Getting Rid of Paint Smell

While water-based latex paints are a big improvement over the stinky oil-based enamel paints, some can still smell quite strong. Some paints have stronger fumes than others. Experienced painters can identify different brands of paint by odor alone-they all smell a bit different.

Many cheaper paints are more pungent. Higher-quality paints tend to have a much more agreeable odor. In fact, many people like the smell of fresh paint because it smells clean.

It's wise to avoid or minimize exposure to paint fumes and chemical household cleaners if you are pregnant. Check with your doctor before painting if anyone in the home has asthma, allergies or other respiratory difficulties. Most people are not bothered by latex paint fumes, but I have had clients concerned enough that they move out while their home is being painted inside.

A low-VOC paint will bother allergic or sensitive people less. Check the label; by law, the VOC will be listed. Volatile Organic Compounds are any ingredients in paint that evaporate into the air while the paint is drying. They can include hardeners and agents that keep the dried paint supple. Several companies have low- or zero-VOC paints, although the performance may not be as good as regular paint since this is fairly new technology. Odor is not an indicator of whether a paint is low or high VOC.

Don't forget pets. Birds can be especially sensitive to paint fumes. It is best to completely remove them from any area being painted.

Whenever possible, do your painting on days when you can open windows. A fan drawing the inside air out helps a great deal. Opening windows throughout the house, not just in the area being painted, is most effective.

As paint dries, it raises the humidity level in your home significantly. This is why paint will dry much faster in Arizona than in Louisiana, all else being equal. The faster the paint dries, the faster the smell dissipates. If it's really hot and muggy, to turn on your air conditioner. A dehumidifier will also help remove paint smell.

If you are painting inside during a cold winter day, turn off your humidifier for a few hours before and after your painting project.

I have read that putting out bowls of coffee grounds, baking soda or even cat litter can absorb paint smell. I don't know if this works, but it wouldn't hurt to try. Since I've spent so many years smelling paint, I tend not to notice it much. Any odor-minimizing steps I take are for the benefit of the homeowner.

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