The Best Zero-VOC Paints for Eco-Friendly Decorating

Zero-VOC paints are considered the healthiest, safest, and most sustainable paints on the market. We take a closer look at why.

Best Overall

A gallon of Ecos Interior Eggshell Paint on a white background.

Ecos Interior Eggshell Paint

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Best Bang for the Buck

A red gallon can of Glidden Premium Interior Paint + Primer on a white background.

Glidden Premium Interior Paint + Primer

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Best Exterior

A gallon can of Ecos Exterior Satin Wall Paint on a white background.

Ecos Exterior Satin Wall Paint

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Modern zero-VOC paint—paint without volatile organic compounds—is healthier, safer, and produced more sustainably than other types of paint, making it better for users and the environment. Zero-VOC paint is available for every type of surface, and it can be just as durable as traditional paint. As a result, it should come as no surprise that this type of paint is an increasingly popular choice for interior and exterior decorating.

However, the term “zero-VOC paint” can still cause some confusion, and shoppers may find it challenging to choose the right one for a particular application. This guide explains what “zero-VOC” actually means and explores how this type of paint performs. It also reveals our top picks for the best zero-VOC paints on the market today for a host of different uses.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Ecos Interior Eggshell Paint
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Glidden Premium Interior Paint + Primer
  3. BEST EXTERIOR: Ecos Exterior Satin Wall Paint
  4. BEST CONTRACTOR: Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint Interior Acrylic Paint
  5. BEST HIDING: Behr Premium Plus Interior Paint & Primer
  6. BEST FOR BATHROOMS: Benjamin Moore Aura Bath & Spa Paint
  7. BEST MILK PAINT: Old Fashioned Milk Paint Powder
A person running a paint brush along a piece of painter's tape to add color to a wall using the best-VOC paint.

How We Chose the Best Zero-VOC Paints 

Leading paint brands have been developing VOC-free paint for quite some time. We wanted to look at how these products have improved and identify zero-VOC paints that are suitable for a wide variety of applications. To achieve that goal, we looked at over 100 different zero-VOC paints, starting with the key requirements of compliance with technical standards—which we discuss in more detail below—and sustainability. We also considered ease of application, finish, durability, and drying time.

We also reached out to an expert for input. Chemical and environmental engineer Jamie Mitri of Moss Pure underlines our thoughts about the health and environmental benefits. “Using a paint with zero volatile organic compounds is the best-case scenario. From an environmental and sustainability standpoint, this is ideal. The paint is also better for human health. Having a zero-VOC paint in your space is safer and provides better air quality.” She adds that zero-VOC paint doesn’t always mean it has zero toxins, so checking the label remains important.

Our Top Picks

These top picks meet the criteria we established while allowing everyone from DIYers to professionals to tackle just about any decorating challenge, inside and out, using some of the best zero-VOC paints available today. 

Best Overall

Ecos Interior Eggshell Paint

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Product Specs 

  • Recommended uses: Interior walls and ceilings
  • Coverage: 560 square feet per gallon
  • Available sizes: 1 quart, 1 gallon, 5 gallons


  • Renowned eco-friendly brand offers a highly durable and washable interior paint
  • Provides excellent coverage and is easy to apply with a brush, roller, or air sprayer
  • Nontoxic and recommended for users with asthma, allergies, or chemical sensitivities 


  • 2 coats are recommended, which adds time to projects

Ecos has been producing eco-friendly paints for 35 years. In fact, all of the company’s paints and primers are classified as “zero VOC,” and their use in spaces like the Louvre, Westminster Abbey, and the Getty Museum underlines their overall quality.

This eggshell paint nabs the Best Overall title in this guide as one of the best interior paints on the market. The paint is easy to apply to walls or ceilings using a brush, a roller, or an air sprayer. It offers excellent coverage and is extremely durable once dry. It’s also washable—ideal for high-traffic areas like kitchens.

The paint is nontoxic and allergy-friendly, with Ecos providing a detailed list of ingredients to consumers. Users will want to apply the paint to a primed or previously painted surface; two coats are usually recommended.

Get the Ecos interior zero-VOC paint at Ecos.

