The Non-Smell of Fresh Paint

With the recent painting of my kitchen and living room, my seemingly never-ending construction saga is over. Even better, the house does not, and did not, smell of new paint. The last time I painted my house, it took more than several days for it to fully air out. The smell lingered in the air as the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) made their way from the walls, through house, and eventually outside to pollute the atmosphere. That was back in 2002. Fast forward to 2009, and I did not want to repeat that experience. Fortunately, there are now a variety of environmentally friendlier, non (or low) VOC paints on the market.

And I was a willing consumer. My first hope was to go to the neighborhood paint store and inquire about environmentally friendly, low/no VOC paint. We went twice, and the answer was the same—no dice. (I prefer to shop at the community stores vs. the big box chains, if I have a choice). After getting the wrong answer at the local paint store, it was off to Home Depot and Lowes to see their low/no VOC offerings. Lowes had a low VOC entrant; Home Depot had a NO VOC contestant. The Home Depot brand, The Freshaire Choice (made by Glidden) immediately became the leading candidate. The good news was no VOCs—the bad news was the relatively limited colors available (only 65). (Glidden actually has a very informative pdf on VOCs here:

As for the colors, we did find colors we can use. The skimpy color selection can certainly be a major limitation for a lot of people. We also learned that paint has two major parts –the paint itself and the colorant. The design innovation of The Freshaire Choice is that the colorants are also VOC free, as well as the paint. In fact, the colorants are actually in a package that dissolves into the paint when it is mixed in at the store. As for paint quality, it is actually made by Glidden, which is a good brand. It has also been certified to the Greenguard indoor air quality standard (and that’s a good one).

This sounds too good to be true, and it is. We learned the hard way that while the Freshaire paint and colorant might be VOC free, this does not necessarily apply to the primer. The primer unfortunately had more than enough VOCs to make up for the paint. Even worse, after we do the painting, we found out that there was a Freshaire Choice primer. Live and learn.

From a corporate perspective, Glidden is owned by ICI, which is a major chemical company that was recently bought out by a Dutch company called AKZONobel. AKZONobel calls Freshaire Choice a “premium brand”. (In terms of price at Home Depot, it is priced the same as the Ralph Lauren paint in the neighboring case). Equally impressively, AKZONobel prominently features sustainability on their website. Further, they provide some ways they measure the success (or failure) of their sustainability programs. So I take these claims a little more seriously than most—because what gets measured gets done (

So I achieved my goals with the paint. First, it looks good (now that is on the walls). Second, it did not smell up the whole house. Third, I bought it from a corporation that seems to take sustainability seriously. Not a bad deal for a gallon of paint—or two, or ten.


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One Response to “The Non-Smell of Fresh Paint”

  1. john Says:

    glidden fresh air is the very best paint . im very sensitive, have chemical sensitivity. it cost alot but it really really works

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