Understanding VOC’s and Paint Odor

Understanding VOC’s and Paint Odor

02-26-18 Understanding VOCs and Paint Odor

You may, at times, be curious about why paints smell the way they do. Some of our clients have a sensitivity to smell, which can cause nausea or headaches. Even paints that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) still have odors that can be one uncomfortable. In order to understand the relationship with VOCs and odor – as well as solutions that might work for them – takes a little knowledge of chemistry.

What are VOCs?

VOCs are solvents that keep paints in liquid form for application. When the paint dries, the solvents dissipate into the air: a process called off-gassing. VOCs continue to give off gas into the air after the paint has dried.

Different paints and supplies contain different compounds. Different chemicals evaporate at different rates. By virtue of their nature, VOCs are responsible for many, but not all, of the smells clients associate with new paint.

What About Low VOC Paints?

Even low or no VOC paints can have high emissions and odors. Low and no VOC paints still have VOCs, just not as many. When pigment, or color is added to paint, it raises the VOC levels. Odors can also come from other chemicals in the paint are not considered VOCs.

How to Offset Paint Smells and Fumes

So, how do we minimize the impact of VOCs and odors. Keep in mind that even when using a low or no VOC paint, that describes the paint’s effect on the environment, not necessarily on their health. Proper ventilation during painting can help minimize the smell in a freshly painted room, both while working and after the job is done. We typically recommend opening windows or using fans whenever possible.

But when the paint is dry and you still notice the new paint smell in your home, we suggest using a good filter. HEPA air filters and charcoal can reduce the smell.

VOCs, Off-Gassing, and You

Remember, when something has a bad smell – it’s our bodies natural way of warning us that a substance is harmful. Those with scent-triggered health issue can find new paint smells unbearable. If you know you have a high sensitivity to paint fumes, let us know and we’ll discuss some different options to help you. Not all VOC-containing paints will impact odor-sensitive individuals and not all low-VOC paints are odor-free – good communication will help narrow down your concerns so we can help you select the right product for your home.

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