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A reader submitted a question to Toxic Free Q&A about how to minimize lingering odor from zero-VOC paint.  Andy Pace, from The Green Design Center, wrote in with a comment that was so helpful I want to share it with everyone.


According to Andy, “Lingering odor is almost always caused by moisture trapped in the coatings. As the moisture comes out, it carries with it the chemical footprint of where it was, which usually means, a distinct aroma of resins and solvents. It’s true that the BM Regal is zero-VOC, but the biggest reason why the Behr paint is problematic may have to do with the color. Most people apply dark colors way too heavy…trying to get a nice thick coat so it appears to cover well. This is counterproductive. Water based paint needs to go on very thin in order to cure properly. Thick coats will cause lingering odors and a softer film. So, dark colors will be more prone to long lasting odors than will off white colors, no matter the product line. At this point, adding another layer or two of product will only prolong the situation. Get a large fan and direct it towards the offending surface. This will help wick away the moisture. Use a dehumidifier in that room. As a last resort, wipe the surface gently with isopropyl alcohol (or a cheap vodka) and just let the alcohol evaporate naturally. As it evaporates, it will pull moisture out of the paint.”


This advice is helpful whether you have a room you have already painted or if you plan to paint in the future.


Tips for Minimizing Off-Gassing from Paint


  • Start with zero-VOC paints that are also free of solvents, biocides or fungicides. Recommended brands are AFM Safecoat and ECOS.
  • Apply water-based paint in very thin coats.
  • Allow 2-4 hours for paint to dry between coats.
    • Water-based paints cure from the outside-in, so the surface will feel dry first. Make sure you allow enough time for each coat to dry before applying another coat.
  • Use a large fan to help wick away moisture.
  • Run a dehumidifier in the room being painted.
  • If necessary, wipe the surface gently with isopropyl alcohol and let it evaporate.


I highly recommend The Green Design Center if you are looking for non-toxic building supplies. Andy and his team also specialize in helping people with MCS find building supplies that are well-tolerated.  Check out his podcast too!


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