How to stop odor and smell from oil-based paint

Written by michael e carpenter
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How to stop odor and smell from oil-based paint
When selecting charcoal for odour-eating purposes, skip any additives, such as the mesquite or easy-light varieties. (charcoal image by Sergey Kolesnikov from

Oil paint releases fumes called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These fumes can cause headaches, dizziness and a possible blackout. According to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency, or EPA, oil-based paints also can irritate the eyes and skin, even causing the skin to crackle. Removing these fumes and the smell can be difficult. Oil-based paints dry slowly. The thicker the coating of paint, the longer the paint will take to dry. Reduce the smell by taking steps while painting and try some home remedies afterward to remove the smell quickly.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Fans
  • Charcoal
  • Bucket
  • Paper towel
  • Salt
  • Candles
  • Water bowls
  • Onions

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  1. 1

    Ventilate the room you are painting. Open any windows in the room. Set up fans and try to create a crosscurrent of air flow, pulling fresh air from the outside in and pushing the fumes and smell out. Do this while painting the room. This also should be done after the painting has been completed.

  2. 2

    Spread salt around the room. If the painting tarp is still in place, spread the salt over the tarp. Be generous. The salt will help remove some of the smell, but it also removes moisture from the air. Removing the moisture from the air helps the paint to dry faster. Sweep up the salt after two or three days.

  3. 3

    Place pieces of charcoal in a bucket and cover it with moist paper towel. Place the bucket in the middle of the room overnight. Remove the bucket and repeat with fresh charcoal the next evening. Charcoal has natural odour-removing properties.

  4. 4

    Light a candle for a few hours after you have completed the painting. The candle will burn off some of the fumes reducing the smell. You can place the candle in a bowl of water to protect the fire from spreading.

  5. 5

    Cut up an onion and place it in the room. Let the onion stay in the room until it shrivels up, which will take a few days. The onion will absorb some of the odour.

Tips and warnings

  • Additives can be added to the paint prior to applying to cover up some of the smell. They will not remove the fumes or VOCs, but they will cover up the smell. Use a few drops of vanilla extract or peppermint oil per gallon of paint.

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