How to Buy Non-Toxic Paint

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How to Buy Non-Toxic Paint

Children love to paint; maybe it is the way applying colour gives them control over their environment that they would otherwise lack, or maybe they do it simply for fun. The truth is, it does not matter why they love to paint; it is enough to say they do. The other thing children love, particularly younger ones, is putting things into their mouths. When painting, this can range from licking the brush, to simply holding it between their teeth as they reach for something else, like a fresh piece of paper to draw on. This is why non-toxic paint is so important for children's crafting. Not only is non-toxic paint good for the environment, it won't hurt children if they decide to taste it. Luckily the growing awareness of health and environmental issues has made buying non-toxic paint easier than ever before. Nowadays, it is simple to find paints to meet any need, budget, or colour palette.

How Paint Works

People have been using paint for over 30 000 years, and while the details and ingredients have changed, the fundamental composition of paint is the same now as it was then. There are three basic components to paint: pigment, binder, and solvent. The three components work together to create a permanent layer of colour on the surface being painted.


The pigment is the colouring agent; the main reason people buy paint. Historically, paints have used a mixture of both toxic and non-toxic pigments, although most children's craft paints available now use non-toxic pigments. What separates paint from pigment alone is that the majority of pigments do not adhere to surfaces very well on their own, so a would-be painter cannot simply throw down some pigment on paper and hope for permanent, vibrant colour.


It is the binder that enables the pigment to adhere to the surface being painted. In many ways it acts almost like a transparent glue that bonds the pigment to the craft paper, toy, or whatever else is being painted. Unfortunately, this very ability makes it difficult to lay down a smooth coating of pigment and binder alone.


This leads to the third and final component, the solvent. Unlike the other two components, solvent is only present in wet paint, as paint dries by letting the solvent evaporate. What solvent does, other than evaporate, is allow the binder and pigment to flow so that the paint spreads evenly over the surface. Then, once the coat is in place, the solvent evaporates to leave a coloured and protective coating over the surface. The most common solvent is water, which has the advantages of being both readily available and non-toxic, but it is not the only one. Other solvents include a number of petroleum products, all of which are toxic and inappropriate for children's craft use.

Paint Toxicity

One of the biggest issues with paint over the centuries has been the prevalence of toxic materials used in its manufacture. This was particularly common in ancient times, as the primary ingredient in paint was lead. It had the benefits of sticking to a wide range of surfaces, and it weathers well, but at the cost of widespread poisoning. People working with lead paint not only had to deal with poisonous fumes, but also with the fact that it could reach toxic levels when absorbed through the skin. Lead paint was also poisonous when ingested, and paint chips were noted for a sweet flavour. Luckily, there has been a widespread move away from lead, and it is no longer found in paints.

With lead out of the mixture, one of the major concerns in recent years entailed Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. The primary issue with these substances is that they are both toxic, and released into the atmosphere over time, which is particularly bad for children as they are often more susceptible to poisoning. One result of this is that all paint sold in the UK must have a VOC label as shown on the following table:

VOC Rating

Minimum VOC level

Maximum VOC level



0.29 per cent


0.30 per cent

7.99 per cent


8.00 per cent

24.99 per cent


25.00 per cent

50.00 per cent

Very High

50.01 per cent

Not applicable

Given the wide range of VOC levels in even Low-VOC paint, anyone looking for non-toxic paint for children should consider avoiding anything with more than minimal levels of VOCs. Non-toxic paint should contain zero VOCs.

Non-Toxic Paint

As far as the overall history of paint goes, non-toxic paint is a relatively recent development. This comes as a result of both a greater understanding of the damage that can be done by environmental toxins, and a greater awareness of those toxins found in everyday materials. It is therefore no surprise that non-toxic paints have risen in both public awareness and in availability.

Non-Toxic Natural Paints

One way companies have sought to produce non-toxic paints is by moving to what are called "natural paints". These paints are made from entirely natural, often plant-based ingredients and rely on water as a solvent. While not all natural ingredients are necessarily non-toxic, a great many are, and the vast majority of paints advertised as being all-natural, are also non-toxic. This is one reason why anyone looking for non-toxic paints, especially non-toxic craft paints for children, should always consider natural paints.

Looking for Non-Toxic Paint

It may sound simple, but the first step in looking for non-toxic paint is to read the labels. The law requires that toxic ingredients be disclosed on product labels, so they should be the first place any prospective buyer looks. The key to any decision is having the information necessary to make an informed decision, without having to fall back on guesswork. Buying non-toxic paint is no different than anything else. The more a person knows, the more likely they are to pick the product that best meets their needs. Research helps, especially when choosing the wrong product can have a negative impact on children's health.

Avoid Foreign Market Paints

One of the best ways to buy non-toxic paints is to shop online and take advantage of the wide variety of products available. However, this makes research even more important as paints that are not made for the UK market do not follow the same material and labelling guidelines as those marketed here. These different requirements make it more difficult to discern exactly what is in the paint and how it compares to those paints that are normally made available to the UK market. While it is certainly possible to find non-toxic paint suitable for craft use that is not normally sold in the UK, it does require more time and effort to research it. Hence, it is generally better to stick with paints formulated for the UK market. That way the buyer knows what the standards are for non-toxic paint.

Buying Non-Toxic Paint on eBay

One of the very best places to buy non-toxic paint is eBay. The site provides a huge variety of non-toxic paints suitable for all uses and every budget. You can quickly and easily find the best paint for your children's use in just a few moments. All you need to do is put your requirements into the search box, there's one on every page, and watch the results fill your screen. Then, once you have a screen full of results you can use the filters on the sidebar to narrow them down to just the ones you want. You can filter by everything from paint composition, to price, to seller location. eBay also offers sorting tools, so you can ensure the paints that best fit your requirements, and your children's, appear at the top of your list.

After you have found the right non-toxic paints, the next thing to do is determine which of eBay's many reputable sellers you wish to do business with. The best place to begin is at their eBay profile page, where you can see everything from their feedback to their location. You can also see if they have any special policies such as offering bundles of brushes with the paint, or even if they allow local purchasers to pick up their paint in person.


Children love to paint, whether on paper, on toys, or even on the walls. They also love to put things in their mouths. This can happen via the licking of a paintbrush or a paint-stained finger ending up in a child's mouth along with a snack. The problem with this is that for a very long time, most of the paints that were available were also highly toxic. In ancient Rome, many paints were made from toxic lead, and were sweet to the taste; which is not something anyone would want near children. Luckily for parents, there are a number of non-toxic paints available, all of which are more suitable for children's use. Two things to look for are a minimal VOC level, and all-natural paint. The VOC level measures the proportion of volatile organic compounds, and the minimal rating has no more than 0.29 per cent, perhaps even none at all. Anyone who is willing to put a little time and effort into researching the paints they intend to buy and into studying the labels, should find buying non-toxic paint a quick and easy proposition.

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