Why Does My House Smell Like Paint Thinner?

Why Does My House Smell Like Paint Thinner

After a new paint job, the last thing you want to deal with is your house smelling like paint thinner. But, unfortunately, it’s often an unpleasant side-effect of updating your home with a fresh coat of paint. However, your house might sometimes smell like paint thinner, even if you haven’t painted recently.

Smelling paint thinner in your house most commonly occurs following a new paint job or remodeling. However, another culprit of paint thinner smell in your house could be the fluids in a faulty air conditioner. If you smell paint thinner, proper ventilation, baking soda, white vinegar, and even water can help neutralize the odor.

Of course, if the issue stems from your A/C unit, then you need to call in an HVAC professional. If you haven’t started painting yet, opt for low VOC paints to reduce the paint thinner smell in the first place. Otherwise, read on to learn more about this offensive smell and what you can do about it.

Possible Reasons Your House Smells Like Paint Thinner

If you’ve recently painted in your home, you’re likely left with the lingering odor of paint thinner. Likewise, certain remodeling projects, like installing hardwood floors, certain insulation, and other tasks can leave behind a chemical smell. This smell can often be similar to (and therefore confused with) paint thinner.

But what if you haven’t remodeled recently?

The Paint Thinner Smell Could Be Your A/C

If you haven’t completed any painting or remodeling projects recently but are still smelling paint thinner, check your air conditioner. Quite often, issues with your AC can lead to a smell similar to paint thinner in your home. This has to do with the many fluids that your HVAC system needs to function properly.

If the smell tends to intensify when you get closer to your air conditioning unit, you’ve likely found the culprit. Your A/C could be leaking fluids or experiencing other issues that can lead to unwanted smells in your house.

As tempting as it might be to mask the odor and go on with your day, don’t.  It’s best to call an HVAC professional as soon as possible. If you put off having your air conditioner looked at, it can result in worse problems and potential health issues.

As a good rule of thumb, service and clean your A/C unit regularly. Also, address any problems in a timely fashion to increase the lifespan of your unit.

A Recent Paint Job Can Leave Lingering Paint Thinner Odors

The most common cause of paint thinner smells in your house is a recent paint job. The smell can be overpowering, especially if you didn’t use low VOC paint and painted more than one room.

Even if you didn’t use actual paint thinner to remove paint from various surfaces, it’s still there. Many paints, especially oil-based varieties, include some level of paint thinner to make application easier.

Additionally, most paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that permeate the air quickly. The quick evaporation rate of VOCs causes odors to go beyond the room you’re painting. They also can irritate your skin, eyes, nasal cavities, etc.

Tips For Getting Rid Of The Paint Thinner Smell In Your House

A great way to reduce the paint thinner smell in your home is to use low VOC paints. But what if you’re already finished your painting project? Or, what if your lingering paint thinner odor is from your faulty HVAC system? How do you get rid of the paint thinner smell?

1. Air Out The House During And After Painting

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For both odors and health reasons, you should always paint in a well-ventilated area. And it’s best to air out the whole house, even if you’re just painting one room.

Open any and all doors and windows, and turn on all fans, including exhaust fans. Also, for your own protection, wear goggles and a mask.

If the room you’re working in has no fans or windows, bring in a portable fan or two. The idea is to improve airflow throughout the house so smells can dissipate faster.

2. Make Sure To Clean Up Properly After Painting

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Nothing makes paint and chemical odors linger longer than leaving your supplies untouched after the job. It’s essential to clean your brushes, rollers, and anything else that’s come in contact with paint, paint thinner, and chemicals.

It’s also vital to clean these things as soon as possible. If you throw anything away, seal it in a separate bag before dropping it in the trash. Then, ensure you take out the garbage immediately.

Seal the lids on all paint containers, paint thinner, and other products entirely. You can use a rubber mallet to seal paint lids in place. First, cover the container with paper towels or a rag to prevent anything from splashing on you or nearby surfaces.

3. Neutralize The Paint Thinner Smell

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If your paint thinner odor problem is from a recent paint or remodel job, you can attempt to neutralize the odor. However, do this in addition to the above steps; it’s important to ventilate your home correctly and dispose of chemicals responsibly.

