How long does it take for VOCs to dissipate?

Contrary to what many may believe, it is quite difficult to predict how long it takes volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to off-gas from new materials in a specific building.  Sure, you can do chamber studies under controlled conditions to determine emission or concentration decays, but how the material will behave in the real world can be quite different.

On Friday I was hired to perform a follow-up assessment for a home under construction that is experiencing elevated VOCs from varnishes and paints applied almost 7 months ago.  One month ago I was in the home and found some very high levels based on measurements with a photoionization detector (PID).  While PIDs are not as accurate or detailed as other methods of measuring VOCs, they can be used as a good screening tool with immediate feedback.  I’ll write a blog post on the advantages and disadvantages of PIDs in the near future.

During my follow up visit a month later, I saw a 40% reduction after he followed some of my recommendations listed in this blog post: Reducing VOCs.  Unfortunately, this was still 4 times the outdoor levels.  We opened up some windows in a room and very quickly we saw a significant reduction.   Here are a list of the problems:

  • The home uses 2×6 “advanced framing” making the walls better insulated and tighter.  However, the home is not bringing in mechanical ventilation.  Many states have laws requiring mechanical ventilation.
  • The owner selected hardwood floor varnish and oil-based paints high in VOC content and emission. He should have used products listed in the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute Product Guide.
  • The owner moved in before the home was complete.  It would have been better to wait for the VOCs to dissipate more.

So back to the question at hand… how long does it take?  We can find some answers in a recent article in the Indoor Air Jounal titled “Decreasing concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOC) emitted following home renovations”.  The authors found a return to “normal” VOC levels after 2-3 months.  The research was based on “real life” studies in Germany, not chamber tests.

Use the 2-3 month timeframe only as a guide, as my experience in the tight home with strong sources indicates it can take much longer.

By Ian Cull

I'm I.A.N. the Indoor Air Nerd. I'm a speaker and consultant on indoor air quality issues. To learn more about me, click "about" at the top of this page.

208 replies on “How long does it take for VOCs to dissipate?”

Very helpful! Would you say diffusion rate for new mattresses same as paint off gassing? And any studies done you’re aware of re “emission/concentration decays”??

I looked through my library of articles, and the only one I found that came close to matching was, “Inhalation Exposure to Brominated Flame Retardants in the Sleeping Microenvironment: Preliminary Modeling and Results”. I’ll email you a copy privately.

Help! My renovators have just used oil-based varnish on my floors and I am worried about VOC emission as I have a 2.5 yr old. Is it worth re-doing the floors with water varnish?


There are too many variables to know exactly what is going on. The expense of testing the air may exceed the cost of just having the floors redone. Ventilation may be a viable option. Keep the windows open and get as many air changes as possible. If you’re in a cold climate, that may not be possible this time of year.

Have you or your child had sensitivities to chemicals in the past? That could be the most important variable of all!

We have a similar issue after our cabinet maker painted the new cabinets with a (white) conversion varnish. I’ve had to take off all the cabinet doors and drawers to off gas in the garage but I still have throat/ear irritation constantly. We also have a 5 year old in the house and worry about his exposure. I read online about a possible sealant that will not allow VOCs to off gas and I’ve been trying to find more information, which is how I came across your great site!

My neighbor one floor above me in a condo building refaced her kitchen cabinets (stripped them first). I ended up in the hospital room the day after the work was done. That was in mid-December. I am still very sick and have vacated my condo for good. I tried leaving for days at a time, but would get sick again after returning home. She has not been home since the work and will not respond to requests to ventilate. We live in Chicago, so it’s cold here now.

I live in a two story condo (hers in a single floor condo). How long do you think it will take before I can return to my home. An air test showed moderate levels of acetone and ethanol.


There are too many variables to give a specific timeframe. I am based in Chicago and could potentially check out the condo. You can reach me at the office at 312-920-9393 if you are interested.


Hi Ian,

I was also interested in any information you might have concerining the VOC’s in mattresses. We want to get our twelve year old a new mattress and are concerned. Thank you.



I recently came across this article which shows erroneous “no VOC” claims on mattresses:

I haven’t researched mattresses for a while, so I’m not up on the latest. I know there are natural latex based ones, but I don’t have first hand experience. My biggest concern with mattresses are flame retardants, which often mimic hormones and disrupt the endocrine system.

Will you post here which mattress option you select? It may be helpful to others in the same situation.



Just came across this site in search of information regarding a freshly painted house.

I was very concerned about mattresses and ended up investing in cocomat – they are made in greece and are all natural. I also bought a mattress from natural mat company in England but they have branches in USA. They use natural wool for the fire safety part of it
I hope that helps.

Per the ‘voc’s in mattresses, I’m a homeopathic doctor and treat chemical sensitivities. It’s not ‘VOC’s’ that you should research, it’s PBDE’s (polybrominated biphenyl ethers). The flame retardant chemicals they put on mattresses. I’ve seen people in the hospital from a new mattress and from new furniture in general due to off gassing from PBDE’s. Hope that helps:) Thanks for your article on VOC’s too. Education is the first step – people need to understand their options. Blessings!

Recent chemical sensitivities led me to do some research. VOCs can impact immune system and cell health/inflammation levels.
1. For treating symptoms:
Eat cruciferous veggies (fiber absorbs toxins, veggies have cancer fighting properties) such as brocolli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale.
Take vitamin C.
Take probiotics to keep digestive tract healthy and help immunity.
Drink green tea for antioxidant/antinflammatory properties.
Get plenty of rest.
Run fans (both bringing IN air and exhausting OUT contaminated air).
Especially women are more sensitive to odors that may go with VOCs. This can lead to accusations of women being crazy…seriously discussed in some medical journals. But some natural gas companies train their staff to “pay special attention” if a woman says there is a gas smell when a man has not smelled it. This is a safety factor to pay attention to women’s developed sense of smell.
If you ARE mentally obsessing (BE the issue extreme or minor), be sure to increase your self care and self esteem, perhaps increasing support of friends, and other allies such as doctors, clergy, psychologists, and so forth.
2. Take antihistimines if you may have some allergic reactions going with the chemical exposure.

