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Eco Friendly Cabinet Painting: Tips for a Greener Kitchen Renovation

Remodeling your kitchen can be an environmentally problematic DIY project. A full remodel will send old cabinets, countertops, wall tiles, appliances, and other construction waste to your local landfill. But there’s an alternative! You can give your kitchen an updated look with a simple eco friendly cabinet paint project.

Read on to learn how you can give your kitchen a paint makeover in a way that won’t leave you worrying about unnecessary waste and other environmentally unfriendly consequences.

Eco Friendly Cabinet Paint

Eco Friendly Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

Of course, one of the important decisions you’ll make about repainting your kitchen cabinets is the color you’ll use. But along with that, you should give careful consideration to the type of paint you choose for your project.

There are a number of eco friendly cabinet paint options, one of which is sure to be compatible with your repainting project.

VOC-free paint

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are an environmentally problematic component of many paint products. Briefly, VOCs are gasses, many of which can have adverse health effects. Cleaning supplies, building materials, and other household products can contain VOCs.

So, anytime you can reduce the presence of VOCs in your home, you should do it.

By searching online or visiting your local home improvement store, you should be able to find a VOC-free paint option. If you can’t find a VOC-free paint to suit your needs, there are also low-VOC paint products on the market.

Water-based paint

Among the low-VOC options you’ll find for your eco friendly cabinet paint project are water-based paints. Water-based paints are also a low-odor option, and they don’t have to be treated as hazardous waste for disposal.

Milk paint

Milk paint is another low- to no-VOC option for your eco friendly cabinet paint project. Made of casein, an organic protein product, along with lime and clay, milk paint is sold as a powder and mixed with water for application.

Chalk paint

Chalk paint is a low-VOC paint that has the added advantage of not requiring any surface preparation before being applied. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to paint your kitchen cabinets, give chalk paint a serious look.

You should know, though, that chalk paint will leave your cabinets with a matte finish. Also, you’ll need to find an environmentally friendly paint sealant to ensure that chalk paint will last on your kitchen cabinets.

Eco friendly cabinet paint colors

To make an eco-friendly choice for painting kitchen cabinets, consider colors that will stand the test of time. For instance, white is a perennially popular color that will lend itself to a variety of decorating styles.

Beyond white, there’s greige (a combination of gray and beige), a neutral color that can work serious magic. Greige can make a small kitchen seem larger, or it can make a large kitchen seem more intimate.

Finally, you might want to consider green as an option. An emerging favorite as a kitchen color, green comes in a variety of nature-mimicking shades reflecting an environmental aesthetic.

Eco Friendly Cabinet Paint

Options for Eco Friendly Cabinet Painting Preparation

In redoing your kitchen cabinets, you’ll not only be applying new paint. Your project will also include the removal of existing paint. While paint removal can involve toxic materials, there are also ways to prepare your cabinets for new paint in an environmentally sensitive way.

Soy gel paint removers

One of the most environmentally responsible options for getting old paint off your kitchen cabinets is a soy gel paint remover. You may have to search a bit to find it, but it is available at many hardware stores and other outlets.

The active ingredient in soy gel paint remover is methyl soyate, derived from soybean oil. Soy gel paint removers are low in VOCs and also have a low risk of flammability.

Soy gel paint removers work quickly and can remove multiple layers of paint in a single application.

Citrus-based paint removers

There are lots of options for environmentally friendly citrus-based paint removers. All of them contain terpenes, the organic compounds responsible for the distinctive odors and flavors of citrus and other plants, like mint and lavender.

Citrus-based paint removers work more slowly than chemically-based removers, but they are nonetheless used by many professional painters. They also are biodegradable, which further lessens their environmental impact.


Sure, it’s labor-intensive, but one way to reduce adverse environmental effects from your kitchen DIY project is to sand away the old paint. In fact, before applying any other type of paint remover, try sandpapering a section of your cabinetry.

If the paint comes off easily enough, and if you’re not faced with a too-large amount of cabinet surface, sanding is a reasonable way to go.

More Tips for Eco Friendly Cabinet Paint Work

An effective way to ensure your eco friendly cabinet paint work remains eco-friendly is to keep it in good shape. Maintaining your redone kitchen cabinets means you won’t be repeatedly upgrading them.

Add a protective finish

To prolong the life of your new kitchen cabinet paint, an environmentally friendly sealant can’t be beaten. You may not be able to find an ecologically sensitive sealant for all types of paint, but it’s worth looking around.

For example, if you’ve opted for chalk paint for your project, you can try Country Chic® clear coating.

Keep cabinets clean

Even with a protective finish over the paint, your kitchen cabinets are going to get dirty over time, both through use and incidental contact with grease, cooking sprays, and other contaminants.

Fortunately, there’s an easy, eco-friendly way to keep them clean without using potentially problematic commercial sprays or other cleaners. Simply prepare a half-and-half mix of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray it on your cabinets, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and wipe with a soft cloth.

If that doesn’t work as well as you’d like, try adding a bit of environmentally friendly dish detergent to the spray bottle.

Eco Friendly Cabinet Paint

Wrapping up Eco Friendly Kitchen Cabinet Painting

Now that you’ve learned about eco friendly cabinet paint options, you’re ready to take on this responsible route to a freshened-up kitchen.

For more on redoing your kitchen, check out the DIY Painting Tips posts on painting backsplash tile and organizing kitchen cabinets.