, helps asthma and allergy sufferers. Earthborn holds a UK licence of The EU Ecolabel for Indoor Paints and Varnishes, an independent accreditation scheme. Conservation Technology supplies their paint in Ireland.
Keim paints are a German brand of lime-based paints free of solvents, plasticisers, biocides or preservatives. According to independent test their interior paint reflects more light than comparable natural paints. Some of their paint ranges hold hold Naturplus and Allergy Friendly Certification. The company has ISO 14000 for environmental management and are founder members of the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products (ASBP). It can be bought from MCC in Co Dublin.
Aglaia and Beeck Paints are different brands from the same German family of paints. Aglaia is made from renewable natural minerals including lime and sodium or potassium silicate (also called water glass) bound with plant-based pigments. Beeck is also make from sodium or potassium silicate and mineral pigments. The paint binds to the surface of the wall to create a breathable finish, and according to the company are anti-mildew and bactericidal. The products of both brands are free of solvents, plasticizers, biocides and preservatives, and are said to meet the strictest requirements for indoor air hygiene. These products can be bought In Ireland from the Traditional Lime Company
Biofa Paints and Woodcare products are made in Germany and imported to Ireland by Biofa Ireland in Clare. This paint is free from MI (isothiasolinone) chemicals, potentially harmful chemicals found in almost all paints which can cause serious allergic reactions to those sensitive to them.
Berling Paint is a Greek brand available through a few outlets her in Ireland. It’s said to be extremely low in VOC’s and has an Eco-label. It’s available in quite a few decorating centres nationwide.
Graphenestone is a Spanish brand with factories all over the world, including Ireland, making a lime-based paint blended with graphene for great durability. The lime is created from burning wood, which is a renewable resource that absorbs carbon while growing. The company says that their paint is free of VOCs, carcinogens and toxins and appropriate for those that react to standard paint. The paint comes in recycled plastic pots.
French Chic chalk wall paint is a UK brand of washable, ultra matte chalk wall paint with very little odour. It is breathable and as with all products from this company it is EN 71:3 certified and is said to be ideal for painting nurseries and children’s rooms. Check their website to find a stockist near you.
Porter Paints is an Australian brand of low VOC paints that are now available from an Co Down based distributor. Their paints have been classified by APAS (Australian Paint Approval Scheme) as Very Low VOC (<5g/L) and Low VOC (5-49g/L). They also have a very traditional paint finish that is Zero VOC (Milk Paint). The company are also a founding participant in PaintBack®, an Australian national waste paint collection and treatment scheme for leftover paints and packaging.
Also based in England is Edward Bulmer Paints which are made from natural ingredients and free from dangerous solvents, pesticides, herbicides or toxins. Reassuringly the company gives a full list of their ingredients and how they make their paint.
Bauwerk Colour use 100% renewable power to make their toxin-free paints from only clay, minerals and natural pigments and so, according to the company, is 100% natural and completely plastic free.
Little Greene Paint make their water based low VOCs paint in Wales. The state that their paints excellent coverage means that fewer tins are needed to paint a room, making it a more sustainable option than thinner paints. They also supply their paint in recycled metal tins which can be recycled again at the end of their life.
Ralston paints is a B Corp that offers standard paint and bio-based interior paint, which has been approved for the EU Ecolabel and is, according to the company, free of VOCs. Their paint pot is made from recycled plastic and is said to be fully recyclable, although not sure if that’s the case in Ireland. The company also works to reduce waste wherever possible and only incinerate as a last resort. They use a cleaning system in their factory that allows them to waste less paint and create less water pollution and any water used to clean pipes has paint particles removed and is reused for pipe cleaning. They provide bikes for staff to commute between their two factories, use a bicycle courier company locally and have reduced the carbon emissions from transport by 20% over the past 5 years. They use a heat exchange system to passively heat and cool their HQ and motion controlled LED lights to illuminate it. This brand of paint is available to buy through Pat McDonnell stores almost Nationwide. You can read my review of this paint on my Patreon page.
Akzo Nobel have a few ranges that have received an European Eco label meaning that they minimized the content of hazardous substances, reduced the content of volatile organic compounds in products that perform well. You can buy their products from the Dulux Decorating Centres. Just remember to ask for products with the eco-label because not all of their products have them.
If you live in England or Wales you can get your hands on eicó paints that are manufactured in Iceland and Sweden using 100% geothermal or hydropower energy, making the production process carbon positive. The company states that their paints have the lowest VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) ratings of any paint sold in the UK and that it is washable up to 2000 times.
Lakeland Paints in the UK sell a paint that is free of solvents and heavy metal and said to be VOC free.
Celtic Renewables in wales retails quite a few natural paint brands, along with other sustainable building products
Another way to source sustainable paint is to use existing paint and thanks to the following social enterprises you buy recycled paint
- The Rediscovery Centre in Dublin 9 you can now do so with their recycled paint scheme
- Renew Enterprises in Waterford
- ReVive Paint in Cork
A sustainable alternative to paint is clay plaster from Clay works in Cornwall. The product is made with abundant raw materials and are recyclable, compostable, re-useable, and contain no toxic ingredients or VOCs. It also doesn’t need to be refinished like paint does and be applied in a variety of textures.
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