How to Improve the Smell of Paint

Painting a room can be a dizzying task. Use our expert tips for reducing paint smells, plus discover the safest ways to paint a room.

Painting a room is an exciting project. The right color can completely transform the look of your space and upgrade even the most dated homes. However, there is a downside to painting—that fresh paint smell. While some don’t mind the fumes wafting from a freshly painted room, others can’t stand it. And with good reason! The strong scent makes some people dizzy or nauseated. Luckily, there are ways to combat the smell of paint. Check out our tips below to learn how to make your home breathable during your next room makeover and neutralize paint odor.

Before we get into masking the smell of wet paint, consider the potential dangers of painting a room. Many people are convinced breathing in paint fumes calls for serious concern. That may be true in some extreme cases, but according to the National Capital Poison Center, most indoor-use paints are safe to use around children and adults. Latex or acrylic paints are quick-drying and most commonly used to paint a room. These are water-based and not harmful to breathe. Oil- and solvent-based paints are less commonly used, and are more likely to irritate your eyes or skin, but aren't poisonous when used for painting projects. If you or a child swallows paint, call your Poison Control Center.

Although paint isn't poisonous when inhaled, the dizziness and irritation that some people experience is real. If you have a sensitive nose, painting expert Brian Santos has a great tip for masking the smell of wet paint. To every quart of interior latex paint, add four drops of oil extracts, such as peppermint. The scented oil in paint will act as an odor neutralizer. You can use any extract as long as the alcohol in the ingredients is methyl alcohol, which is formulated to mix with water. Some candle companies, like Glade, even make an odor eliminator specifically for mixing in with your gallon of paint. Do not use perfume or other alcohol-based fragrances; they won't mix properly with water-based paint.

Unfortunately, there's no similar trick you can use with oil-based paint to neutralize paint odor. However, there are measures you can take that will diffuse the strong fumes in a room. First, make sure the room you’re painting has good circulation. If there are windows in the room, open those to get some fresh air flow. If not, use a portable fan into the center of the room to improve air circulation. You can also find painting masks at most hardware and paint stores. These will help you breathe more comfortably while you’re painting. Finally, be aware of the amount of paint in a room. Leaving open trays of paint on the floor will only add to the smell. Once you’re done with a paint tray, wash or throw it out to remove paint smells in your working space.

You can also now purchase special paint with little or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which are toxins released into the air from paint, cleaning supplies, adhesives, and permanent markers. VOCs can cause several of the symptoms associated with painting, such as headaches, watery eyes, and nausea. A paint with a low VOC count will help improve the air quality of your home even after your paint job is complete, making this paint choice ideal for a health-conscious family.

If you’re feeling dizzy even after taking precautions, it’s always best to leave the room. Stepping outside or going into a better ventilated room will help clear your head of dizziness. Plus, it will give your painting arms a much-needed rest.  

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