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Time Inc. Digital Studios
You know that strong odor you smell when you open a can of paint? Its from chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which have been linked to cancer. The good news: More and more mass paint companies are developing low- and no-VOC paints.

But how do these healthier paints stack up? We asked Kelly LaPlante, principal designer and president of Los Angeles–based Kelly LaPlante Organic Interior Design Inc., to pick up her roller and report back on the top options.

Benjamin Moore Aura

$57 per gallon

Type: Low VOC

Coverage: Excellent. Aura provided rich, even color in just one coat. And its truly self-priming, so its a time-saver.

Odor: Very low

Dry time: 1 hour

Bottom line: This paint offers amazing coverage: “In some instances, you wouldnt even need to use two coats,” LaPlante says. But its also the most expensive one we tested.

Benjamin Moore Natura

$50 per gallon

Type: Zero VOC

Coverage: Excellent. Natura and its low-VOC sister, Aura, pro­vided the best coverage of all the paints we tested.

Odor: None. “Even up close, I couldnt smell a thing,” LaPlante says.

Dry time: 1 hour

Bottom line: Natura was LaPlantes favorite. Its coverage was as good as the Auras, but the color seemed richer and creamier. That and the fact that it has no VOCs tipped the scales in its favor.

California Paints Elements

$34–$40 per gallon

Type: Zero VOC

Coverage: Very good … once you get it on the wall. “You really need to roll through the paint a lot in order to saturate the roller,” LaPlante says.

Odor: Strong smell (from ammonia, not VOCs, a company rep says).

Dry time: 4 hours

Bottom line: While the coverage was good, the smell and the effort needed to get the paint on the roller were turn-offs. “I didnt love this paint,” LaPlante notes.

Devoe Paint Wonder Pure

$30 per gallon

Type: Zero VOC

Coverage: Very good. It had the best coverage of all the paints except the Natura and Aura (which are really in a league of their own).

Odor: Almost none

Dry time: 4 hours

Bottom line: The paints impressive coverage and nice price helped it earn LaPlantes pick for best value.

The Freshaire Choice

$35–$38 per gallon

Type: Zero VOC

Coverage: Pretty good coverage. Plus, this paint (sold only at Home Depot) went on evenly. But you might need to apply two coats.

Odor: Medium

Dry time: 2 to 4 hours

Bottom line: Expect some fumage. But, LaPlante says, “because Freshaire is so widely available at Home Depot stores, its a fine option if you dont have a specialty paint store nearby.”

Pittsburgh Paints Pure Performance

$18–$30 per gallon

Type: Zero VOC

Coverage: Pretty good coverage, especially for the price.

Odor: Very low

Dry time: 3 hours

Bottom line: As the lowest priced of the bunch, “this is a decent value,” LaPlante says. “The coverage isnt as good as Devoe, but it dried quickly, so you can get a second coat on fast.”

Sherwin-Williams Harmony

$39 per gallon

Type: Zero VOC

Coverage: Pretty good, though its a two-coats-required kind of paint.

Odor: Low

Dry time: 4 hours

Bottom line: This isnt the ultimate high-end low- or no-VOC paint (that would be Aura or Natura). But its a solid pick for anyone looking for a midrange VOC-free paint.
Last updated: Mar 02, 2016