I have tested all the brands (but one) on this list, from the totally 100% natural options to the “next best” options. Natural paints can perform as well as conventional paints if you use them for the right application.
The reasons to go with a natural paint could include:
- to reduce plastic use (and microplastic pollution)
- to reduce petrochemical use
- they give off no synthetic volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), and are often better for the chemically sensitive
- the paints are biodegradable
- they are vapor permeable
Conventional paints are made with plastic binders.
In terms of 100% natural paints, there are three paint types on the list (defined by their binders), those with an oil binder, those with a casein binder, and one with a bio-based proprietary binder.
- Ready mixed oil-based paints are made with linseed oil and no solvents. This is a durable and versatile paint that can perform well.
- Casein paints are also called milk paints, they are best used on raw wood and require a topcoat. If you want an all natural topcoat it will be a natural oil or wax.
- A third option on the list has a bio-based binder that is proprietary, though it’s likely made from natural oils, and possibly with casein as well.
If these three don’t suit your needs I will look at three more “almost natural” options that you can consider.
Fillers and Pigments
The fillers in natural paints are no different than conventional paint – they are clays, lime and/or chalk.
Pigments in natural paints are natural earth oxides which are not always safer than synthetic pigments. My post on toy safe paint goes into more detail.
This post contains affiliate links. Upon purchase, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
1. Natural Linseed Oil Paint
Linseed oil paint is the most versatile and durable all-natural choice.
Allbäck linseed oil paint is an all natural linseed based paint made without solvents. The main ingredients are boiled linseed oil and pigments made from titanium oxide, iron oxides, chromium oxide green, and ultramarine blue. The drying agent is manganese.
Linseed paint is a penetrating paint on porous surfaces, so it doesn’t crack or peel. It’s also a breathable paint, that won’t trap moisture.
The Allbäck Linseed Oil Paint is very durable and so it would work well on tabletops, cabinets, floors and other high-wear areas. It’s also great for difficult to paint surfaces like melamine, metal, and most plastics. The paint remains somewhat flexible, so it doesn’t dry hard like an enamel. It leaves a very flat finish.
The Viking and Ottosson paint brands use a natural drier, but the company didn’t say that it is definitely manganese. You would ideally want to know which metal/mineral is used as the drier if you’re using this on countertops or toys.
Allback would not be considered toy safe by European standards (for toys that are chewed on) because of the manganese.
Those with sensitivities to natural odorants like linseed oil may not do well with this paint. My post on linseed and tung oil go into more detail.
Use on: Virtually any surface that is clean and dry other than silicone. You can use it on wood, concrete, sheet metal, iron, glass, and plastic. Interior and exterior surfaces.
Applications: Drywall; trim and doors; wood, metal, or melamine trays; wood, metal, or melamine furniture, including tabletops, cabinets and highchairs; wood, concrete or laminate countertops; window frames (metal or plastic); toys and play-sets other than toys that will go in a child’s mouth; metal containers; terra-cotta pots (more info on that here), and exterior planter boxes (more info on that here).
2. Milk Paint
Milk Paint is a 100% natural paint made with a casein binder. It’s best used on wood. Finish with the topcoat of your choice.
Milk Paint is a 100% natural product. It’s made of milk protein (casein), limestone, clay (in some brands), chalk, and natural pigments. It comes in a powder and you mix it yourself with water. It’s practically odourless, so there are no VOCs here, even when wet.
It’s very easy to apply this to raw wood, and that is the best application for this paint (especially if you want to avoid a synthetic primer). Though you can use one formula, SafePaint on drywall (it’s tricky though, see my review here).
The bottom part of the dresser in the photo is painted with Milk Paint (in color Arabian Night) followed by the all-natural Wood Wax. (The dresser is by Christina Muscari @pretty_distressed).
You do need to seal over Milk Paint. Natural topcoats include:
- Natural oils: hemp oil, walnut oil (with wax), and, the most durable of the oils, tung oil. The oils tint the color – they darken it making it look richer, less pastel, not as matte, and add a slight yellow (which you would only see on whites). Make sure the oil is compatible with the paint color.
- Natural waxes: You can find a good selection at The Real Milk Company and MilkPaint.com.
Where to use: Interior or exterior (if you use an exterior grade sealer like Tung Oil and Outdoor Additive)
Uses: Wooden items: furniture, playsets, toys (check which colors are Toy Safe here), decor items, doors, outdoor furniture, signage.
