8 Ways to Remove the Smell of Paint Fumes

A man holding a roller paint brush with a pan of aqua paint

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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 can spoil the effect of the new update. 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 products you can use to get rid of the fumes.

Avoid Heavy Paint Fumes From the Start

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 that are less toxic to the environment.

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 toxic gases 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.

8 Ways to Naturally Absorb Paint Fumes

Many of these items you already have around the house and I'm sure you can find one or two that you find much more pleasant to inhale than the paint fumes. Don't wait until the job is finished to begin using the products. You may just capture the fumes from the very start of the process so you can 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. The onions definitely won't cause any toxic harm to your lungs. 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 have absorbed those 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 actually absorb VOCs 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: Bowls of apple cider or distilled white vinegar will absorb paint fumes without adding any additional toxicity to the air.
  6. Coffee Grounds: Dry coffee grounds will not only absorb the paint fumes but they may just 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 one 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. Paraffin-based candles actually emit more toxins into the air. Choose a soy-based or natural beeswax candle to breathe the most safely. Take extreme caution if children and pets have access to the room while the candles are lit.