When it comes to paint, it’s important to recognize the difference between water-based products and solvent-based products. Solvent-based paints are in the process of being pushed out of the market due to their health risks and other negative factors. Water-based paints are overall safer to utilize in home projects and are not nearly as harmful for humans and animals in the home.
Solvent-based paints–also referred to as oil-based and alkyd–contain, as the name states, much much more solvents than a traditional water-based paint. Solvents cause strong odors and could even harm the human body and environment. Currently, efforts are being made to wipe solvent-based paints out of the market for good.
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are released into the environment from use of solvent-based paints that contain a high amount of this chemical. This is what leads to health risks for the environment and humans alike. VOC fumes are toxic, and could hurt any living thing they come into contact with via inhalation.
It used to be that solvent-based paints provided a much better performance than water-based paints, but with advances in paint technology, many water-based paint products can easily stand up against–or be even better–than most solvent-based paints on the market. So next time you are caught between water-based and solvent-based paints, keep in mind that a very important deciding factor can and should be the effects on your health (especially with interior paint jobs in your own home) and the effect that some paints can have on the environment.
**Note: if, for some reason, you cannot gauge whether a paint is solvent-based or water-based, simply look at the cleaning instructions on the can. If the manufacturer instructs you to clean brushes and rollers with soap and water, it is water-based. If they recommend cleaning with spirits or turpentine, then it is solvent-based.
–Find more info on water-based paints versus solvent-based paints at Paint Quality Institute