Buy Milk Paint directly through the Real Milk Paint Company (code mychemicalfreehouse for 10% off) or through Amazon.
Note on Ana Sova Milk Paint
Ana Sova is also a milk paint but in liquid form. They say it’s made with casein (milk protein) as the binder, titanium dioxide, cellulose, emulsifiers, fungicide, bactericide, mildew retardant, and preservatives. They claim that it is 96% “food ingredients”, though they do not declare the full list of ingredients. I ordered a sample of Ana Sova paint in 2022 but it did not show up. When I emailed them about it, they said that “We are moving our paint mixing to a new facility”. They said they would then send out a sample to me in the beginning of 2022 but I have not received one.
3. DIY Pigments + Oil
A little more DIY, you can mix natural pigments into a natural oil to make a paint that is totally customized!
If you want to mix your pigment into a natural oil to make your own natural paint, don’t use Milk Paint for that, it doesn’t disperse well. You want to use pigment powders and mix them into your natural drying oil (like Hemp Oil, Linseed Oil, or Tung Oil).
The Real Milk Company carries 28 different colors of pigment. See the post on toy safe paint to check which colors are toy safe.
You should test your formula to make sure you add enough pigment that you get an opaque paint, otherwise you will get a stain.
Where to use: Interior and exterior, depending on the oil.
Uses: Furniture, floors, crafts, toys (depending on the pigment and solvent), doors, outdoor furniture (depending on the oil – Tung Oil is an exterior oil).
Buy natural earth pigments through the Real Milk Paint Company. Use code mychemicalfreehouse for 10% off.
4. Auro Wall Paint
This is a minimally processed paint, with a proprietary binder, but it’s still considered all-natural.
The ingredients are listed as water, mineral fillers (kaolin clay is listed on the SDS), titanium dioxide, Replebin® (the binder which is proprietary), potassium silicate (a mineral binder), cellulose, surfactants made of rapeseed and castor oil, and no preservatives.
There are no fully synthetic ingredients, so this could be considered as one of the totally natural paints though it does have processed natural materials.
We don’t know what that binder is, but an old patent from the company shows that it might be made of vegetable oils with casein (though that patent was eventually withdrawn). The biogenic (bio-based) nature of the binding agent is regularly examined and confirmed by the SGS INSTITUT FRESENIUS.
This zero-VOC paint can be uses on all interior surfaces they say, like drywall, concrete and over wallpaper.
This is the only paint on the list I haven’t tested.
An “almost natural” paint is the next best option. These are differentiated from your standard conventional paints in that they have less plastic polymer content (which is the normal binder in paint), lower synthetic additives, and they are higher in mineral content.
1. Mineral Paint
Romabio and Kiem are “mineral paints”, which means the predominate binders in the paint are mineral silicate binders (potassium silicate or silicate sol) and not plastics.
Like all paints on the list they are zero-VOC.
Romabio contains other binders like EVA and it was to my nose similar to but even a little higher in initial odor than even some 0-VOC acrylic paints; Kiem was far lower in odor, and contains just a little bit of acrylic polymer. It also contains no preservatives.
The ingredients in Kiem are: silicate and calcite fillers, titanium dioxide, silica sol, water, polyacrylate, hydrophobing agents, thickeners, stabilisers, wetting agents, defoamers.
I tested these two paints and go into them more in my post on mineral paints.
Buy Romabio on Amazon.
2. BioShield Clay Paint
BioShield is also in this “more natural” category. The binder in this paint is listed as an alcohol ester (which might be PVA or PVOH). It has a high percentage of natural ingredients, is very low in synthetic additives, and is low odor.
It’s listed as a clay paint because it’s high in clay (though keep in mind just about all paint contains clay).
The ingredients are: water, clay, porcelain clay, chalk, alcohol ester (as a binder, this is the possible PVA or PVOH), cellulose, pigments, preservatives.
The extremely sensitive usually do well with this brand. For details on how to apply this paint, see my dedicated post on clay paint.
Buy BioShield through their website.
3. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
Chalk Paint was also surprisingly low odor especially the Annie Sloan brand.
It’s high in minerals (especially chalk) and low in binders. Annie Sloan doesn’t disclose the actual binder.
I really liked this paint and it seemed very non-toxic to me. It has great coverage and does not need a primer on most surfaces (including radiators).
I have a post just on chalk paint that looks at this in more detail.
Buy Annie Sloan through their website or stockists.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
Alison Godlewski says
What about Benjamin Moore Zero VOC?
it’s not all natural but it is on my list of non toxic paints