A lot of options have emerged for paints which are also safer and protective. Water-based emulsions, an eco-friendly, non-toxic and odourless alternative to solvent-based paints, have gained popularity over the years as being cleaner and healthier. And more and more people are opting for them, especially for homes.
With advances in technology, their applications have diversified to coating and polishing a wide range of surfaces, including wood and metal. The latest is the clear-coating paint that gives a transparent effect and helps enhance the natural colour of the surface. The clear-coating varnish adds that extra gloss to the table or antique sofa. “Water-based paints are basically latex or acrylic paints which use water, instead of oil or solvents, as a medium. Their biggest advantage is that they are environment-friendly, odourless and non-toxic. So it is good for workers and people who regularly use products coated with paint. When it comes to things such as door and furniture that we regularly handle, the health aspect is especially relevant,” says the managing partner of Santha Paint House in Thiruvananthapuram. The transparent varnishes are now used widely on masonry and wood surfaces. “Earlier, we only had opaque, coloured water-based emulsions, which were basically used for exterior and interior wall painting. But now with the advent of clear-coat paints, they can be used as varnish to polish surfaces too,” he says. Although earlier, water-based paints were considered to have lesser qualities in terms of application, durability and finish, research in this field has overcome most disadvantages. Various brands now offer emulsions with varying qualities, such as water-proof paints, anti-heat and -cold paints and anti-fungal and -algal and stain-resistant products. They come in matt, satin and silk finishes. Opaque water-based paints are also available in a wide range of colours.
“Now, there is no qualitative reduction in water-based paints when compared with solvent-based paints. They are as washable and durable as normal solvent-based paints. They are suitable for our climate. Some people think that because it is water-based, it may not be suitable for our rainy climate, but this is not true. Most of these brands are, in fact, longer lasting than solvent-based paints.” They have better elasticity than solvent-based paints, and can attain up to 80 degrees of gloss compared to 90 degrees of the latter. The adhesive and quick-drying properties and ultraviolet resistance are excellent. They achieve better coverage in fewer coats. “Most European countries and the U.S. have banned the use of paints based on volatile organic compounds (VOC) for domestic and other non-industrial settings,'' an architect points out. The disadvantage is the high cost. While clear-coat paints cost Rs.700-1,000 a litre, coloured paints can cost Rs.100-Rs.350.
“The cost aspect is bound to reduce as this range of paints becomes popular. Also, unlike solvent-based paints, you need not spend money on buying thinners, as the thinner used in this case is water itself. Varying amounts of water, 5-20 percent, is used for thinning water-based paints brought out by different brands,” says the partner of Santha Paint House. Water-based paints and varnishes of leading Indian and international brands, such as Berger, Asian Paints, Akzo Nobel, MRF, Jotun and Nippon, are now available.