If you have a little bubba on the way you may well be thinking of painting your baby’s room. Organizing and beautifying the nursery has always been my favorite of many fairly tedious baby preparation tasks! (How can such tiny little people need so many things and so much planning?!)
But what can you slap on the walls? Not just anything, I’m afraid. It really is important to choose baby-safe paint for the nursery or baby room. Well, not just for the nursery, and not just for your baby – if you have any more painting projects coming up, choosing non-toxic, zero-VOC, baby-safe paint for the walls will be healthier for the whole family.
So what’s the best paint for your baby’s room? This post will answer all your questions regarding baby-safe paints and finishes and recommend the best zero-VOC paint safe for babies and the best non-toxic, 100% natural paints for the nursery.
Should you paint a baby room?
If you want to freshen up a room or change the decor, a fresh coat of paint on the walls is always the go-to. It’s quick, fairly inexpensive and has an instant impact, from brightening up a space instantly, to creating a relaxing ambience or energetic vibe.
However, when it comes to your baby’s room, there is an argument to leave it as is. If the paint has been on the walls for a few years all the harmful chemicals should have largely off-gassed – yes it can take that long for all the volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in regular commercial paints to dissipate.
VOCs are still emitted from commercial paints for 3-5 years, or can continue for up to 10 years, according to sources such as this one. So while you may think that once the paint smell has gone it’s safe for your baby to sleep in, that’s often not the case.
Of course, it depends which paint you’re going to paint the nursery with. Read on to find out the best zero-VOC and non-toxic baby-safe paints for the walls in your baby’s room. Any of these will be safe for your baby to sleep in shortly after it’s dried.
Do you need special paint for a nursery or baby room?
For your baby’s room you want to choose non-toxic and zero-VOC paint wherever possible.
Ideally, you want to use these types of paints throughout the house for the health of your whole family, so this is a consideration if you want to repaint other rooms going forwards. But the room where your baby sleeps at night and spends lots of time in during the day, is the place to start.
Similarly, if you want to paint your baby’s furniture or toys, you want to choose non-toxic or zero-VOC paints where possible.
Read our top pics of the best baby-safe non-toxic paints for the crib here.
What exactly is wrong with conventional paint?
Paint is made up of a pigment, the color you want on the wall and a binder, to make it stay on the wall. However, to thin out this gloopy, viscous mixture and enable you to apply it to the wall evenly, you need a third and final component, a solvent.
As the paint dries, the solvent evaporates, leaving the pigment on the wall. It’s the solvent of traditional paints that contains most of the nasty stuff, harmful chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, such as Benzene, Ethylbenzene, Ethylene Glycol, Toluene, Xylene, Hexane, Cyclohexane (source)
The strong paint fumes you can smell as the paint dries are the VOCs evaporating or offgassing into the air.
There are several adverse health effects of breathing in VOCs, both short and long term, from headaches and nausea to loss of coordination as well as liver and kidney damage.
They can also cancer in animals and be carcinogenic to humans too (source). This is why rooms should be well-ventilated for several days after painting, even months after painting. Even years later, commercial paints may still be releasing VOCs into the environment, although at much safer levels.
Other harmful chemicals in conventional paint
The pigments in most commercial paints will also contain VOCs and additives used to thicken, stabilize and preserve the paint, including heavy metals.
Then there are antimicrobial agents that stop mold growing and extend shelf life. These are often toxic too.
“Odorless” or “low-odor” paints may also do more harm than good. Removing the smell doesn’t mean that the VOCs are not there, only that you can’t smell them! And how have they managed to get rid of the smell? By adding more chemicals.
This is why you need to take care in choosing the best paint for your baby’s room.
What’s the best type of paint for a baby room?
The best baby safe paints for walls are zero-VOC and/or non-toxic:
These paints are almost entirely VOC free. Paints must have less than 5g/L to be classed as zero-VOC.
But there are plenty of zero-VOC paints that contain other chemicals e.g. nasty anti-microbial agents.
Zero-VOC paints with certification by Green Seal or otherwise
A paint certified by Green Seal, Green Guard or one of the many others (different countries and different states have different independent organizations), will have much lower toxin levels, beyond VOCs.
