How to Determine the VOC Content of Paint?

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Homeowners are becoming increasingly aware of the hazards of toxic chemicals in their homes. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are present in a variety of household products and materials, including house paint and paint stripper. VOCs are harmful to people with compromised immune systems, children, and the elderly. The amount of VOCs in a product determines how long it takes for them to “off-gas” and be released into the air.

Low- or no-VOC paint options are readily available, although they may be more expensive than standard house paint. The U.S. government has limited the amount of VOCs to 250 grams per liter for flat finishes and 380 for glossy finishes. California has even lower limits, at 50 grams per liter. Paint manufacturers are required to print the amount of VOCs on the paint can, although this only includes the paint itself and not any added pigments.

If you want to avoid VOCs altogether, it’s important to check the label and seek out low- or no-VOC options. Newly constructed homes that don’t use these products and materials have shown high-VOC levels for several months after construction is completed. Therefore, it’s worth the extra cost to ensure clean air in your home, and some municipalities may even waive disposal fees for this type of paint can.

Additional Resources

Related Articles

  • How to Repaint Stained Walls
  • How long does paint emit VOCs into the air?
  • How Spray Paint Works


  • “An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality.” (August 6, 2011).
  • “How long does it take for VOCs to dissipate?”, July 12, 2010.
  • “Interior paints.”, March, 2009.
  • “Paint.”, 2008.
  • “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Commonly Used Products.” (August 6, 2011).
  • “What are VOCs in paint, and is more or less of them better?”, April 2, 2008.


1. What is VOC content in paint?

VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. These are chemicals that can easily evaporate into the air at room temperature. They are found in many household products, including paint. VOCs can contribute to indoor air pollution and can have negative health effects, such as headaches and respiratory problems.

2. Why is it important to know the VOC content of paint?

It is important to know the VOC content of paint because it can impact the air quality in your home or workplace. High levels of VOCs can lead to health problems and contribute to environmental pollution. In addition, some states have regulations on the maximum amount of VOCs allowed in paint. By knowing the VOC content of paint, you can choose a product that is safer for your health and the environment.

3. How can I find out the VOC content of a specific paint brand?

You can find the VOC content of a specific paint brand by checking the product label or the manufacturer’s website. The VOC content is usually listed as a percentage or in grams per liter. If the information is not readily available, you can contact the manufacturer directly to request the VOC content.

4. What is the maximum VOC content allowed in paint?

The maximum VOC content allowed in paint varies by state and by type of paint. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets national standards for VOC content in architectural coatings, such as paint. In general, the maximum VOC content allowed for non-flat paint is 150 grams per liter, while the maximum for flat paint is 50 grams per liter. However, some states, such as California, have even stricter regulations.

5. Are there low VOC or VOC-free paints available?

Yes, there are low VOC and VOC-free paints available on the market. These paints are designed to have a lower impact on indoor air quality and the environment. Low VOC paints typically have a VOC content of 50 grams per liter or less, while VOC-free paints have no VOCs at all. You can find these products at most hardware stores and paint retailers.

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