Every home needs to be repainted from time to time. Changing the colors of your walls is also an excellent way to freshen up your indoor space and make it look more pleasant to spend time in.
However, this renovation task may have some unpleasant consequences as well. For example, it might be the case that due to certain conditions, you or your family members shouldn’t be exposed to paint fumes, not even for a short while.
Most wall paints have a strong and unpleasant smell, with many of them giving off toxic fumes. Keep reading to find out how to paint your home without risking anyone’s health.
In this article, we will teach you all we know about paint fumes, their potential consequences, and how to protect yourself from the negative impact of paint fumes.
Where Do Paint Fumes Come From?
Any type of wall paint contains at least four components, and these are: the binders that promote quick drying of the paint, the color pigments, the solvents that help the binders and pigments bond, and finally, the most harmful ones, are the additives, that are necessary to make the paint thicker, less bubbly, more durable, and to prevent mildew.
Once you spread the paint on the wall, it will start emitting strong fumes, and these might actually endanger your health. The Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that are present in the paint can enhance indoor pollution levels. The paint releasing volatile organic compounds as it dries is actually creating these dangerous paint fumes.
Paint Fumes Today vs Twenty Years Ago
If you have a memory of doing an indoor painting job some twenty years ago, or if you can recall the memory the smell after your parents painted your room, you should be aware that things have changed since then.
The content of today’s paint is much different, and in a good way: paint today produces fewer odors than it did ever before.
If you are performing a paint job at home, it is strongly recommended to use high-quality premium paints. Also, for residential purposes, it is best to choose latex paint or oil-based. These options will keep your and your family’s health safe.
Basically, over the past 20-30 years, paint producers have been working hard to eliminate contaminants and harmful substances especially for paint that is being used indoors, however, in many cases, this is not enough, and in order to protect your health, you shouldn’t rely on the fact that the situation is better than 20 years ago.
All paints still contain volatile organic compounds, even acrylic ones. There are still no completely harmless solutions that will satisfy all of the necessary criteria: prevent bubbling, bind the paint to the surface, give it the color, etc. The common level of volatile organic compound content is some 250 grams per liter of paint for matte finishes or up to 380 grams per liter for glossy finishes.
Another detail worth knowing is that base of the paint may claim on its package that it’s free of volatile organic compounds. However, you will eventually have to get it mixed with pigment and other components without which it is impossible to work with paint, and this will increase the levels of volatile organic compounds.
When to Move Back into a Freshly Painted Room – How Long Do Paint Fumes Last Indoor?
There are many factors that influence the length of paint fumes lingering around your indoor space, including the size of the space, type of paint, ventilation, etc.
However, on average, you should wait at least two to three days until the paint is dried out. If possible, come to the apartment every day after that day’s painting job, and ventilate the room. If there are children or old people in your home, you should try to avoid any exposure to paint fumes, which can mean waiting up to a whole week before they go back into their rooms.
You can also use air purifiers and fans along with open windows, to speed up the process of getting rid of the paint fumes.
Fo how long the paint fumes will stick around also depends on the type of paint you are using. Regular paint fumes can take up to 14 or even 24 weeks to completely vanish from your indoor air. Oil-based paints take about two months.
Of course, this is an extremely long period of time to wait, as you probably want to use the room(s) you’ve painted as soon as possible. Lucky for you, there are ways to speed this up. The most reliable method is to ventilate, as we suggested already, with windows, air purifiers, and fans involved.
Another option is to use charcoal. Charcoal, or activated carbon, is an excellent absorbent, and you may have used it already in case of stomach pain. You can crush charcoal in small pieces and place them around the area where the fresh paint job has been done. In only a few hours, you’ll notice that fumes are getting lower.
Another option is to use baking soda. You can put the soda into bowls and place them around the room. The soda should absorb the fumes in a similar way the charcoal does. After a few hours, simply remove the soda from the room and throw it in the trash, and the odors should be gone.
What Are the Potential Effects of Breathing in the Paint Fumes?
When we say that breathing in paint fumes, but also touching fresh paint is harmful to your health, especially if you belong to a sensitive group, here is what we mean.
Wet paint makes the most damage to your health if it comes into contact with your skin or if you ingest it. In case of ingesting, you should see a professional, while in the case of skin it can cause irritation, allergic reaction, or it will simply dry out the skin, leaving you with an unpleasant or itchy feeling.
When it comes to breathing in the paint fumes, the reactions can be numerous. For example, some people experience fatigue and nausea, and can even faint if the fumes are strong. Others report dizziness, headaches, breathing difficulties, but allergic reactions are also possible such as nose, eye, and/or throat irritation.
If you are exposed to paint fumes only for a short while, it shouldn’t be a big problem. Also, if you use water-based paints, you will lower the risk of experiencing health problems, and these will likely be ventilated more easily. However, this may come at the expense of the quality of your paint job.
If you are exposed to paint fumes for a longer time, this can trigger rather serious health issues, such as asthmatic reaction, respiratory issues, etc.
Despite the fact that the paint industry has changed a lot for the better over the past twenty years, paint fumes are still seen as dangerous to breathe in, and very often, they are also quite unpleasant.
In case you are planning to make changes in your indoor space and put some new colors on the walls, make sure to have a good strategy on how to do it, so that you nor your loved ones, are exposed to paint fumes.
This is particularly important in case you or people living with you belong to some of the following categories: elderly, pregnant women, and small children. These groups are especially vulnerable to the volatile organic compounds released from the components that paint is made of.
There are some possibilities of purchasing paint with a lower level of VOCs, however, this may come with a price: lower paint quality, and more work for the person who is painting.
Paint fumes can last indoors for up to 24 weeks if you don’t do anything about it. But if you ventilate the area not only through the windows but also if you use an air purifier along with a fan and perhaps add some charcoal and/or baking soda, you can expect the air fume levels to clear faster.