How to get rid of paint smell

The smell of paint can linger, even once walls are dry. Read on for tips on removing paint smell for good, plus some safety advice on paint fumes and pregnancy!

Updated 15 August 2019

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Is your living room lacking in lustre? Or your kitchen feeling a bit knackered? What you need is to spruce things up with a new coat of paint! Decorating your home can be a massively rewarded experience, but you need to ensure it is handled safely. Learn how to remove paint smell from your home, and other vital safety tips, in this handy guide.

Painting wisely: Avoiding long-term paint smell

Putting thought into the shade and type of paint you choose is the first step to making sure your paint job is a success.

To ensure a long-lasting finish, make sure you prepare your walls properly with a primer and first coat. You can buy these combined for interiors, which is a good solution if you want to get back into the room quickly.

The finish you need for your topcoat depends on what you’re painting. Flat finishes, a versatile paint type based on latex and sometimes containing vinyl to make it more hardwearing, is the most common choice for walls and ceilings. If you need a really hardwearing finish, though, you could choose a satin finish; these are often used on wood surfaces, and have a slight sheen. You can also get special bathroom and kitchen paints that resist mould and moisture. Ask someone in your local DIY shop for guidance.

When choosing a colour, the best thing to do is test your options at home. Ask your DIY shop for samples to take home, and try them out on the walls you plan to paint. Make sure to paint a largish area with each, so you get a really good sense of how they’d look on a whole wall; and leave them up for a while to see how they work in various weathers and times of day, before you make up your mind.

How to get rid of fresh paint smell

Once you've decided on your decor and finished painting, the paint smell can linger. There are natural ways to get rid of gloss paint fumes:

  • Put bowls of crushed charcoal near where the painting was done. Charcoal absorbs all kinds of odours.
  • Baking soda is also known to help eliminate paint smells. Put open boxes or bowls around the room - and you can also sprinkle it on the carpet before vacuuming a few hours later.
  • Coffee grounds can absorb smells and also leave a nice scent in the room. Again, just leave a few bowls around the room.
  • Sliced lemons in a bucket of water can help absorb some of the solvents in the air and add their own clean scent. Add a bit of salt to help eliminate odours even more!
  • Vinegar is well-known for neutralising odours, so you could place a few bowls near the painted area to remove paint smells.
  • Some people find the two halves of an onion, placed at opposite sides of the room, remove paint smell surprisingly fast.
  • For a safer and more pleasant painting experience for everyone, it’s best to leave all windows and doors to the room open to provide good ventilation.

Painting safely: Paint fumes and pregnancy

Wall paint has quite a distinctive smell, and many people worry about the effect of paint fumes in pregnancy, in particular. However, guidance from the NHS suggests that modern paints pose very low risk even to unborn babies, so you should be able to paint during pregnancy with no worries.

However, it’s best to avoid painting during the first 13 weeks, as this is when your baby goes through lots of key development. You should also avoid using solvent-based paints during pregnancy, as these have more harmful fumes.

With these simple tips in mind, you should be able to choose your colour with confidence and enjoy transforming your room safely. If you’re confused about anything or need extra advice on colour or technique, staff at your local DIY shop should be happy to talk to you. Get creative; think carefully about the results you want; and enjoy your room’s new look!

Originally published 19 July 2018