Every once in a while, you should give your home a new, fresh coat of paint. It will revitalize your walls and make your home stand out. And in order to do that properly, you’ll need to know quite a few things, like what type of paint to get or what kind of ladder works best for you. But first and foremost, you need to worry about safety, and if there’s one thing that can seriously harm your health, it’s the fumes that come from paint.
You’ve surely been there before; the second you crack open a can of paint, that pungent smell comes out and hits you at once. It’s so noxious that you may feel dizzy, like getting high in the most unhealthy way possible. And the worst part is, that smell will stick around for days, if not weeks, after you’ve finished painting. And that’s a few weeks too many, especially if you can’t really open a window and let it all air out (e.g. It might be cold or raining outside).
So, how can you get rid of that awful paint smell in your home? What are some of the DIY home remedies that can make your home smell…well, homely again? This article aims to answer these questions; hopefully, one of the solutions I’ve listed below will help you regain some peace of mind and, more importantly, lose that nasty paint aroma.
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How Long Does Paint Smell Last?
Typically, house paint contains a certain level of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound). A VOC can quickly become a gas or vapor, dissipating in the air and, if it’s strong enough, polluting it. Some of the most dangerous VOCs come from cigarette smoke, wood preservatives, glues, pesticides, etc. Naturally, common house paint is up there on the list, and the VOCs there are quite easy to sniff out.
Now, how does all of that relate to the smell of the paint? Well, most regular house paints have quite a high level of VOCs. As such, they take roughly 14-24 weeks to completely dissipate in an unventilated room. That’s more than half a year of breathing in harmful chemicals!
Of course, when it comes to ‘shelf life’, the smell from house paint with low levels of VOCs (or no VOCs at all) is nowhere near that extreme. In fact, most non-VOC paints will only let out a smell for about 2-3 days, even if you don’t ventilate the room. I’ll cover this in more detail a bit later, but it goes without saying that you should buy paint that has a low VOC content.
Is Paint Smell Harmful?
The short answer to that question is yes, but there are degrees to how harmful the smell might be. It all depends on how long you’re exposed to it.
The short-term side-effects of sniffing paint fumes are not that serious, and they range from dizziness and headaches to nausea and breathing difficulties. You might also feel some irritation around your nose, eyes, and throat. However, long-term exposure will have some serious effects on your liver, kidneys, and the nervous system; moreover, pregnant women should avoid inhaling paint fumes so that they don’t cause any harm to the fetus.
Getting Rid of Paint Smell: List of Effective Methods
Normally, opening a few windows and doors would help the paint smell dissipate better. In fact, it’s the quickest way of getting rid of any nasty smell. By opening the windows, you let the clean air circulate and slowly remove all of the nasty fumes, leaving your home smelling fresh.
But you can’t always rely on that method. For example, the weather outside might be harsh, either too hot or too cold, and opening the window would actually do you more harm than good. In addition, insects might swarm into your house, and you don’t want them sticking onto your fresh coats of paint and doing a little dance.
With that in mind, here are some budget-friendly, easy-to-apply DIY methods of losing that noxious fume smell.
In recent years, everybody has been clamoring for activated charcoal. Right now, you can find tons of products made from this substance, from food supplements to teeth whitening products and toothpaste. However, you don’t want to eat activated carbon or wash your teeth with it just yet; for now, we will focus on the type of charcoal you can use to purify the air.
The cool thing about this charcoal is that it actually captures the scent around it thanks to the carbon activation. And it’s not a one-off product, either. You can use a single bag of activated charcoal for a period of several months before it shows any signs of failure. And once you’re done, you can simply pour the charcoal into the soil; since it’s organic, it will help the plants grow.
The best way to use activated charcoal is to either buy several bags of it or simply pour it into several cereal bowls. You will need to place the bags or the bowls in several strategic spots around your painted home. In a few days at most, the paint smell ought to be completely gone.
There are many creative ways to use coffee grounds around your home, from plant fertilizing to insect repelling. So, even if you’re not a fan of the drink itself, I suggest you keep some coffee around just in case. And if you’ve just finished painting your home, a few bowls of ground coffee will definitely be helpful.
Coffee contains nitrogen, and once nitrogen is combined with carbon, it can neutralize nasty smells in the air. Anything from spoiled food to sweat will be gone in an instant. In fact, you can even scrub your hands with coffee grounds after cutting onions and the smell will go away quickly.
