The “Green” Paint Scam

Green Paint

Recently a client insisted I use a brand of paint I’ve never heard of. He was adamant that this paint was special because it was a “green” paint. This particular paint cost 30% more than the high quality paint I have used for years. What is the difference between the two paints?


I work in San Diego. We have the strictest environmental policies in the country. Most EPA policies start in California and the rest of the country follows suit. All paints purchased in California are compliant in the most stringent regulatory requirements.

Green Paint

Nearly every paints product sold in California is environmentally safe. Regularly I am told that a product I have used for 20 years has been discontinued or the compound has been adjusted to meet new EPA standards. It is common in the paint industry to only make non toxic and no or low VOC paint.

New paint companies are popping all the time. These new companies are playing off of their consumers desire to be more environmentally conscious. They focus all their marketing on the environmental aspect of the paint. Coverage and durability are secondary in their marketing campaigns. I’ve seen advertising praying on client’s fears, quoting outdated studies linking paint to cancer. Lead paint hasn’t been used in paint for over 30 years, yet these companies brag about being lead free. Every paint is lead free. One manufacture even claims that their paint blocks radiation and purifies the air. Nowadays, buying paint is like buying snake oil. They make all kinds of promises at outrageous prices.

So how do you make an informed decision about which paint to pick and not get ripped off?

More expensive is not always better ~

It shouldn’t cost more to make an identical product.

Ask your paint store representative to help you compares ingredients.Most stores will print a material safety data sheet that shows exactly what and how much goes into all their paint. I’m sure you will find the exact components in the expensive mail order paints as you do at your local paint or hardware store.

Pick your battle ~

The expensive Green paints point out that some paints include fungicides to prevent mildew growth. Their claims are that these biocides are toxic, but so is the mold and mildew it prevents. It is a fact that black mold can lead to death. These paints can encapsulate the mold and stop it from continuing to grow. You might find yourself pondering which is more important, protecting the environment or your own health.

Green Paint

I have many clients who live on the San Diego coastline. It is imperative that their wood homes are protected from the sea air. I use stains that contain a wood preservative. If you were to choose a “green” stain, it would be less toxic, but then you would have the expense of replacing all your wood due to rot.
Green Paint

Durability and Longevity ~

In my experience these natural paints don’t adhere properly. Several times I have had the scrape off water based stains and paints that were lifting in sheets as well as crackling. My clients learned their lesson and ask that their homes be repainted with traditional paint rather than “eco friendly” paint.

Green Paint

These green paint compounds are new. How can they factually state the longevity of their product if it hasn’t withstood the test of time? What is the warranty of these paints? Many of the paints frequently used by painting contractors offer several paints that have a lifetime warranty.

If you chose paint with only natural pigments, (flour, milk, clay paint etc.) you are limited to earth tones. Some of these paints are so weak they cannot be used on stucco or drywall.

Green Paint

If a client insists on using a paint product that has less impact on the environment I would recommend Sherwin Williams’ Pro Classic. Recently this paint was awarded the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award by the EPA and the Designing Greener Chemicals Award.

The Pro Classic formula is a water-based acrylic alkyd paint, made from soybean oil and recycled plastic bottles that cut VOC content by 60%. Not only is this paint eco friendly, its quality is outstanding and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Green Paint

For interiors I recommend Harmony by Sherwin Williams. This acrylic zero VOC paint is GreenGuard® Indoor Air Quality Certified and GreenGuard® Certified for Children and Schools.

Green Paint

Unless you hire a painting contractor that specializes in off brand eco paint, I recommend you do a lot of research before purchasing these paints. These paints can be purchased on sites such as Amazon. There are customer reviews for some of these products. But again, none of these reviews tell you how the paints last after several years of wear and tear and exposure to the elements.
It is important that you weigh your options, compare paint products and read reviews before making a decision on which paint to use on your next home improvement project.

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