We are painting our stairwells, just the treads with VOC paint. One is right outside my 4 month old’s bedroom. Should I be worried? Am going to keep her out of the house for a couple hours after the painting is done. Enough? When can she go in her room?

There are too many variables to say precisely how high the levels are, or how long it will take for them to dissipate. Without instrumentation, you can only rely on your nose to detect it. At a minimum, I would have all the windows open and keep her away until the paint is totally dry.

Hello! My office has created new “Mother’s Lounges” for pumping mothers. They are beautiful with new vinyl tile floors, paint, furnishings (and mini-fridge). The problem is the odor is incredibly strong. After using the room twice yesterday, I felt a bit nauseous and had a head ache so I began to do some research which led me here.I am going to contact Facilities and HR regarding the problem but also want to offer a solution.

The room is perhaps 5’x7′ with no fresh air. The door stays closed. (I propped open the door and put a fan in the doorway but someone removed it and shut the door by the time I came back).

Would an industrial fan – on over a weekend with the door open (to the office – not fresh air) help? Would an air purifier help?

Thank you.


The easiest solution is to open a window, but that doesn’t sound like an option. How close is the closest window? Could a fan blow outdoor air into the room? If not, you’ll need to look for a “gas-phase” air cleaner. These use granular activated carbon and other sorbent media to physically remove VOCs from the air. There are other options as well, such as chemisorption and photocatalytic oxidation (PCO).


Could you please tell us more about the air cleaners you mentioned? Our cabinet maker painted the new cabinets with a (white) conversion varnish that is just awful. We’ve have every window and fan on 24/7 for 2 weeks now and I still can’t be in kitchen long enough to cook etc. There’s plenty of air flow through the house and we’ve got 2 Honeywell air purifiers that have a “VOC filter” although they advertise things like smoke removal, I doubt it’s doing much for paint odors. Thank you!

Hi Ian,
I bought a Tempurpedic mattress…horrible off gassing…two year old vomiting every night…had removed within 10 days…bought two chemical air purifiers…Austin Health mate plus…running both in bedroom with doors shut…how long until I can open the door…I also experienced memory problems,. sore throat…kids stomach problems…afraid to open the door…also aired out room for a while before I received the purifiers…
Thanks Hallie

Tempur pedic mattresses have over 130 VOCs. The flame retardants they put into that chunk of polyurethane ruined my health/life. Slept on it for a year and a half. Three years off now and still fighting for my health. Many doctors, thousands of dollars, many, many pills to detox, green coffee enemas……just horrible!

Don’t sleep on poison!!!



I had asked my countertop guys to use an eco adhesive…but it seems that they didn’t. So mad! Anyways, I’m pregnant and have a 3 year old. Do you have any information about indoor plants or biochar being able to help clean the air in the kitchen. What about air purifiers. About to freak out here!



Probably one of the cheapest and most effective approaches will be to ventilate the area with open windows. Facilitate the ventilation with some fans. I’m not sure where you are located, but it is 0 degrees F in Chicago today, so having windows open might not be much of an option. Where are you located? Forget plants, there are some gas-phase air cleaners but they are very expensive. Open windows actually does a great job compared to all other technologies. The only thing better is not putting in the VOCs in the first place! (Sorry to rub it in).


Hi Ian,

We are in Austin…and it was warm the installation day and the two days after…so what we did was to ventilate the entire house, placed a fan facing outside in the kitchen. At night sealed off the kitchen with plastic and aired it out (two doors to outside/garage in kitchen) and didn’t use the heating system those nights. Yesterday it got cold, not like Chicago, but cold and so I purchased more plants, and so we had a total of 12 small and large plants in there; shut off heating vent to kitchen, sealed it with plastic, but couldn’t ventilate overnight. The smell has dissipated more.. but again…will they be offgassing for years to come??!! How come you don’t like plants…are they really that ineffective?

Hi Ian,
We live in York, PA…summer of 2012 we had new carpet installed in our 2,000 sq/ft finished basement. A couple of months later I began experiencing skin irritation, itching, etc; 8 mths later I finally figured out that my health issues were related to the carpet off-gassing. We ventilated with fans, open windows, etc. with no relief of symptoms. I installed a REME 305 (hydroperoxide/UV light technology) in my HVAC system….no help. Recently I purchased an Airocide® which we are told needs to run for several weeks prior to seeing results. I purchased over 30 plants the other day too.
Very cold here, so currently unable to keep windows open while my symptoms continue to evolve….red, itchy skin, primarily the skin that is exposed to the air. I have tested my air and while we have moderate levels of VOC’s related to cleaning products, I’m not sure there was adequate testing conducted for carpet-related VOC’s. BTW, when I leave my home I do not experience the symptoms I’ve described.
Any suggestions?

Came across your site while trying to figure out paint odor problem. I have a design build firm in Mi. Work in Chicago a lot. Finally painted my own home which had needed it for some time. Used Benjamin Moore Aura low VOC paint in matte through most of the house, Advance for trim, and Aura Bath and Spa in bathrooms. The smell in the bathrooms was almost indiscernible in the beginning and now three weeks later is worse and worse. I can smell odor if I smell wall itself. Don’t know what to do. Never had smell develop after paint is dry.I’m very sensitive to odors and concerned about what could be happening. Any help would be so greatly appreciated.

