One of the greatest feelings in the world is finishing a project.
Whether it be remodeling part of your house or finishing an artistic oil painting, that feeling of satisfaction at a job well done is magnificent…until you have to deal with the mess.
Even worse, if you are dealing with paint, that mess comes with quite the horrible paint thinner smell.
We all know the distinct smell of chemicals that leaves us scrunching our noses and feeling dizzy.
It seems to spread everywhere, settling in on our clothes, the carpet, and our hair.
Also, it follows us for days making us smell like we just stepped out of a rubbing alcohol factory.
If you aren’t careful, the smell of paint thinner can actually cause physical harm.
More than just migraines, being exposed to paint thinner fumes for too long can cause inflammation and even lung damage.
Luckily, there are plenty of easy ways to get rid of that paint thinner smell, no matter where it seems to stick.
Take a look at some of these tips below to easily ditch the odor fast.
Refreshing the Carpet
One of the reasons the smell of paint thinner gets in the carpet so easily is because the oils can get soaked into the fabric.
For that reason, getting rid of the oil will remove the smell from your home quickly.
One of the best ways to get that oil out of the carpet is alcohol.
Sure, it sounds a little counter-intuitive to fight a smell that seems similar to alcohol with even more alcohol, but it works.
First, you need to find a clean rag and get it wet with some rubbing alcohol.
Next, use the rag to thoroughly scrub the part of the carpet that smells. As you scrub, the alcohol will clean away the oil residue that has soaked into the carpet fibers.
Don’t worry, the rubbing alcohol will evaporate quickly without leaving a scent itself.
You may have to repeat this several times before the smell goes away completely but it will work in time.
2- Baking Soda and Essential Oils
Another option, if you want a more natural solution, is baking soda and essential oils.
This method will take a little longer but does not require any scrubbing.
Begin by mixing about two cups of baking soda with a few drops (typically 8-15 drops) of your favorite essential oil.
Make sure to use a lighter colored and pure essential oil and not a darker one, because darker oils or mixtures can sometimes leave stains.
Once you’ve mixed the essential oil with the baking soda, use a rag to soak up any paint thinner liquid that may have made it onto the carpet.
After the carpet is dry, sprinkle the baking soda/essential oil mixture on to the carpet and let it sit overnight. In the morning, vacuum it all up.
The baking soda will get the paint thinner oils out of the carpet while the essential oils leave a pleasant scent replacing the awful paint thinner chemical odor.
Hands, Clean from any Crime
Having that paint thinner smell lingering on your hands can be annoying because you then start to worry that everything you touch will take on that stink.
Just plain soap is usually not enough to free yourself from paint thinner’s clutches, though, so check out some of these better solutions.
It may have a funny name, but ask any mechanic what product is the best at ridding the hands of oil and grease stains and they will all point to a big, industrial bottle with that goofy brand name written across the front.
Almost every automobile repair shop will have a bottle of it sitting around for their workers to use.GOJO is a specialty, heavy-duty soap designed to clean grease and chemicals out of the skin.
Apply some of it to your hands, wash thoroughly, and you’ll find yourself smelling like a fresh, summer orange instead of heavy chemicals.
2- Borax Mixed with Soap and Water
A decent alternative if you can’t find any GOJO is to use borax.
However, you have to be very careful not to leave it on your skin for too long as it can cause chemical burns and rashes.
Also, take care not to ingest it or get any in your eyes. Dilute it with enough soap and water, though, and it’ll take that paint thinner smell off your hands for you.
If you do use borax, mix about a 1:2 ratio of borax and water, then add a little dish soap, scrubbing your hands clean.
Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap again after you are done to make sure you have removed all the borax still lingering on your skin.
3- Olive Oil
Olive oil is a slightly messier, but more natural, alternative to GOJO or borax.
Simply rub some olive oil onto your hands until they are nice and slippery, then wash them off.
This should help remove most of the paint thinner smell from your skin in a simple, natural way!
Plus, this will help replace any moisture that the paint thinner has stripped from your skin!
Don’t have any olive oil? Baby oil works just as well.
Clean Clothes, From Head to Toe
The last place that the stench of paint thinner likes to hide is in our clothes.
Just like in carpet, the oils in paint thinner like to soak into the fibers of our clothing turning us into a walking chemical factory.
