Lifting the Lid on our Nursery Friendly, Low VOC Paint

Oasis Oval Cot

In this Boori Nest blog post, we’re going to be lifting the lid on Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), the presence of VOCs in paint, and we’ll also introduce you to the baby safe paint we use on our nursery furniture.

What are VOC's?

VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. These are chemicals in the air that we breathe which are released from a variety of everyday household and personal care items. The VOCs we consume in our day-to-day lives are usually responsible for the odour and scent of things. You will find VOCs in items such as perfume, air fresheners, foods, and drinks – all of which are harmless. But there are some VOCs out in the world that aren’t - this is why you might find the concept of VOCs negative or scary.

So, what does this mean?

  • VOCs are chemicals that are either gaseous or emit vapours. Pretty much all liquids could be described as VOCs, and VOCs are most often solvents.
  • A harmful VOC is defined by the chemical that is used and the gasses that get emitted from them, and not the type of product (e.g., air freshener)

We don’t want to get too science-y here, but we feel it’s important to be specific, so stay with us.

V (Volatile): in this context, “Volatile” or “volatility” is the ability of a substance to evaporate and become airborne. The Paint Directive also defines this as meaning any organic compound having an initial boiling point less than or equal to 250 degrees centigrade measured at a standard atmospheric pressure.

O (Organic): Organic, in the context of chemistry, relates to molecules which contain Carbon and Hydrogen (and small parts of other elements such as Nitrogen, Oxygen, Sulfur and Chlorine).   

C (Compounds): A compound in this context can mean chemical, material or substance

What are harmful VOCs?

There are hundreds of harmful VOCs floating around and so naming them all here might send you into a deep sleep! Instead, we’re going to introduce you to some of the more common harmful VOCs by their source: 


A solvent is a substance which can dissolve another. For example, seawater is a solvent as it is salt dissolved in water.

  • Toluene and Xylene – chemical solvents that can be found in many paints and varnishes
  • Acetone – often found in nail polish remover
  • Butane –  often used as a solvent in aerosols
  • Ethanol – perfumes and fragrances may use this

Household products

  • Butanal – forms in smoke from burning, such as candles
  • Formaldehyde –  used in the manufacture of resins and adhesives

Avoiding these harmful VOCs

These harmful VOCs are present in many every day and household items, and so it is hard to get away from them completely. Instead, look for products that are “Zero VOC”, “Ultra-Low VOC” or “Low VOC” as they will have been made with alternative ingredients to keep your exposure to these harmful pollutants low. If you can’t avoid the VOCs of certain products – for example deodorant or disposable BBQs – take care when using them.

The impact of VOC exposure over time

Yes, VOCs can be harmful to you and your health (depending on how you were exposed to them, what you were exposed to and for how long for), but most VOCs are present well below the level likely to cause an impact on health. In fact, most of the legislation surrounding the use and minimisation of VOCs is about reducing the environmental impact, rather than impact to personal health.

What is Zero VOC, Ultra-Low VOC and Low VOC Paint?

Put simply, Zero VOC, Ultra-Low VOC and Low VOC paint all contain less of those ugly, unpleasant, and nasty Volatile Organic Compounds we just mentioned. Paint with high VOCs have an oil or solvent (e.g., petrol) base, but Zero VOC, Ultra-Low VOC and Low VOC paint is predominantly water based.

So, what is the difference between Zero VOC, Ultra-Low VOC and Low VOC paint?

Nothing. Bet you weren’t expecting that answer! There is no UK or EU regulation that states there are different VOC levels or parameters such as Zero VOC, Ultra-Low VOC and Low VOC for paint manufacturers to adhere to. It's just a marketing term for brands to differentiate their products; after all, if you’re concerned about VOC levels and you had the choice of buying Zero VOC or Ultra-Low VOC, it’s a no-brainer on what you’re going to choose if you don’t know otherwise.

Getting specific: Boori’s nursery and Baby friendly paint

Now we’ve formally introduced you to VOCs and the different levels of VOC in paint, we’re going to get specific on the Low VOC paint that we use at Boori.

Sleigh style white cot

Our low VOC paints are tested to several standards, which are:

  • BG/T 19001-2016 / ISO 9001:2015
  • BG/T 24001-2016 / ISO 14001:2015
  • HJ2537-2014

Our paint contains:


Content (%)


Polymer water emulsions


Polymers dissolved in water = what makes paint thick

Non-volatile solvents


To keep everything else dissolved



There to stop the paint from foaming during use/application

Dispersing agent


Helps things to stay mixed



Stops paint from going mouldy



Gives you thick paint, rather than really watery stuff!

Matting agent


Gives you a matted paint finish, instead of a shiny gloss



The white colour in paint



The water base of the paint.

Why we use Low VOC paint on our nursery furniture

Now you know everything about Low VOC paint, we like to think the answer to this question is a no-brainer, really, but just so we’re clear:

We care deeply about the environment and all our Boori families - using Low VOC paint on our nursery furniture is just one of the ways we show our commitment to both.

A note on Boori’s Greenguard GOLD certification

Green guard certification logo

We were the first nursery brand in the UK to achieve Greenguard’s prestigious GOLD certification for our paint finishes. However, as we have a large, global furniture range, it became logistically impractical to continue submit every single product we create through the Greenguard testing process. This doesn’t change the commitment we’ve always had to sustainability, and we continue to favour materials that not only protect the planet but remain nursery friendly too. It is also worth noting that, although we are no longer considered as certified, the paints we use have not changed since. We are confident that our products would still meet this accolade if they were tested again tomorrow.

And finally, let’s talk about indoor air quality

Everything we have discussed leads us to here, indoor air quality. Afterall, when it is estimated the UK population spends an average of 60% of their time inside the home, you can see why. But why exactly is it so important in this context?

With less air circulating in your home than outdoors, there is less air for the VOCs to travel and disperse, meaning that you’re breathing more of them in. This is why it’s important to minimise the VOC levels of the products you use and consume where possible, and ensure you get the right level of ventilation in your home when in use.

Ultimately the risk of harm by VOCs within your home is based on your level of exposure to the products, the type of VOC you’ve been exposed to, the duration of exposure and any particular hazards. We test the VOC levels in the paint that we use to ensure they are at a safe level for our families to use within their homes.

Grey sleigh style cot

We hope we’ve been able to answer your questions on Low VOC paint and the baby friendly paint used on our furniture, but if you have any further questions, then don’t hesitate to email us at

Further reading

If you are interested in further reading on VOC's, please see the below links:

The Paint Directive

Public Health England on Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for selected VOCs

DEFRA Non-methane VOCs in the UK

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