If you’re going to go with a conventional type of paint for your baby’s room, zero-VOC with certification is your best bet.
Even then be sure to check with the manufacturer for ingredients, which should be easily available online.
If you’re buying a base tint and adding pigments to mix your nursery paint color of choice, be sure to go for a zero-VOC pigment. VOC pigments can add as much as 10 g/l VOC (darker shades have a higher VOC content).
Recommended below are the best zero-VOC paints which will be safest for babies.
What about “low-VOC paint”?
For a paint to be classified as low VOC (as regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) it can still have significant levels:
- 250 g/L (grams per liter) for water-based paints (latex/acrylic)
- 380 g/L for oil-based paints
Although this is an improvement, this is definitely not the best paint for your baby’s room.
The only paints that are truly non-toxic are those made from natural materials. Commonly used ingredients for natural paints are minerals, like clay, and chalk, plant products and milk.
The first paints made thousands of years ago used a recipe based on milk. Modern-day milk paints are now gaining in popularity as a non-toxic and baby-safe paint for walls in your baby’s room or nursery.
Natural paints don’t contain any chemicals at all. If you’re looking for a 100% non-toxic paint, a natural paint is the only option.
What is the safest interior paint to use?
With no harmful chemicals or emissions, natural paints, like clay-based or milk paints, will be the safest nursery paint.
Many Zero-VOC paints will provide a baby-safe alternative if you’re careful to check for other chemicals. That’s where an additional certification and approval by a third party organization can help.
What brands of paint are baby safe?
There are now many commercial paint companies that offer low and zero-VOC paint options. These are normally easy to spot on the paint tin itself – remember you want to go for zero-free rather than low-VOC with certification, to avoid other unregulated nasty ingredients too.
There are also paint brands that specialize in low-toxic baby-safe paints for the walls, that are kinder to the environment too.
Natural paint options are more limited but are growing in popularity.
Here are some paint brands that offer the best paint finishes for your baby’s room, sorted into those that offer zero-VOC paints safe for babies and those that sell natural, non-toxic paint.
Zero-VOC paint brands safe for babies & those with zero-VOC paint options
- AFM Safecoat – as part of their range of eco building products and paint finishes, they sell interior zero-VOC flat paints
- Dunn-Edwards – have several Greenwise Gold certified and zero-VOC interior paints, including primers, flat, eggshell, and semi-gloss
- Sherwin Williams – have a “Harmony” range of interior paints that are GREENGUARD Gold certified and zero VOC. This includes primers, flats, eggshell paints and semi-gloss.
- Earth Safe Finishes – have a selection of low and zero-VOC interior and craft paints, including a range of “Baby Safe Finishes” that are zero-VOC and zero-odor. They are Green Seal certified, among several other certifications.
- Benjamin More – choose their Eco Spec interior paints that are both zero-VOC and Green Seal certified. Includes primers, flat, eggshell, and semi-gloss paints
- Harris Paint International – have zero-VOC and Greenwise Gold certified paint options in flat and eggshell
- Cloverdale – have a “Ecologic – washable flat” paint that has an ultra low VOC content of <1g/L and is also noted as a high performance paint with resistance to abrasion, making it easily washable (ideal for the nursery!)
- Ecos Paints – this paint brand specializes in eco-friendly paints and finishes. Their “Lullaby” range is zero-VOC and specifically designed for baby rooms as well as baby furniture.
- PPG Paints – this is a large commercial brand of paint that offers some zero-VOC all in one paint primer options
- Little Knights – this a UK based brand of paints that produces 100% VOC free water-based paints and products, to be environmentally sustainable as well as optimize the indoor air quality of the home
Natural Paint brands – non-toxic paints ideal for the nursery
- The Real Milk Paint Company – produce organic milk paints plus water-based zero-VOC top coats and natural wood finishes
- BioShield – specialize in “eco” paints and finishes, from natural wood stains to solvent free clay paint
- Green Planet Paints – another specialist natural paint supplier, producing a range of paint and wood finishes from plant oils and mineral clays
- Miss Mustard Seed’s Paint – another option for milk paint, this brand also produces food-contact safe wood finishes
- Unearthed Natural Paints – manufacture paints from Italian marble flour, clay and plant derivatives, they also have a vegan milk paint in their range
How long after painting a room is it safe for baby?
