The end of solvent-based paints?

September 1, 2011 | By Richard Prince


Vendors at the spring Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and Canfield, Ohio, swap meets had signs announcing that come August 12, 2011 people would not be able to purchase solvent-based paints. After that date only water-based paint would be available, they said. A vendor displaying this sign pointed his finger at the EPA for this change.

On the other hand, I have spoken with people at the local auto body/machine shop near where I live (30 minutes north of Pittsburgh) and they have not heard about the end of solvent-based paints in August. It’s not that I don’t believe that this will eventually happen, but I’d like some confirmation of the date. I have also tried to find information online that backs up what the vendor is claiming. I tried general searches on the Internet and also on the EPA’s Web site; I was not able to find anything specific in regard to this subject.

Any insight you can give on this topic would be greatly appreciated. I am in the process of restoring a 1981 Camaro and am considering purchasing a second paint gun for the base and clear coats. I do not want to spend the money for one if I’ll soon have to buy another gun for spraying water-based paints.


I too tried to find some information about this on the Internet and came up with nothing. That led me to contact PPG Industries and DuPont, both of which are leading manufacturers and distributors of automotive refinishing products. Representatives of both companies confirmed that solvent-based paints will, in fact, still be manufactured and sold in the USA after August 12, 2011.

Having said that, the entire OEM automotive finishing and aftermarket refinishing industries are clearly moving away from solvent-based products and toward water-based products. Almost all mass-produced new vehicles are painted with water-based coatings and many body shops across the country have transitioned to water-based systems.

One important thing to bear in mind is that there’s no end to the number of states, counties and communities who, in addition to the federal EPA, also regulate things that affect air quality, including auto painting. There are numerous cities, towns and counties in America where it’s already against the law to spray solvent-based paints.

Looking forward it’s clear that at some point everyone will be required to use water-based paint products but at the moment nobody knows for sure exactly when that point in time will be. Anyone who points to a specific date is mistaken.