Best Bang for the Buck

Glidden Premium Interior Paint + Primer

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Product Specs 

  • Recommended uses: Interior walls and ceilings
  • Coverage: 400 square feet per gallon
  • Available sizes: 8 ounces, 1 quart, 1 gallon, 5 gallons


  • Primer and top coat combination product features a budget-friendly price tag
  • Rapid drying allows for the application of a second coat in 2 to 4 hours
  • Tough, scrubbable finish also available in eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss


  • May require 2 or more coats
  • Adding tints may raise VOCs above zero

Zero-VOC paints often carry a premium price tag, which can make them a difficult choice for those decorating on a budget. However, Glidden Premium interior paint is a very affordable solution.

This white latex paint comes in a range of sheens for different rooms and produces a scrubbable finish that’s easy to keep clean. Rapid drying allows for the application of a second coat in just a few hours, which means you can finish painting most rooms within 1 day. While the paint is tintable, this may considerably increase the VOC level, depending on the chosen color.

Get the Glidden zero-VOC paint at The Home Depot.

Best Exterior

Ecos Exterior Satin Wall Paint

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Product Specs 

  • Recommended uses: Exterior walls (brick, cinder block, concrete, stone)
  • Coverage: 390 square feet per gallon
  • Available sizes: 1 quart, 1 gallon, 5 gallons


  • High-bond exterior paint adheres well to a variety of surfaces
  • Dries to a medium-sheen finish that is both durable and washable


  • Unpainted surfaces need to be primed first
  • Product is not suitable for floors

There are plenty of low-VOC exterior paints on the market. However, Ecos is one of the few brands that produces zero-VOC versions, including paints for external doors, porches, floors, and vinyl sidings. Users can apply this exterior wall paint to brick, cinder block, concrete, and stone.

As we’ve come to expect from Ecos, its exterior paint is nontoxic and, in most cases, won’t irritate skin or airways. Ecos provides a comprehensive list of ingredients and detailed application instructions. 

Get the Ecos exterior zero-VOC paint at Ecos.

Best Contractor

Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint Interior Acrylic Paint

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Product Specs 

  • Recommended uses: Indoor walls and ceilings
  • Coverage: 350 to 400 square feet per gallon
  • Available sizes: 1 gallon, 5 gallons


  • High-quality formula plus ease of application has long made this brand a favorite among contractors
  • Air Purifying Technology actively attempts to reduce VOCs from other household sources
  • Includes antimicrobial additives to help prevent the growth of mold and mildew


  • Some customers find the paint to be thin, resulting in inferior hiding that requires a second coat

Sherwin-Williams has long been recognized as a contractor favorite due to the high level of support the brand gives to professional painters, the quality of its products, and the speed of application.

Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint interior acrylic paint incorporates the brand’s Air Purifying Technology. This technology doesn’t just reduce odor from the paint itself but actively combats VOCs from other sources like furniture, fabrics, and carpets. The company claims it also reduces unwanted odors from pets, cooking, and smoking, making for better overall household air quality.

Get the Sherwin-Williams zero-VOC paint at Sherwin-Williams.

Best Hiding

Behr Premium Plus Interior Paint & Primer

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Product Specs 

  • Recommended uses: Interior walls and ceilings
  • Coverage: Up to 400 square feet per gallon
  • Available sizes: 8 ounces, 1 quart, 1 gallon, 5 gallons


  • Paint and primer combination product features excellent hiding capability at a very competitive price
  • Highly stain-resistant and scrubbable properties increase durability
  • Short drying times allow for the application of a second coat in just 2 hours


  • Dedicated ceiling and gloss paint finishes are low VOC but not zero VOC

A key feature of Behr paints is thickness, which results in excellent hiding whether used over dark marks or previous paint layers. This Behr Premium Plus interior paint and primer offers the same level of quality and is available in four sheens. Each sheen is stain-resistant and scrubbable while delivering unique performance characteristics that are worth investigating before making your choice. For example, flat paint is recommended for ceilings because of its low reflection and ability to hide small imperfections.

Get the Behr zero-VOC paint at The Home Depot.

Best for Bathrooms

Benjamin Moore Aura Bath & Spa Paint

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Product Specs 

  • Recommended uses: Any high-humidity environment
  • Coverage: 350 to 400 square feet per gallon
  • Available sizes: 1 quart, 1 gallon


  • Self-priming, mildew-resistant formula specifically designed for bathrooms, spas, and other high-humidity environments
  • Color Lock Technology provides a deep, luxurious, long-lasting finish
  • Versatile product for use on drywall, masonry, nonferrous metals, plaster, and wood


  • One of the more expensive paints on the market
  • 2 coats are recommended by the manufacturer

Finding zero-VOC paints for bathrooms and other high-humidity spaces can be a challenge but—as you might guess from the name—Benjamin Moore Aura Bath & Spa paint fits the bill perfectly.

