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I'm wanting to repaint some rooms in my house but I have a pretty severe latex allergy. If the paint had latex I'd have to move out while someone else painted and couldn't return until it was completely dry. Is there a good option that is latex free? Will I need any kind of particular primer? Any other advice for this project?

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5 Answers 5

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As far as I understand it, latex allergy is a susceptibility to natural rubber latex (NRL), which is not an ingredient in household "latex" paints. Read more at the NIH

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"Latex" paint has no relationship to natural rubber

The term "latex" for modern water-based paints has nothing to do with them containing natural rubber -- they are, at heart, water-based acrylic resin dispersions that have almost nothing in common with natural rubber and most everything in common with the paints artists call "acrylic". (The reason they get called "latex" has to do with the fact they are a dispersion of already polymerized particles in water, which is the same form natural rubber takes when it's tapped from the tree. The polymers used, though, are quite different!)

For an example, this can be seen in the datasheet for Sherwin-Williams' Emerald interior latex paint line, where it mentions that that paint uses a "Styrene Acrylic" vehicle.

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    At least in the U.K., it's called emulsion paint. Apr 18 at 9:07
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    @AndrewMorton -- yeah, that's a better term but sadly seems to be specific to British English Apr 18 at 11:44
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While other answers have covered that "latex" does not mean actual rubber latex, let's talk for a minute about the other issue: allergies and paint.

There's really only two basic divisions of paint. "Latex", in terms of paint, means it breaks down in water. The other kind is more commonly called "oil-based", and it breaks down using mineral spirits.

Ironically, latex paints tend to be better for people with allergies because they contain less volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are the "stinky" part of paint. If you use oil paints, your room is likely to have a lingering chemical smell for some time. If you have allergies or asthma, these could cause you problems until the VOCs abate. Note that the darker pigments used to color paint tend to be higher in VOCs. Pure white latex paint tends to be the lowest VOC paint.

If you have severe allergies, I suggest you do some small-scale testing on your own. A popular trick paint companies have found is they sell small "sample" sizes of paint now (often 8oz jars). I would buy one and try it out on a small section of wall. If the latex paint causes you issues, you'll know it, and you won't have spent a lot to find that out (or wasted a quart or gallon).

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    Minor change - try the sample pot on something that can be removed. A piece of cardboard box would be ideal. That way it can be relocated outside if it causes problems.
    – Criggie
    Apr 18 at 23:15
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The term latex does not exclusively refer to rubber.

House paints do not contain natural rubber, but their naming is not deceptive. The term latex refers to suspensions of polymer microparticles in water, whether they come from nature or are artificially made.

Historically it has been used for several centuries to refer to the milky liquids that can be obtained from many flowering plants, not only that of rubber trees.

So house paint is a kind of latex, since it is a suspension of polymer particles (acrylic resins) in water. Those acrylic resins are unrelated to the natural rubber that is the basis of latex allergies.

Natural rubber is called latex because it comes from the latex liquid collected from rubber trees. Rubber is not actually latex; it is only a synecdoche: the name of the original liquid subtance is being used to refer to just the part we care about that we extracted from it.

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Milk paint.

Whitewash.

Polyurethane paint.

Epoxy paint.

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    While accurate this is probably not useful
    – Jasen
    Apr 17 at 3:51
  • @Jasen How is that not useful? You google it, you buy it. Apr 18 at 9:09
  • The other answers state that latex paint does not contain latex. This answer is still correct: these other types of paint do not contain latex either.
    – MSalters
    Apr 19 at 12:40

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