Hi Ian,

Very glad I stumbled across this website. I thought I was the only one having so much trouble with indoor air/sensitivities. I moved into a new apartment and had the walls painted with zero VOC paint, as I’m very sensitive to chemicals (sherwin Williams Harmony). I am reacting very strongly to something after moving in. My chest becomes tight and I have horrible airway irritation every time I go into my apartment. I am now not living there, and waiting for it to subside. I’m wondering if the paint could be the problem (it’s been a month) or that the unit the floor above me was competent renovated with new hardwood floors. How long should it take to subside? My boyfriend has been airing it out on warmer days. Is there anything else I can do or an easy way to test levels?

Thank you!


I am a recycler of building materials. Is it safe to say that a laminate flooring that has been in a home for a year or more has likely finished off gassing or will off gas very little at that point?

Hi Ian, thank you for providing us with your helpful information.
My wife and I have our first baby due in 3 months. I just started prepping the baby room for painting. I bought no VOC paint. But after scraping the one corner of the ceiling that had some loose paint I found stained and chalky dark mold. The area is about 3 feet long by 3 inches wide right along the crease between the ceiling and the wall. With the advice of a contractor friend, I used bleach and water and Tilex to clean it. I then used a shellac based primer, stain blocker by Bin. I have the windows open as well as a fan and will for as long as it takes to clear the smell but my question is will painting over this with the no VOC paint help eliminate the VOC or should I let it dissipate on its own first then paint over it?

Thanks so much!

I have heard anecdotally that some paints can lock down high VOC paints, but I don’t think it has ever been independently tested, pier reviewed, and published. Many people mention AFM Safecoat for that purpose, but I don’t know.

I have Lyme and MCS….we bought a home, and found an odd orange paint on the floor in the basement-every time I went near I had anaphylactic reactions. We put a coat of Ecos Air Purifying Paint-and I am totally fine. The air in the house smelled fresher after painting than before!

We are doing renovations after a flood – everything was torn out and being replaced new. I had asked for no VOC primer and paint but they started with a low VOC primer. Today they put on the zero VOC primer, and wow, can I see the difference. The first one was AquaLock Plus, it looks AMAZINg and it’s <50 VOC g/l. The other was the Benjamin Moore no VOC. I have a small child and I'd like our air quality to be good – do you think it's a mistake to go with the AquaLock?

Hi Ian,

If a house was recently redone and they used paint loaded with VOCs, if you repaint the walls with non-VOC paint and sand/repaint all the cabinets/doors/trim with non-VOC paint, will this eliminate/trap in the VOCs from the paint?


There is plenty anecdotal evidence of encapsulation of high-VOC paint. However, I have not come across any peer-reviewed scientific literature that substantiates these claims. Tread carefully.



There are too many variables to come up with a strict timeframe. Keep windows open and in the absence of fancy instruments that I have, you can always use your nose. Your nose won’t tell you the exact concentration but it can tell you the relative abundance. Hopefully the odors will go away and indicate an improvement.


Hi Ian, Our contractor painted our house with non low VOC paint, even though I had discussed this with him from the begging. It’s pretty hot in the house but I managed to keep the AC off the whole day. Will I be able to turn the AC on soon? Im afraid turning it on will bring fumes into our house and we have two small children. How bad is exterior paint that is not low VOC? How long until it stops offgasing? Thank you so much!


Exterior paint generally has higher VOCs. Most air conditioning systems do not have an outdoor air intake… they merely recirculate the air. Therefore, running your air conditioning shouldn’t have a major influence on the amount of outdoor air being pulled in. Does your AC system have an outdoor air intake?


Hello. Over Memorial Day weekend we pulled out our 9 yr old rugs and put in Trafficmaster laminated flooring. For the past 2 weeks I have been experiencing first nasal issue and that went away and now I have a sore throat. I went to the doctor and was placed on antibiotics but am going back tonight as I am not feeling any relief. So I did some research and am now really scared that it is the flooring. I feel no relief when I am away from the house so I’m not sure if it is the flooring or if I have something else or if I have been exposed so long that i’m not feeling any relief now. Anyway, the air conditioner is on all the time as we are in Florida. Do you recommend opening the windows and airing out the place? I’ve done it before but by 9am it is over 90 degrees outside and it is unbearable. Anyway, does the heat bring off gasing more due to the humidity? What do you recommend? I seem to be the only one experiencing this and my family thinks I am crazy. 🙂 Help!


You would be surprised how well opening windows works. I was in a home last week where levels were at 15,000 µg/m3 in an upstairs bedroom recently remodelled and dropped to 800 after having windows throughout the home only slightly (there were young children and the had window locks).

Here’s the caveat… when the windows were closed again for 24 hours, the levels went back up over 12,000. So the point is… open the windows and keep them open!

VOC Testing in Chicago

Hello. I am buying a commercial building & found it had a dry cleaning service in the 1960’s. I am wondering if there’s any reason for concern. Thank you.


The concern would be with vapor intrusion of perc (Tetrachloroethylene) or other dry cleaning solutions that may be in elevated concentrations in the soil under the building. You may want to consider a laboratory-based VOC test to detect perc and other common dry cleaning solvents.


Hi, I recently did something very stupid. I sprayed raid in the wall around a pipe and inside a fixture attached to the wall and have had the raid smell and some VOC symptoms for 45 days now. I sprayed in my kitchen but somehow the raid fumes/odors made their way to an upstairs bedroom, how long would this off gas? I sprayed a few times not a large quantity, it feels like I am more sensitive now. I am using fans, and have had the windows open for a month now. I really dont want to break into the walls and remove the drywall where I sprayed around the drain pipe. The asbestos might be something thats in the walls so I am trying the ventilation approach first. Thanks for having a forum like this!


Sorry to hear about the raid. Many pesticides are semi-volatile, meaning that although they spend most of their time in a condensed state on a surface, they can find their way into the air, especially when they heat up. As such, pesticides can be more persistent than other VOCs. For example, hand sanitizer off gasses quickly but pesticides using naphthalene can off gas for years. Keep ventilating as tearing out the walls should be a last resort, especially if there is an asbestos risk.


