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 even our skin and hair. 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 eliminate that paint-thinner smell, no matter where it seems to stick.
Let’s take a look at some of these tips below to easily ditch the odor fast.
Refreshing the Carpets
One of the reasons the smell of paint thinner gets in the carpet so quickly is that the oils can get soaked into the fabric.
For that reason, getting rid of the oil will help remove the smell from your home quickly.
One of the best ways to get that oil out of the carpet is alcohol.
I understand – it might sound a little counter-intuitive to fight a smell that seems similar to alcohol with even more alcohol, but it works.
- First, find a clean rag and get it wet with rubbing alcohol.
- Next, use the rag to scrub the part of the carpet that smells thoroughly.
- 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 onto 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
Paint thinners should never be applied to your skin intentionally as they can give you a burning rash.
Having that paint-thinner smell lingering on your hands can also be annoying because you start worrying that everything you touch will take on that stink.
Plain soap is usually not enough to free yourself from paint thinner’s clutches, 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, and it’ll take that paint-thinner smell off your hands for you.
If you 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. Try it out!
Removing Thinner Smell from Clothes
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 and shoes 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 and let it sit for about two hours.
After that, add your detergent like usual 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.
Soak your clothes in warm water mixed with two tablespoons of white vinegar to make this work.
After letting it sit for at least 30 minutes, wash your clothes thoroughly with cold water.
Finally, do not forget to iron your clothes as heat can do the magic in taking off the smell that remains.
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 Paint Thinner Smell Altogether from Your Home
Most Paint Thinners are highly volatile. Which means it does not take them long to evaporate.
If left open in the room, it may evaporate within a few hours. It may take much less than that if it’s outside in your garden or the yard.
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 already painted your house with a mixture of paint thinner and paint, the thinner evaporates from the surface. But 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 is soaked into!
These can be areas like your bathroom, kitchen, under a sink, or even 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 a few exceptions where people 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 do they like the smell of thinner, turpentine, or mineral spirits, but also of petrol, nail polish, kerosene, whiteboard marker pen tips, and many more.
Many also love to drink paint thinner in smaller quantities to feel like raving due to dizziness (just like being drunk).
But remember, since the ingredients in paint thinners can be very toxic, they can kill if consumed in large quantities.
Is It Safe to Sleep in My Room After the Painting? (With Paint Smell)
Although the smell of paint thinner vapors may seem pleasant to many, it can be nauseous to others.
These smells can cause issues like dizziness and irritation in the eyes, nose, throat, etc. The fumes left behind may even kill when inhaled in larger quantities for extended periods.
Sleeping in a freshly painted room is not a problem if you have used high-quality spray paints (with fewer VOCs) while ventilating your area well.
However, if you feel that there is still a smell lingering around or you are feeling lightheaded (or headache), it’s good to sleep in another room.
Remember, the foul smell of paint and paint thinner in your house can also be caused due to other reasons, like your air conditioner.
It can smell like paint thinner, formaldehyde, or other chemicals if not maintained properly
Even the fluids or chemicals used in your HVAC system may malfunction and create a smell like paint thinner.
It does not last long if the thinner smell after the paint is minor.
This means it may certainly get neutralized on its own after a few hours (sometimes a couple of days).
But if it doesn’t go away in a week, try using natural products such as:
- activated charcoal,
- lemon water,
- coffee grounds,
- aroma candles, etc
The above products may help get rid of the unpleasant fumes left behind in the painted room.
But depending on the severity of the smell, you may need to keep them for several days until it absorbs and neutralizes the bad paint smell on walls completely.
The Bottom Line
Painting is great fun, provided you make sure everything that comes after it doesn’t stink!
Taking proper steps as soon as possible can only help you deal with these kinds of paint thinner problems naturally and can save you from possible health issues it may cause in the long term.
So, the next time you embark on a new painting project, keep some of these tips in mind; 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 over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.