  • You can use bowls of water to help absorb the chemicals in the air and neutralize the odor. Simply fill a few bowls and set them around the rooms you’ve painted.
  • You can also do this same process with bowls of white vinegar.
  • Activated charcoal powder placed in bowls throughout the painted rooms can also neutralize odors. 
  • A popular DIY fixer, baking soda, is another odor neutralizer. Sprinkle it liberally around the room.

For all of these solutions, let them sit overnight, then dispose of them the next day. For baking soda, you can vacuum it up easily.

4. Cover Up The Paint Thinner Smell

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This is another step that can help you deal with the odor, but you should do it in addition to the above steps. Simply covering up the smell won’t get rid of it, which means those chemicals are still in the air.

Therefore, employ all other steps to actually rid your home of the chemicals. Then, use these ideas to give you some more pleasant-smelling aromas while the air clears.

  • Go for some intense scents, like chopping up garlic and onions in the kitchen or grinding some coffee beans. Even setting out a bowl of fresh coffee beans can help.
  • You can also always light a few scented candles or use a diffuser or air freshener. 
  • Bake a fresh batch of cookies; it fills the home with a yummy smell, plus you get to eat cookies.

What Are The Dangers Of Paint Thinner?

Many people think that exposure to paint thinner isn’t really a big deal. Perhaps it’s because painting is such a typical DIY project that almost anyone can do. But, that doesn’t downplay the seriousness of the different chemicals involved.

Exposure to paint thinner can cause an array of issues, and long-term exposure can lead to even more severe problems. Here are a few issues you could experience from paint thinner exposure:

  • Frequent exposure to paint thinner can cause respiratory problems.
  • You could experience headaches, nausea, and skin, eyes, nose, and throat irritation.
  • Exposure to paint thinner can also cause nausea.
  • Children are especially susceptible to the dangers of paint thinner.

Children not only can have issues from inhaling the substance but are also in danger of swallowing it. This is why proper handling and storing of paint thinner is so important.

Tips For Handling Paint Thinner Safely

Always ensure you keep paint thinner and other chemicals out of the reach of children. It’s also essential to store paint thinner in a well-ventilated area away from fire sources.

If you need to dispose of paint thinner, never pour it down the drain. This leads to potential contamination of groundwater.

Instead, consult with your local authorities to determine how you’re supposed to dispose of paint thinner in your area correctly. There is likely a particular facility you will need to take it to.

When you use paint thinner, always wear gloves and a mask. Safety goggles are also advised to avoid eye irritation. Using water-based paint can also limit how much paint thinner is present in the paint.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do about the paint thinner smell in my washing machine?

If you get paint thinner on your clothing, then wash your clothes, your washing machine can hang on to some odors. This problem can occur with numerous smells, which is why you can purchase washing machine cleaners.

Typically these cleaners, like Affresh, are easy to use. You simply toss it in your machine and run a cycle. Many newer machines even feature a machine-cleaning cycle for this purpose.

You can also scrub the inside of your washer using a soft cloth dampened with white vinegar and sprinkled with baking soda. Also, clean the bottom of the washing machine lid and the door.

Then, use a plain damp cloth to rinse the inside of the machine, getting rid of all the baking soda.  Lastly, pour a ½ cup of chlorine bleach in the machine’s bleach dispenser and run a cycle with hot water.

When the cycle completes, leave the lid open and let our washing machine dry out thoroughly. Leaving the top open after running a load through your washer is always a good practice to keep odors at bay.

Why does my water smell like paint thinner?

If your water smells like paint thinner, it’s likely due to certain bacteria in the water. For example, iron bacteria feed off the iron in the water, but they pose no health threat.

However, there could also be VOCs present in the water, especially if you live near a manufacturing facility or something similar. Sulfates are another possibility. The only way to know for sure is to send a water sample to a certified lab or have a company come out and test your water.

Depending on the result, they can advise you on addressing the issue, which usually involves a treatment device and a licensed plumber.