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Is Paint Harmful To Plants? (Here’s why and What you can do)

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Paints may have chemicals and other additives that can cause harm to the normal development of plants. The type of paint used can determine the severity of the damage being caused.

Water-based paints have low to moderate negative effects on plants. However, synthetic paints can contain chemicals such as Lead (Pb), Mercury (Hg), and Benzene which will have more harmful effects on plants. The severity of damage caused depends on the length of time the plant is exposed to the paint.

Additionally, paints contain VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). VOCs are solvents that get released into the air as the paint dries which can affect plants.

In this article, I will answer all your queries related to paint’s impact on plants as well as the paints that are most harmful to plants and what you can do to protect your plant from excessive paint exposure.

If you are interested in a plant-safe paint option, this Micro blend Interior Paint and Primer on amazon has very low VOCs and comes at a cheap price.

Microblend Interior Paint and Primer

How is Paint Harmful To Plants? 

Is paint harmful to plants.

The severity of the effects paint has on plants depends on the plant’s exposure to the paint. 

There are two main concerns for a plant being exposed to the effects of paints:

  1. The paint is spilled on the plant
  2. The paint is being applied to a planter or pot that already has a plant

In the case where the paint is spilled on the plant, removing the paint in a timely manner will help to significantly reduce the effects of the paint on the plant. 

Our article on removing paint from plant leaves gives a really good guide for paint removal.

Certain elements in the paints can slowly but surely damage the plant’s healthy growth. For instance, Mercury in some paints can seriously affect the growth of your houseplants. 

Mercury may disrupt or destroy the anatomy or assembly of the cells of the plants. So, the plant body would take longer to respond normally to all the biochemical or metabolic activities. 

It may also deteriorate the whole plant or can disturb the food preparation process (photosynthesis) or other systems of the plant. Hence, paints with mercury can hinder or decelerate the maturation of the plant bodies.

When paints (with mercury in it) are spread on the surface of the soil near your plants, they would damage and disrupt the normal activities of your plants. 

Paints would not dry up easily or volatilize the harmful components in them from the soil which may later become damaging to the plants.  

Mercury is a massy element that may affect the normal growth or development of the plant body. 

Mercury is also harmful to the zooplankton (animals related creatures) as it is destructive to the phytoplanktons (plant-related creatures).

painting a plant pot

Other Chemicals in Paint That Can Harm Plants:

Paints are the blend or fusion of inanimate or minerals and animate or organic units. 

Synthetics or chemicals present in most types of paints are:

  • black carbon, 
  • alcohols, 
  • ketones, 
  • mercury (Hg), 
  • zinc (Zn), 
  • cadmium (Cd),
  • lead (Pb), 
  • radium 
  • benzene

Some of these integrants or constituents may have a damaging effect on plants. 

Down below, we have compiled a list of integrants in paints that can negatively affect your houseplants. 

Carbon black:

Carbon black can have some destructive or detrimental effects on your houseplants. It may affect the leaves of the plants. 

When exposed to carbon black, the frond or blades of the plant body would start slumping. 

It may also stop or promote the working of the stomata or the pore in the leaf in abnormal behavior. 

Paints with carbon black in them would also be able to increase the heat or the internal temperature of the leaf

Therefore, it is advisable not to expose your houseplants to paints with carbon black in them. 


When it comes to cadmium in paints, people have conflicting opinions on the internet. In many aspects, cadmium is beneficial (having a good effect on the plants) for the plants. 

But in some cases, it also has a slight bad effect on the plants. It is beneficial or favorable in the case of transportation. 

However, it can also cause death or the deterioration of the clumps of cells in the plant body. It may also hinder the activity of plants for food composition (photosynthesis). 

Therefore, don’t take the risk and avoid using paints with cadmium near your houseplants. 


Lead may also be present in many of the paint varieties. It also has many noxious or virulent effects on plants. 

It may inhibit the production or the preparation of the energy reservoir of the plants. 

The “Lead†in paints could also put back or detain the growth of a plant from the seed. So in this way, it may affect the normal functioning and the development of the plants. 


It may cause radiation. Sometimes, radiations boost or foster the growth of the plants. 

But in the long run, the radiation may be detrimental. It can also have a bad effect on the proliferation or the procreation of plants. 

How to Protect a Plant when a Planter is Being Painted

Cover the Plant

We can wear masks that can filter out particulate matter from the paint which in turn protects us. Plants on the other hand do not have this type of protection.

Covering the plant with a plastic bag can protect the plant from fumes from rising up during the painting and drying process. 

The plastic bag or covering will form a barrier preventing the paint from coming into contact with the plant during and after painting. 

However, small holes should be placed at the top of the covering to help the plant with respiration. The plant should not be kept in the bag or cover for more than a day.

Protecting a plant from paint

Paint in a Ventilated Area

When the paint is being applied, it should be done in a well-ventilated area. The continuous exchange of air (or air flow) will prevent any harmful fumes from affecting the plant. 

Is Acrylic Paint Safe For Plants?

Acrylic paint is a type of paint that can be drained or withered with a good race. It won’t be damaged by the water when it is drained or parched. 

Among all types of paints available in the market, acrylic paint is the only paint that has a minimum negative effect on a plant’s overall health and growth. 

It has the least destructive or injuring effect on houseplants. 

Painted succulents or kosmic kaktus are one such example where paint is intentionally applied to plants.

It is safe to say that to some extent it is a soil-friendly paint. You can operate or play it safe by framing the plants. A completely blooming plant would not be affected by acrylic paints.

Can Spray Paint Kill Plants?

Spray paints have a great effect on the plant’s food preparation mechanism. 

The central spot or component for the drawing up of food is a leaf and spray paints can seriously destroy this central system. 

Hence, the plant would no longer be able to draw up its food until and unless no new leaves would be grown. 

Furthermore, the spray paints would also paralyze or incapacitate the respiratory or gasping system of the plant (so the plant would not be able to maintain the trafficking or interchanging of the gases of the plants) which may ultimately cause the deterioration of the plant body.

How To Prevent The Plant From Getting Paint on Plants?

Plants would be protected from the paint by the care you have taken. While painting around the plants, try to avoid direct contact between the paint and the plant. 

It would help to prevent your plant from deteriorating or wilting rapidly. 

Ideally, put a fabric material or the cloth on the plant body until and unless you have completed your work. You can also use a sheet or cover that is made up of plastic. 

But it may also have a vandalizing or mangling effect on the plant body. As it would elevate or hoist the temperature of the plant which may cause dysfunctioning of the plant. 

Therefore, if possible move your plant to an area where you haven’t painted or are about to paint. 

What Can You Do If Paint Gets on Your Plant?

If paint gets on your plant, you should remove it gently from the plant body. For removing the paint from the plant body, use rubbing alcohol as it is an innocuous solvent. 

The rubbing alcohol would not be able to ruin the plant. Ideally, use soft fabric (offcut of cloth) submersed with alcohol and clean the plant with it. 

You can also use a water spray which may come out in pressure to wash the paints off from the leaves of your plant.

The Takeaway

To conclude, although paints aren’t highly dangerous to the plant’s health, it is still better to avoid exposing your plants to the paints. 

Certain elements in paints such as mercury, lead, carbon black, etc., can slowly but seriously damage your houseplant health. 

If you have accidentally ended up throwing paints on your plants, use rubbing alcohol or water to wash it away. Hopefully, this would prevent any potential damage a paint can cause to your lovely plant. 

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