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Bake-outs are a frequent topic of discussion on Toxic Free Q&A. Many people have reported success reducing odors from off-gassing building materials and household items using the bake-out method. After reviewing available research, I believe the risks outweigh the potential benefits.
A bake-out is a method of heating rooms to make chemicals from paints, finishes, and other building materials offgas more quickly.
The bake-out method was designed to accelerate the curing process of certain building materials that have some toxicity during application, but cure to a nontoxic finish. In these materials the sources of off-gassing are solvents used to keep the material pliable (as in the case of caulks, paints, and other finishes) or residual chemicals used in manufacturing that have not completely dissipated (such as adhesives used to hold together wood floor tiles). Once these chemicals offgas, however, the resulting product is non-toxic.
Unfortunately, research shows that the method does not routinely lower VOC levels.
Bake-Outs Can Increase VOC Levels
Researchers have found that bake-outs do not lower, and can sometimes increase, VOC levels (1,2,3). One explanation for an increase in levels is that the high concentration of VOCs generated by high temperature can become reabsorbed by porous material.
According to the Healthy House Institute, bake-outs seem to have little effect on formaldehyde levels, probably because formaldehyde-containing materials, such as particle board, are thick enough to have a substantial reservoir of formaldehyde in them.
There are additional risks to conducting a bake-out:
- Studies show that some chemicals are released into the air that are not released at room temperatures.
- All materials in the heated room can potentially emit VOCs. The mix of chemicals could form new, harmful compounds.
- Some materials will heat faster than others which can cause building materials to warp or crack.
Flush-Outs Recommended for New Construction
A flush-out is a technique that forces large amounts of air through a building before occupancy to lower VOCs. This is the method recommended by the U.S. Green Building Council for LEED credit prior to occupancy. The method requires very specific levels of ventilation, humidity and temperature.
Tips to Reduce VOCs in Your Home
- Purchase building materials and home furnishings with low or no VOCs.
- Improve ventilation. Open windows frequently and use fans to bring outdoor air inside. Consider mechanical ventilation for new construction.
- Seal building materials and wood furniture that are known to have high levels of VOCs with a product designed to seal in toxins, such as AFM Safecoat.
- Use a high quality air purifier designed to remove VOCs.
- Work with an indoor air quality professional if you are considering a flush-out for new construction.
Question from Deborah
I’m looking for advice on a few toxic free items such as blackout shades and curtains and couches. My husband died from leukemia so I’m very concerned about toxins in the home. I’ve searched but have been unable to find zero VOC blackout shades and curtains.
Question from Jamison
I’m wondering do you know of any Organic Wool or Cotton Suit dress slacks available for purchase. I have some wool ones however they are not organic and i know non organic natural materials has toxins in it but im dealing with it at the moment ssince im unable to find these types of slacks.
Question from Mary
I’m wondering if there is anyway you (or one of your associates) could comment on the toxicity of OdoBan?
I am disabled due to autoimmune problems. I live with my Mother – along with my five rescue cats, including one of whom has asthma).
My Mother uses a lot of OdoBan to clean the carpets and the floors. Because it’s used in hospitals, she thinks it’s “safe”. The fumes make me nauseous for days. If someone besides myself were to explain that there is reason to be cautious of this product, she would be much more likely to listen to reason. (Some mothers think they always know more than their kids).
Question from Marcella
I have decided to start eating healthier by going plant-based. This will require a blender. Are there any companies on this website that sell toxic free blenders and juicers? I look forward to hearing from you.
Question from Brenda
We are looking to find a good non-toxic sealer to seal plywood sheathing from entering our living space. Also, looking for non-toxic hardwood prefinished flooring without formaldehyde or pesticides. Need to know a company ? I’m on the east coast . Any updates on safe building materials would help. I have MCS! Are there any pre-finished floors that use water based sealers?
Question from Michael
I have a toxic brain injury and I just moved into
a condo and it has natural gas heat. I turned it on and got so sick we could not get my pulse down.
I react to mostly hydrocarbons and toluene very bad. I have a Gaba / glutamate receptor
I have a 800 sq foot condo and I’m trying to figure out how to heat it now. I’m in the Midwest and it gets cold.
I read all about space heaters for large rooms and I also read Debras recommendations.
My choice were between a
1) wood base edenpure infrared with metal inside.
2) Penoris oil filled radiator
I tried plastic heaters and they give off odors that make me sick.
I was worried about the oil filled radiator leaking or possibly off gassing because petroleum is the end of me and I go to the ER room.
I was also concerned about the wood base around the eden pure because I react to paint
And chemicals new wood finishes. But I’m more scared of oil.
Do you have any suggestions? Winter is coming and I’m stuck. I was looking for used oil heaters off eBay that may have been off gassed. As for the Eden pure I would buy that new.
Question from Linda
Question from AJ
Question from Jane