Painting the walls is always a chore, and it’s made all the worse by the often headache-inducing fumes released by conventional paints. But while greener paints with lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that produce the telltale scent have been available for a while, tests by Consumer Reports have found that they just don’t perform as well — at least until this year’s review.

For the first time, almost all the top-scoring paints tested by Consumer Reports had low levels of VOCs — usually no more than 50 grams per liter, compared to the 380 grams found in the most commonly used brands. Each type of paint was evaluated for coverage and resistance to scrubbing, staining and mildew tests.

But not all of the low- and no-VOC paints were winners. Some of the priciest brands, such as Mythic and Freshaire Choice, got mediocre ratings. Among the top performers were Home Depot's Behr Premium Plus Ultra, Kilz Casual Colors and Benjamin Moore Regal.

Volatile organic compounds are one of the biggest sources of indoor air pollution, with some have been linked to cancer. Paints containing VOCs can continue to off-gas toxins into the air for extended periods of time even when the scent is gone.

The full March 2010 report on interior paints is available to subscribers at the Consumer Reports website.