Q: I recently found organic linseed interior paint from Solventfreepaint.com. It seems this paint is very natural. How would you rate it? We need to paint the interior walls of our home. I'm currently pregnant, and we also have two small children, so we need to find a paint that is as natural as possible. SafePaint from the Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company also seems like a good choice.
Asked by Mary
Editor: Here's what our friends at Green Home Guide say.
Answered by Mary Cordaro, Mary Cordaro, Inc.
Although I've not had experience with Linseed Interior Paint, it looks like a great product in some respects. From what I can ascertain, it contains no synthetic chemicals, and the pigments are all natural. Linseed oil products made with sustainable, natural ingredients offer many benefits.
- They are made from renewable resources.
- As with any truly natural surface, linseed oil painted surfaces do not generate an electrostatic charge, a subtle type of DC electromagnetic field (EMF). As a result, natural surfaces tend to attract much less dust.
There are a number of all-natural paints and finishes that offer those same benefits.
However, there are downsides to painting with any linseed-oil-containing paint, including even those that contain only natural ingredients. P. Fjällström, B. Andersson, and K. Andersson, of Umeå University in Umeå, Sweden, whose white paper (Go to this link for an abstract of the paper.) was presented at a professional indoor air quality conference in 2002, conducted a study on the emissions from linseed oil paints. This is a quote from the paper:
"...the emissions generally consist of different aldehydes and carboxylic acids. Both these groups of compounds can act as irritants on mucous membranes and have a strong and unpleasant odor. Aldehydes can be both sensitizing and carcinogenic."
In addition, they found that emissions from spraying (versus brushing) linseed oil paints also included formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals.
In addition to the possible health effects, odors from linseed oil paints and finishes are generally quite strong, and take many weeks, and often months, to dissipate. As an expectant mother, your sense of smell may be especially heightened, so linseed oil odors may be particularly bothersome to you. In addition, linseed oil paint may not be the healthiest choice for your small children.
Natural, Healthy Paint and Plaster Options
I personally love the look of natural linseed oil paints, and in the past have used green, natural German products myself. But now I prefer other options for low-odor natural paints and plaster, such as those listed below.
My top choices for the healthiest wall coatings are:
Old-Fashioned Milk Paint. If you like a super-matte look, milk paint is one of the healthiest products on the market, and you can apply it yourself. Their synthetic sealer is not natural, and contains some ingredients I'm not in favor of. If milk paint gets dirty, though, it's easy to just touch up right over the smudges, as long as you don't mind some variations on the wall. Milk paint is highly breathable, and allows for good moisture-vapor permeability, so it will not block moisture, even after multiple coats. I believe the ingredients of the standard milk paint and SafePaint are exactly the same, and last I checked, neither contained biocide chemicals, but it would be prudent to confirm that with the company.
Keim Optil. Keim paints are also all-natural, very durable, and allow for good vapor permeability. They are biocide-free, but the paint is preserved with a small amount of ammonia that dissipates very quickly -- within an hour or two, in my experience. Given the small amount of ammonia, I would not apply this yourself while pregnant, but you'll be able to occupy the space very soon after the application is completed. Be sure to talk to the manufacturer about your existing wall surfaces, to make sure there is compatibility and to determine whether or not priming is necessary. Keim paints can only be tinted with Keim tints, and one should never mix Keim products with other product lines. Do not apply Keim paint over existing oil-based paints. Keim mineral paints are highly breathable and allow for good moisture-vapor permeability, so they will not block moisture, even after multiple coats.
American Clay Plaster. If your budget and timeline allow, American Clay Plaster is my first choice, hands down, over any natural or synthetic wall paint. You can learn to apply it yourself, but I would recommend you hire a professional plaster contractor, preferably who has been trained by American Clay. You can occupy the space even during plastering, and it is 100% natural, and odor free. It is the most gorgeous natural wall finish I have used, and it's very easy to repair yourself, unlike painted surfaces. American Clay is not only highly breathable, but actually helps to regulate the moisture in the room, gives the room a nice sound quality, and in some cases can even help to conserve energy for heating.
My Favorite Healthy Acrylic Paint
Finally, for the healthiest completely biocide-free acrylic paint, I highly recommend EnviroSafe paints. EnviroSafe paints are made in small batches to eliminate the need for biocide chemicals. Even my most chemically sensitive clients tolerate EnviroSafe paints. The acrylic is made from cellulose rather than from petroleum products.
EnviroSafe paints should only be tinted with no-VOC Colortrends Plus 802 or Colortrends 808.