Painting, furniture repair, tiling, and other home projects can leave a house smelling like chemicals. Even new drapes or furniture can leave a chemical smell in the room. These unpleasant smells are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). And they do more than simply make you light-headed. They can be harmful.
Most naturally-occurring volatiles are safe at low levels – in fact, just about everything that has a scent is a VOC. Even essential oils are volatile organic compounds. At very high concentrations, even the most benign organic compounds can become highly irritating. Think jalapeno dip versus pepper spray. And some like benzene are very dangerous.
Studies have found that levels of several organics average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels. EPA: Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality
Sprays and room deodorizers simply cover up the smell – they do nothing to reduce VOCs and may even add their own dose in. The best way to reduce exposure to harmful VOCs is to avoid bringing them into your house to begin with.
For interior painting, you may be shocked how much VOCs are released by some products. We recommend starting at Home Depot’s Eco Options page (complete with a VOC calculator). However, be advised that adding colorants to low-emission paints can raise VOCs. If you are doing a nursery or child’s room, we recommend considering Lullaby Paints.
For home projects, building materials, furniture, and other interior products look to GREENGUARD products that are certified to be low-emitting.
Reducing Room Odors After the Project
Once your home project is complete and its time to close the windows, you still may have a chemical or plastic-y smell lingering. Your best bet? Charcoal.
Charcoal is an excellent room deodorizer because of its large surface area. You can use activated carbon or expensive bamboo charcoal, but ordinary cooking charcoal is usually enough to remove odors from a freshly-painted room. Make sure NOT to use charcoal labeled “fast-lighting” or containing an accelerate. Green alternatives like Coshell Coconut Shell briquettes make a great environmentally-friendly solution – and of course, any charcoal solution can be recycled in the BBQ. Any absorbed volatiles will burn off long before cooking starts.
- Lightly crush whole pieces of wood charcoal into small pieces.
- Spread the charcoal out on a painter’s cloth, baking sheets, or other container.
- Raising the humidity helps – if you have a dehumidifier, run it on low in the room.
- Leave in place there overnight. The charcoal will absorb the odors and fumes from airborne solvents.
Once you’ve given your air the charcoal treatment, diffusing essential oils high in terpenes can reduce any lingering odors or mustiness. These levels of natural volatiles are of course perfectly safe. Diffusing rosemary, cedarwood, eucalyptus, and lavender will noticeably reduce those leftover DIY smells effectively.
we have no business relationships with any companies mentions in this post.