Paint Products


  • Use latex (water-based) paint instead of oil-based paint. Oil-based paints contain a high percentage of solvents which contribute to air pollution. You are exposed to solvent fumes while the oil paint dries.
  • Calculate amount needed carefully. Patronize stores that will give you expert help. Many paint stores will take back unopened cans. Ask them.
  • Give good left-over paint to a community organization that can use it.
  • Use whitewash for barns, basements, and fences instead of paint. (A simple mix of hydrated lime and water-a less-toxic alternative to white paint.)
  • Air out newly-painted bedrooms before people sleep there again.

Brush Cleaners

  • Clean brushes immediately after use. Wash out latex paint over a sink, not outside, in the gutter.
  • Work mechanic's "waterless" hand cleaner into brush and wash with soap and water.
  • Clean paint brushes hardened with dried oil-based paint by soaking in hot vinegar.

Paint Thinners

  • Avoid using oil-based paints which require solvent thinners for cleanup.
  • Pour off clear thinner for reuse after particles have settled out.
  • Wrap particles in newspaper and throw in trash.

Chemical Paint Strippers

  • To strip paint, use a heat gun, a paint scraper, or a sanding block with course sandpaper (wear safety goggles and a mask).
  • Note: Stripping lead-based paint is dangerous and should be done by a professional. Inhaling the dust or vapors can cause lead poisoning.
  • Water-soluble paint strippers are available that contain less-hazardous ingredients.
  • Avoid strippers containing methylene chloride and trichloroethylene (TCE); benzene; 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA), xylene; or toluene.

Spray Paints

  • Don't use aerosols. Aerosols make it more likely that the user will breathe in the paint. The aerosol propellants contribute to air pollution.

Wood Preservatives

  • Do not use old products which contain pentachlorophenol (PCP), creosote, tributyltin oxide, or Folpet.
  • Do not burn wood treated with wood preservatives. You'd be releasing the chemicals into the air. Old, treated, scrap wood can be taken to a landfill for disposal.
  • Water-based preservatives are available that can seal wood and protect it from water rot and insects.
  • A water sealer or polyurethane can prevent wood rot. Use types of wood (such as redwood and cedar) that are naturally resistant to insects and wood rot.


  • Buy "pressure-treated" lumber. Preservatives have already been applied. Eliminates the need to handle wood preservatives and exposure to toxic chemicals.

Wood Stains

  • Use finishes derived from natural sources, such as shellac, tung oil, and linseed oil.
  • Use water-based stains.
  • Try the new less-toxic wood working compounds that are becoming available.