That all depends the type of paint you use. If you go for a regular commercial paint containing VOCs, you need to leave it as long as possible to off-gass. 2-3 months would be ideal. Remember, even when the paint smell has gone after a few weeks, VOCs are still being omitted.
However, if you choose one of the zero-VOC or natural paint options below, the timing is a lot less critical. If you use natural paint for your baby’s room, it’ll be safe to use as soon as it’s dry, even while drying still.
Zero-VOCs paint often still have minute levels of VOCs, so go by the recommendations from the manufacturer.
If you are waiting for your baby to arrive, bear in mind that a newborn should sleep in the same room as a parent or caregiver for the first 6 months, so it’s not critical you paint the nursery a long time in advance of your due date.
On the other hand, don’t leave it too late – you don’t want to be left trying to finish up the painting during the newborn phase (or 4th trimester) if your baby arrives early. That won’t make for an easy postpartum recovery!
Best zero-VOC paints safe for babies
These are the best chemically based paints that have zero or ultra-low levels of VOCs. Prices are included where available (correct as of August 2022).
This premium interior paint from Sherwin Williams “Is GREENGUARD Gold certified, LEED® compliant and CHPS acceptable“, making it a good zero-VOC paint option for your baby’s room.
You can tint their base colors with their zero-VOC range of ColorCast Ecotoner® Colorants so you’ll have no problem finding the perfect shade for the nursery.
However, there are no zero-VOC primer options, so if you feel a primer is necessary you’ll need to use a different brand for prepping.
It’s fairly quick to dry, touch-dry in an hour, and can be re-painted after 4.
Coverage is around 350–400 square feet per gallon and is available from their website at $72 per gallon.
Benajimin Moore’s Eco Spec is a full range of zero-VOC and Green Seal certified interior paints. Unlike Sherwin Williams, this includes a primer, if you need it for your baby’s room.
This paint is also approved by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and Allergy Standards, good if your little one or anyone else in the family is a sufferer.
Benjamin Moore also has it’s own Gennex Colarant System, free from VOCs, and in terms of coverage, you won’t find better at 400-450 square feet per gallon. It’s also quicker drying than other zero-VOC options meaning you can start repainting after 2 hours.
This is stocked by lots of different paint retailers and is currently available from ColourX for $65 a gallon.
All Little Knights paints are free from carcinogens, petrochemicals and any hazardous chemicals. They conform fully to European Directive, EN Toy Safe legislation, EPA, FDA and HSE requirements and in addition state on their website state that:
“…THERE ARE NO INGREDIENTS WHICH, WITHIN THE CURRENT KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUPPLIER AND IN THE CONCENTRATIONS APPLICABLE, ARE CLASSIFIED AS HAZARDOUS TO HUMAN HEALTH OR THE ENVIRONMENT…”
That’s certainly a good start when it comes to baby-safe paint for the walls of your baby’s room.
Designed specifically to improve indoor air quality, their paints actually absorb other harmful chemicals and VOCs emitted from other potential sources, such as the carpet and furniture.
Little Knight paints are also kind to the environment, safely breaking down in water, meaning it won’t pollute waterways. Packaging is also environmentally sustainable.
Their paints also have Toy Safe accreditation (Toy Safe – EN 71-3:2019) meaning they’re a great option for your baby’s crib and furniture, as well as any toys you might want to paint.
It’s currently available from their online store, priced at GBP64 per 5 liters (a little more than a gallon).
If you’re UK based, this is an excellent paint for your baby’s room.
This is a self-priming all-in-one paint and with just 1g/L VOCs easily exceeds criteria for LEED and GREENGUARD® GOLD certification.
This paint is also a great budget option for a near zero-VOC paint at just $29 per gallon (available exclusively at The Home Depot).
However, for a more durable finish it’s probably worth spending a bit more on their Ultra Scuff Defense range with it’s stain-blocking technology – probably useful in a baby’s room! At $38 per gallon, that still represents excellent value for money.
