Co-branding Airtasker OneflareCo-branding Airtasker Oneflare
Hero image

Find a local painter

    How to get rid of paint smell

    Have these tips and tools at the ready to drive out those paint fumes fast!

    Chin Suarez | Oneflare
    Created 30 Apr 2024

    Showing off your newly painted living room is fun. Living with that paint smell for days? Not so much enjoyable. But paint fumes aren’t just about inconvenience and discomfort–they signal that your body needs a healthy indoor environment. So, while you can’t get around avoiding paint forever, you can learn how to get rid of paint smells after going through a recent home renovation or redecoration.

    Understanding paint odours 

    First, let’s talk about the root of the problem. Why does paint smell so bad, anyway?

    This is mostly because of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or chemicals used to make paint apply and dry well. VOCs, like formaldehyde and benzene, can cause headaches, eye irritation, dizziness, and trigger allergies. Those who are especially vulnerable to these effects include young children, the elderly, and pregnant persons.

    VOCs are also long-term, long-range pollutants that affect nearby agriculture and form ground-level ozone, which causes health issues. And even when the drying process is done, paint can off-gas (release chemicals) for a year or more.

    While there are options like low-VOC paints, these may still contain other toxic chemicals. And studies have found that using air-purifying paints is not that effective in reducing indoor pollutants.

    So, how do you get rid of the bad smell from paint, and how long does it last? Science says ventilation is the key, especially for the first three to four days after application.

    But there are some ways to speed this up a bit.

    10 Ways to get rid of paint smell

    Getting rid of paint smells isn’t as hard as you think. In fact, you can do it with several items available in your home! In this list, we’ll tackle 10 ways to remove paint fumes faster. Make sure to add these handy items to your painting checklist in the future.

    Method 1: Ventilate your room as soon as you start painting

    Open your windows to promote ventilation | Source: iStock

    Our best advice on how to get rid of the paint smell before it gets too bad? Proper ventilation. Make sure you close the door to the room you’re painting to avoid letting the paint smell spread. Then, open the windows, use the vent or exhaust system, and turn on a few fans.

    Method 2: Use coffee beans or grounds to drive paint smells away

    Coffee beans and grounds are quick at absorbing any odours around them. You can take advantage of this property by using it to get rid of paint smell fast. After you paint, leave out little bowls of old coffee beans or coffee grounds around the room. They’ll absorb the smells overnight, leaving you with more subdued paint fumes.

    Just make sure to discard the beans afterwards, as they will have absorbed the dangerous VOCs.

    Method 3: Use baking soda to neutralise the paint fumes

    Using baking soda for paint smell is no different from using it to get rid of funky odours elsewhere in your home.

    Just place bowls filled with baking soda to neutralise the fumes in your painted space. You can add a few drops of essential oils to the baking soda as well to help mask the paint smells. Let these sit overnight or until the lingering smell is gone.

    Method 4: Pour white vinegar into little bowls to get rid of paint fumes

    Use white vinegar to eliminate paint smell | Source: iStock

    White vinegar is another kitchen cupboard staple you can use to absorb odours after you’ve painted your kitchen cabinets. Be warned: you’ll likely end up with a vinegar-smelling room, but that’s better than leaving it smell like paint for days. 

    To do this trick, fill a few bowls with white vinegar and leave them in the room overnight. You can mask the sour scent with a few drops of pure vanilla extract or peppermint oil.

    Again, ensure that you do not consume the vinegar used to neutralise these lingering paint odours.

    Method 5: Deodorise the room with buckets of lemon water

    Did you know that you can use lemon water to get rid of the paint smell in a room? Water can absorb foul odours, while the fresh scent of lemons helps mask or perfume the air.

    Simply fill a few buckets with water, add some cut-up lemons, and then leave the buckets overnight. Make sure to throw the water and lemon slices out afterwards!

    Method 6: Slice up some onions to battle those paint smells

    Would you rather your room smell like paint or onions? Here’s one way to find out.

    A certain chemical (Syn-propanethial-S-oxide) in onions helps absorb the bad smell from paint. So, to use them as a smell-absorber, simply slice a few brown onions, leave them in bowls around the painted room, and then wait. After a few hours, the room will smell like an onion but not like paint.

    Reminder: Don’t eat or cook with the onions afterwards!

