Acrylic paints are widely used in art classes and children’s painting activities. Is it safe to use them at home?
Acrylic paints are water-based paints that dry quickly. They come in a variety of colors and can be mixed to create new hues.
Paints contain chemicals called solvents that evaporate during the drying process.
These chemicals are released into the air and can cause health problems if inhaled or ingested. But how toxic are they?
They are mostly water-based after all, and solvents seem to be the only chemicals.
This article takes a closer look at acrylic paint, including what you need to know about its toxicity.
What Are Acrylic Paints?
Acrylic paints have been around for many years, and they use water as their base.
Today, there are several different types of acrylic paints available.
Some are designed specifically for kids while others are suitable for adults who want to do some creative projects at home.
There are also specialty acrylics that are meant to be applied over other materials such as canvas, wood, metal, glass, etc.
These paints are usually more expensive than regular acrylics but they last longer and provide better coverage.
Then there are more standard acrylics used for general painting. You will find these paints in cans or jars.
Water-based paints are easy to apply because they flow easily off your brush. They are also easier to clean up when you’re done using them.
Because they are thinner, they tend to run faster than oil-based paints.
What Are Acrylic Paints Made Of?
Most acrylic paints are made from polymers (long chains of molecules) that have been combined with pigments (colors).
The polymer is dissolved in an organic solvent like acetone or alcohol. Pigment particles are suspended in the solution by agitation.
When the mixture dries, the pigment settles on the surface of the canvas or paper.
The type of polymer and solvent used to determine the characteristics of the finished product.
For example, acrylics based on polyvinyl acetate have a smooth finish and are more durable than those made from vinyl chloride.
Acrylics containing polyethylene glycol as the solvent are less likely to bleed when applied to porous surfaces such as wood.
How Do You Use Acrylic Paints?
You can buy ready-to-use acrylic paints in tubes or cans. Or you can mix your colors using premixed formulas.
Most artists choose to mix their colors because this gives them greater control over color intensity and hue.
When mixing your colors, follow these steps:
- Measure out one part paint to three parts solvent.
- Mix well with a brush or palette knife.
- Add additional solvent until the desired consistency is achieved.
- Store the paint in a container with a tight lid.
- Keep the paint away from heat and direct sunlight.
- Avoid breathing fumes while working with acrylic paints.
- Wash hands immediately after handling acrylic paints.
- Wear gloves when applying acrylic paint, and if you accidentally get paint on clothing, wash the area thoroughly with soap and warm water.
Does This Mean Acrylic Paint Is Toxic?
No! Acrylic paints are much safer than most other types of paint. They don’t release harmful vapors, and they’re not flammable.
However, some people may still be concerned about potential health risks associated with acrylic paints.
Potential Health Risks Associated With Acrylic Paints
Although acrylic paint is generally considered harmless due to its water base, some concerns should be addressed.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Certain acrylic paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs include benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, ethylbenzene, styrene, and trichloroethane, but that’s not to say all of these will be in your paint.
- Some acrylic paints may contain lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, copper, zinc, barium, arsenic, antimony, thallium, selenium, mercury, and aluminum. These metals may pose serious health problems for children who ingest them.
- Acrylic paint contains solvents that can irritate eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and skin. If you work with acrylic paints regularly, wear protective eyewear, use ventilation fans, and limit exposure to the fumes.
Presence Of Toxins In Acrylic Paint
Acrylic paints are safe to use but make sure you check the label carefully.
Always buy non-toxic ones and make sure they have an ASTM warning.
This guarantees you that there are no harmful chemicals and means you can use the paint safely.
Acrylic paints can contain harmful chemicals like propylene glycol, which is toxic to the environment but not harmful to people.
So, you must pay attention to how you dispose of the paints.
Although this all sounds quite scary, the important thing to remember is that, as a water-based paint, acrylic paint is almost entirely safe to use, especially with a paintbrush.
The only time it becomes harmful is when it is ingested in high quantities.
In light of this, it’s important to take extra precautions when using acrylic paints for airbrush work, or while sanding, as the dust particles can be breathed in, causing serious harm.
Safety When Using Acrylic Paints
Some acrylic paints contain toxic chemicals that can be released into the air when you’re painting.
To prevent yourself from inhaling these chemicals, make sure you always work in ventilated areas.
Wash your hands frequently while painting to avoid accidentally inhaling or ingesting the paint, and actively seek out safer acrylics if you want to protect yourself and those around you.
It is also recommended to wear a breathing mask and use other special equipment if you are working inside for a long time with acrylics, especially if you’re airbrushing or sanding.
What Is Acrylic Paint Used For?
There are many ways to use acrylic paint.
You can apply it directly onto paper or canvas using brushes, sponges, or spray cans.
Or you can mix it with mediums such as gesso, oils, or watercolor to create new colors. The possibilities are endless!
As we have mentioned, it can be used on a variety of things from walls to furniture. It’s great for kids’ art projects and craft projects too.
We hope this article has helped clear up any misconceptions regarding acrylic paint.
We highly recommend checking out all kinds of acrylic paints and having a go with them yourself since they can make any project look incredible!
Just remember to paint in a well-ventilated area and wash your hands before and after using the paint.
Acrylic is not toxic in itself, and as long as you take precautionary measures, you should be just fine.