I can open a couple of windows put a window fan in one of them. Is it better to have the fan blowing in, or out, Or does it make any difference?


Great question, and one that most people get wrong! While you’re painting or have a large release of VOCs, that area should be under a negative pressure. That means you would blow the room air out.

However, after the paint has dried, you should have fans blowing in to push fresh air into the space (ideally pushing the air into the rooms adjacent to where the painting activities happened). If you have an airtight home, you may want to open a window in the room with the highest VOCs to relieve the pressure.


we just painted a foul smelling master bedroom closet in the house we just moved into with low voc kilz primer. it says it dries within an hour and it does. we can still smell the “paint” smell though. what does that mean? we have windows open. when can we sleep in our bedroom? is our whole house contaminated with voc? do I need to open all windows etc in the entire house? i didnt realize how toxic this stuff was!

Hi Ian,

I work in a home office (upstairs), and currently there is construction going on downstairs involving the use of polyurethane and some other solvents (wood stain, etc.). The odor is not terrible where I am but I can still smell it, and I am only there about 4 hours a day. However, I am 6 weeks pregnant, so I am terrified that the fumes are going to have a negative effect.

The workers are not exactly doing their best at keeping the downstairs ventilated, I have to go open doors and windows, and they shut everything at night. I have been wearing a painting mask with the filter on it lately. I have no idea what brand they are using…is a mask sufficient in this situation?



Hi Ian, you offer me hope. Thank you for your insight. I work in an elementary school. We just moved into a brand new building (8/2015) built especially for us. I am in an office with carpet and no window that opens. From the main hall, you go into a waiting room (no open window, leads to 3 offices), and then my office. We are over the moon happy about our new building! However, I have been experiencing pretty severe asthma -burning sensation in lungs, bronchitis, shortness of breath, wheezing, etc). It gets worse in my office and better when I’m not sitting at my desk for an extended amt of time – and way better over the weekends. I’ve got fans blowing air out & circulating the air. After reading your replies, I will position a fan near the hallway door & blow air in. The building is enormous-only 2 stories but very long. I can’t really get fresh air in. Any suggestions? Thank you.

Hello Ian.
Ee are moving into a rentl home. Landlord promised to paint the whole housse with non voc eith natura. I stop by the house and found out that its been painted with cheap commercial product, super hide egg shell c284. It has 105 voc level. I read articles nd it says it would taake 2 momths off gasing.

I have 16 month baby, 3 year old kid both have very sensitive skins. I am very worried. I need to decide whether i should move in.

If its repaint to zero voc, will it be reverted?

Any suggestions?

What does voc 100 grams per liter mean? Toxic? It says slight hazard.

We had a contractor who did not wash the tile after installation yielding a grout haze. I told him I was chemically sensitive and he assured me he would use safe products to clean the haze. He brought in Mafei Ultra Care Cement Grout Haze Remover and Miracle Epoxy Grout Film remover. I had an immediate reaction to these products (throat closed, dizzy, confused, coughing, etc). The contractor just let me sit outside didn’t even offer me water. Finally, I drove to where I was staying and collapsed. I didn’t have the strength to drive to medical care. It is three weeks later and I’m still having respiratory problems, sharp pains under my left rib, very fatigued, and a rash on my back. Finally got to a doc this week who took blood tests, reported they are normal Does anyone have any ideas about what is going on and what I can do to feel better?

@Ian, reading through this page of concerns, I am staggered by the chemicals that we knowingly expose ourselves to. 6 years ago, I moved into a completely renovated apartment – all new MDF counters and cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom and the cheapest of laminate flooring, and crap paint.

I have been sick for 6 years now. Slowly getting better, but still my day to day life is very limited, and challenging. There are many places I can’t go as I need to reduce my risk of exposure to VOCs, and that evil, which is everywhere, formaldehyde.

Please folks – if you know better, do better. You don’t want to end up with my life.

Thank you for his wonderful blog. I just had the flat roof on my house done. They used EPDM with Mule-Hide bonding adhesive. Many VOCs and other highly toxic chemicals. They promised fumes would not enter the house but intense fumes were in the house for over two weeks, we had to evacuate. After serious ventilation the fumes have stopped but my question is, do they leave residue? How about carpets, stuffed furniture, bedding, clothes? I have pets and do not want to put them in danger. Can I clean this up , and how? Thanks for any advice you can give.

Hi, pro painter here. One very big issue with a lot of hack painters or contractors is forcing recoats. I would say a large majority of problems of a room offgasing is really due to application and not the paint itself. The issue is, most paints have a 4 hour recoat time for a second coat, but are dry to touch in about 1 hour. So many painters, especially non-specialists, as in, “do it all” GCs and handymen, will just recoat after 1 hour not reading directions (or sometimes less, painting wet on wet for truly *spectacular* results and finishes…) This causes the first coat to not be able to offgas fully, and then the gases will be trapped in layers, then instead of having mostly offgased itself in 4 hours, it now can take potentially years depending on circumstances.

So really, it’s very important to make sure whoever is painting your house follows the recoat times recommended by the manufacturer strictly, or even better, insist on a full day between recoats. Many people will try to force recoats so they can get done quicker, but this “shortcut” besides potentially looking ugly, has potential for offgasing for a long time.

Lastly, regarding low VOC, it’s not surefire regarding how a room smells, if you get sick, etc. There are many chemicals in paint that are not considered VOCs, but still can cause issues, especially in the case of not being allowed to off gas properly.

