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Guide to pet friendly paint and painting with pets in the house

Posted by Celtic Sustainables on

Frankie dog would really like to help with painting her room. We are often asked about painting with pets in the house. Paint fumes can irritate pets (as well as humans). VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) found in conventional paints and varnishes can be harmful. So it's no wonder that concerned pet owners phone or email us for advice.

While it is always beneficial to open windows and doors to ventilate rooms while you decorate, if you have a dog or cat that needs to be kept indoors this isn't always possible. Perhaps not surprisingly therefore, the query we get asked the most often is for parrot friendly decorating products!

People are looking for paints and varnishes that can be safely used in rooms where their pets live. Customers are looking for paints that are pet friendly for when they redecorate the rooms and varnish doors in the general vicinity of their furry or feathered friends.

Note: The advice for painting with pets in the home is true for painting with babies, young children and people with respiratory problems too. So if you are about to paint a nursery or revamp an asthmatic's loved ones bedroom please read on!

Pet friendly paints and varnishes

There is no "pet friendly decorating product standard", as far as we are aware, so to answer the question we look to standards that exist for food safety, toy safety and paints that are "virtually zero VOC free"*.

The EU has set standards to limit the amount of VOCs in paints under the European Paints Directive. Anything under the limit can be classed as "low VOC". As you will read, there is quite a large scope for paints to be classed as "low VOC"!

It is also important to know that there is sometimes a difference in "low VOC" level for water-borne coatings (those that can be diluted with water) and solvent-borne coatings (those that are dilutable with organic solvents). As a general rule, the "low VOC" level for water-borne paints is much lower than that for solvent-borne paints. 

Simply put, going for a "low VOC" water-based paint is usually less smelly than a paint that is dilutatable with a solvent. However, as mentioned previously, there is "low VOC" and "virtually zero VOC".

*Note, the reason we can't say "VOC free" is because even water could contain some very small (trace) amounts of VOCs, and paints as they are processed may have been in contact with substances with VOCs. Even if these VOCs are removed during later stages of production there still might be trace amounts in the final paint. The up shot is that across Europe the paint industry agreed that a "Zero VOC" claim couldn't be used to promote products. You can read more about that on the British Coatings Federation website.

Pet friendly paints for walls and ceilings

Delilah cat really wants to help with the decorating! If you are looking for a regular wall/ceiling emulsion paint (no special decorative effects or glossy appearance), the maximum VOC level for paints for matt interior walls and ceiling (with a sheen of less than 25%) are:

  • 30 grams per litre for water-borne paints
  • 30 g/l for solvent-borne paints

We recommend in particular the following water based paints from the Earthborn and Auro ranges. All have very, very low VOC levels.

Auro 524 (white) and Auro 555 (colours) are washable wall paints with a VOC level of less than 1g/l. These paints are compliant with the strict AgBB criteria on emissions (a German evaluation scheme for VOC emission from construction products), these products have a special recommendation for use in living areas.

Alternatively Keim Ecosil ME is an environmentally friendly paint for interior walls and ceilings. It is particularly suited for decorating rooms for people with allergies and for areas where relocation of occupants during decoration is impractical as it is non-alllergenic, odourless and virtually VOC free (washable too!). Colours are mixed to order and can take up to 5 working days to arrive but it is well worth waiting for.

If you do not need your wall to be washable we recommend Earthborn Claypaint. These clay paints have a VOC level of less than 0.5g/l and when dry is certified as being safe to use on children’s furniture and toys (carries the Safety of Toys Standard EN71-3:1995). The Earthborn Ecopro matt emulsion is a great economy paint for ceilings and walls too (also VOC of less than 0.5g/l and certified Toy Safe).

Pet friendly finishes for wooden doors and trim (bare wood)

If you are having new wooden doors fitted and want to "varnish" them (or are keen to see the wood grain of window ledges, doors, wooden trim etc) then the maxium VOC level for products are:

  • 130 grams per litre for water-borne finishes
  • 400 g/l for solvent-borne finishes

If you want to "varnish" the wood - or have a clear finish where you can see the beautiful grain of the wood, we recommend the following finishes for bare wood. 

Auro 261 is a clear natural varnish that dries to a satin sheen level. It has a very low VOC level of 10g/l. When dry, it is certified as toy safe. Auro also have a "gloss" version of this clear lacquer - Auro 251 - that has very similar properties (apart from the sheen level).

Pet friendly paint and varnish removers

Non-toxic paint and varnish remover

If you love the idea of natural wooden doors but they have already been painted, don't worry. We stock a wonderful non-toxic paint and varnish remover that is safe to use by people with respiratory problems such as asthma, and safe to use around pets. It really is excellent. We can't recommend it enough!

If your pet does get this on their paws or feathers, wash off immediately.

Pet friendly paint for wooden doors and trim (previously painted wood)

If you would like to paint the internal wood work in your home with an "eggshell" type satin paint, then the maxium VOC level for paint products are:

  • 130 grams per litre for water-borne finishes
  • 300 g/l for solvent-borne finishes

We recommend in particular the following water based eggshell paints from the Farrow & Ball and Earthborn ranges. All have very low VOC levels.

Farrow & Ball's Modern Eggshell has a maximum VOC level of  3g/l. This is a hard wearing paint for wood and metal with a mid-sheen finish. 

Earthborn' Eggshell No 17 comes in the same colours as their Claypaints and has a VOC level of less than 0.5g/l and when dry is certified as being safe to use on children’s furniture and toys (carries the Safety of Toys Standard EN71-3:1995).

General guide to painting with pets in the house

  • Ideally keep pets out of the room you are decorating and ventilate the room until all paint smells have dispersed (keep windows open).
  • Always choose the lowest VOC paints you can find. You will need to consult the Materials Safety Datasheet (MSDS) to find out the actual VOC levels. Relying on the words "low VOC", as we have seen, does not always give a clear indication of the VOCs in the paint.
  • Keep open tins of paint away from pets.
  • If your pet gets any paint on their paws, fur or feathers, wash off immediately.
  • Always read the safety datasheets in full before using the product.

If you need any advice about painting or redecorating with pets in the house, please do contact us.

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