So, how can you use coffee grounds to get rid of paint fumes? Well, once again, you will need a few cereal bowls. Fill them up with ground coffee and place them in every room that you’ve finished painting; you can even place several in a single room to speed up the process.
However, do remember that ground coffee absorbs the toxic chemicals and that they stay absorbed. Once the smell is gone, make sure to dispose of the grounds as soon as possible. You can use the grounds as fertilizer in your garden in the same way you would use activated charcoal.
Now, I know what you may be thinking, and yes, there are scented candles out there that will make the smell worse. But the candles I want to discuss are actually specifically made to get rid of nasty odors, including paint fumes.
Instead of wax or paraffin, these candles are made of soy, or rather of soy wax. As such, when you burn them, they will not emit any smoke or nasty smells of their own. And there are quite a few of them out there to choose from. Of course, some of them are a bit on the pricy side, but a single candle will be enough for one room anyway, so you won’t be spending too much.
There are dozens upon dozens of articles that cover all of the benefits of baking soda. In fact, it’s become somewhat of a meme online that you can literally fix or heal anything with either a bit of vinegar or a bit of baking soda. It won’t surprise you that vinegar is also on this list of methods, but for now, let’s focus on this white powdery cure-for-all.
One of the many properties of baking soda is the fact that it can absorb smells quite effectively. So, if you’ve just finished painting your home, you might want to open up a bag of baking soda and, of course, grab a few cereal bowls. Fill the bowls to the brim with the white powder and place them in every room you’ve painted. After a few days, the smell should be gone, and you can dispose of the used baking soda safely.
The cool thing about baking soda is that it’s odorless. So, even if it absorbs all of the nasty paint fumes (and other smells), it won’t emit any of its own.
Natural Oil Extracts
Essential oils are everywhere nowadays. They are basically liquefied plants; extracts that can have various effects on your body, depending on which plant you’ve chosen.
By using natural oil extracts, you allow the pure, natural scent to eliminate the toxic chemical odors of house paint. But more importantly, the new scent that comes from essential oils will help soothe you and provide some extra health benefits. For example, some oils, like lemongrass and lemon oil, have a soothing effect on people with depression or anxiety. In addition, oils like peppermint will eliminate pangs of hunger, while tea tree and orange reduce your stress levels and increase your mood.
And just by looking at a random natural oil product bulk, you can see how many different fragrances you can get:
- Tea tree
Some of you might be wondering what the difference is between lemon water and lemonade. To put it simply, lemonade has lots of sugar in it, while lemon water is…well, just that — water that has lemon juice in it.
Lots of people today tend to drink lemon water because of its supposed health benefits. Among other things, some experts claim that this mixture can:
- Help with weight loss
- Supply Vitamin C
- Promote hydration
- Aid digestion
- Make your skin smooth and wrinkle-free
- Prevent kidney stones
Naturally, there is no clear scientific proof that lemon water can do any of those things, but a few details are certain. Drinking lemon water is healthy in and of itself, since you’re keeping yourself hydrated and you’re ingesting lots of vitamins that lemon juice already contains. So, if anything, you can rest easy knowing that lemon water isn’t bad for you in any way, shape, or form.
But how does it fare against paint smells? Well, in reality, it’s not the lemon that gets the smells out, it’s the water itself. A bowl of regular tap water can help get rid of the nasty paint scent. The lemon juice is there for a reason, though; it releases a pleasant lemony aroma throughout the room, leaving it smelling fresh and clean.
Naturally, you can do the same thing with any other citrus fruit, like oranges, limes, grapefruit, etc. However, lemon is usually the go-to option just because of how potent it is. If you feel creative, you can mix and match different fruits into the water bowl for a nice, fruity aroma.
Quite a few people get confused when they find out that onions can help get rid of nasty smells. After all, we’ve all cut and peeled at least one onion in our lives. The tears that follow are proof enough that this vegetable doesn’t exactly have the most pleasant of aromas.
However, a single onion is actually one of the best ‘tools’ you can use to remove paint smell. It can absorb any aroma from the air and keep it trapped inside of its many layers.
The process of using an onion to get rid of a stench is quite simple. First, grab a big onion and a knife, then slice the onion in half. Next, grab two bowls; put each half of the onion in its own separate bowl with the cut side facing upwards. Then place the two bowls on two opposite sides of the room you’ve just painted.
