From the discovery of fire to the invention of car headlights so bright they nearly vaporize everything in their path, the history of humanity has always been a battle against the darkness. And yet most of us aren’t using one of the most flexible and powerful tools in our arsenal against it: Luminous paint.
Glow-in-the-dark paint is very safe these days, as most of it uses phosphorus as its chief glowing ingredient. It comes in a wide range of colors and finishes, and will last for up to a decade with proper care. If you haven’t thought about how luminous paint can improve your life, here’s how to use it in your home—and how not to.
Light outdoor paths
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You’ve put a lot of money, time, and sweat equity into your outdoor spaces, and you should be able to enjoy them at night too. While solar lights and other solutions can light up a space for evening enjoyment, sometimes part of the outdoor experience is the night sky, so being able to wander out there safely without a bright light is ideal.
Painting rocks to line a path through your landscaping or the edging around your plantings can offer subtle illumination that will make walking outside on your property much safer and easier when the sun is down, while allowing you to appreciate the stars and lightning bugs all around you.
Trick out your kid’s room decor
The classic “stars on the ceiling” motif remains a win for decorating chi rooms, but you can go further than the old-school stick-on stuff that emits a faint, sickly green glow. Paint the whole solar system in there, or add luminous paint to wall murals that magically come alive at night. Of course, you’ll need to be pretty artistic to begin with, and you’ll probably want to experiment a bit with it before committing, but done well it creates a beautiful, subtle effect.
Mark edges so you stop stubbing your toe
If your house is a minefield of stubbed toes, barked shins, and other mishaps when you walk around at night, you can use luminous paint (or luminous tape) to mark the edges of shelves, steps, or anything else that will help you navigate. This is especially useful in a blackout situation, when you’re unprepared for sudden darkness, or for creeping down to your basement to reset a tripped circuit breaker. Having the edges of those basement stairs clearly marked will make a potentially dangerous mission much easier to complete.
Make your light switches easy to find in the dark
If you’re forever walking into dark rooms and blindly slapping the walls in search of a light switch, fix the problem with a dab of glow-in-the-dark paint. A small circle will show up very clearly in a dark room, making it easy to navigate your rooms in complete darkness (assuming you’ve also marked the edges of all those obstacles between you and the switch).
Dab some on the stuff you need in an emergency
Blackouts and unexpected power outages often accompany inclement weather and other problems, so being able to easily locate and retrieve all the emergency gear you’ve assembled (you have assembled it, right?) is a big plus. Mark things like your breaker box for power resets, the drawer where you keep your flashlights and batteries, the location of a first aid kit—basically, anything you’ll need to find quickly in the dark.
Illuminate your house numbers
If your GrubHub orders are always late because people can’t see your address from the street, painting your house number with luminous paint can be a game-changer. Aside from making sure those burritos arrive hot, making your house easier to spot from the road can make a real difference in an emergency. After all, if an ambulance or police car can’t easily determine which house is yours, there could be a crucial delay in receiving assistance.
Three ways not to use luminous paint
As useful as luminous paint is, there are some specific ways not to use it:
- Don’t overdo wall and ceiling decor. If you decide that decorating a kid’s room or some other area of your house with luminous paint is a great idea, remember that a little goes a long way. Keeping those kids awake all night with a wall of brightly glowing cartoons right next to their face is not a good idea.
- Don’t use paint as a lighting source. While very good at defining edges and helping you to locate things in the dark, luminous paints don’t emit enough light to replace other lighting in your home, and they only glow brightly for a limited amount of time. You still need actual emergency lighting, and you should keep flashlights and lanterns on hand for blackouts.
- Don’t try using it in a totally dark space. Luminous paints and tapes work by absorbing visible light during the day (or when interior light sources are switched on) and then releasing that light energy later. That means they require light to charge up—if you use it in a room or area of your house that never gets any light, it will be a waste of your time and money.