Both paints have good coverage of 300-400 square feet per gallon and can be recoated after 2 hours.
If you’re looking for a baby safe paint for your nursery and need something easy on the wallet, this is the answer. This has to be the best budget Zero-VOC paint for a baby room.
This zero-VOC option from Dunn Edwards is highly durable and scrubbable – ideal for grubby handprints and the occasional pen mark, which will be useful in a nursery.
The Dunn Edwards Ultra-Grip Premium multi-surface primer, that’s recommended before painting, is also ultra low in VOCs.
This paint is quick to dry, at 1-2 hours, and has an average coverage of 350–400 square feet per gallon.
This is also a good value paint, available from their online store at $48 per gallon, but with no certifications to it’s name there are better options around.
There’s so much to like about this paint from Earth Safe Finishes, who are dedicated to environmentally-friendly, healthy paints.
All their paints are free from VOCs as well as a wide variety of other toxic chemicals that are largely unregulated (and often appear in other zero-VOC paints).
These include formaldehydes, ammonia, acetone, arsenic, cadmium, heavy metals, methyl acetate, phalates, BPA, bioaccumulative toxins and odor masking agents.
A pretty good start for a baby-safe paint for the walls.
Direct communication with Earth Safe Finishes revealed their paint holds a total of 7 third party certifications, of which Green Seal is one. They also claim to be the only paint brand to have ASTM D 6886 certification for VOC-free ingredients.
Not only do they have impressive eco-credentials, but all the paints from Earth Safe Finishes are available in a variety of gorgeous vibrant bold shades. Or if you have a specific color in mind that’s not available, you can mix your own using their zero-VOC colorants.
Paints are self-priming and will be dry in just 15 minutes.
This is arguably the best zero-VOC paint for a baby room.
The only downside is coverage, which at 350 square feet per gallon is a little lower than other paints, but it’s well-priced at $65 per gallon.
The Lullaby range was designed with the nursery in mind, with matte, eggshell, semi-gloss and full gloss paint options.
They’re available in a range of beautiful shades perfect for the nursery and have a hard-wearing, washable finish.
The Lullaby range or paints have a similar coverage to other zero-VOC acrylics at 400 square feet per gallon. Drying times are reasonable at 30 to 60 minutes and you can start repainting after 2 – 4 hours.
The biggest downside is price – at $100 per gallon it’s the most expensive zero-VOC paint of the lot.
Zero-VOC paints to use with caution
There are some popular paint brands that you may have seen either recommended online or in your local paint store. While several are now much safer than paints of the past in terms of toxicity, often these only offer a handful of safer options, to try and level peg with some of the superior zero-VOC paint for baby rooms above.
Remember, that just because a paint is ultra low in VOCs and complies with government standards or regulations, it doesn’t mean that’s free from other toxins and certainly doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for your baby.
This is not an exhaustive list and if you’re tempted by any of these, use this post as a starting point for more in-depth research. Ingredients lists should be readily available from the manufacturer (I’ve studied many) and if they aren’t, that’s a possible sign that harmful chemicals are lurking. Not that I’m a cynic or anything!
Created for optimal air quality inside the home, SafeCoat claims this paint is super low in VOCs, however it wasn’t possible to establish exactly what the levels are. In addition, their paints are not certified by Green Seal or similar.
There’s also no zero-VOC primer option, although they do promise to be “low-odor”.
This paint certainly warrants further investigation if you want to use it in your baby’s room.
In terms of other attributes, coverage is just ok at 350 square feet per gallon and it has a fairly average drying time of 4-8 hours.
All that considered, this is a fairly expensive paint, currently available from Green Building Supply at $72 per gallon.
This is a premium 100% acrylic latex indoor paint and primer in one. It has the standard 4 finishes (flat, eggshell, semi and full gloss) and is now available free from VOCs. It’s super-hardy, with excellent durability, scrubbability and hide.
However, the available colorants will increase the toxicity of this paint significantly, darker tints more so than lighter ones. Unless you want to go for white paint colors, there are definitely better zero-VOC paint options out there.