This is a premium-quality paint suitable for numerous surfaces while providing excellent durability and lasting depth of color. It is mold-resistant, mildew-resistant, and self-priming, although two coats are usually recommended. Luckily, the paint is fast drying, allowing for a second coat in just 1 hour.

Get the Benjamin Moore zero-VOC paint at Benjamin Moore.

Best Milk Paint

Old Fashioned Milk Paint Powder

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Product Specs 

  • Recommended uses: Walls, ceilings, and many restoration or reproduction projects
  • Coverage: Up to 288 square feet per gallon
  • Available sizes: 2 ounces, 6 ounces, 12 ounces, 48 ounces


  • Made with natural materials; environmentally friendly, nontoxic, and even food-safe
  • Apply to any porous surface and most nonporous surfaces with Extra Bond additive
  • Lasts indefinitely in powder form, and users can alter mixing ratios for different paint effects


  • Has rather limited life once mixed
  • Finish effects can be unpredictable

Milk paint predates modern commercial formulas, and it has never used petrochemicals or VOCs. Old Fashioned uses a formula that reproduces this ancient finish; it is nontoxic, food-safe, and one of the few completely plastic-free paints.

Old Fashioned milk paint comes in powdered form—you just need to mix it with water. The company provides recommended ratios, but users have the flexibility to alter them to create a host of different finishes. This paint is also for use on walls and ceilings and is popular for antique restoration or creating authentic reproductions.

Get the Old Fashioned zero-VOC paint at Amazon.

Or, DIY Your Own Zero-VOC Paints

It’s also possible to make your own zero-VOC paint. You can ensure the ingredients are eco-friendly and nontoxic, especially if you source the ingredients yourself.

Milk is a common ingredient and is mixed with natural pigments or water-based acrylics. Users need to apply it right away before the milk sours, and it may smell after initial application, although the smell will dissipate once dry. However, milk-based DIY paints are not an option for vegans.

Another popular DIY zero-VOC paint combination is flour, water, and borax. The latter helps prevent mold growth. Again, users can add natural pigments.

Many websites provide DIY recipes. Most warn that natural pigments will dry lighter than they appear when mixed initially, so you may need to experiment and try several test patches to find the optimal shade. Additionally, homemade zero-VOC paint is usually thinner than commercial products, so you’ll likely need more coats.

Jump to Our Top Picks

Low-VOC vs. Zero-VOC Paints

VOCs are recognized as a health hazard by numerous bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Manufacturers originally added them to paint because they prevent it from drying in the can and help it flow smoothly during application. However, VOCs can attack the respiratory system, and some have been linked with cancers. Finding ways to reduce VOCs has led to more environmentally friendly formulas with fewer harmful ingredients and, in some cases, completely nontoxic paint.


VOCs evaporate from paint once exposed to the air. Research during the 1970s revealed that this evaporation didn’t just produce unpleasant smells, but it was also dangerous to health. Legislation reduced the amount of VOCs in all kinds of products, including paint, and low-VOC paints were widely available by the 1980s. Among the earliest adopters was the automotive industry, which introduced water-based low-VOC spray paint for vehicle use.

Technically speaking, low-VOC paint must have fewer than 50 grams of volatile organic compounds per liter.


Zero-VOC paints have been around since the mid-1990s, but initial adoption was slow. Consumers—particularly contractors and other professionals—criticized them for requiring multiple coats due to their thin nature. Luckily, the quality of zero-VOC paint has changed dramatically over the last decade. Today, every major paint brand produces zero-VOC paint. 

This reduction in harmful chemicals has allowed paint production to be much more environmentally friendly. Several emerging brands focus on sustainability. However, users will want to understand that while zero-VOC paint has fewer harmful chemicals, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it is a nontoxic or allergy-friendly paint.

To comply with current legislation, zero-VOC paints don’t need to be completely free of volatile organic compounds, but they must have under 5 grams per liter.