Within a few hours — that’s right, a few hours — the smell of paint should be gone. When that happens, grab the two onion halves and throw them away.
Yes, if it isn’t baking soda, it’s vinegar. Once again, we have a household item that can literally do anything: clean clothes, remove rust, trap fruit flies, tone faces during bath time, clean teeth, remove dandruff, kill weeds, treat acne, clean dishes, save the world…the list is quite endless. It’s no wonder that some people claim vinegar can remove paint smells, despite vinegar itself being famous for its strong scent. Of course, in this regard, they are right.
Pour your vinegar in several bowls, but leave them half-full. After that, place the bowls all over the room you’ve just finished painting. Just like onions, it won’t take more than a few hours for the smell to be gone. After that, simply dispose of the vinegar in the bowls and enjoy the fresh, odor-free scent of your room.
Sage is an amazing plant that humans have been using for thousands of years. There are lots of health benefits that come from either consuming sage or inhaling the smoke that comes from burning it. That’s right, you can actually burn sage and relieve some of your stress and anxiety. More importantly, the scent will remove any and all traces of that nasty chemical smell from house paint.
The process of burning sage is incredibly simple. Just grab a bundle of the plant, burn it at one end, then walk around the room and allow the smoke to spread. In a matter of hours, the house paint smell will be gone and your room will have that pleasant sage aroma everywhere. But don’t stop there; whenever you’re cleaning your home, try burning some sage at the end in order to make it feel even fresher than before.
Air purifiers are definitely a good option for getting rid of any smell. But then again, that’s literally what they were made for.
A typical air purifier will draw the pungent air inside of itself using a strong fan. The air then travels through a filter, which captures all of the toxic and nasty microbes and allows the clean air to go back out. Naturally, not all air purifiers will work at the same efficiency; some of them will take longer, others will do it in a matter of days.
Now, while this method definitely does work, there’s a reason I placed it near the end of the list. The main reason for that decision is the fact that the average air purifier isn’t cheap. You can find some budget models for around $100, but that’s still a lot more expensive than burning sage or cutting an onion in half. And you don’t really need the extra expenses considering how much money you need just to paint a room nowadays.
Other Useful Methods
Here are a few other methods that can help you get rid of paint smell. They aren’t as popular as the ones listed above, but they can be just as effective if you apply them correctly.
Use a Fan or Two
Let’s say that it’s incredibly cold or hot outside, but that you simply have to open a window. In that case, you need a solution that will help you get the paint smell out faster, so that you can close the window relatively quickly.
If possible, get a few fans and place them in your room; make them face the open window, but keep them away from each other. Once you open the window, let the fans do their work and blow all of the pungent air out. This method works like a charm, but it does have a major setback; namely, fans cost money, and unless you can borrow some from a neighbor, I don’t recommend buying several of them at once.
As I stated earlier in the lemon water segment, a simple bucket of water will do the trick. It doesn’t matter if it’s tap water, distilled, or even sparkling. Simply get enough of it to fill a few buckets and place them strategically around the room you finished painting. The water will absorb all of the nasty smells and all you have to do is pour it down the sink later.
Some herbs release strong fumes of their own, like rosemary or basil. If you happen to have those plants, move them into the room you’ve just painted and let them work their magic.
Camphor and Naphthalene
Both camphor and naphthalene are amazing when it comes to combating paint smell. However, be careful about how you use them. They can be strong enough to poison a human being, so keep them away from children.
Dry Coconut Shells
The aroma of the dry outer shell of coconut will combat the paint fumes if you burn it. In addition, it can get rid of insects such as mosquitoes.
Final Thoughts: How to Prevent the Smell Early On
As you can see, there are many different methods that can help you get rid of noxious paint fumes. However, you can reduce the level of smell early on if you take a few preventative steps. To conclude this article, here’s a brief list of steps you should undertake before you even start painting your home:
- Try to get a low-VOC or a zero-VOC paint formula; if not, get oil-based paint marked ‘low odor’
- Make sure the first layer of paint is completely dry before you apply the next one, so that you don’t trap the fumes between the layers
- Check the weather forecast; avoid painting if humidity is high, since the paint will take longer to dry
- If possible, air out the room you want to paint, but keep the doors and windows of other rooms closed.