Tips of the Trade

One Way to Reduce Paint Fumes

I like to use oil-based paint on moulding, cabinets and doors. It just wears better. But, boy, is it stinky stuff! We used Benjamin Moore’s oil-based paint for the closet/built-in portion of the girls’ bedroom walls. Luckily the weather has been nicer this week, so we’ve kept the windows open quite a bit for ventilation….

I like to use oil-based paint on moulding, cabinets and doors. It just wears better. But, boy, is it stinky stuff! We used Benjamin Moore’s oil-based paint for the closet/built-in portion of the girls’ bedroom walls. Luckily the weather has been nicer this week, so we’ve kept the windows open quite a bit for ventilation. But did you know that burning a candle can reduce paint fumes? I’ve been (very carefully) burning a candle up on a high shelf while the paint dries, and I’ve noticed a HUGE difference in the smell situation.

Just a little Tuesday night tip from me to you. :)

Do you have any other tips for reducing paint fumes/smells? I’ve heard leaving out a quartered onion works. But that seems weird. Like it would only add to the smell factor, right?

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34 thoughts on “One Way to Reduce Paint Fumes

  1. Use low (or ideally no) VOC paint – fewer fumes, healthier for you and yours. I'm not sure that oil based paints come in low VOC versions yet, but latex based versions definitely do.

  2. benjamin moore has a new paint that is water based low voc and actually dries very slick looking like an oil based paint. i've used it and i love it. it's called ADVANCE waterborne interior paint.

  3. I will try that next time! I love oil based paint too, but the fumes are hard to deal with in an apartment with few windows. Thank you!

  4. I've never tried this before, but a friend swears by it. Buy lipton tea bags (cheapest bulkiest you can find) place them around the room. The tea absorbs the fumes.

  5. Truth: add just a few drops of vanilla in the paint and there is NO odor!! (1tsp of extract per gallon…does not change the color) might be safer than a candle.

  6. Oil-based paint is so toxic. I really hope you're keeping everyone out of that room.

  7. I read your blog daily and have never contributed until now. I didn't think I was cool enough…

    I have a tip!!! I actually do!!

    I recently used oil-based paint in my living room redo and used

    It worked like a charm. There wasn't an odor left in my house. It even made it bearable while working! I will always use this product! It is awesome!!!

  8. I have put a couple drops of vanilla extract in paint to help with the smell. I'm not sure where I heard to do it but it definitely helps!

  9. Can you tint an oil based paint and color match exactly? I've got a couple of projects I'd like to take on, but very specific colors in mind!

  10. Wonder if setting out a cup of vinegar might help – seems to help clear the air in the kitchen after something's been fried.
    *Think the vanilla idea would be a better scent substitution, though!

  11. wow, great tip. I agree, oil based paint is way to go with woodwork and cabinetry. I'm a bit weird and kind of like the smell!

  12. Paint fumes make my husband super sick, but I love changing up color so I almost exclusively use Anna Sova food paints. They paint beautifully in one coat and are made entirely from food products so there is genuinely nothing toxic about them. My mom painted with this brand close to 10 years ago and her walls still look phenomenal!


  13. OMG OMG OMG!!! When I was a kid, there were all sorts of public service commercials about flames and oil paints and fumes and keeping old rags, brushes,and paints in metal containers to limit the fire when it starts!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Oddly enough, the onion trick has actually worked for me. Looking forward to the pics of your daughters space ;)

  15. I am in the middle of refinishing my staircase. I am lighting a candle right tis minute, I think I've been high for 3 days!

  16. Thank you for all the tips! It kind of makes me want to try painting my kitchen cabinets in the middle of winter! I know boiling cinnamon sticks will get rid of almost any smell but I guess that would only work for the kitchen and near rooms.

  17. A couple of bowls of white vinegar around the room will def help. I've also heard that putting a slice of bread in the vinegar makes it mire effective but haven't tried it myself.

    Coincidentally I just started painting our trim yesterday with a waterbased gloss paint because I couldn't deal with the fumes/toxicity of the oil paints. It's def not as glossy but I was really pleased with how well it went on and will be interested to see if it wears nearly as well as the oil paint..

  18. Let's be scientific – presumably the candle is burning off whatever gas is coming off the paint? Therefore, an onion is unlikely to work the same way, unless it also chemically reacts with the gas? Anyone know?

    That velvet headboard was SO beautifully done. Very inspiring.

  19. ONLY LIGHT A CANDLE IF ITS BEEN 24 HOURS AFTER USING THE SPRAY PAINT. Having water around it is a good precaution, but paint fumes are Flammable and can catch fire (in a very explosive manner) if you light a candle in the area where they are after immediate usage.
    Vinegar works wonders. It’ll overpower the paint fumes’ smell and maybe make the room smell a bit worse, if you dislike vinegar that is, but it does work. Fire can be more dangerous, I would not advise using it, ESPECIALLY if you used the spray paint recently.

  20. Interesting reading with all the remedies. I have just had all my doors , door frames and windows painted with Oil based paint. This volotile product should be the market. I trusted my painter who in fact does a beautiful job when I saw that the trim paint was Oil based. I have certainly suffered with the fumes and had to seek.medical attention even though I left the house for short periods or sat out side even . From.the beginning of the paint job 1 everything was open, I.have had fans going in.every room , windows and doors open 24 seven, water buckets in every room with sliced lemon , you shoukd have seen.the oil settle on the top after 1 day scarey!!! then I switched to.onions which help, Bicard of soda and just plain water. still not sleeping in my room. This has been nothing but disaster particularly because the paint I used to paint the whole home was water based. I.have meticuosly stripped. Old paint off every door frame 13 of them and weatherboards outside prepared and. Painted the whole house ceiings and wallls and had no trouble. Still today Sunday my.chest is heavy. I would never recommend oil based paint…I know the smell will.linger for weeks but luckily we are in.our summer and we are having much cooler weather than usual.If it was hot 35° plus we would have suffered more. Thanks for reading. Visit my.progress at

  21. Trying a candle atm. I have done everything mentioned. Vinegar in dishes,bucket of water, baking soda, and onions everywhere in my room. The paint I bought was low VOC, and it’s making me very sick. It’s been a disaster. I feel nauseas and have headaches. Like really sick. The first two days I felt really high and dopey. The candle is leaving a scent I have yet to see if this will help. I’ve had a fan blowing 24/7 with the window wide open and it’s winter right now and very cold out. Day 3 now, I hope this smell goes away this week. I have a can of non VOC paint I’m gonna paint over it when the room is bearable to eneer. I’ve used the non VOC paint on my living room, and never had this issue. I think they lied to me where I bought the paint and sold me industrial paint. I did recently quit smoking so not sure if I’m even more sensitive

  22. I doubt these remedies work, except inside our minds. That’s probably good enough.

    Onion? Vinegar? Candles? They may temporarily mask paint odors. That doesn’t mean those odors aren’t there. They are.

  23. My kitchen cabinets were painted with Benjamin Moore oil base paint Improvo off premises at painters offic. Then after drying for a couple of week they still smell. It’s been 17 days since installing them and they still smell. I have air wick plugged, sharper image air purifier and an onion PC hopped up and still the smell persists. I’m at a point of giving up now. Any suggestions?

    1. Anne did the smell ever go away? We are in our house for the first night and the smell is horrible! Our trim and kitchen cabinets were painted with oil base design paint.

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