You have probably heard that the fumes of oil painting are very toxic and dangerous. While they have more fumes than latex, it’s a bit more complicated than you think.
Not all oil paints are toxic, and the color of these paints varies depending on the pigment. Some are hazardous to inhale, while others have no odor and have no negative effects on you in person.
So the question you’re probably wondering is if you should take a risk or avoid oil painting altogether? Keep reading, and I can help you figure out more if oil paint is the route you want to go in the future. As well as how to make sure it’s safe for you.
Is Oil Paint Toxic?
It might surprise you, but not all oil paint is toxic, as the main ingredient is pigment and oil. That has always been the main ingredient, and not every pigment is toxic nor even has a smell. The toxic elements are more of the pigment or the solvents we have combined with it.
The fumes people associate with oil paint usually come from the solvents like turpentine. Some people can use that to make the pigments more fluid, but it comes with a price.
Can you buy non-toxic oil paint?
There is an alternative you can obtain that does not use toxic chemicals. Search for linseed, walnut, or safflower oil paints. They all are non-toxic alternatives to mass-produced oil paints. You can even buy the colors and mix them with oil yourself, though keep in mind that some pigments are toxic.
For Solvents, there have been new non-toxic alternatives like Citrus-peels Solvents made with, as you can guess, citrus peelings. Also, the Archival Odorless slow drying solvent is entirely odorless.
What makes oil paint toxic?
The main two culprits that make oil paint toxic are certain pigments and the solvent used with the paint. For example, lead-white, cobalt, and cadmium are all poisonous pigments used commonly in them, including latex.
They can cause health complications if you eat or breathe in the dry pigment, making oil paint spray with these pigments more dangerous than other colors.
If you take the proper precautions to lower exposure to them, you can avoid these issues. Thankfully it’s only an issue if it is wet, and thus, there are still fumes as once it dries, they are safe to be around.
While many oil paints aren’t toxic, that doesn’t mean they can’t contain some toxins. Also, be careful of the things you use when trying to clean up. For example, if trying to clean your brushes instead of turpentine, you can use ivory-based or oil cleaning soap, or even oil itself can help.
TIP: All paint and pigment must be labeled by law with a warning if they contain a toxic element, so if in doubt, check the labels for warning.
How do I handle toxic oil paint or solvent?
If you’re buying oil paint with a toxic solvent like turpentine, mineral spirit, or toxic pigment, handle it carefully. The dangers of the fumes can cause allergic reactions and poisoning if you have prolonged exposure. Some are even carcinogenic and something to keep in mind.
Some things you can do to reduce the effects:
- Keep the containers closed and sealed when not in use.
- Make sure the room’s well ventilated as you work, open windows and have fans on.
- To avoid an allergic reaction to your hand, you can wear gloves when dealing with the solvent.
- Keep yourself fully covered up and wear long sleeves.
- Use a face mask to help reduce the toxins you inhale.
- Please do not sleep or hand around in the room while it is drying once completed.
NOTE: If you start to have an allergic reaction or start feeling ill from the fumes. Call a medical professional and tell them exactly what kind of paint or solvent you were using.
How long do the toxic fumes last?
It can take as long as oil paint dries if you aren’t taking the precautions to help the process. It can take two to three days, usually for the paintings to dry and fumes to dissipate. However, if you use a fan and keep the window opened, it can help speed the process.
NOTE: Do not sleep or stay around the object while it is drying.
How do You avoid Toxic oil paint and use non-toxic?
If you’re the kind of person that can’t stand the idea of paint having any risk, you can settle for making your own or buying a specific brand. You can purchase the pigments and oils like linseed or safflower oil online or from art stores that sell them. Do be aware it does take longer to dry when using this method unless using a drying agent.
There are also alternative paints like Artisan Water Mixable Oil Color that try to eliminate the toxic elements. Instead of using a solvent, it can use water instead. Meaning you won’t have to make any extra purchases, and you can just keep water at hand. Modern advances have made it so that solvent is optional and not required for your paint projects.
How do I clean my brush if not with turpentine or other toxic solvents?
You can clean your brushes using the citrus-peel solvent as a safe alternative, but oil can help clean it off as well. To clean out the pigment, you can use any oil to clean your brushes, like safflower oil and linseed oil.
Then once there is no color on the brush, you can use soap water to get rid of the oil leftover. Also, there are oil paints that allow themselves mixed with water.
Here are the steps if using the oil cleansing method:
- First, use a rag to squeeze out any liquid from the brush.
- Dip it into the oil, making sure to swish it around till there is no pigment.
- Once finished, use soap and water to clean the oil from the brush and do not allow it to dry on it.
NOTE: Do not pour the oil down the drain once done, as it can mess up your pipeline, causing damage.
Is oil painting considered Hazardous waste?
Even if you have taken steps to make oil paint as non-toxic as possible, it is still considered a hazard to the environment. Most oil paints contain a VOC(Volatile Organic Component) which the EPA considers a hazard.
Meaning you should never flush it down your drain or toss oil paint into the trash. It’s a very flammable material when wet, and once dried, even if no longer prone to fires, it is combustible.
So there are procedures that need to be taken before you throw out your waste if you aren’t recycling it. Some organizations can help you find ways to dispose of it and guide you through the process. Suppose you have a bulk of the waste. In that case, you can combine the debris in a container and take it to your nearest hazardous waste treatment facility.
Is acrylic paint safer than oil?
In some cases, yes, Acrylic paint can be considered a safer alternative to oil paint with Solvents. As Acrylic is water-based, it doesn’t need anything besides water to clean or soften its brush. However, keep in mind that the pigment it contains can still be toxic as it can still hold heavy metals.
Is oil-based paint toxic when dry?
Though oil paint with solvent can be volatile, it no longer has fumes or toxicity when dry. It’s usually the fumes that are toxic in their wet state, thus why it is dangerous. But if you take the proper precautions, then there should be no issues.