If you're cursed with a sensitive nose, the week following an interior paint job can be a trying experience. New paint gives off gasses for at least that long; the exchange of volatile organic compounds with the atmosphere is part of the curing process. Using low- or zero-VOC paint may diminish the odors, but it won't eliminate them. It's no use trying to cover them up with air freshener, scented candles or essential oils; you're just adding more chemicals to the air. You need something that absorbs odors, and there are many possibilities using common household items.
Things You'll Need:
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
Open the windows to circulate air in the room. Amplify the air circulation with fans or by turing on the central air system. It is especially important to do this for at least a day immediately after finishing the painting job, because this is when the paint off-gasses the most.
- If you spend the extra money for zero-VOC paint, use primer of the same quality, or you will still have odors. Breathing VOCs can have adverse short- or long-term health consequences, depending on the type of paint you use and how long the VOCs remain in the air. The New York State Department of Health recommends minimizing exposure to all types of VOCs.
Fill several bowls halfway with white vinegar and spread them around the room. Alternatively, fill each bowl with water, dissolve half a cup of salt into the water and add several slices of lemon. These solutions will absorb the paint odors.
Absorb even more odors by cutting several onions in half and spreading them around the room. Onions also absorb odors, and although they produce a slight odor of their own, it goes away as soon as you remove them from the room.
If you have central heating, the vinegar, lemons or onions work faster if you place them in front of the air returns.
The paint odors will dissipate more quickly if you paint on a dry day, because the paint dries more quickly.
Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet, if the room is carpeted. Leave it overnight and vacuum it up in the morning. Besides absorbing the paint odors, it freshens the carpet.
Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.