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. Although some people 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 by neutralizing 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 should raise serious concerns. That may be true in extreme cases, but according to the National Capital Poison Center, most indoor-use paints are safe to use around children and adults. Commonly used latex or acrylic paints dry quickly. These water-base paints don't emit harmful fumes. Less commonly used oil- and solvent-base paints have the potential 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 fumes aren'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: Add four drops of an oil extract like peppermint to every quart of latex paint. The scented oil acts 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 into with your gallon of paint. Do not use perfume or other alcohol-base fragrances; they won't mix properly with water-base paint.

Unfortunately, there's no similar trick to neutralize the smell of oil-base paints. However, there are measures you can take to diffuse the strong fumes in a room. First, make sure the room you’re painting has good circulation. Open the windows for fresh air flow. Use a portable fan in the center of the room to improve air circulation. The painting masks sold at most hardware and paint stores help you breathe more comfortably. Finally, control how much open paint is in a room—open trays of paint only add to the smell. Once you’re done with a paint tray, wash it or throw it out to decrease paint smells in your working space.

You can also purchase special paint with little or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which are the 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 low-VOC paint improves 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 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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