This post covers eco-friendly paints that adhere well to concrete and other masonry like brick. There are both totally natural and synthetic options as well as those in between.
I will start with the floors, both breathable and non-breathable options, and then look at walls.
There are more options for concrete walls, since many masonry paints don’t hold up well to foot traffic. There are lots of zero and low-VOC products that work well on walls that don’t work on the floor.
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Acrylic Paint for Concrete Floors
You can use specialty acrylic paints on concrete floors.
This is no problem on upper-level concrete floors. On a slab or basement floor this is somewhat breathable (but not as breathable as the high perm wall coatings).
- ECOS Paints has a Floor Paint that works on concrete, and a Porch & Floor Paint that works on exterior concrete. The Porch & Floor Paint is the most durable and is usually used on interior concrete floors. ECOS products are made for the chemically sensitive and are zero-VOC at 14 days.
- ECOS Concrete Stabilizer – is a primer of sorts – is used before painting if the concrete surface is worn, chalky, or weathered. Ideal for use as a pre-treatment before painting. This is acrylic based, it’s not a densifier.
- AFM Safecoat Concrete Floor Paint – Zero VOC. This is an acrylic base paint with PVA. This concrete floor paint is made for the chemically sensitive.
It’s not necessary to go over the floor paint with a clear sealant but if you needed to you can use AFM EXT.
Breathable Paint for Concrete Floors
A concrete slab or basement floor should ideally remain breathable. The slab is always trying to dry to the inside and trapping moisture leads to major funk underneath that does come through.
Breathable paints are called mineral paints and they are silicate-based. These can be very low in VOCs and toxins. But silicate paints are not durable enough for a floor.
On bare concrete, you can paint on Milk Paint and coat it when dry with a drying oil. Hemp and Tung both work. Tung forms a thicker film and has a stronger natural odor. Though there is some controversy over using milk paint and oils on concrete. This certainly would not be a conventional finish.
There are water-based, “breathable” epoxy coatings for concrete floors. Some do claim zero-VOC. They often are harsh when wet but do cure up well.
They typically do not hold up in high-traffic areas but they can be used in most homes. I don’t recommend using something that is so toxic when wet.
If you want a breathable coating it would be best to use a sealant that has a color in it (and not a paint), like Soy Crete explained more in the main concrete sealer post.
Breathable Paint for Concrete and Brick Walls (Not Floors)
Breathable silicate (mineral) paints are great for concrete and brick walls. This category of paint is made with silicate binders instead of acrylic. It bonds well to masonry.
- RomaBio EcoDomus is a great mineral paint, that is breathable, washable and zero VOC. I tested it here.
- RomaBio Limewash is another option for concrete walls, this is not washable but is more pure and simple if you want something ultra low toxin and natural for concrete walls.
- Romabio Masonry Flat is another option that is a pure silicate paint (no other binders), a good mix between natural and synthetic – just a little bit more durable than a 100% natural option.
- Silicote Paint is another silicate paint – one you can get from Green Building Supply.
- Kiem is the biggest brand of silicate paints and can be found internationally.
- Chalk/ed Paint can be used on concrete walls. Both Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and Rustoleum Chalked. They are not washable though, you could wipe them down sightly if you had to, but they are not super durable without a top coat on them.
- Milk Paint does also adhere quite well to concrete but it’s the least durable of the bunch and it’s very easily ruined with any water so it would need a topcoat. It is 100% organic/natural.
My post on breathable paints goes into more detail on perm ratings.
The post on mineral/natural paints goes into detail on the application and how things turned out with silicate paint, chalk/ed paint, and milk paint. I look at topcoat options as well if you do want to use a more natural option.
For concrete sealers and stains see my main concrete sealer post.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 7 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.