What are VOC's?

volatile organic compounds
The term "VOC" can be found all through out the world of paint, with many brands boasting less VOC content than other brands, and some even stating theirs contains none at all! 

We have done a huge amount of research into the development of our paint, and as furniture painters ourselves, we thought it would be of interest to our fellow painters to understand what really is in our paint. A lot of brands will throw acronyms and scientific terms about without ever explaining them. We would like to explain our paint and its contents to ensure our customers understand why our paint works so well; this way you, as a user of Dab, will be able to use the paint to its full potential.

dr dab scientist paint formula vocs

It is also of importance to us that the ingredients are understood, and what impact they may have on our environment. We have produced an incredibly eco-friendly paint and packaging, but many brands have not, so we would like to help your transition form other paints to Dab paints to be as eco friendly and responsible as possible, reinforcing our mission to paint the planet happy!

First of all, lets clear up the acronym, VOC stands for:

Volatile Organic Compound

Now lets dissect each word, before we go on to our more detailed explanation:

  • Volatile - Meaning, a substance that easily evaporates at normal temperatures.
  • Organic - Something related to, or is taken from living matter.
  • Compound - Meaning, a mixture, a thing that is composed of two or more separate elements.

Let us give you a one sentence explanation of a VOC before we dig a little deeper:

VOC's are certain ingredients/materials that evaporate into gasses which can be harmful to inhale.

Now let's get into the nitty gritty! 

Pay close attention to the second word, "Organic"!

Chemically speaking, VOCs are organic materials that turn to vapour at room temperature. A VOC has a boiling point lower than the temperature of your room, so it is constantly turning from a solid to a gas, or "off-gassing".
At the last count there are over 900 chemicals which count towards the VOC list.
Not all VOC’s come from man made chemicals, some occur naturally. For example, an Oak tree emits isoprene which is a VOC. Citrus fruits such as oranges and Lemons produce limonene, another VOC! Another commonly found VOC is styrene, this can be found in coffees and peanuts, as well as many other natural sources, yet this compound is then used to produce polystyrene.
Even the process of us breathing emits VOCs.
So as you can see, not all VOCs are something to be afraid of, especially when they are emitted from common natural sources. However there are some man-made compounds that do cause concern, and sadly these can be found in many paints. Fortunately due to our natural ingredients, the only VOCs emitted from Dab are completely organic and natural.


voc's in paint

Lets start by saying there is probably no such thing as a VOC free paint!
Yes, even the paints that claim to be "VOC free" or "No added VOCs".
How is this possible? Basically just clever marketing and loopholes in legislation.

Did you know, that in the US a paint can contain up to 5 grams VOC per litre but still be called VOC free? Which makes the question, is the paint VOC free or is it just taking advantage of legislation?
In the U.K. however, our rules are a little more strict, meaning you can't claim to be VOC, but companies get round this by claiming "no added VOCs". This is commonly misunderstood as the paint having no VOC content. Wrong! What it actually means is that they have added no more VOC's in there than what is already in there! A completely pointless statement used purely as a marketing ploy to compete against the U.S. misleading "VOC free" products.

As we mentioned before, all paints contain VOC's, even if it is a tiny amount, like Dab. What is important about these VOCs is the type.

Some chemicals used by paint companies can be harmful, in most cases these are man made, such as, Formaldehyde, Benzene and Methylene Chloride. There are far safer natural alternatives to these chemicals, but the sad reason why these man made ones are used in some paints instead, is purely becuase they are cheaper.
You won’t find any of these chemicals in our paints, we have chosen to make our paints as environmentally friendly as possible relying only on natural ingredients where possible. This of course makes our paint more expensive to manufacture and sell but importantly ensures a less harmful and more eco-friendly product.
As stated, all paints will contain VOCs, and ours come from the natural earth organic pigments we use, as these naturally emit VOCs like the oak tree example mentioned earlier.
So what would have been the alternative? We could have used synthetic pigments like so many other companies after all they are a lot cheaper to tint our paint. This can add solvents and other off-gassing chemicals that don’t show up on the label of the paint can.

All we can say is that we are extremely proud of our paint, we understand VOC's and have limited them to natural sources with low volumes. Other brands do it differently, which is completely legal and above board, but we have chosen an approach which sits well with us and our mission to paint the planet happy. 

things to remember and consider

  • All paints contain VOC's
    Typically a paint can contain as much as 25g/l and still be considered VOC free!
  • Not all VOC's are considered harmful 
    A paint or stain made from natural plant oils or natural earth minerals will often show higher levels of VOC than a synthetic, petroleum based colourant.
  • VOC’s are not the only issues
    This makes things tricky, but is important. There are many other chemical compounds that can be harmful or carcinogenic that are not classified as VOCs. These are chemicals we have worked hard to remove from our paints.
  • What is a VOC? Make a healthy choice
    What is a VOC? Educate yourself. Read labels carefully. Ask for MSDS sheets. Ask as many questions as it takes to feel comfortable that you are making the best choice for your health, and the health of everyone around you.

  • Not all VOC's need to be declared!
    The amount of VOCs listed on a can of paint is the amount in the base coating.  The colorant added to the paint has VOCs, as well (usually, the darker the colour, the higher the levels). So, you might think you’re buying a no-VOC paint with less than 5 g/l of VOCs, but how much more did you just add to it after choosing a colour? No one measures it so no one can tell you.

  • In or out?
    We want to be transparent and honest, this is why we declare our VOC content. We have not hidden behind loopholes or legislation although we could as our paint only contains 20g/l per litre but this is not zero as some paint manufacturers would have you think. We believe that we have one of the most ecological earth friendly furniture paints on the market, made entirely from sustainable materials.