This post covers low and zero-VOC primers for interior walls. Most of these paints are acrylic primers but some are ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) primers, or silicate based.
In some cases, it makes sense to go with a zero-VOC primer but some EVA primers are lower in odor than the acrylics even though the legal VOC levels might be around 3 g/l and not zero (which is still negligible).
Some brands like ECOS add zeolite to reduce the odor, which does help a little bit.
With most brands, the primers are more potent in odor than the paint lines, so it’s important to carefully select a primer. This article covers the top non-toxic brands.
You may need a primer in the following circumstances:
- For new wallboard
- To cover a glossy paint
- To block stains or odors
- To transition from a dark color to a light color
- To transition from an oil-based paint to a water-based paint
My post on paint covers the best non-toxic paint brands.
This post contains affiliate links. Upon purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
This is the best non-toxic primer to block odors or transition from oil to water-based paint.
AFM is a well-liked brand amongst those sensitive to chemicals. Their Transitional Primer is higher in odor than their paint, but it is low-VOC and is known for being particularly good at sealing in toxins or odors.
It can also transition your walls from oil-based to water-based paint.
This does create a partial vapor barrier which is something to consider in hot humid climates where AC is used inside (a possible condensation point).
AFM New Wallboard Primer is for new drywall, it’s also low-VOC.
Buy Transitional Primer through Green Design Center.
This is my top pick for a zero-VOC wall primer, especially for new drywall.
ECOS makes great zero-VOC primers and ECOS is the favorite brand for those sensitive to chemicals (and my favourite too!)
Their general wall primer is used on new drywall.
I like their Air Purifying Primer (APP) which is low odor. The APP primer has a similar level of odor to their low luster paint, which is awesome because primers are usually higher in odor than paint. This primer contains zeolite which absorbs VOCs, and I believe this is bringing down the odor of the primer itself.
Their Stain Blocking Primer did seem higher odor than APP. This would be the primer to use to block stains.
Their Universal Primer is the one with the strongest bonding power. You can use this on more difficult to prime surfaces like some vinyl, and metal (even bare iron and steel), and to transition from oil-based paint to water-based wall paint (though you need to prep it first with degaussing and sanding). It works to block stains like rust stains and water stains on walls and ceilings.
ECOS is my top brand here if you don’t mind ordering online.
Buy ECOS online through their website.
3. Conventional Brand Primers
Sherwin Williams Promar 200 and Promar 400, Sherwin Williams Drywall Primer, Sherwin Williams Multi-Purpose Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer are zero-VOC.
Benjamin Moore Natura Primer was zero-VOC but it is now phased out. The Ultra Spec 500 is a good zero-VOC primer that works on new drywall. Their other primers are not zero-VOC.
Farrow and Ball is a brand of paint that I really like because it’s very low odor when wet compared to other paints. I recently tried their primers and they are excellent as well. If you’re painting yourself you may want to consider this.
Kiem Mineral Interior Wall Paint is self priming (no additional primer needed) it’s basically odorless so another good one if you’re painting yourself. (Pricy though!)
BEHR Kitchen, Bath & Trim Interior Stain-Blocking Primer has only 1 g/l VOC.
Valspar Multi-Surface Primer is zero VOC.
Non-Toxic Paint Brands
Non-Toxic Metal Primers
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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