Eco-Friendly Paint and Wallpaper


When painting inside or out you will have the choice of not only using chemical based paints a lot of which contain high levels of toxins, but also natural based paints which are not only better for the environment, but they are healthier for you and, believe it or not, better for your home allowing the building to breathe. This article contains information on both chemical based paints and natural paints giving you the opportunity to see the advantages of natural based paints with some additional information on wallpaper.

Chemical Based Paints

Petrochemical paints are the most commonly available paints contain VOC (volatile organic compounds) which include PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) which are also highly toxic.

When decorating any tins of paint, stain or varnish with a high VOC label should be avoided as the contents will release lots of toxic voltaic organic compound. Synthetic varnishes can trap chemicals in wood which are then released when the surface becomes worn.

Natural Based Paints

An important feature of natural paints compared to conventional paint is that the manufacturers do declare all the ingredients. They use renewable raw materials wherever possible, i.e. natural oils rather than petrochemical compounds. At the other end of their life cycle many products of the petrochemical paints industry cannot be disposed of as anything other than toxic waste. Natural paints and finishes are designed to be biodegradable. The main reason for choosing natural paints is health related. Natural paints offer a breathable surface and healthier environment.

Petrochemical paints create a plastic film whereas natural paints are microporous allowing water to pass through them so there is much less chance of flaking and blistering of the painted surface. Natural paints contain oil, which nourishes timber.

Although natural paints work out more expensive to buy, because of the antistatic qualities the paint repels dust and bacteria which keeps their true colour longer. The most popular, readily available natural paints are emulsion, clay paints and casein paint. All are easily applied in the same way as conventional paint and by experimenting with the pigments you can increase the colour range.

Natural emulsion gives a matt finish. You can also get paints that are washable for heavy wear areas and apply a clear glaze for extra protection. Clay paint emulsion can be used on walls and ceilings and is a good choice for lighter colours and, again, creates a breathable surface. Casein paints come in powder form to be mixed before application. They dry with a soft matt chalky finish and is washable – very suitable for childrens’ bedrooms and nurseries. For outside walls silicate paint, linseed oil paint or an old favourite, limewash can be used.


Vinyl wallpaper is not paper but plastic and other wallpapers come from virgin forest. Ideally wallpaper should have FSC logo (Forestry Stewardship Council) or be recycled although this may prove somewhat elusive in normal DIY stores although it should be fairly easy to find lining paper with the FSC logo.


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