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The Greenest Way to Use Aerosol Spray Paint

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The Greenest Way to Use Aerosol Spray Paint

Aerosol cans have been around for nearly a century; they were first used for non-painting applications, such as applying pesticides and other liquids. In 1949, Edward Seymour invented canned spray paint and a new industry was born.

Over the years, some changes have reduced the side effects of aerosol use, but it still has a long way to go to become “green.” The original propellants used in aerosol spray paints were chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs); they were banned from use in the US in 1978 when it was discovered that they depleted the ozone layer. Hydrocarbon propellants were then widely used until the 1980s when they were found to contribute to smog by reacting with nitrous compounds in the air. Today we have 1, 1, 1, 2,-tetrafluoroethane as the main propellant. It’s a mouthful just to say it, and not very green by any stretch of the imagination.

Handy to Use

Aerosol spray paint is very convenient to use: You pop the top, give it a few shakes and you’re on your way. The finish dries quickly, leaves no brush marks and there are no brushes or other equipment to clean afterward. What you do have, however, is an empty metal can, which usually cannot be recycled and is often considered hazardous waste.

New Latex Formulations

The standard for aerosol spray paint is solvent or oil-based, but now we can choose from a handful of manufacturers that produce latex and water-based aerosol spray paints. While these have lower VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than their more toxic cousins, they still produce emissions that are hazardous and most people would find unpleasant. According to Krylon, its H2O aerosol spray paint releases 55 percent less smog-generating chemicals into the air than the average solvent-based spray paint, and VOC emissions are reduced by 25 to 30 percent.

Next: Think Outside the Spray Can

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3:59AM PDT on Jun 12, 2015

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10:34PM PST on Dec 17, 2014

Thanks for compiling such nicest information in your blogs. Articles are very informative and hope again I’ll find more like that. certapro

7:26AM PDT on Jul 10, 2012

Thanks for the info.

11:35AM PDT on Jul 8, 2012

I admit I am a spray paint enthusist in my art work. Its good that the VOC is starting to be making this paint market as well! Great article -- thanks!!

1:00PM PDT on Sep 9, 2011

Thank you

10:57AM PDT on Oct 1, 2010


8:00AM PDT on Sep 13, 2010

Thanks for reading and commenting on my article. Anja: Spray paint cans are steel and can be recycled in a steel can recycling facility. Make sure the can is empty and remove the plastic lid. Do not puncture or crush the can.

3:52PM PDT on Sep 9, 2010


12:59AM PDT on Sep 9, 2010


5:03AM PDT on Sep 7, 2010

I can't use this at all I took a vow not to!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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