Non Toxic Oil Painting?
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    Non Toxic Oil Painting?

    Can you help me paint the non toxic oil way? I just want to make sure I'm getting the right items. I'm using rembrandt oil paints, and from what I understand so long as the oil paint has AP on it, it's nontoxic. Its look as long as I avoid cadmiums and cobalts I should be fine. Actually, I'm not even using a cadium red and I find the reds I am using right now are just as colorful!

    The confusing part was when it came to zinc and titanium white. The zinc white in the rembrandts say they are nontoxic. The titanium tube I was looking at today at the art supply store is so toxic, it has a picture of a dead fish on the back!

    But, the confusing part was when I looked at other brands.

    According to Winton, the zinc was toxic and the titanium was nontoxic. Is this because the two whites are different per brand? Should I trust the labeling per brand?

    What about my thinner? Right now I'm using Grumtine. But that's still toxic apparently so I don't think any of that should be going down my drain. What about Turpenoid Natural? I've heard the stuff is gunky, soapy and can't be used while painting. What do you think?

    I've been using Liquin mediums. But that's still toxic, so I guess I don't want any of that going down the drain either when I clean my brushes. I've heard there is a walnut based alkyd medium that is supposed to be nontoxic? Has anyone used it?



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    You are doing more harm to yourself worrying about this than the stuff in the paint is doing. Walking down the street is putting more toxins in your body than mixing a touch of liquin to a blob of colbalt.
    As long as you don't cut your sandwiches with the palette knife you have been using to grind Kremnitz with you'll be fine.

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    Whites: Lead occurs in minute amounts as a natural contaminant in titanium ore (we're talking absolutely minute amounts, a few parts per million). These amounts are so small that titanium white is universally considered nontoxic, to the point that it is approved as a food additive, and is a primary ingredient in many makeups and sunscreens. However, California law requires the labeling of some products that contain any detectable amount a hazardous substance, and several years ago it was decided that this should apply to art supplies. So many paints that had previously been labeled nontoxic suddenly started sporting big scary warning labels; the products themselves hadn't changed, only the application of the regulations. Furthermore, some brands now have different labeling for paint that's sold in California, some don't.
    Short answer: don't worry.

    Solvents: Grumtine is a citrus based thinner (d-Limonene), which many people find even more irritating than turpentine. Turpenoid Natural also contains limonene, as well as linseed oil, surfactants, and who knows what else. It can cause all sorts of problems when mixed with paint because of its very high solvent action and slow drying time. If you want to reduce solvent exposure the best bet is highly refined odorless mineral spirits like (original) Turpenoid or Gamsol. Regardless of what you use, NO solvents should EVER be poured down the drain. If you want to eliminate solvents entirely, you can rinse your brushes out with vegetable oil and then clean with soap and water.

    And Chris is right, you probably expose yourself and the environment to more potential harm every time you clean your bathroom than you do painting.


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    The whites sometimes say toxic/lead because they have an infinitly small trace
    of lead in them. Of the lead you are exposed to all the time, this is very low on the scale. You also have to eat a whole bunch of it or smear it into an open wound to get any in you at all.

    Edit: I see Elwell beat me to it!

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    You shouldn't be pouring anything associated with oil paint down the drain, ideally. Collect all the waste and extra drippings in a metal bucket and take it to your local hazardous waste disposal site once a month or something.

    I've heard good things about Gamsol? But they're all toxic — if you drink or eat them. Just keep your lids on, try not to paint with your fingers, and don't sniff the jars and you should be fine.

    The paint should definitely be fine to use, no matter how toxic the materials.

    In the immortal words of Elwell: "Where does this notion that painting with oils is somehow equivalent to working with nuclear waste come from?"

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    Nontoxic oils??, like coffee without caffeine, huh

    M

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    I use Turpenoid Natural for cleaning brushes, but never for mixing with paint (and if I clean a brush with Turpenoid while painting, I rinse it in water before dipping it in paint again - this seems to keep the Turpenoid from mucking up the paint.) If you're just using it for cleaning, it works fine, but it's way too powerful to thin paint. I use plain old linseed oil if I need to thin paint, and the only warning that has on it is basically "keep away from fire"...

    I used to get headaches using turpentine, but I've never had any problems with the Turpenoid Natural. It does smell strongly of citrus, though, some people might find that annoying.

    I don't think you need to worry about toxic paint unless you actually eat it or put lots of it on your skin for extended periods.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bennett View Post
    You are doing more harm to yourself worrying about this than the stuff in the paint is doing. Walking down the street is putting more toxins in your body than mixing a touch of liquin to a blob of colbalt.
    As long as you don't cut your sandwiches with the palette knife you have been using to grind Kremnitz with you'll be fine.

