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How to get rid of paint smells in the house

Updated on November 14, 2023
Written by
Marie Cookson
Based in Manchester, Marie is one of the writers at HouseFresh and our resident dust expert. She works together with our in-house researchers and our Managing Editor to produce in-depth articles offering practical advice on how to tackle indoor air quality issues.

Strong paint fumes and the release of harmful VOCs can have a detrimental impact on your health. Even just short-term exposure can cause headaches, nausea, and a sore throat. 

Luckily, there are many ways to get rid of paint smells, with ventilation and clean air being paramount. Keeping windows open and using an air purifier that’s packed with activated carbon will help to ensure those strong paint smells are eradicated quickly and safely.

Painting your walls a vibrant new color can freshen up and reinvigorate any home. Yet a major downside to this kind of renovation is the fumes. Then there are all the chemicals that are released during the drying process, namely volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

But don’t worry because we’ve got plenty of tips to help you get rid of those overpowering paint smells fast. Let’s get stuck in.

11 Ways to get rid of paint smells in the house 

1. Ventilate the area

Often the quickest and most effective way to eliminate paint smells is simply to open windows and doors – opening multiple windows is even better. This helps to get clean, fresh air coming in from the outside while letting those harmful paint fumes escape. 


Even after you’ve finished painting, be sure to keep the room ventilated for as long as possible to maximise clean air circulation.

2. Sprinkle some baking soda

Natural, eco-friendly, and cheap, baking soda is a great deodorizer, especially when it comes to removing paint fumes. This is because it’s able to absorb and neutralize the smells that arise from newly painted areas.

Fill a few bowls with baking soda and place them around the painted room. Leave overnight, and you should notice a difference in the morning. 


You could also sprinkle it on carpets and any upholstered furniture that may have absorbed paint smells. Again, let it sit overnight before either vacuuming it up or wiping the soda away with a damp cloth. 

3. Place bowls of vinegar around the room

Vinegar isn’t just for cooking; it can also be used as a natural cleaner, disinfectant, and odor-eliminator. Like baking soda, it’s highly effective for tackling paint fumes. This is due to its acetic acid content, which can neutralize the molecules that carry strong smells. Simply pour the vinegar into a few bowls and place around the area.


For better results, use household white vinegar as this contains 10% acetic acid.  Whereas white vinegar used for cooking has only 5% acetic acid.

4. Slice onions

It might sound a bit strange but there is a scientific basis: the chemical that contributes to the strong onion smell is also able to neutralize those that create paint fumes. 

All you need to do is slice two medium-sized onions, pop them on saucers, and place them around the room. The paint smell should have dissipated in just a couple of hours.


Be sure not to re-use the onions for cooking as they may have absorbed some VOCs.

5. Use coffee grounds

Many people love the smell of coffee (certainly more so than onions!). If this is you, then the good news is that dry coffee grounds can also effectively absorb paint odors. 

Put a couple of spoonfuls in a bowl (for an average-sized room you may need about 4 bowls) and leave overnight. Then you can look forward to waking up to a nice coffee aroma rather than overpowering paint fumes.

6. Dab a few drops of essential oils

Often used as an aid for relaxation, essential oils also contain natural compounds that can effectively defuse and mask unpleasant smells.  Dab a few drops on a bunch of cotton balls, place on saucers, and dot them around the room. In only a few hours, you should notice that the paint fumes have faded.


Vanilla, peppermint, lemon, and lavender are some of the best when it comes to getting rid of paint odor.

7. Fill buckets with water

Water is a natural solvent, which means that it’s able to pick up smells from chemicals that dissolve easily. This includes things like VOCs, so it’s ideal for helping to get rid of harmful paint fumes.

Garb a few pots or buckets, fill them with tap water, and leave to sit overnight. In the morning, those strong fumes should be gone. 


Adding a few slices of lemon to the water first can help to create a fresher, more pleasant aroma.

8. Switch on fans

If you have a couple of fans to hand, you can place one near an open window or door so that it moves air out of the room. Then use the second fan in another area, such as the hall, to force clean, fresh outdoor air in through your home. 

You can also position box fans in the middle of the space, ideally angled toward windows.


Turning off the air conditioning or heating (and closing air vents) will help to prevent the paint fumes from blowing through to other rooms in your home.

9. Try diatomaceous earth

Made from fossilized plankton, this chalky white powder is a bit like having a big silica packet for your room. In much the same way as to how it works when placed inside a bag, diatomaceous earth can absorb moisture and odors due to its high silica content.   

Follow these steps:

1. Pour some into either disposable aluminum baking pans or empty coffee cans. 

2. Let the diatomaceous earth sit overnight.

3. Throw the pan or can away with the trash the next morning.


Ensure to go for food-grade rather than conventional formulas as the latter may irritate your lungs and could harm pets. 

10. Use an odor-neutralizing spray

These kinds of sprays work by using special compounds to trap odor molecules. You can buy them from most general stores and they come in lots of different scents so you can easily choose one to your liking. 

Ozium is a brand that works very well but has the potential to be toxic if not used in a well-ventilated area. 

11. Get an air purifier

Air purifiers can eliminate the smell of paint fumes while also removing toxic gasses, including VOCs. Yet, choosing a device with an activated carbon filter is important. This is because activated carbon is super effective at trapping gaseous pollutants and strong odors – and the more carbon it contains, the better.


Our top recommendations are the IQAir HealthPro Plus for large rooms and the Mila Air Purifier (with The Overreactor filter) for smaller spaces. Whatever you choose, be sure to go for a purifier that’s suitable for the room you want to rid of paint smells, as it won’t work effectively if the space is too big for its capabilities. To find other options, check out our recommended air purifiers for paint smells.

Why are paint odors so bad? 

Essentially, when paint dries, all the components and chemicals that kept it in its liquid form start to evaporate and get released into the air. 

The fumes emitted by the drying paint contain a group of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). You may have heard of VOCs as they can be emitted by a wide range of household items, including cleaning products and building materials. 

VOCs can cause various health problems (see below), and paint is an especially problematic source. This is because it can continue to release VOCs long after the paint appears dry, sometimes for weeks and even months. 

The “high risk” period, however, is considered to be during the first 48 hours after painting a room. Yet although the smell of paint may have diminished after this time, waiting 3 days (72 hours) to use the room as normal is wise. This rule applies even if you can’t smell paint anymore as some of the most harmful VOCs may not produce any odor.

Fortunately, you can purchase no-VOC and low-VOC paints. Note, however, that cautionary measures should still be taken even if you’ve opted for one of these products as they may contain other toxic chemicals. 

Final thoughts

Paint fumes can be harmful to both people and pets. Short-term exposure is unlikely to cause any serious harm, yet mild symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty breathing, including shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Painful and itchy sinuses
  • Dizziness
  • Sore throat
  • Weepy or itchy eyes
  • Nosebleeds

Long-term exposure or exposure to very high levels of VOCs can lead to serious health complications, including damaging the central nervous system. Some VOCs can even cause cancer, according to the American Lung Association

If you’re concerned about paint fumes, hopefully, this article will have helped to put your mind at ease. The key to remember is that ventilation and air purification are super important. Using an air purifier with a large amount of activated carbon will effectively eliminate the odors while also protecting you from harmful VOCs. 


About the author

Marie Cookson

Based in Manchester, Marie is one of the writers at HouseFresh and our resident dust expert. She works together with our in-house researchers and our Managing Editor to produce in-depth articles offering practical advice on how to tackle indoor air quality issues.