The focus here is on non-toxic paints and primers that stick to plastic. For most paints we need a special primer to stick to plastic and then we can use a variety of paints over it.
There are also two brush on paints, and one spray paint that can go directly over plastic with no primer, they are very tenacious.
For each paint or primer I note if it’s certified Toy Safe since painting toys has this extra layer of complication.
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Primers That Stick to Plastic
If you want to use an acrylic paint we need a really strong primer to stick to the plastic first. Below are also two alternative paint options the don’t require a primer.
1. BIN Shellac Primer (Under Latex Paint)
This is the main primer option that we need to use under latex paints.
BIN Advanced Shellac-Based Primer (water-based) and BIN Shellac-Based Primer (alcohol-based) can both bridge between a plastic coating and your regular latex paint of choice.
The alcohol-based version is high in VOCs but that is because of the ethanol. Alcohol is very volatile and so it offgasses very fast. It does need 7 days to cure when used on toys, the reps said on the phone, 3 days when used in a child’s room on furniture.
The BIN Advanced, which is acrylic water-based, needs 7-10 days for a full cure. (And it starts at 96 g/l which is fairly high for a water-based paint/primer).
I’ve used these myself and would use either version again.
BIN Shellac & Advanced have minimal exterior use, not for any surface subject to immersion or prolonged contact with water.
These primers are not officially toy safe or food-safe but the reps said on the phone that it can be used on toys with a top coat of paint on top and unless the child is chewing through multiple layers they consider this safe.
Adheres to: Almost anything – most plastics including Formica, melamine, PVC, fiberglass.
Buy BIN Advanced through Amazon. BIN Shellac from a local hardware store.
2. Pure Shellac
Shellac is the completely natural food-safe primer option.
Shellac is a natural resin that comes from a beetle mixed into alcohol. Shellac as an ingredient is considered food contact safe (it is also used directly on food, like to coat candies and apples).
You can buy it premixed, though those brands are not food contact safe. For toys, go with the all-natural version – buy the flakes from Wellermart which is a good brand and mix them yourself with Everclear alcohol. You generally want dewaxed shellac which is easier to paint over.
Adheres to: Just about all plastics but it won’t stay stuck to SBR rubber in my experiments.
To paint over shellac you have three options:
- Dewaxed shellac (then sand slightly), then AFM Transitional Primer, then AFM or ECOS Paint. (AFM is not certified Toy Safe but they do say it’s defacto food-safe based on ingredients).
- Dewaxed shellac (then scuff it), then ECOS Universal Primer, then ECOS Paint for a sequence that is all Toy Safe.
- Waxed or dewaxed shellac, then Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (however, Chalk Paint usually can go directly over plastic with no primer, see section below), then a Toy Safe top coat.
Buy pure shellac through Amazon!
Brush-On Paints for Plastic
1. Zero-VOC Acrylic Latex Paint
ECOS Paint is a 0-VOC Toy Safe Paint that can go over shellac-based primers.
ECOS Paints is a fantastic 0-VOC acrylic paint that can be used on toys. Once this paint is cured (at 11 days) it doesn’t offgas any VOCs. ECOS Paints are Toy Safe EN-71 certified for use on children’s toys.
I’ve used this paint and it’s great quality and certainly my top pick for an acrylic paint.
You can use either ECOS interior paints or ECOS exterior paints for toys, play houses, play-sets, decor items, crafts used inside or outside.
You can color match it to any color from other big brands, the photo above is just an example of their nursery colors.
Adheres to: Regular ECOS Paints (Interior and Exterior) can go over BIN Shellac primers or the ECOS Universal Primer can go over sanded dewaxed shellac.
Buy ECOS Paints Online!
What about the Toy Safe Farrow and Ball?
Farrow and Ball is incompatible with many primers and I couldn’t get a clear answer from them on whether it can go over BIN Shellac (and likely not, based on other people’s experience). So if you really want to use F&B you would have to test that. It’s almost certain that you would need a coat of F&B primer over BIN (if that works at all) before the paint.
2. Linseed Oil Paint
No primer is needed with this paint over plastic. This paint goes over almost any plastic except silicone.
Allbäck linseed oil paint is one brand that is available in North America that is made without solvents.
The ingredients are boiled linseed and pigments made from titanium oxide, iron oxides, chromium oxide green, and ultramarine blue. The drying agent is manganese.
