Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

September, 2003

VOC in House Paint

Q. I moved into an apartment on July 1. The apartment was painted with some sort of paint, assume standard interior paint, about a week before a moved in. It still seems to smell like paint in the apartment, and I am concerned about the possible effect of VOCs in the paint.

Assuming the paint that has been applied contains VOCs, how would I resolve that issue? Would applying a coat of zero VOC paint resolve the issue? Or would the fumes from the VOC paint layer underneath continue to seep through?

A. Most waterborne house paints contain small amounts of VOC and these will evaporate over a short period of time. I don't know if you are aware that VOCs are simply organic solvents, much the same as we use in "oil based" paints. Once they have evaporated then nothing else will come off. If you are really bothered by the smell you can set up a fan in the offending room and essentially "blow" the remaining solvents out of the paint. Leave the fan on for a few hours, or at the most one or two days and keep your windows open. My guess is that and it won't take too long for the smell to disappear.

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