tips and tricks3 min read

Here's why you should only be using low VOC paint

Lick Pink 03 paint tin on table with paint brush

WordsMaha Elley


As you navigate the wonderful world of painting and decorating, you’re likely to come across the term ‘VOC’ a few times. At Lick, we’re not huge fans. In fact, we’ve worked hard to formulate an entire range of low VOC paint. 

But, more on that later. Here’s what you need to know.

What are VOCs? 

Good place to start. 

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are compounds that easily turn into vapours or gases at room temperature. VOCs are usually released from burning fuels such as coal, natural gas or gasoline. You can also find VOCs in many popular consumer and household products such as cleaning products, paints and solvents. 

Popular VOCs include the likes of acetone, formaldehyde and benzene. They can be produced by cooking, smoking, using wood burners and from stored paints and chemicals. You’d be surprised (and perhaps a little horrified) to learn just how many individual VOCs there are in the air around us at any time. 

(Tip: Invest in Lick paint and you can paint up a storm without worrying about VOCs . We’re incredibly proud to have formulated an entire range of low VOC, water-based paint. So you can keep your home healthy while getting your paint on.)

Dangers of VOC exposure 

Wondering how worried you should be? Well, studies have shown that VOCs can pose a risk to our health depending on the concentration we breathe in and how frequently we’re exposed to them. 

VOCs tend to be a lot more concentrated indoors than they are outdoors, which is why most painters work in a well-ventilated space. Breathe in low levels of VOCs and studies show that it could worsen symptoms of respiratory problems such as asthma. Short-term exposure to high VOC levels can also lead to throat irritation, headaches, dizziness and a touch of nausea.  If you’re exposed to it at high levels over longer periods, you could have an increased risk of cancer, liver damage and kidney damage.

Why choose low VOC paint

Now, we’re not just saying this because Lick’s paint range is low VOC and low odour (or as we like to say, ‘smell free’). We took extra care to formulate it this way because we strongly believe that you should limit your exposure to VOCs as much as you can. 

And we’re not just talking about paints either. Here’s what else you can do to reduce your VOC exposure: 

  • Have a little browse through your cleaning cupboard to learn more about the chemical ingredients that your cleaning products actually contain. There are now lots of excellent and affordable organic cleaning products out there - try and switch to solutions without VOCs where you can. 
  • Dispose of any unused chemicals in a waste site designated for hazardous waste. 
  • New furnishing tends to emit VOCs so take care to ventilate any room where you’re keeping new goods. 
  • If you’re currently storing paint with VOCs in your home, store it in an external garage or shed to minimise exposure. 
  • Even washing clothes can give off VOCs. On laundry days, try and keep the area where you’re drying your clothes well ventilated. 
  • Use your extractor fan while cooking and again, ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. (Spot a theme here?)