Paint Smell & Respiratory Ailments []


Three weeks ago I repainted our bedroom ceiling and walls. I used ceiling paint that was about 7 yrs old. It mixed well so I assumed it was fine to use. After applying the paint I noticed an odor unlike any smell I had ever experienced before. It was so strong that we couldn't sleep in the room for the first few nights. I placed an air purifier in the room which helped a little. The bad paint smell has diminished a little but it is still quite noticeable. Can paint go bad? Can it make people sick? Is it possible that the paint could be responsible for the respiratory difficulties that my wife and I are presently experiencing like coughing, body aches, congestion and respiratory problems?


Your environment seems to be moldy and unhealthy from what you describe. We suspect your 7 year old paint is bad, probably moldy, and is probably contributing to your respiratory ailments. Latex paint is smelly but not usually a really bad smell.

We strongly suggest that you seal over that paint – pronto – with a KILZ solvent primer and then paint your room again. You must really seal the old paint to block the smell, which I believe is mold. This sealing process is similar to the fire and smoke abatement methods used in houses that had fires and smoke damage.

Imagine the organic growth culture that resulted from keeping your paint can closed, warm and wet inside. Think of what happens to water or moisture (like latex paint) when enclosed in a relatively warm environment with no ventilation for seven years. You have potentially created quite a biological Petri dish of organic culture. Then spread that growing, moldy culture in liquid form all over a massive square foot area where it can out-gas with super ventilation into a living environment for humans. Wow! Drywall compound also gets moldy over time for the same reason and gets discarded after a short time of storage.

Paint as soon as possible and ventilate the rooms well. At least change the air often with open windows until repainted!

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  • Pat Garwick

    I bought a new gallon of paint from a very reputable paint company. I went home & painted the bedroom that evening. About 2 hours after painting there was a very strong smell. The paint did not smell when I opened it nor did it smell while painting. I contacted the store where I bought it & the manager came to the house. He said it smelled like pine. He took the remaining paint with him back to his store, where they put the paint on some paper & sure enough after a couple of hours it started smelling. He notified his home office & after a few days they said there was nothing wrong with the paint. The manager did give me another type of paint to paint over this & he said it should take out the smell. Well, it did not. It still smells after 2 weeks + & the smell is making me ill. The manager said there really isn’t any more he knows of to do. How can the paint company say there is nothing wrong with the paint when even the manager knows something was wrong. I have painted this room twice now to no avail. I do not want to continue painting the same room over & over again. I have since painted another bedroom (not with the same paint) & it is not smelling. How can I get this paint smell out?

    • We would recommend that you re-paint the room with two coats of oil-based KILZ. This will mask and block the bad paint and its smell. Oil-based is very important, as it works far better for this application. You can successfully apply latex paint over the oil-based KILZ. We realize re-painting is exactly what you want to avoid, but this is the only permanent solution to the paint smell problem. Good luck!

  • Krystle Boggs

    Kilz may not solve the problem. A mold remediator told me that it is a common misconception that Kilz has antifungal properties. I thought it did. The name suggests it does. It doesn’t. It is only a good sealer. He said he had just been called to a house where mold was growing through the Kilz. You spend a third of your day in your bedroom. It needs to be a safe, healthy haven. I think that unfortunately the only route to take us a little more drastic. I would have someone safely remove and replace the ceiling drywall. I’ve seen the health effects of mold firsthand. It is not something to mess with. In a laboratory they inject mice with mold to give them cancer. Mold doesn’t have a place in the home, ever.