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Author: Bernhard Lembeck ~ EnviroTouch

( Article Type: Explanation )

What is Paint?

Paint is the general term for a family of products used to protect and add colour to objects or surfaces by covering them with a pigmented coating. There are generally four components to paint:

  • binder
  • solvents
  • pigments and
  • additives.

However, only the binder is absolutely essential. The binder is the part that eventually solidifies (in the form of a long chain of carbon atoms) to form the dried paint film.

  • The solvent serves to adjust the viscosity of the paint. It is volatile and does not become part of the paint film.
  • Pigments are materials that give paints colour and other optical properties.
  • Anything else is an additive.

Typical synthetic binders include resins such as acrylics, polyurethanes, polyesters and formaldehydes. Natural binders include plant oils (linseed or sunflower oil), beeswax or milk protein. Typical synthetic solvents include ketones, esters, glycol ethers and aromatic hydrocarbons. Natural solvents may consist of gum turpentine or orange-peel oil. Water is also a common solvent.

Synthetic pigments, in general, are manufactured by rather toxic and energy-consuming processes. In addition, a lot of these pigments contain large amounts of heavy metals such as lead.

Natural paints usually contain pigments of natural origin, the so-called ‘earth pigments’. These have the advantage of being renewable and available in abundance. Their colours are exceptionally harmonic, conservative and unobtrusive.

Typical additives include synthetic catalysts, thickeners, stabilisers, emulsifiers, adhesion promoters, matting agents and the like. Natural paints typically contain additives made of rosemary or eucalyptus oil.

All the synthetic components mentioned above are derived from crude oil or so-called petrochemicals that are known to contain many toxins. Toxins are known to contribute to or cause cancer, ozone depletion, lead poisoning and respiratory problems.

Some toxins evaporate from the paints over many years, and may cause allergies and other unhealthy effects on people and the environment. Even the highly promoted water-based synthetic paints are not free of toxins.


Potential effects from the toxic ingredients of conventional paints include:

  • Depression of the central nervous system
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract
  • Asthma, anaemia and bronchitis
  • Cancer.


Natural Paints 

Natural paints are made from renewable natural ingredients that are safe to use as they avoid toxic substances and are safe to throw away as they are 100% biodegradable. They provide an excellent quality and coverage, while not using valuable and finite resources such as crude oil.

Natural paints are manufactured according to the principles of ‘Gentle Chemistry‘. A considerable part of the production does not take place in a factory, but inside living plants. Solar energy leads to photosynthesis, which gives us an abundance of natural substances, with low energy input and without hazardous waste.


Natural paint manufacturers:

  • Avoid crude oil-based raw materials
  • Use raw materials and compositions that are not harmful to any living creature
  • Ensure a problem-free integration of raw materials and their compositions into the natural cycle
  • Use raw materials from renewable resources in preference to synthetics
  • Follow ecologically sound principles relating to the production, growing and winning of raw materials to produce the complete coating
  • State all raw materials used, in simple language, on the product label.

In summary, it can be said that natural paints and other decorative finishes made from natural raw materials are environmentally and socially preferable to conventional paints that are manufactured from petrochemicals. Natural paint producers do not intend to make huge short-lived profits but to aim for quality and to assist in improving the quality of life for all who avoid toxic synthetic materials and who beautify their homes and surroundings by using safe, non-toxic natural products.