Best regards,
Zeta Painting

Hello. I’m so hoping someone can help give my family and me at least some helpful information. I’m 8 months pregnant and we have an 8 year old asthmatic daughter. We are renovating our home in order to have room for our new addition coming. We had a contractor come and finish our basement floors. He put a solvent based sealer on the floors and also had our garage door down and all the windows sealed while he put the product on because he did the work while it was raining. When we came home that evening, our house was beyond unbearable. We left and stayed in a hotel. Since it was still pouring the rain, we waited until the next morning to return and open all the doors and windows. We also removed the concrete stain by grinding it all off the floor in the basement. It’s been 8 days of airing our home out and the whole house still smells like paint thinner. We don’t know what we can do. I’m obviously more concerned since I’m pregnant and since my daughter has asthma. Has our home absorbed the vocs and is continuing to emit them? We’ve had our home fogged at this point, we have three air purifiers running, there is charcoal and coffee grounds out in every room…but the smell is still there. What can we do and when would it be safe to return? Thank you so much for your help.

Thank you Zeta Painting. I think that is exactly what happened. The first coat of adhesive was improperly applied, then they slapped another piece of roofing and more adhesive over that. It is a month and a half later and it is still soft. I think it will have to be pulled up and redone. Thanks for the information.

Hi Ian,
Thanks for such an informative blog! We have a sunroom on the back of our home that was a 1980’s addition by the previous owners. The room has a concrete slab surrounded by two window walls, a solid wall (no openings, etc.) and the former back wall (brick) of the home. There is an original sliding glass door on the house wall that can be opened or closed as needed, one exterior door with jalousie windows and two 60 inch casement windows. The room is heated and cooled as needed using a hotel type PTAC unit.

We recently pulled up the original 1980’s green outdoor carpet and had it replaced with low pile interior carpet that was glued down. Our problem is that the flooring contractor used a solvent based exterior carpet adhesive that was clearly marked as being for outdoor installations only. Although the smell of the glue was overwhelming at first, a steady course of heating the room for a day and then ventilating the next for the past three weeks has helped somewhat. The smell is not overwhelming, but it is still there. Fortunately, we can close the sliding doors leading to the house so ventilating this room is not a problem.

I’ve been told by the glue manufacturer that once cured, the glue smell will go away, but he couldn’t tell me how long that might take given that it’s the middle of January and the cold will most definitely slow the process down. He also told me that once fully cured, there would be no danger to those of us using the rooms. That includes two adults with no known respiratory ailments and two year old twin grandchildren that regularly use this room as their playroom when here.

So with all that said, I really just have two questions. 1) If we continue to heat the room to expedite the curing process and then ventilate the room to exhaust the fumes, do you have any idea how long we might have to wait for the glue to fully cure? And 2), is there any danger to us or the two children short term or long term once the glue has fully cured?

The mfg is confident that there will be no danger once cured, but I’d really like to hear that from someone with more experience in this area. Thanks in advance for any advice and/or help you can provide…

Note that carpet itself can contain a host of lung irritants itself; most notably, formaldehyde (a known carcinogen); which will take years to off-gas.

Carpet (with the exception of brands such as InterfaceFLOR) and laminate flooring are best avoided for indoor use.

We had a room painted with zero voc paint which included a primer component and the smell is still there after four months. Kept our window open and fan going all day for that period of time with very little dissipation. The room and paint in cans smells like the room, a chemical paint smell which is slightly sour and irritating. Where can we go to test the paint properly and find out what the odor is and how we can remove it from the walls. Until we know the source, we cannot remedy it. We have found it almost impossible to find a laboratory that tests paint for consumers other than testing for mold or lead. Please help. We are in the Southwest but could mail it to anywhere in the U.S. We are looking for a lab with integrity who will be independent and give an honest assessment of the problem. Thank you for this site and your excellent advice and support.

You said, “until we know the source, we cannot remedy it”. Isn’t the source the paint? Options for reducing VOCs include:
1. Ventilations… lots of fresh air
2. Heating the space up… it will off-gas faster
3. Activated carbon air cleaners… you’ll need a lot of carbon and not as effective as opening windows generally.
4. Painting over it… there is anecdotal evidence of this, but no published research. Proceed with caution.

A lab that does a lot of work with VOCs for homeowners is Prism Analytical, aka Home Air Check.


There is some stuff going on with low VOC paints. You may be familiar with the class action suit against Benjamin Moore “Natura”. A consumer painted several rooms and had to vacate the premises due to bad odor and the paint never dried.

This same thing happened to me with a PPG product: ICON (now renamed ASSURE) The paint seemed fine, but before the job was done had become stringy/rubbery. Several months later, the paint could still be wiped off the wall and smelled like B.O. and paint.

The Paint Research Association recognizes “Wall Odour Phenomenon” and that it has increased in frequency with newer low VOC paints. Primer doesn’t always correct the problem, and heating with ventilation only makes matters worse. Apparently high-molecular weight components mix with ozone and can continue to off-gas indefinitely.

These newer paints are also more susceptible to bacterial contamination.

The paint companies aren’t admitting these issues, nor are they helping with advice or remediation, because in part they don’t know what to do – and – when people have to replace their drywall, it gets expensive.

