For many home decorators, nothing beats the look of a freshly-painted wall or fence. To save on home repair costs, many homemakers prefer to paint their houses on their own. The problem is that the smell of paint is not exactly very appealing; for those who have painted their own homes before, the strong odor of paint fumes is enough to knock you out cold. Paint fumes are toxic, and can cause long-term pulmonary and respiratory damage.
Painting a house does not have to be a toxic and noxious affair. Paint smells will go away in time, but the smell of paint in a wall can linger for months and irritate the noses of people with a keen sense of smell. If you need to get rid of that paint smell quickly and easily, here are some ways to do it.
Causes of Paint Smell
Household paint is a liquid that is used to create a
protective film that coats, protects, and decorates a surface. Most household paints are latex/acrylic paints, which are made of six components:
- Pigmentgives the paint its color, gloss, and sheen. A container of paint usually has to be mixed to properly spread the pigment around.
- Binderis that sticky, glue-like substance that makes up the body of the paint. For latex/acrylic paints, binder is usually made with substances like vinyl, polyvinyl acetate (PVA, commonly used in white glue), or natural latex tapped from rubber trees.
- Filleris combined with binder materials for paint manufacturers to save on costs. Common fillers include gypsum, resins, and microspheres.
- Wateris the ingredient that makes paint an emulsion. Water separates the globs of binder and pigment, and makes the paint easier to apply over a surface.
- Solventis typically added to traditional
latex paints to soften the binder material and make it easier to apply. Paint thinner (turpentine, acetone, mineral spirits, or white spirit) is often mixed with the paint to stretch its volume and to make painting easy. The strong odor of the solvent is the cause of most paint smells.
- Additivesare added to the paint to improve its quality. Most paint additives are derivatives from ammonia, which gives some kinds of paint a bitter, powerful smell.
Use Odor-Free Paint
Odor-free paints are available from many household supply stores. They use little to no solvent, and contain softer binders compared to traditional latex and acrylic paints. While odor-free paints do not have the same hardness and gloss of traditional latex paints, they do have a less powerful odor. Odor-free paints are also softer, which means that the paint is easier to use than traditional paint.
Deodorize the Paint
One of the best ways to freshen up the odor of paint is to mask its odor with a more powerful scent. There are few chemicals that can completely mask the odor of fresh paint:
- Vanilla extract.Vanilla is a very pleasant odor, and does not discolor most paint types. A few drops of vanilla extract can go a long way. Make sure you don’t pour the whole bottle in, because vanilla extract is rather expensive.
- Peppermint oilis a cheaper essential oil that you can use in place of vanilla extract. Peppermint oil has a very pleasant minty odor; because the oil is clear, it will not add a dull shade to a painted surface.
Deodorize With Charcoal
Charcoal is a tried-and-true odor removal technique that can be used to deodorize any powerful chemical odor. It’s an excellent room deodorizer because of its large surface area, and its odor-adsorbent qualities. You can use activated carbon, but ordinary cooking charcoal is usually enough to remove the solvent odors from a freshly-painted room. Here’s how you can use charcoal to remove the paint smell from a room:
- Lightly crush whole pieces of wood charcoal into small pieces. It’s OK to pulverize the charcoal into fine powder, but the particles may float around and stick to the wet paint.
- Place the charcoal pieces inside a bucket together with some pieces of wet paper towels or rags.
- Place the bucket in the middle of the room and leave it there overnight. The charcoal will then absorb the odors and fumes from the solvent, leaving you with a fresh-smelling room the next day.
Light a Candle
One time-tested way to get rid of solvent fumes from a freshly-painted room is to light a candle or a match to burn out the fumes. A trick used by many veteran house painters is to light a candle in the middle of the room and let it stay there for about three hours. The open flame will burn out the flammable substances in the solvent, like benzene and other hydrocarbons.
Candles and matches still pose a potential fire hazard, especially if you’ve just painted an enclosed space. To minimize the risk of fire, place the candle on top of a bowl or a saucer of water to catch the hot wax, and prevent fire from spreading. It may also help to make a small dome out of wire netting to catch candle soot, especially if you’ve painted your ceiling.
Use a Bucket of Water
If you don’t want to risk a fire hazard by lighting a candle to burn off the fumes, you can simply place a few buckets of water in the middle and around the room to absorb the solvent vapors. While not as effective as a candle, it is a safer option especially if you’re painting a room finished or made with wood. The odors will be removed overnight, although you’ll still have a faint smell of solvent that will linger and will go away in time.
Less is More for Paint Thinner
If you’re using traditional latex paints, you may want to tone down on the amount of paint thinner you use. Three-quarters of a small bottle of paint thinner for every three gallons of paint is usually enough to act as a solvent for the paint. The more paint thinner you use, you’ll end up with runny paint with a very strong odor. Go easy on the paint thinner; don’t add more paint thinner than you actually need.
Like any ingredient added to a mixture, it’s easier to add more paint thinner than to remove the excess. A nifty trick you can use is to add thinner a splash at a time, and then mix the paint to check its consistency. The paint should be thin enough to spread evenly on the surface, but should be thick enough not for the paint to run.
The many hydrocarbons found in paint and paint thinner can cause diseases and illnesses when inhaled. Prolonged exposure to paint vapors can lead to lung disease, weakened tissues in the lungs and windpipe, and breathing problems. The vapors can also cause you to faint or be hospitalized if you’re particularly sensitive to them. Always wear a breathing mask, or wear a handkerchief or scarf to cover your nose and mouth, to prevent yourself from inhaling paint vapors.
A freshly-painted fence or wall may look good, but the smell of paint is hardly appealing. With these hints and tricks to remove paint odors, do-it-yourself house painting does not have to be a toxic and noxious affair. If you liked reading this article, you might as well read how to get rid of paint scratches and how to remove paint from carpet.