How to Neutralize Paint Thinner Fumes in the House

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Home improvement and art projects have many positive effects on the home environment. However, whether you're painting a wall or creating a masterpiece, your work may result in a paint thinner smell in the house. To prevent the pungent odors and save your lungs, provide extra ventilation and consider using low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint thinners and paints.

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Avoid a Paint Thinner Smell in the House

To avoid a paint thinner smell in the garage or house, first determine if you need to use an oil-based paint or if an acrylic or latex paint will work just as well. Acrylic art paints and latex house paints are water-based, so you won't need paint thinner at all — just water to thin the paint (if necessary) or an acrylic paint thinner to slow the drying time plus soap and water for cleanup.

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Oil-based paints require paint thinner or mineral spirits for thinning the paint and for cleanup. Whether you use turpentine, mineral spirits, or another paint thinner product, the stench permeates the house. Beyond the smell, paint thinners may cause skin and eye irritation. They are suspected of causing genetic defects, may damage the central nervous system through repeated exposures, and can be fatal if the liquid product is swallowed and/or enters the lungs.

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Instead of the can of paint thinner that might still be on your garage shelf, consider using odorless, low- or no-VOC paints and paint thinners. These products reduce the fumes released into the home. Soy- and citrus-based thinners and solvents are among the eco-friendly, low-VOC products used for thinning paints and cleaning brushes. In addition, a few paint thinners that are designed for use with both oil and latex paints are not only low-VOC but also water-based.

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Provide Sufficient Ventilation

To reduce the smell of paint and paint thinner in your home, provide additional ventilation. Open windows and use a window fan to pull the fumes out of the room. Add an open window or outside door in an adjacent room and use a window or box fan to pull in fresh air to help clear the air quickly. If working in the kitchen or bathroom, also turn on the exhaust fan to suck the paint thinner smell out of your home.

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In addition to ventilation, use a few painter's tricks to neutralize the odor when your house or apartment smells like paint thinner. A few drops of your favorite scent, such as vanilla, citrus, or peppermint extract, put on cotton balls or dripped into small bowls of water helps hide paint and paint thinner fumes. Light a candle in a safe place away from curtains and out of reach of children and pets to help clear the air but don't leave it unattended. Alternatively, a layer of baking soda on a cookie sheet or a bucket of charcoal or plain water left in the room for a few hours or overnight will safely absorb odors.

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Keep the Work Area Clean

When working with paint and paint thinners, keep the area clean. Close containers when not in use to keep the fumes in and dust and debris out. Clean spills as quickly as possible. Discard paper towels or rags outside in a water-filled metal container or spread them on bare dirt or concrete to dry before putting them in the trash.

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Last but certainly not least, put on protective gear before working with paint thinners. If you're painting a room with an oil-based paint, use safety goggles, gloves, and a respirator or mask to protect your eyes, skin, and lungs. Keep children and pets out of the room until the paint is dry and the fumes have completely dissipated.

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