A fresh coat of paint can transform an ordinary room into a sight to behold. This explains why DIY painting has become increasingly popular, especially for homeowners looking to add life and personality into otherwise dull rooms. And since paints require some time to dry, is it safe to sleep in a freshly painted room?

It is neither safe nor advisable to sleep in a room with paint fumes. Most paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are potentially harmful when inhaled. Exposure to paint fumes can lead to side effects such as headache, nausea, dizziness, irritation, and breathing difficulty.

This article will discuss the risks associated with paint fumes and ways to stay safe after a DIY paint job. Ready? Then let’s get straight to business.

Volatile Organic Compounds in Paints

Unfortunately, most paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be harmful when inhaled. VOCs contain unstable chemicals that let off harmful gases not only to humans but also to the environment. Due to this, it is advisable to purchase paint that contains low or zero VOC.

Low and no VOC paints are known to contain very little odor. These types of paints tend to provide excellent coverage, dry faster, and last longer than paints that are high in COCs. 

What Are the Risks Associated With Exposure to Paint Fumes?

Most homeowners look forward to DIY painting, especially since it’s a fairly straightforward process (if instructions are followed). However, the main challenge associated with applying fresh paint is the risk of inhaling, potentially harmful gases. Below are some of the side effects of inhaling VOCs from fresh paint.

Breathing Difficulty

You should be extra careful to ensure that your new paint poses little to no threats when it comes to breathing. The odor released by fresh paint as it dries up can stress the respiratory tract in the process leading to breathing difficulties.

Small children and pregnant mothers are the likeliest to be affected by paint fumes, which explains why paint jobs—especially in sensitive areas such as bedrooms—should be conducted when occupants are away.

Dizzy Spells and Lightheadedness

The smell of fresh paint is notorious for causing dizziness for extra-sensitive people. Please note that reactions to paint fumes depend on an individual, which explains why even low VOC paints can still cause dizziness to some people.

To be on the safe side—it is advisable to allow fresh paint enough time to settle and dry. Doing so ensures that even the extra-sensitive family members can enjoy the paint without the risk of health complications.

Eyes, Nose, or Throat Irritation

Irritation is also another negative effect of staying or sleeping in rooms with wet or freshly applied paint. The first points of irritation are usually the eyes and nose. You’ll know that fresh paint odor is problematic when your eyes start to tear uncontrollably.

Another sign of irritation is a blocked nose or throat. Therefore, be on the lookout for those random sneezes as they usually indicate that the room needs more time to dry.

Headache and Nausea

It isn’t unusual for people sleeping or occupying rooms with freshly applied paint to experience headaches and nausea. Again, the severity of headaches and nausea depends on the contents of the paint and how the compounds released to the air react to an individual.

Consider transferring young children, seniors, and pregnant mothers from rooms with paint fumes to reduce the chances of paint-related complications.

Should Pregnant Mothers Paint?

To-be moms often find themselves at crossroads, especially when it comes to painting nurseries in preparation for the little ones.

As Healthline reveals, pregnant women should have minimal (preferably zero) exposure to paint fumes. But if a pregnant lady must paint indoors, she should use water-based paints as they normally contain lesser toxins compared to their oil-based counterparts. Also, the area being painted should be well-ventilated to reduce the chances of inhaling the potentially harmful fumes.

Is It Safe to Paint Rooms With Children Inside?

While some might argue that water-based paints pose little threat, it is advisable to take adequate safety measures to stay on the safe side.

Remember, infants and small children can hardly speak for themselves to express their feelings.

As a result, you’ll need to be extra careful to identify the signs of irritation in small children.

Be on the lookout for coughs, breathing difficulty, and unusual allergic reactions whenever you apply fresh paint at home.

How to Reduce Exposure to Paint Fumes

Choose Indoor Paints

Before commencing on your DIY paint job, check on the labeling to ensure that you use the right product. The first step should be buying paints that are labeled safe for indoor use. Indoor paints naturally contain little to no VOCs, making them safe to use in home setups.

Read Safety Information

Always take your time to carefully read and digest the information provided on the product label. Take keen note of warnings, proposed first aid interventions, and the required safety measures. Some paints might even require the usage of a respirator during application.

Paint in Well-Ventilated Areas

You can never be too sure when dealing with paints, especially those containing oil-based solvents. Due to this, DIY painting enthusiasts are always advised to paint in well-ventilated areas.

Another important area of consideration should be the weather. Painting on sunny, windy days means the paint is likely to dry faster compared to chilly weather. You can also use a box fan in the window area to improve air circulation from the inside to the inside, which promotes faster drying.

Allow Fresh Paint Enough Time to Dry

While it might be tempting to frequent freshly painted rooms and admire the flawless beauty, allowing the painted walls enough time to dry won’t hurt much. In fact, you should give your painted room several days to dry up properly.

Consider opening windows for two to three consecutive days to allow the paint fumes to exit. Point to note, paint fumes tend to disappear faster during hot and dry weather. So think twice before painting during winter as rooms will naturally take longer to dry.

Don’t try your luck by sleeping in freshly painted rooms. Doing so might negatively affect your health, leading to dizzy spells, headaches, and even nausea in the short term. Consider relocating to the guest room as you allow your room a couple of days to dry up completely.

Close Leftover Paint

Granted, most DIY painters aren’t as thorough as experienced professionals. As you focus on applying the paint carefully on your walls, you might forget to clean up as required. Be sure to seal the leftover paint containers as tightly as possible to prevent vapors from leaking.

And in case you choose to throw leftover paint, get rid of it properly. Abandoning leftover paint in the garage is a sure recipe for disaster and should be avoided at all costs.

Final Takeaway

Sleeping in a room with paint fumes isn’t a great idea since paints contain additives and solvents that might prove harmful when inhaled. Oil-based paints are especially notorious for VOCs and should be avoided for indoor projects.

Always opt for low or zero VOC paints as they are much safer for indoor use. However, even with zero VOC paints, you’ll need to give your fresh paint enough time to dry before entering (and using) the room.

Consider opening the windows and doors to fasten the drying process. With the weather on your side, a freshly painted room should dry in a couple of days, meaning you won’t have to wait too long before re-occupying it.

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