This paint offers a coverage of 400 square feet per gallon and is available from the Home Hardware Center at $49 per gallon.
Farrow & Ball is so popular in their home country of the UK and for good reason, they’re colors are to die for! They’re sure to look good in your baby’s room – if you want to go for a natural or safari theme, they have several green nursery paints to choose from.
They claim their paints are eco-friendly with low or minimal VOCs. According to UK regulation, they’re not allowed to label their paints as zero-VOCs, as with 6g/L, they’re still present. However, versus other supposed “zero-VOC” paints they’re on a par.
Heavy metals are not “intentionally used in the manufacture of their paints” but may be there in low levels, low enough that paints are certified as toy safe, in accordance with Safety of Toys Part 3: Migration of certain elements (EN 71-3:2019+A1:2021)
Farrow & Ball won’t disclose their paint ingredients, however, and state that all their finishes contain isothiazolinones, presumably as a fungicide, which may produce an allergic reaction.
Their paints don’t come cheap either: the Estate Emulsion is an eye-watering GBP89 for 5L (just over a gallon)!
Farrow & Ball Emulsion is definitely not the best paint for your baby’s room but one you could perhaps use with caution.
Dulux is one of the biggest paint brands around and this particular paint option is ideal for kids rooms as it’s highly durable and washable and has inbuilt stain repellent technology.
Dulux claim that all their paints are water-based and “low VOC”, however it’s difficult to find what the exact VOC content is. Further investigation would be necessary if you’re considering this paint for your baby’s room.
It has a drying time of 4 hours, excellent coverage of 500 square feet per gallon and is available direct from Dulux at GBP61 per 5L (just over a gallon).
With it’s “Life-Kind” formula, this paint is ultra-low in VOCs and hypoallergenic, meaning it’s child, pet and allergy-friendly. It would seem to be a great baby-safe paint option.
If you’re worried you might not find your color of choice, you needn’t be with the Valspar Premium range. It’s available in 2,000 pre-mixed colors and can be mixed into a total of mind-boggling 2.2 million different shades!
However, there’s no easily available information on the VOC levels of their colorant system like other paint brands, nor are their paint ingredients shared online.
One to investigate further if you want to consider this paint for your baby’s room.
In terms of coverage, it’s above average, at 400-450 square feet per gallon and it has a drying time of 1 hour.
It’s available from Trade Point at GBP46 per 5L (just over a gallon).
Best non-toxic natural paints for nursery
There are two options when it comes to non-toxic natural paints:
- Milk paints
- Mineral-based paints
If you’re new to either of these, here’s a little about each.
Ancient cave paintings were painted with milk paint – that’s how long it’s been around. The fact that there are still cave paintings available to see is a testament to the durability and longevity of this paint.
The recipe is simple, combining milk protein (casein) and lime (calcium hydroxide) and once dry, milk paint has a light sheen and white-wash look. If you paint wood with milk paint you’ll see the wood grain show through.
It comes in powder form and needs mixing with water along with natural pigments to color it.
It has a very thin consistence, meaning it’s incredibly quick to dry, but needs multiple coats for uniform coverage.
Milk paint typically has a short shelf life of just 24 hours once mixed, but many modern-day milk paint brands have managed to improve this.
It can also be hard to mix and easily become lumpy. Again, there are now several brands that offer natural additives to help resolve this issue.
These are paints made from clay and other naturally occurring plants and minerals, meaning that they’re non-toxic and a baby-safe paint option for the walls.
Paint application and coverage can be a little trickier and also varies from brand to brand dependent on the ingredients and manufacturing process.
The Real Milk Paint Company manufactures a modern day milk paint that’s not only non-toxic but organic, food contact safe and biodegradable. This means it can also be used on baby toys and furniture, with an all-natural water-based top coat.
To improve mixability and consistency simply add their non-toxic anti-foaming agent. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it come to colors, with 56 shades to choose from.
It has a drying time of under an hour and will last up to 2 weeks if kept in the fridge.
This is a fantastic milk paint option for your baby’s room but there is a downside: coverage. Like most milk paints it’s poor, at just 200-280 square feet. Of course, that impacts total price since you’ll need nearly twice as much paint as most zero-VOC or natural paint options.