    Method 7: Diatomaceous earth helps absorb those paint fumes, stat!

    Diatomaceous earth to clear out paint odour | Source: iStock

    Diatomaceous earth is a common garden pest treatment. It’s also used to get rid of ticks and fleas by “drying” them out. This is because diatomaceous earth helps absorb extra moisture, and it helps clear out the paint odour, too!

    Start absorbing paint smells by leaving small bowls of food-grade diatomaceous earth in the room to absorb the odour.

    Method 8: Charcoal comes in handy after a paint job

    Many odour-neutralising pouches you’ll find in shops use charcoal and with good reason. Charcoal is quite porous, making it ideal for absorbing paint smells.

    To get rid of paint smells, leave blocks of charcoal in the room until the smell dissipates. If you can, use activated charcoal, as this is more porous, but ordinary briquettes from the hardware store will do in a pinch.

    Method 9: Bring out those silica gel packets to absorb smells

    Those silica gel packets in your clothes, shoes, and closet will come in handy after a paint job! You can use these powerful absorbers to eliminate paint smell in a room. Let them sit in the room overnight or until the lingering fumes are gone.

    Method 10: Plug in an air purifier to filter out those fumes

    Turn on your air purifier | Source: iStock

    Yes, your trusty air purifier can work against that paint smell! Simply plug it in and leave it running in your freshly painted room so you can get rid of those nasty indoor air pollutants.

    How to prevent paint smell from spreading when painting

    One way to get rid of the paint smell fast is to stop it from spreading. Here are a few tips to prevent your whole property from smelling like paint (even after doing just one room!)

    • Close the door leading to other rooms to isolate the room you’re painting, especially if you’re painting a home extension or a new room.
    • Switch off the air conditioning in the room you’re painting.
    • Turn on the vent system and fans, and keep windows open.
    • Keep paint cans closed and cover cans, brushes, and pans when not in use.
    • Organise your painting materials to avoid spills or accidents like getting paint on the carpet.
    • Apply light coats when painting, and wait until each one is completely dry.
    • Clean your painting tools and work area thoroughly afterwards. 
    • You can also hire a professional painter to avoid extended exposure to paint fumes.  

    From fresh paint to fresh smells

    And there you have it. Knowing how to eliminate paint odours will help you relax in your newly painted space! You deserve to enjoy your painting project, but you can do this better without the strong smell of paint.

    If you’re planning another house painting project soon or have a big home improvement plan coming up, you can hire professional painters near you. They’ll take care of the legwork and nitty-gritty, leaving you free to plan, pick swatches, and enjoy the results. And yes, you can also ask them for more tips on how to get rid of paint smell fast.

    FAQs on how to get rid of paint smell

    How long does it take for the paint smell to go away?

    It usually takes around three days for the new paint smell to go away, but proper painting techniques, ventilation, and trying the tips above can help speed up the process.

    How long are paint fumes harmful?

    Paint fumes are typically harmful for up to three days after painting, even after the paint’s odour disappears. You should avoid entering the newly-painted room for up to three days while keeping the space as well-ventilated as possible to allow the fumes to exit and let fresh air in. Open windows and an air purifier will come in handy here.

    Is it safe to sleep in a room after painting?

    While you may want to enjoy your new bedroom wall colour as soon as possible, it is unsafe to do so until at least three days after painting. You’ll just end up dizzy, irritated, and sick from all the paint vapours, so it’s best to steer clear during the first three days after painting.

    Does burning scented candles get rid of paint fumes?

    Scented candles mainly only mask the fumes without really getting rid of them. If you want to know how to get rid of the paint smell fast, try using activated charcoal, baking soda, or an air purifier instead. But if you do want to use these tips and bring in a nice smell, make sure not to leave the candle unattended.

    How can I prevent heavy paint fumes?

    Here are some tips that will help prevent heavy paint fumes in the first place:

    • Choose a low-VOC, non-toxic, low-odour paint (e.g. water-based paints, milk paint). Do the same when choosing your primer. 
    • Check the weather before you paint, and schedule the job on a low-humidity day to speed up drying.
    • Apply thin coats, and let each one dry completely.
    • Cover paint cans, brushes, and pans when not in use.
    Facebook LikeTwitter

    How much will your job cost?

    The Oneflare Cost Guide Centre is your one-stop shop to help you set your budget; from smaller tasks to larger projects.