I live in an apartment complex. Residents are now in the middle of a toxic soup. By this I mean, asbestos in 40 year old kitchen flooring is being removed in all 125 residences. The have already been caught by the DEP doing the asbestos removal wrong. Residents have moved back to find construction dust all over their furniture as well as in their apartments, particularly in baseboard heating units. The owner of the property have also installed a laminate type flooring that is held down by a particular glue. They have installed cheap fake kitchen counter tops, cheap wood cabinets, low grade GE plastic containing refrigerators, dishwashers and a GE stove. Some of these apartments sit on wetlands (Lincoln, MA) – recently an enviromental tester found rampant mold in a 3 bedroom here only to be refuted by the owners enviromental tester. Some apartments (ours) have been painted with a low VOC (they claim) paint. They have replaced bathroom shower wall tile with a plastic vinyl type material. They do have the Safety Date Sheets on site (after 5 months past starting this renovation) and only because the DEP showed up and shut down 6 units that were under construction for asbestos removal violations. Our apartment has recently been re habbed with all the above cheap replacement items. The apartment smells like a noxious toxic soup. Today we are having an enviromental tester come to test for asbestos, mold, air quality and VOC off gassing. However, because of the construction schedule we now are being asked to return to our apartment at 35 days while this construction was taking place. I have gone into the apartment for less than 5 minutes on 2 occasions and the reaction I had after leaving the apartment and going back to our on site “hotel unit” that has not been renovated as of yet, was to find myself feeling like the inside of my nose was inflamed and then I got a headache. We do not want to return to our apartment next week 5 days from now. In short, HOW do we aide in the off gassing of the apartment and should we return there if we can avoid it. We feel this is the responsibility of the owners of the property to provide us with a safe environment to return to and we feel that our apartment is NOT safe to return to now. We will know more when I our tester gives us our testing results. We have asked the owners for air filters and to keep the windows opened – they have not done either. Any suggestions you can make will be helpful. They have also replaced all windows but have used a chemical around the windows that has been banned in several states in the US. HELP! We don’t want to live in a toxic soup.

Hi Carol,
I remember seeing the little storage units outside of your apt. complex while driving through Lincoln. I had been wondering what was going on there.
I bought a home last year and have noticed a very strong noxious odor on the sun porch.
I’ve been trying to figure out if the smell is coming from the windows. Do you know what chemical they put around the windows at your place?
I’m not sure wher pe to begin identifying the source of my odor and no one else has a good guess either.
Thank you,

Hi Ian, Thanks for your info. I am researching this because last week we had Luxury Vinyl Tile installed in the majority of our home (minus the bedrooms and bathrooms). Both the planks and the adhesive were supposedly low-VOC and no-formaldehyde.

When I came home that evening, the smell about knocked me over. We opened all the windows and turned on all the fans. The next morning, I woke up with no voice, coughing, and red, puffy eyes. I’ve been staying at a friend’s house ever since. We aired out the house for the full weekend…no help. We ordered some little VOC and formaldehyde testers on Amazon (brand is Uni-T) hoping to find the “smoking gun” in order to perhaps get our money back on the floors, since we realized we would have to have the floor torn out. Both meters read “average” levels. Not much worse than my friend’s house, or my office, which has had no renovations in many years. So we figured there must be some other chemical causing the odor and making me sick.

We had the floors torn out, but much of the adhesive was still tacky and stuck to the floor. The guys who ripped the floors out spread thinset grout over top of the adhesive, to level the floors. But the house still wreaks!! Today I received a Foobot air monitor. It reads right now that the VOC’s are over 936 ppb. (Their recommended threshhold is 300). (So much for the adhesive being low VOC!)

I even had the house completely open with a cross-breeze for 2 hours this afternoon, and closed up the house only about 3.5 hours ago. We live in Florida, and it is 93 degrees out this week. My husband melts in the heat, and must have the A/C on when he is home, which means closing up the house. He is less bothered by the odor, so he is living at home, while I live at a friend’s house.

Anyway, we have an Austin Air HealthMate Plus being delivered tomorrow. It has charcoal and zeolite, as well as a HEPA filter. But I also wonder how long this floor is going to off-gas, and if it is okay to install tile (our new flooring choice), over top of this stinking adhesive, or if it will prolong the off-gassing for a much longer time. (Though I don’t think that removing it is an option at this point, considering all the grout on top of it.)

Thanks in advance for any insight or advice.

Using fans to flush the house with fresh air is usually the most efficient option short of grinding all the adhesive residue off.
It sounds like you now have a sensitivity to one or more chemicals used in the flooring or adhesive. At this point, don’t do any more VOC tests… just use your body as the guide. Tile over the top should greatly reduce the VOCs from the remaining adhesive.


Hi there,
I am 20 weeks pregnant and my work installed a new carpet in one area of our open plan office about a month ago.
While the smell is not terrible, I do sometimes catch a smell still of new carpet a number of times a day. I try keep the windows open in that area for an hour each day.
Could those fumes from new carpet cause damage to unborn baby?
Thanks so much.

We have been remodeling our kitchen and I have been really sick from the paint which was suppose to be low voc and the vinyl plank flooring. My husband tore up the first floor and put down one with low voc and used a sealer that blocks voc on the paint. Anyway After about 2 months I was doing better until he did a backsplash using Double Duty Mastic and now I’m really sick. I’m so mad he used something so toxic, he thought it was ok since he used it years ago in the bathrooms and I was ok then. I’m so sick I can’t even function, he hasn’t sealed it yet and refuses to rip it out. Is there something we can seal it with to stop offgassing, we have a fan in the window blowing the air out and windows open. I also have a air purifier for Vocs and we have sealed the room off from the rest of the house. None of it helps I’m still real sick. Before he seals the tile is there something you can recommend for offgassing and does this stuff stop offgassing. I’m desperate any help you can give me would be appreciated.

Hello Ian!

Thank you so much for your blog!

I have a quick question that may also help others as well.

I have been doing lots of searches to see if I can find an appropriate test kit for this etc.

Recently there was a honeybee hive in my apartment’s outside wall. I asked management if they could get a beekeeper to come and save them since they are in such trouble. Sadly, mgmt opted to have their pest control co come and seal them in the outside wall. They said it was a safe product etc etc. as I had asked, as I am really sensitive to all chemicals.

I called the pest control company and they gave me the names of the products that they probably used, but they got nervous when I asked for the active ingredients etc.

I had to do that, because, since it has happened a strange odor started coming into the room that is opposite the outside wall. The air seems to hang with a kind of light gaseousness especially since it has gotten hot hot (Southwest US) and I am having strong reactions both watery and burning eyes and a headache when I am in there, I am concerned in opening the window because the offgassing may be outside as it’s in the wall and I may let even more voc’s in. I have a voc air purifier running in there and I am presently trying not to be in the room a lot until I can find a test that will cover the product’s ingredients but am not sure where to find it. Do you by chance know who may have a test kit that tests for pesticides in the air? I can email you the names of the products they used if need be.

