Zero VOC paint verses Low VOC paint

With an increasing number of paint tin labels brandishing the words ‘Low VOC’ or ‘Zero VOC’, maybe it’s time to explore the difference between the two and what it all means for us EXACTLY.


What are VOCs?

VOCs stands for Volatile Organic Compounds and they are the chemicals in products that evaporate easily into the air, as gases. They are actually all around us and found in common places, such as vehicle exhausts, cleaning agents, furniture polish and fabric softeners.

Why are they harmful?

In the presence of sunlight, these gases can react with nitrogen oxides to create ground level ozone and photochemical smogs. In other words, these gases can turn nasty and have a detrimental effect on our environment by causing pollution of the atmosphere and subsequently affecting our wellbeing. Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system.

What can we do about it?

It’s important that we limit our exposure to VOCs by choosing our household products carefully, by looking at labels and being fully aware of what harmful ingredients may be present.

Many paint manufacturers are now fully aware that consumers care greatly about the affect of pollution and their family’s health and have made great efforts to reduce the amount of VOCs contained in their formulas. However …

There’s No Such Thing as Zero VOC Paint!!

What? But I’ve seen it, clearly stated, on a well known paint brand’s tin label?

I know, and this is where the confusion lies.

There are a lot of paint brands shouting about the fact that their paint is ZERO VOC. As it turns out, those claims aren’t true, and the British Coatings Federation is clamping down on them.

Paint is made up of a number of components such as natural ingredients like minerals, chalk and oils but they also need to contain materials such as binders, pigments and additives to make the paint “work”. These components need to undergo some degree of washing or processing using products that contain … you’ve guessed it …VOCs! Therefore, there is no way that a coloured paint can be completely VOC free.

Given that no paint is truly VOC-free, the paint industry across Europe were first to agree that it would be unethical for paint products to be promoted by the use of Zero VOC claims. Similarly, all major UK manufacturers of decorative paints confirmed the same position in November 2015.

The British Coatings Federation has emphasised that companies using Zero VOC claims are not following the UK Government’s guidance on green claims, which refers to the need for companies to make “clear, accurate, relevant and substantiated claims” to avoid misleading consumers.

Despite this very clear guidance 2 years ago, there are several paint suppliers in the UK that are persisting to mislead consumers with the use of Zero VOC / VOC-free claims for their products. It is certainly not a recognised approach within the UK paint industry.

Simply put, the products that state that they are “zero VOC” are not zero VOC

What does Vintage Rocks say?

zero VOC


At Vintage Rocks we believe that protecting our environment and our health are extremely important issues but the need to be honest with our customers is just as vital.

As with ALL paint, our range is not ZERO VOC but we do our very best to select the most environmentally-friendly ingredients possible for all of the products in our range, including our (extremely) “low VOC” chalky paint.

So next time you see “Zero VOC” or “VOC free” on the label of a tin of paint, you’ll know the science behind why this is NOT an accurate claim.

Click here to view our environmentally friendly paint and other products