Reducing Paint Fumes When It's Time to Paint Inside

Repainting an office or other business building can perk up morale and make the place seem a lot nicer—as long as paint fumes don't overwhelm everyone nearby. More and more paints are being manufactured so that they don't release lots of fumes, but you can still end up smelling something, especially if you're very sensitive to fumes or if you have a chronic respiratory disorder like asthma. There are ways to further reduce the fumes you expose others to in the area, though.

VOCs and Paint Types

As mentioned, there are paints that have been manufactured to reduce volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Look specifically for those paints (or ask the painting company that is doing the work to use them). Also try to avoid oil-based paints, which tend to be smellier. Using a low-VOC paint may still result in some noticeable fumes, but they should not be as strong, and they should be easier to get rid of.

Fanning It Away

Open all of the windows in the building, if possible. Place box and table fans by some of the windows, pointing out. By having the fans blow air out of the building, you can move the fumes out much faster. Basically, the fans will suck in the fume-laden air and spew it out through the window. Cleaner air from outside will come in through the windows that don't have fans in front of them.

If you're in a building that does not have windows that open, then use the same procedure with most of the doors, posting signs that direct people to one or two doors that aren't blocked by fans. If all your building has is one entrance and one back door, prop both open, place the fan by the door that's least likely to be used, and keep all doors inside the building open to facilitate air flow.

Green Methods

You can also try placing bowls of vinegar—plain white distilled vinegar, the cheap stuff you can get in the grocery store—all over the office for a few days. That can help absorb some of the fumes. Also place bowls of cut lemons and oranges around the building (remember to clean these up and not leave them sitting for weeks) to add a fresher citrus smell that might help mask the remnants of the paint smell.

Talk to the painting company you're going to use to ensure you know exactly what they're planning to use and how long it will take for the paint to off-gas. Paint fumes, even at low levels, can be annoying, and the fewer fumes you have to deal with, the better.


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