I am needing to take care of it in the most natural way possible. So I am searching for natural ways to clean/clear the pesticide residue if it is in dust form comng in through the floor board etc. Just trying to find the best solution. Thank you so much for any ideas on anything! Happy 4th of July!

Hello Ian, we have a small child and are currently remodeling a subterranean space of our house (it has 2 windows). We found out that our painter did not use zero VOC primer/ texturizer 2 days, and are currently keeping her out of the house with the grandparents. We requested a commercial fan be put in to blow out air and keep the door open as much as possible (door connects to outside parking garage that has good ventilation). Is there anything else you recommend? He is no applying zero VOC paint from Benjamin Moore and Dunn Edwards. I know it can take a while for VOCs to dissipate and want to make sure that we are being as safe as possible for our 4 year old. Thank you.

Just wanted to add that our townhouse is 3 levels and the subterranean space connects to the living room via a stairwell. There is no door. They have currently hung plastic, but is there a better way to seal off the area?

We leave in Brooklyn NY my wife was pregnant in her ninth month, a neighbor called a floor man to sand and refinish there floors with moisture cure urethane, the smell became so bad and toxic, my wife started to fill very sick and she collapsed she was taken to the hospital and the unborn child died.

Hello Ian!

I need your advice. I went to Lowes thinking the sales lady would help me get the right paint to paint my daughters room. I have never painted before. The sales lady gave me paint + primer. I painted the room and now for 12 days the smell has made me sick, red eyes and I feel like I want to pass out. I have the window open all day and night, at night I have a fan blowing towards the window with the door closed, but the smell just won’t go away. 7 days after I first painted the room I had my dad paint with a egg shell paint over it to cover the first paint. I’m thinking about tearing out the walls, ceiling and carpet. What can I do to get rid of the off gassing. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you!

Hi I was told to put an acrylic concrete sealer on my basement floor, apparently it was for outdoor use only and has been off gassing so bad my house smells of turpentine… Can’t take my child home and having air tested this week for Voc’s (which I’m sure will come back very high) besides opening windows and removing the source, are voc”s something I can get rid of, or have these gases seeped into all of my furniture and foundation of my house ? will these Voc’s be completely gone when I Clear the air? Just worried about taking a small child back here, I don’t want to increase a risk of cancer by not replacing a couch.

I am experiencing VOC’s from an Ikea PAX wardrobe system. After 6 weeks it is somewhat better but the chemical odor still lingers. My eyes are no longer burning and no m ore headaches.I was using an exhaust window fan but the excessive humidity in NYC seems to make the odor worse. I have closed the windows and I am using the AC with the door to the room open which seems to lessen the smell. It is our bedroom. I don’t think we will be able to air out the room until the less humid weather in the fall..
I have placed baking soda in containers around the room and jars with vinegar. I also purchased ‘bad air sponges’. Are any of these methods of any use?

Can I expect the off gassing to end? If it stops with cooler weather will it return again next year when the humidity returns?

Any suggestions. This is making me crazy.

Hello Ian,

My neighbor and I, part of a 3-unit HOA, need to paint the exterior of our two townhouses. However, the 3rd homeowner does not want us to paint citing the exterior paint fumes would exacerbate her health problems as she is currently suffering from tumors in her lungs. Her unit is detached from the other two units and is about 30 feet away. Her unit will not be painted. Do you believe that her concerns are warranted and, if so, how long would you suggest she stay away from the area to allow a reasonable dissipation of the fumes? Thank you!

This info is very helpful. I ran across this site when researching side effects of polyurethane flooring. I have COPD and never use chemicals in my home, no air fresheners, no cleaning products, etc. — only essential oils and vinegar. We recently bought a 37 year old home and did a complete renovation (hand scrub of mildew in crawl space and encapsulation, paint inside and out including paint over stained trim, new appliances, etc.). I told my handyman/contractor that I wanted a “strong finish” on our beautiful oak floors in the living room and dining room so that grandkids wouldn’t destroy them. I didn’t think another thing about it as I was busy with so many other tasks with the renovation and move. He applied two coats of Minwax fast-drying polyurethane gloss “professional.” The last coat was applied a week ago Saturday and we began moving in the following Tuesday (two days later). I was in the home on Monday, one day after the final application, but in and out. I’ve been in and out of the house since, boxing up things from the old home, buying things to complete the renovation, furniture, applicances, etc., so I wasn’t in the home non-stop until three days ago. I was unpacking and putting up shelf paper so I was in the home all day and night. We’ve been sleeping in the home fo ra week, but our bedroom doesn’t have hardwoods; however, hardwoods are in the hallway outside our door and all through the living room and dining room where I was all throughout the day. I began having burning in my throat 3 days ago. I thought I was just getting what everyone else had but I told my husband I didn’t really feel bad, that it felt different. The burning was up in the top of my throat too, into my mouth. Over the week we’ve been there, I thought the smell was from all the paint (and it could be that too). Well, last night at 11:00 as I sat in the living room, it occurred to me that the the smell I’ve been smelling is mostly coming from the polyurethane floor finish as is my sore throat!! I never opened the house up until last night. Today I’ve left the home and left all windows open and turned on all sceiling fans. MY QUESTION: Since I was in the home for a week before opening the home up and I’ve been exposed to the polyurethane for that long without any ventilation, have I sustained any long-term damage other than temporary irritation? I’m afraid to call my doctor as I know she’s going to scold me for this. I’ve called Georgia poison control and they tell me it’s temporary and that if used according to instructions, it’s fine. Of course, we know that’s what they hav to say. My concern is that money talks and we all know there are ways around safety and efficacy for these big corps. Please help. I’m hoping it is only temporary. What about my grandkids? Should we stay out of the home for a period of time? Should they not visit? Thank you!! (Sorry to be long winded.)

