After you paint a room, the only thing that should linger is how much you love the color scheme you chose. In reality, the fumes from the paint can still stink up your space long after the last coat dried. Whether you're adding a fresh coat to your kitchen, your bedroom, or any other room in the house, the odor can be unpleasant. It's all thanks to VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), which come from the materials used to make paint and emit that "freshly painted" odor.
While you can reduce the chance of this outcome by choosing a paint formula with low VOCs, fumes are often still detectable. Regardless, here's how to get rid of paint smell if you find yourself in this very situation.
Get a Few Fans
Open windows are a must for any paint project, but fans will help whisk fumes out of the room faster. Place box fans at the center of the room, angled toward windows if possible, and in the doorway. (Fans will make paint dry faster, so be sure to finish your work beforehand.) One thing to note: Prevent fumes from wafting through the rest of your home by making sure to turn off the air-conditioning or heat and closing air vents in the room.
Break Out the Buckets of Water
Sometimes, the simplest solution is the most effective. Place buckets filled with water throughout the room and let sit overnight. The water will absorb the paint vapors. Interestingly, this is a trick that goes way back—all the way to the 1899 book The Expert Cleaner.
Set Out Bowls of Vinegar
You don't need full buckets to reap the odor-eliminating benefits of vinegar. Just pour white vinegar into bowls and place around the room. The acetic acid in vinegar neutralizes the molecules that carry odors. Tip: Use household white vinegar (which is 10% acetic acid) instead of culinary white vinegar (5% acetic acid) for faster results.
Sprinkle Baking Soda
Similarly, you can leave out bowls filled with baking soda to neutralize and absorb odors. Though it's effective no matter the space, rooms with soft surfaces that tend to hang on to odors (like carpeting) will especially benefit from baking soda. Just sprinkle it all over the carpet, let sit for a few hours, then vacuum.
Grab a Bag of Charcoal
Briquettes intended for the grill can work in a pinch, but for faster fresh air, pick up activated charcoal from the hardware store. Activated charcoal is treated with high-heat in order to make it more porous, creating more spaces for odor-causing molecules to go (and get absorbed in the process). Pour the charcoal into aluminum baking pans and leave in the room overnight.
Experiment with Diatomaceous Earth
Think of this chalky white powder (made from fossilized plankton) as a big silica packet for a room. In fact, diatomaceous earth's odor- and moisture-absorbing properties come from its naturally high silica content. Opt for food-grade diatomaceous earth (found online or occasionally at hardware stores), as conventional diatomaceous earth can irritate lungs and could be harmful to pets. Then, pour it into empty coffee cans or disposable aluminum baking pans.
The Cut Onion "Trick"
Sometimes, you have to fight a smell...with another smell. Leaving cut onions throughout the freshly painted room can be surprisingly effective at getting rid of fumes. The chemical that contributes to that distinctive onion odor (Syn-propanethial-S-oxide) neutralizes those that create paint smells (aldehydes).
Plan Ahead for Your Next Project
Avoid the hassle and the headaches by choosing a zero-VOC paint for your next project. These formulas are a must for those sensitive to smell, but are also a great choice for rooms where you might not have adequate ventilation (like a bathroom), rooms you spend lots of time in (bedrooms), and for nurseries and kids' rooms.
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