What to Consider When Choosing a Zero-VOC Paint

It should be absolutely clear from a paint’s description and labeling whether it is low-VOC or zero-VOC. Most consumers will also want to know if the paint is free of toxins or other harmful additives. Factors like the type, finish, and drying time of zero-VOC paint are also worth considering before deciding which one to purchase.


Most zero-VOC paints available in the U.S. are acrylic or latex-based. In the majority of cases, these paints are a direct alternative to traditional interior and exterior paints. Whether you’re looking for no-VOC ceiling paint or paint for a porch or siding, you’ll find plenty of options.

There are also numerous zero-VOC specialty paints. Milk paint is generally for interior walls and ceilings. Depending on the brand, it may be food-safe, child- and pet-friendly, and biodegradable. Milk paint is often sold as a powder, so it has a longer shelf life. 

Low-VOC oil-based paint has been around for some time, but there are now zero-VOC versions that use linseed oil as a base. Zero-VOC mineral paints are also worth investigating. These paints are typically made with clay, limestone (for limewash), or silicates, using water-based acrylic as a binder.

Chalk paint has long been a favorite for reviving furniture and other wood surfaces, but we found it challenging to find zero-VOC examples. This type of paint is usually referred to as “ultralow-VOC,” although there is no precise specification for this description. Instead, chalk paint must have fewer than 50 grams of VOCs per liter, as with low-VOC paint, but the exact figure will vary from one brand to the next.


When manufacturers first introduced zero-VOC paints, complaints about finish and hiding (of previous coats or dark marks) were the most frequent among consumers. The paint was much thinner than people were accustomed to, requiring multiple coats, or—in the case of zero-VOC mineral paints—they were thick and difficult to apply. Today’s zero-VOC paints are very different, behaving much like their traditional counterparts. You can apply them with a brush, a roller, or an air sprayer, and it is relatively easy to create a professional finish.

Alternatives like zero-VOC milk, mineral, and chalk paints tend to deliver a matte look, which can also be distressed. Indeed, it’s fair to say that whatever finish you are looking to achieve, a zero-VOC paint is likely suitable for the task.

Drying Time 

VOCs evaporate relatively slowly, allowing paint to flow smoothly, particularly when applied with a brush. Zero-VOC paints are mainly water-based, which usually makes them dry noticeably faster than traditional paints. Although this fast drying time is useful for applying a second coat more quickly, it can also mean the paint doesn’t have the opportunity to “flow out,” so brush marks may be more evident.

Using a roller can help to eliminate the problem of visible brush marks, but a roller will impact the nap (texture) of the paint. An open “fluffy” roller can produce a much coarser finish than desired because the paint will stiffen rapidly. A foam roller is often a better idea.

However, we don’t want to exaggerate the problem. Some zero-VOC paints flow more easily than others, and many consumers will find differences in texture acceptable. Keep in mind though that inexperienced painters looking for a supersmooth finish are advised to practice in a less visible area.


This guide offers a lot of useful information to help you find the best zero-VOC paints for a wide variety of situations. Additionally, several interesting questions cropped up during our research that we felt deserved individual attention, so we have answered them here.

Q. Is it safe to sleep in a freshly painted room?

Although most zero-VOC paints have either low toxicity or are completely nontoxic when dry, it is not considered safe to sleep in a freshly painted room. The drying process may still release small amounts of VOCs and other gases, which can cause irritation and respiratory difficulties. Avoid sleeping in a freshly painted room for at least 72 hours.

Q. What is the best odorless paint?

No paint is completely odorless, and an individual’s sensitivity to smell can vary considerably. However, most zero-VOC paints have very low odor, and any odor they do have is rarely considered unpleasant. It’s always advisable when painting to allow plenty of ventilation to further reduce the impact of any odor.

Q. How long does zero-VOC paint last?

The advanced formulations of modern zero-VOC paints make them just as durable as traditional paints. Exactly how long they last will vary depending on the type of room, the use the room gets, and—in the case of exterior paints—factors like exposure. Most paint professionals indicate that both interior and exterior zero-VOC paints are likely to last between 5 and 10 years before you’ll need to repaint.

Bob Beacham Avatar

Bob Beacham

Contributing Writer

Bob Beacham is an engineer by trade and has spent 35 years working on everything from auto parts to oil rigs. He is also an avid DIY enthusiast. Bob started writing for the Bob Vila team in 2020 and covers tools, outdoor equipment, and home improvement projects.