Hello Ian,

I’m a 65 year old woman with acute chemical sensitivities. I got a letter in the mail saying I needed to have my 2010 Hyundai recalled for protection against salt on roads in winter. If the process was not done, they said, my warranty would be voided. They sprayed on Valugard solvent in a can. The VOC content is 3 – 3.5 LBS./GAL. The MSDA says it also could be a carcinogen and cause birth defects. I feel sick and have a stomach ache every time I drive my car plus I don’t sleep well and am very jumpy. The salesman said it would take a few weeks for the effects to go away, but he did not take me very seriously in the first place.I could see he thought I was a nuisance. He said if it was warmer it would go away faster but it’s very cold here in PA. Do you think it’s just a matter of waiting a few weeks? I don’t know what I should do. Let the car sit and take the bus? Thanks.


There is a charcoal mask made by I can breath mask. Saved my life several time after buying new car , new mattress that make me very sick since I am very chemical sensitive. Check it out on their website. All these people on this blog site should give it a try. Really airing out and wearing this mask helps sooo much.

I am 7 months pregnant and my husband painted our nursery with a low VOC paint a couple months ago and I can still smell fumes in there. Are there sealants or No VOC paints to lock in the off gassing or is it best to just ventilate as best as we can?

For some VOCs like formaldehyde, they off-gas faster when there is more humidity. I would focus more on lots of outdoor air ventilation rather than trying to get the temperature and humidity just right.

I just moved into a new house. The floors were scraped 5 days ago, and I still smell some sort of a smell. I’m 13 weeks Pregnant. Was wondering if inhaling the smell can do any harm…

Hi Ian,

Thank you for your blog. We live in Chicago and are considering moving to a recently renovated home in the burbs. The entire house was done. I don’t know what kinds of materials were used. I plan to try to find out. Is there a certain amount of time to wait before it would be safe to move in? I’m a cancer survivor so I’m trying to reduce exposure. Thank you for your time and expertise.

Since my baby is due and the off gassing is still occurring in both bedrooms (paint and particle board) would an air purifier be helpful? Do you have any recommended ones?

Hi Ian,
Thanks for the informative blog!
My wife and I recently moved from your home town of Chicago to a suburb of Dallas. We are building a home and are trying to avoid as many toxins in the build as possible. With that being said, we’re not too concerned about something that can fully off-gas within a few weeks or so, since the house will have plenty of time to ventilate before we move in. It’s a large house, so the difference in cost between standard paint, adhesives, sealants, etc. and nontoxic forms is substantial. So my question for you is which products should we worry most about? (off-gassing for months or years vs. days to weeks.) Would you do no VOC paint, adhesives, caulks, stains, sealants, etc or just narrow it down to a few items that off-gas for long periods?

Also…do you recommend any particular brands of the items I mentioned above?

Lastly…we were planning on doing carpet in the closets and the media room (the media room will have wool carpet). Would you advise against this and just do wood throughout? We don’t have sensitivities or asthma…just worried about carcinogens. Is there a carpet that doesn’t have formaldehyde in it? What about the padding?

If you have any other advise for someone who’s building a new home, please share.

Thanks again!!!


Hi Ian, Great blog. I have obtained the VOC emissions test from a carpet manufacturer to see their emissions. As you know there are a host of different chemicals and I wanted to know after the initial severe off gassing period which I have heard is a few days to a couple weeks, do you think the off gassing continues as unhealthy levels for the life of the product or does it eventualy finish off gassing. Many thanks

Some VOCs take minutes… others take hours, days, years, or decades to off-gas. The study referenced in this blog post found about 2 months, but I find it can be 2 years in some homes.


Hi there, we have recently purchased a new to is Miele dishwasher that is 7 years old. Upon brining it in the house i noticed a tar smell. After doing some google reaearch there is bitumen used for noise insulation wrapped on the outside. I thought that after 7 years this would not be an issue. Is there any way to eliminate the off gassing? Can i cover ir or seal it with something? Apparently all dishwashers have bitumen nowadays.

Hi. I am a Nasopharyngeal cancer survivor for 1 year. Last month I had bead board paneling installed on my bedroom walls, have since found out it and the trim is MDF (CARB certified) and the odor is still strong 3 weeks out, also just read MDF is implicated in nasopharyngeal cancer. I have had an exhaust fan in there since install but not staying in home. My question is once the smell is gone is the off gassing done? and if not, I’m thinking of having it taken down and having sheet rock refinished, should getting it out of the house immediately reduce most of the formaldehyde? I am fearful of gambling in waiting years for off gassing just because of the specificity of WHO implicating MDF causing the specific cancer I am just recently in remission from. Thank you very much. Also big box store did not list this product as MDF at store, rather eucalyptus wood, found out after nose irritation and looked product up on their website.

Formaldehyde can still be off-gassing, even if you don’t smell it. It can still off-gas some formaldehyde for years, depending on a bunch of different variables.

Being CARB compliant means that it was manufactured with less formaldehyde.

Hi Ian… I recently had our place primed with a really strong/bad smelling oil primer (top coat was a zero VOC paint).

Anyway, we’re 10 days into the painting and I’m still getting a very strong odor. My wife is pregnant so I’m trying to be safe. Ventilation is great and the windows have been open non stop. We’re using a HEPA filter in our bedroom which seems to be just fine.

1) Do you think it’s safe sleeping in the bedroom as we don’t smell the paint in there?
2) Is it normal for such a strong odor still 10 days after paint?


To answer your questions:
1) It’s hard to say if it is safe or not. Certainly if you don’t smell it, the concentration is lower than in areas where you do smell it. But just because you don’t smell it, doesn’t mean the air quality is great.
2) