What Are VOCs And How To Reduce Them In Your Home

When wanting to live a more sustainable and natural life, it is really important to know about the products you use and what chemicals are in them. By knowing what you are bringing into your home, you can be aware of the effects they have on your health and the planet.

Today, we are going to be talking about VOCs. VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, and you may have them in your home without realizing it. So, what are VOCs, and why are they so bad?

What Are VOCs?

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) refer to a group of chemicals that are found in many household items. They are commonly used in paint to help in the application of the paint to the walls. However, you may find VOCs elsewhere. For example, VOCs are also used in cleaning products and air fresheners.


VOCs are emitted in a gas form from the products and are circulated into the air we breathe. When VOCs are in paint, a lot of them will be released as the paint dries. However, not all of them are and this means that they will be released into your home over a few years after you have used the paint.

What Is An Example Of VOC?

VOC is a general term that refers to a large group of chemicals. By knowing the names of the different VOCs, you will be able to learn how to avoid them.

Examples of VOCs include:

  • Benzene
  • Methylene chloride
  • Formaldehyde
  • Toluene
  • Acetone
  • Ethylene glycol

Now, you may recognize some of these chemicals on the list. Acetone, for example, is a really common VOC that is used by many people as a nail polish remover.

It is useful to understand that there is a distinction between VOCs in many countries around the world. Some VOCs have restrictions on their use. However, other VOCs do not. These are called VOC exempt solvents, and they do not have restrictions as they do not affect the ozone. However, a lot of these products still have health risks when using them.

What Are Some Products That Have VOCs?

So, what are some products that you may use that have VOCs in them?

DIY and home products that have VOCs in include:

  • Paint
  • Varnishes
  • Adhesives
  • Carpet and flooring
  • Upholstery

You will also find VOCs in home and care items, including:

  • Air fresheners
  • Cleaning Products
  • Cosmetics
  • Pesticides
  • Perfumes

VOCs are also found in fuels, and this means they are emitted when using your car or other gas-powered items.

Why Are VOCs Harmful?

VOCs are quite common when it comes to household products. But, why are they so harmful? Let’s talk about the health and environmental effects of using VOCs.

Health Effects Of VOCs

VOCs can cause serious health effects when you are exposed to them. VOCs are emitted as gasses, meaning that they can be inhaled and therefore affect your body. According to the American Lung Association, many VOC chemicals are known to be carcinogenic, which means that they have the potential to cause cancer.

Chronic exposure to VOCs can also cause liver and kidney damage in the long term. There are also short-term effects of VOCs, such as headaches and nausea. If you have asthma, exposure to VOCs can worsen your symptoms.

Environmental Effects Of VOCs

VOCs are also bad for the planet, too. When released into the environment, VOCs react with nitrogen oxide to create tropospheric ozone, which is often referred to as ground-level smog. This can cause issues with our breathing and add to air pollution.

The ozone smog that VOCs create causes particulate pollution in the air. This type of pollution can really affect the plants and trees on earth. They cause fertilization problems, growth issues, and can cause illness and disease. VOCs are also contributing to global warming.

Another effect that VOCs have on the environment is acid rain. Acid rain is caused by an increase in chemicals in the environment, forming large compounds in the air. When acid rain falls, it can have really serious effects on the planet.

It can indirectly kill aquatic wildlife and the plants that they eat. Acid rain also affects plants and trees, washing away and harming the nutrients in the soils that they need to survive.

How Are VOCs Best Reduced?

Because of their harmful effects on our health and the environment, it is necessary to be aware of the VOCs you bring into your home and what you can do to reduce VOCs.

Let’s look at the different ways you can reduce VOCs in your home.

Be Mindful When Buying Paint

When it comes to the home, paint is a common source of VOCs. These chemicals are pretty necessary for paint as they allow the paint to stick to the walls. However, you can look for paint that has a low amount of VOCs in. There are also ranges of paint that have no VOC in.

how to reduce vocs

If you are wanting to redecorate, have a look online at the no-VOC and low-VOC ranges of paint. These may be a bit more expensive than usual paint, but it is totally worth spending a bit extra to protect your health and the planet!

If you are buying paint that does have VOCs in, try to only buy the amount of paint that you will use. This is because unused products can leak the VOCs into the air, even if you have them covered and contained.

Look At The Products In Your Home

If you have opened paint and decorating products in your home, they may be emitting VOCs into the environment.

Make sure you are storing your products safely and in a space where people do not go in often, such as a storage shed or garage. If you can dispose of them safely, do so. Research about how to dispose of hazardous chemicals in the state or country you live in and follow the guidelines.

Buy Secondhand Furniture

We love recycling and upcycling here at Sustainability Sundays. Opting for secondhand furniture is a great sustainable lifestyle choice, but it can also be great for your health.

A lot of furniture can contain VOCs, from mattresses and cushions to wooden chair frames. These chemicals are used to manufacture the items and stick them together.

When you buy new furniture, there is a good chance that VOCs are in them. Over the first few years of use, these chemicals will seep into the air from the furniture.

After this, there is less of a chance for VOCs to be emitted from the product. So, a great way of reducing the VOCs in your home is to buy secondhand furniture. This is good for the planet, good for your wallet, and also good for your health!

Also check out our article about sustainable interior design ideas, to learn more about how to make your home more sustainable.

Change Your Cleaning Products

VOCs are also commonly found in cleaning products. Of course, everyone loves a clean home, but are you actually doing more damage than good with the products you are using?

Check the cleaning products you have and if they are toxic, change to no-VOC, non-toxic products. These are much better for the environment and your health.

Air fresheners can also have VOCs, so ditch them for a more sustainable alternative.

If You Are Using Products With VOCs, Make Sure To Ventilate Your Home

Sometimes, we can’t help but use a product with VOCs. Perhaps you have already bought the paint that you are wanting to use on your walls, or you need to do a deep clean of your home with the products you already have.

If so, it is important to really ventilate your home. Open all your windows and increase the natural air in your house.

Ready To Reduce VOC In Your Home?

It can be scary to learn about the chemicals that are in your home. However, by knowing what they are and what you can do to combat them, you can help the planet and your health.

VOCs are super common, but their effects can be extreme. It is time for you to make the changes to reduce the VOCs in your home.