8 Ways to Remove the Smell of Paint Fumes

Room with fresh paint

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

A fresh coat of paint is one of the least expensive and quickest ways to refresh a room or piece of furniture. Unfortunately, there can be lingering fumes that may spoil the effect of the new decor. While fresh air is one of the best ways to disperse the fumes, opening every door and window isn't always possible. Learn about eight eco-friendly products you can use to get rid of the fumes.

8 Ways to Naturally Absorb Paint Fumes

Household supplies can be used to naturally absorb paint fumes. Just don't wait until the job is finished to begin using the products. Capturing the fumes from the very start of the painting process will help you enjoy your new space right away.

  1. Baking Soda

    You know baking soda absorbs odors in the laundry and refrigerator, so use it to capture the paint fumes. Pour the powder into shallow bowls and place all around the room. When you are finished painting, do double-duty and pour the baking soda down the garbage disposal to give it a quick refresh.


    If the odor of paint still lingers, sprinkle some baking soda on the carpet and upholstered furniture and leave it overnight. Vacuum away the powder and the odors in the morning.

  2. Onions

    It may be a toss-up on whether smelling the fumes or the onions is worse, but the onion smell is a little more natural. Simply slice at least two medium onions and place in saucers around the room. When the job is over, don't use these for cooking, because they may have absorbed volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

  3. Charcoal

    Deactivated charcoal is an excellent odor-absorber. You can purchase it in small pouches or in a crushed formula that can be placed in bowls around the room. Use the leftover to make sachets to stick in smelly shoes.

  4. Lemon Water

    Water will absorb VOCs on its own, but adding some slices of fresh lemon will give off a clean citrus scent that is even more refreshing. Water takes a bit longer to absorb odors, so plan to leave the bowls of lemon water in the room overnight.

  5. Vinegar

    Small bowls (about one cup) of apple cider or distilled white vinegar will absorb paint fumes. Place the bowls in every corner of the room.

  6. Coffee Grounds

    Bowls of dry coffee grounds will not only absorb the paint fumes, but they may also help make you feel more alert and keep you going until the job is done. Be sure to dispose of them in the trash when you're done.

  7. Natural Extracts

    Two of the best natural extracts to eliminate paint odor and refresh the room's air are vanilla and peppermint. Simply place a few drops of the extract on cotton balls and place them in small bowls or saucers scattered around the room. Some painting experts swear by adding a drop or two of the extracts directly to the can of paint before starting the job to lessen the odor.

  8. Candles

    The flame of a candle will help burn away VOCs from the air, but be careful to select the right type of candle: Choose a soy-based or natural beeswax candle. Do not leave lit candles unattended.

Tips to Avoid Heavy Paint Fumes From the Start

By addressing paint fumes before you even begin a painting project, you can reduce the odor and make the process easier.

  • While it is not always possible, the best way to avoid heavy fumes is to select a low or zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint formula. If you must use an oil-based paint or primer, choose those that are marked as low odor. There are also paints made from plants, milk, minerals, or clay.
  • Before you begin painting, check the weather forecast. Avoid days when the humidity is high. High humidity in the air slows the drying process, and paint emits the strongest odor while being applied and waiting to dry. The longer it takes to dry, the more chance soft materials (carpet, drapes, upholstery) will absorb the odors.
  • Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next layer of paint. Damp walls can trap fumes and slowly emit odor for a longer time. As you paint, keep the lids on paint cans and cover paint trays and brushes with plastic wrap when not in use.
  • While painting one room, keep the doors and windows open if possible to allow the fumes to dissipate into the air. But keep doors of the other rooms in your house closed to prevent the fumes from spreading. Use the same tips when stripping paint for a project.