    I'm more concerned about what's going down the drain! I just switched over to biodegradable dishwashing soap. But getting all of my products and things environmentally friendly is turning out to be hard! I don't want to give up on oil paints though, it's my favorite medium. I just don't know how to use it in a way that doesn't dump weird stuff in the water system.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RyerOrdStar View Post
    You shouldn't be pouring anything associated with oil paint down the drain, ideally. Collect all the waste and extra drippings in a metal bucket and take it to your local hazardous waste disposal site once a month or something.

    I've heard good things about Gamsol? But they're all toxic if you drink or eat them. Just keep your lids on, try not to paint with your fingers, and don't sniff the jars and you should be fine.

    The paint should definitely be fine to use, no matter how toxic the materials.

    In the immortal words of Elwell: "Where does this notion that painting with oils is somehow equivalent to working with nuclear waste come from?"
    What about when I'm rinsing my brushes? I use soap and water! Something is going down the drain! o_o

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    Keep a jar of oil (vegetable, or I know someone who uses baby oil because it's cheaper than linseed) with a sediment trap. Get as much off your brush as you can. Obviously we can't prevent EVERYTHING from going down the drain, but you should be able to get most of it off in the oil.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Regardless of what you use, NO solvents should EVER be poured down the drain.
    Exactly - never pour solvent or dirty turp down the drain - even if it says non-toxic. Oil brushes also never need to be washed with soap and water. The best way to handle your turp is to pour dirty turp into an airtight container (spaghetti jar, pickle jar, etc.), let it sit in your studio/garage a month or so - all the suspended paint settles out and you can pour it back into your brush cleaner. Have a couple empty ones handy and just keep rotating. Wear dishwashing gloves when cleaning the sludge out of your brushcleaner because it is pretty nasty. Gamsol is about the best turp out there these days - those others behave in odd ways.

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    I've been washing brushes with just soap for a few months now, if anything they feel better than when I was using turps / oms to clean them.
    Springier? Is that a word? Probably just because it takes a bit more time and I have to be a tad more thorough..Either way, it works and it's an option.

    I love the smell of real turp but I paint in the house and the missus is a bit sensitive to solvents so I've been cutting them out, the only thing I really need them for is toning a canvas or cleaning varnish brushes so no biggie.

    I've just been using linseed to loosen the paint a bit.

    Like others said though, something is going down the drain. You can minimise it, but it's there. It's mostly dirt and vegetable oil though.

    It's still less overall environmental badness than when you bought that new computer.

    Last edited by Flake; March 23rd, 2010 at 08:36 PM.
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    i haven't washed a brush in years

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    Quote Originally Posted by RyerOrdStar View Post
    Keep a jar of oil (vegetable, or I know someone who uses baby oil because it's cheaper than linseed) with a sediment trap. Get as much off your brush as you can. Obviously we can't prevent EVERYTHING from going down the drain, but you should be able to get most of it off in the oil.

    o.o Vegetable oil? Like cooking vegetable oil?


    And I agree with flake! Ever since I started using soap and water, it's like my brushes are always new!

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    Sorry guys, but you're oversimplifying things.

    You should actually be worried about your art supplies, but not so worried that you don't use them. Just make sure to take the necessary precautions. My old and very experienced painting instructor has seen many of his students die from cancer because they didn't use basic painting safety. Lung cancer, even nasty and rare hand cancers from working with milliput.

    Remember, you are constantly exposing yourself to these chemicals, even in small amounts, it's still a constant exposure. You need to give your body as much leeway as you can to correct any problems caused by the exposures.

    You also just have to look back on history to see how many health problems were caused by not respecting your paints.

    So make sure you paint in well ventilated areas, and to be frank, fans are cheap and if you need to paint outdoors, have two fans, one blowing air into the room, one blowing air out a window. Use general caution when handling things, follow directions, but otherwise once you get those basic precautions out of the way don't be afraid to use what you've got.

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    Technically you don't need to wash brushes with soap an water, or anything for that matter. Simply suspend your brushes in about an inch of oil and they never dry out, and you never have to wash a brush again.

    You can use an old coffee can, or something that has a soft plastic lid that will grip the handle of the brush. You poke some holes in the lid and the just push the handles through and suspend the brushes bristle down in the oil. (Tip from Virgil Elliot, also go buy his book Traditional Oil Painting. it's awesome!)

    Walnut oil is slow drying and probably one of the best to use, but expensive. But go with whatever makes you happy.

    Also the brand Soho makes this thing called a brush carousel, that is practically made for this method.

    And no matter what the solvent is you shouldn't have an open container of it around your studio anyway. Even so called safe solvents evaporate and can cause you harm if you sit and breathe it in while you paint.

    The best thing to do it to not use solvents if you can. Just use oils for your medium. Or, get a small air tight container that you only open to use the solvent when you need it, and then close it when you are done.