The manganese makes it likely not safe by European standards for toys that will be chewed on but for other toys and play-sets as well as decor, crafts and plastic furniture this is a great option. It can be used on interior and exterior items.
I’ve used this paint and I like it a lot, the ability to self prime over almost any substrate is convenient and it also is a very durable finish that stays flexible.
Adheres to: The Allbäck Linseed Oil Paint can be used on all kinds of plastic surfaces that we are aware of, says the company, except for silicone. The surfaces should be clean and dry, with no silicone or uncured chemicals present. Generally sanding is not required, but a light sanding can help adhesion. Apply thin coats and let dry well between coats. Make sure your humidity is not too high during curing. Let cure well prior to using. Always a good idea to test first.
Buy through their website.
3. Chalk Paint
No primer is needed with Annie Sloan (and other brands of chalk style paint). It sticks to most plastics.
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is a super low-odor, non-toxic option for painting plastic items that will be used indoors.
It is certified Toy Safe by European standards so you can use this on a toys even if they go in a child’s mouth. They recommend giving it a few days to cure.
It does require a sealer on top if you want this to be at all durable to water and stains. You can use a natural wax – I would use the non-toxic food-safe versions from Real Milk Paint (not the solvent-filled wax from Annie Sloan, personally) or you can use a synthetic clear coat. The wax coatings are actually very durable despite being natural.
Annie Sloan’s clear Lacquer is Toy Safe but needs 14 days to cure.
Chalk Paint Adheres to: Most plastics though you may need to sand it first, and the company said it can flake off if the surface is not hard and flat.
Buy through local stockists.
4. Painter’s Touch Brush-On
Now we are more in the conventional higher VOC lines, some of which are certified Toy Safe but only in Europe.
A water-based paint for both interior and exterior projects, Painter’s Touch brush-on paint is Certified Toy Safe (EN71-3: 2019) in Europe. However, the following colors are not certified toy safe: Gold, Antique Gold, Bronze, and Old Penny Bronze.
I’m assuming this is the same product as Painter’s Touch brush on in the US however, the company said in an email the closest version is the little mini pots in their Testors line.
Painter’s Touch is not low in VOCs at <250 g/l for the water-based version. (The solvents are water and glycol ethers). The data sheets describe the odor as solvent-like.
The company recommends a full cure time of one week for toys.
This is not a paint I would normally use or recommend since I would not consider this non-toxic, but once it has sufficient time to cure I would consider it totally safe for everyday use.
Adheres to: Needs a primer to bond to plastic.
Buy through Amazon!
Spray Paints for Plastic (Toys, Crafts, Decor +)
1. Pintyplus Evolution
This water-based spray paint is low odor and can go directly over many plastics.
Pintyplus Evolution Water Based paint is suitable for painting toys, as it’s certified by EN 71 in Europe and and ASTM F963 – 17 Standard Consumer Safety Specification on Toy Safety in the US.
This water-based acrylic spray paint is general purpose and more durable than the brand’s other lines. You can use it on decor, crafts and toys.
It’s low odor during spraying (especially compared to other spray paints, most of which are solvent-based) and once dry it has no odor they say. (Note that this is not as low odor as the brush on paints like Chalk Paint or ECOS Paint).
It’s an extra-quick drying; total drying is 15 minutes, you can repaint after 5 minutes.
Adheres to: It works on most plastics including foams and rubber.
Buy through Amazon!
2. Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Craft Enamel
Painter’s Touch Craft Enamel is certified Toy Safe in Europe. Note the following colours are not certified toy safe: Copper & Gold.
They suggest using the Plastic primer first on plastics before application of the Painters Touch Craft Enamel. This primer works on all plastics, except polycarbonate type plastics as these can have a reaction with the paints. Though the primer is not Toy Safe.
The company said in an email that the closest US product is the Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover Spray .
Painters Touch 2X is an Acrylic Modified Alkyd and it’s solvent based (solvents are Acetone, n-Butyl Acetate, Naptha, Xylene). The propellant appears to be propane. The VOCs are listed as 553 g/l. There is a Prop 65 for at least ethylbenzene and titanium dioxide.
I would not generally consider this non-toxic but it will be once totally cured. At 14 days UltraCover 2X was very close to odorless to me but at one month time I could still pick up slight solvent odor.
Adheres to: Painter’s Touch 2X is suitable for use on most indoor and outdoor surfaces including plastic. Some plastics made of polyethylene such as plastic storage containers are manufactured in a way that may hinder maximum paint adhesion. Test paint in a hidden area first.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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