Painting freshens up the house but it can leave a smell and health issues that linger. House paints are made from renewable, non-renewable and potentially harmful materials that can be bad for the planet and the household. The good news is there are greener options.
1. Go for eco-paints
Look for products with the Good Environmental Choice tick. It shows that they’ve been independently certified as meeting standards on issues such as heavy metal content, air-polluting volatile organic compound (VOC) levels, potentially carcinogenic or ozone-depleting substances and recyclable packaging. Be aware that certified paints may no longer meet standards after a tint is added. Consider limewash, milk or plant-based paints that tend to emit fewer fumes but take longer to dry.
2. Be color conscious
The choice of color has an effect on energy usage. A dark room may need more artificial light and increased energy to cool it in summer. Explore options such as leaving some surfaces natural. Interior and exterior walls in frost-free climates can have clay-based finishes, and porous materials like timber and cork can be finished with natural oils or beeswax.
3. Plan long-term
‘Aside from high-traffic areas with a lot of wear and tear, a job well done should last up to 10 years,’ says Handyman deputy editor Frank Gardner. It’s best for the environment, your hip pocket and DIY time if you choose quality brushes and paint, and avoid diluting paint as it weakens the finish.
4. Strip it good
Use water-based, low-allergy strippers, avoiding those that contain dichloromethane (DCM) as skin exposure or breathing it can irritate lungs and cause headaches, fatigue and irregular heartbeat. If sanding, use a sander with a vacuum attachment.
5. Watch the weather
Ventilate well when painting indoors, not just during the job but in the weeks after it’s completed. Plan painting to fit in with fine weather forecasts and avoid rainy days if they mean doors and windows can’t be opened. Wrap brushes or rollers tightly in plastic wrap to keep them moist between coats or when taking a break to avoid having to wash them out.
Clean up green
Some DIYers say it’s a sustainable choice to wrap brushes in newspaper and dispose of them but the more eco choice is to buy well and reuse.
Remove excess paint by wiping brushes and rollers onto sheets of newspaper.
Wash tools in three stages with small amounts of water or solvent. A first rough wash removes most of the paint, a second wash cleans and a rinse removes residue. Remove excess moisture with newspaper or old cloths between stages.
Leave to dry outside in a spot sheltered from direct sun and rain.
Dispose of waste plus leftover paint and waste solvent through council or state government collection programs and never pour waste water into the gutter as it ultimately pollutes creeks, rivers, waterways and beaches. Contact our council or state government waste authority for details.
TIP Some councils recycle empty paint tins along with steel food cans but they must be dry so leave them with the lid off for a few days before
putting them in the recycling bin.
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