Luckily, it is easier to fit your clothes into the washer than it is to stick your entire carpet in there (please, don’t try).
First, separate the clothes that have the paint thinner smell and follow one of these extra tips when you wash them.
1- Vanilla Extract
Who doesn’t love the smell of vanilla? This is probably the easiest solution for smelly clothing.
Put your paint thinner clothes into the washer and add about two ounces of vanilla extract instead of detergent.
Let the washer run for a little while. About halfway through the wash cycle, pause it and let it sit for about two hours.
After that, add your detergent like normal and let the washer finish.
Next thing you know, your clothes are as good as new and smelling just ever so slightly of vanilla—which is way more pleasant than paint.
2- White Vinegar
White Vinegar is an alternative choice if you do not have access to a washing machine or are not a fan of vanilla.
To make this work, soak your clothes in warm water mixed with two tablespoons of white vinegar.
After letting it sit for at least 30 minutes, wash your clothes out thoroughly with cold water.
There might be a faint vinegar smell to your clothes for the next day or so, but that is much more preferable than the toxic fumes of paint thinner.
Avoid the Smell Altogether from Your Home
Most Paint Thinners are highly volatile. Which means it does not take them long to evaporate.
If left opened in the room, it may evaporate within few hours. If its outside in your garden, it may take much less than that.
If you place it in a can or a closed container, it still evaporates but slowly – usually within a day and sometimes more than 24 hours.
If you painted with a mixture of paint thinner and paint, the thinner gets evaporated from the surface. And the time it takes, in this case, will generally depend on the surface area.
The point to be noted here is although the paint thinner gets evaporated soon, it leaves back the pigment/paint on the surface.
And also the smell (due to solvent particles still present in the air).
Possibly the best way to avoid getting that paint thinner smell stuck on your body or in your house is to keep everything well ventilated.
Whenever you use toxic chemicals like oil paints and paint thinners, open up windows and set up fans to keep fresh air circulating through the area.
This will save you from two headaches—the one that comes from smelling paint thinner too much and the one you get the next day when you are trying to remove the smell from everywhere it soaked into!
These can be areas like your bathroom, kitchen, under a sink or even from AC.
Why Do Many People Like Thinner Smell So Much?
The fumes of thinner or turpentine are not good to inhale for most.
However, there are few exceptions who often get a kick out of these smells. It’s probably due to the reason that sniffing these smells makes them high.
Hard to believe but some people are so addicted to these smells that they want to get their homes painted very often.
Not only they like the smell of thinner, turpentine or mineral spirits but also of petrol, nail polish, kerosene, white board marker pen tips and many more.
Is It Safe to Sleep in My Room After the Painting? (With Paint Smell)
Although the smell of paint thinner vapors may seem to be pleasant to many, it can be nauseous and can cause issues like dizziness, irritation in the eyes, nose, throat, etc. especially when inhaled in larger quantities for a long period of time.
Sleeping in a freshly painted room is not a problem if you have used safe and high-quality paints while ventilating your area well.
However, if you feel that there is still the smell lingering around or if you are felling lightheaded (or headache) it’s good to sleep in some other room.
Remember, if the thinner smell after the paint is minor it does not last for long. Which means it may certainly get neutralize on its own after a few hours (sometimes a couple of days).
If it does not go away in a week’s time, you can make use of natural products such as:
- activated charcoal,
- lemon water,
- coffee grounds,
- aroma candles, etc
These may help to get rid of the unpleasant fumes left behind in the painted room.
Depending on the severity of the smell, you may need to keep them for several days until it absorbs and neutralizes the smell completely.
Painting is great fun, provided you make sure everything that comes after it doesn’t stink!
Remember, the smell like paint thinner in your house can also be caused due to other reasons as well.
For instance, your air conditioner (if not maintained properly) can also smell like paint thinner, formaldehyde or other chemicals.
Even the fluids or chemicals used in your HVAC system may malfunction and can crate smell like paint thinner.
Taking proper steps as soon as possible can only help you deal with these kinds of paint thinner problems and can save you from possible health issues it may cause in the long term.
So, the next time you are embarking on a new painting project, keep some of these tips in mind and the mess afterward will be just a little more bearable.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls. He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.