Using good finishing products should improve the quality of the air in your home. To choose the right products, you need to pay special attention to product composition, since some kinds of paint, stain, primer and varnish contain petroleum derivatives and emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when they are applied and as they dry. Painted surfaces may even continue to give off volatile organic compounds for several months. These substances are toxic. They can cause coughing, dizzy spells, headaches and eye irritations. Volatile organic compounds also contribute to smog, which erodes outdoor air quality and especially affects people who suffer from asthma, allergies and cardiovascular disease. As if that’s not enough, many volatile organic compounds contain carcinogens.
Choosing from the range of recycled paints and stains allows you to reduce resource use and save money. These products cost about a third of what traditional paint costs. Producing recycled paint and stain also requires less energy than producing new paint and stain.
Choose latex (water-based) paint over oil-based. Oil-based paint creates more air and water pollution and may even contaminate ecosystems if it is poorly managed at the end of life. The only time to consider an oil-based paint is for a job that demands extensive durability, such as outdoor projects.
Try natural paints and finishing products. The base of these products is derived from plants (such as flax or tung tree oil) or minerals (such as lime plaster). Choosing natural stains, oils or waxes to treat wood allows you to personalize your project. These options generally cost a little more, however, and they require some skill to apply.
In Canada, 7% of the paint sold every year will never be used. (Écopeinture)
If you don’t follow good practices, the air quality in your home may be worse than outside. Now that homes are more and more airtight, volatile organic compounds and other harmful substances can accumulate in the air and pose a health risk. Many paints and other finishing products contain a lot of these volatile chemical substances that should be avoided for your health’s sake.
For the sake of your health, use paint and primer that is labelled VOC-free or “low emissions.” Although alkyd (oil-based) paints are more durable and offer a shinier finish, they contain a solvent thinner and are not usually as good a choice as latex (water-based) paint in terms of health. Read labels carefully or choose products with EcoLogo™ or Green Seal™ labels.
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Before you buy your paint, calculate how much you need to avoid wasting resources.
Never pour your paint and varnish leftovers down the drain or into the garbage. Besides the recycling and recovery centres set up in many municipalities, RONA offers a used paint recovery service in some provinces.
Choose quality products that will help you reduce waste. The covering power of the paint and its opacity have an effect on the quantity you will use: the better it covers, the less you need.
To get the most out of your paint, use high quality brushes and rollers.
Before washing brushes, use a scraper to remove as much paint as possible. If your project takes several days, just wrap your brushes in a plastic bag to avoid having to wash them after each use.
Seal the paint cans well and store them upside down to keep the seal tight.