At $70 a gallon, that makes for quite an expensive paint job.
14. Clay Paints from BioShieldfrom BioShield
If you want to try clay paint for your baby’s room, look no further than BioShield, one of the longeste-standing paint companies in the US to produce eco-friendly and non-toxic paints. Their range of “healthy-living” clay paints are antistatic, breathable and extremely long-lasting and dry to a matt finish.
The key ingredients are clay, porcelain clay, chalk and naturally-occurring pigments and preservatives. It doesn’t contain any acrylic copolymers, ammonia, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, solvents or heavy metals, meaning it’s completely free of VOCs and non-toxic and an ideal paint for your baby’s room.
They’re available in a gorgeous range of warm, soft and earthy shades as well as bold, rich vibrant colors. Whichever one you go for, a BioShield clay paint is sure to bring your nursery to life!
You’ll need 2-3 coats on the walls, depending on the color you’re using and the color you’re painting over. The first coat acts as a primer.
Clay paint won’t stand up to frequent cleaning, so for high-impact areas, like around the crib or low down where little hands will stray, they recommend their #15 Wall Glaze.
This paint is fairly slow to try – you’ll need 6-12 hours between coats.
In terms of coverage, BioShield estimate approximately 300 feet per gallon, so a bit lower than average and at $60 per gallon, given all it’s attributes, it’s well-priced.
The Marmopure paint is made with a traditional milk paint recipe, but uses vegetable protein derived from plants, rather than casein (the milk protein) meaning it’s vegan as well as non-toxic and 100% natural.
It dries to a velvet matt finish that’s durable and washable and there are a choice of 24 pigments to choose from or simply use these to mix your own.
Unfortunately. this paint has an extremely short shelf life of just 24 hours once mixed, typical of most milk paints (but unlike the Real Milk Paint Company one above).
It takes up to 24 hours to dry and coverage is similarly low to other milk paints – a gallon only covers just over 200 square feet. However, one coat should be enough.
It’s standout feature is price – at $39 for 3.35kg, which makes a gallon, this is by far the cheapest of the other natural-based paints.
This has to be the best budget non-toxic natural paint for a baby room.
This is another option for a clay and mineral-based paint, that’s also free of VOCs, biocides and other nasty chemicals that can be present in other acrylic based zero-VOC paints.
In addition, Green Planet Paints recycle the waste products from other manufacturing processes, using them as raw materials in both their paints and in their (zero-VOC) color tints, meaning they’re eco-friendly too.
Their Premium Interior Flat is even slower to dry than the Bioshield Clay Paint, at 1-2 days, depending on heat and humidity. However, it’s low-sheen finish is extremely durable and scrubbable, so you don’t need a top coat in high-traffic areas, as recommended for Bioshield.
The paint has an inbuilt primer, 2 coats are recommended and coverage is estimated at 350-400 square feet per gallon. It’s currently priced similarly to the last at $62 per gallon.
With no need for a primer or topcoat and a washable, durable finish the Green Planet Paint Premium Interior Flat Paint is the best option for a mineral-based paint for a baby room.
So what is the best baby-safe paint for a baby’s room?
Whether your giving the nursery a fresh coat of paint before your bubba arrives or repainting the playroom, hopefully you’ll be a little bit wiser when it comes to choosing a baby-safe paint for the walls.
Whether you go for a zero-VOC paint safe for babies or a natural non toxic paint for nursery is personal preference. The latter will be the safest but if you pick wisely, there are some excellent zero-VOC acrylics available.
Here is a summary of the best baby paints for a baby room:
- Best budget zero-VOC paint safe for babies: Premium Plus Interior Paint & Primer From Behr
- Best zero-VOC paint safe for babies: Perfect Paint Interior Wall Paint from Earth Safe Finishes
- Best non-toxic natural paints for nursery: Premium Interior Flat Paint from Green Planet Paints
- Best budget non-toxic natural paints for nursery: Marmopure Paint from Unearthed Paints
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- 18 Best Blackout Shades/Curtains For Baby’s Nursery (2022 UPDATE)
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