    And I would highly recommend that anyone still washing their brushes out by rubbing it in your palm, stop, and find a different method. I found (when I still washed brushes) that an empty Masters Brush Cleaner plastic jar worked well, since it has a smoothly rounded bottom. That way your not opening your pores with heat and moisture from the water, and grinding the pigments into your skin.

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    Oil soaked brushes, especially bristle brushes, have a very different feel than ones that have been washed and dried. Clean, dry bristle brushes have a "snap" that ones that have been cleaned with just oil lack. For some people this matters a lot, for some not at all, but it is something to be aware of.


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    I've been doing solvent-less painting this entire semester, and so far my paintings have turned out just as good as the ones I used Gamsol or Liquin like mediums with. I use walnut oil to clean off my brushes or when switching colors and a little bit of walnut alkyd medium as my painting medium. I like walnut alkyd because it speeds up drying, although not everybody is going to want that.

    Also the toxic stuff in your paint like cadmiums aren't really a big deal as long as you don't eat/snort/body paint with them. I think the majority of toxic stuff with oil painting is the solvent or mediums, but even then it's not a big deal as long as you don't leave your containers open while painting. I haven't really noticed that much of a difference painting without solvents, and its nice to be able to paint in my cozy, poorly ventilated room without having to worry about breathing in any toxic fumes. Maybe you might like it as well?

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    just dont eat your paint or rub it into open wounds and you should be good.

    solvents are another matter.

    elwell: my brushes basically live in linseed oil and they feel plenty snappy to me. I feel no difference from when i used to wash my brushes with soap. i should add i only use bristle brushes i dont know how other kinds behave.

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    well, if you want to use absolutely natural paints- you better create them on your own.
    All Middle Ages painters created paints, there are spceial ingredients like pigment, eggs, leaves, etc, etc, you can find it all on the web.
    But usual oil paint is not toxic....this is for sure...as long as you don't put there wall paints, lol)))))

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    Talking Walnut oil expensive?

    Quote Originally Posted by a.k.a.Brady View Post
    Technically you don't need to wash brushes with soap an water, or anything for that matter. Simply suspend your brushes in about an inch of oil and they never dry out, and you never have to wash a brush again.

    You can use an old coffee can, or something that has a soft plastic lid that will grip the handle of the brush. You poke some holes in the lid and the just push the handles through and suspend the brushes bristle down in the oil. (Tip from Virgil Elliot, also go buy his book Traditional Oil Painting. it's awesome!)

    Walnut oil is slow drying and probably one of the best to use, but expensive. But go with whatever makes you happy.

    Also the brand Soho makes this thing called a brush carousel, that is practically made for this method.

    And no matter what the solvent is you shouldn't have an open container of it around your studio anyway. Even so called safe solvents evaporate and can cause you harm if you sit and breathe it in while you paint.

    The best thing to do it to not use solvents if you can. Just use oils for your medium. Or, get a small air tight container that you only open to use the solvent when you need it, and then close it when you are done.

    And I would highly recommend that anyone still washing their brushes out by rubbing it in your palm, stop, and find a different method. I found (when I still washed brushes) that an empty Masters Brush Cleaner plastic jar worked well, since it has a smoothly rounded bottom. That way your not opening your pores with heat and moisture from the water, and grinding the pigments into your skin.
    Walnut isn't necessary expensive bought in gallons from an art store (when you factor in the cost savings you get in being healthier) or from a raw materials provider like Kremer Pigments in NY.

    Also you can reuse cleaning oil by letting gravity and Diatomaceous Earth Soil placed at bottom of a tall jar (like a spaghetti pasta storage glass w/lid) to separate the oil from pigment.

    Walnut oil paint, because it is slow drying, lets me work on several pieces simultaneously.

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    I hear a lot of conflicting advice on cleaning brushes. I have a big jar of odorless turpentine and wash the brushes using a strainer that matches the size of the jar. There the dissolved paint can settle down on the bottom. At this point, the only turpentine going somewhere is the amount that evaporates and what gets stuck in the brushes, I wipe this off on a tissue. Then I wash the brushes with soap and water, using my bare hands. I guess this means small amounts of turpentine go down the drain.

    I like the way this is a quick and easy way to get my brushes completely clean, but as I haven't been painting for a very long time I can't say what it does to the longevity of my brushes. And I obviously can't assess if it's having any negative effects on my health.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sreudianflip View Post
    Also you can reuse cleaning oil by letting gravity and Diatomaceous Earth Soil placed at bottom of a tall jar (like a spaghetti pasta storage glass w/lid) to separate the oil from pigment.
    What do you do with the diatomaceous earth? mix it with the dirty oil? pour it in? etc. I'm curious how it works.

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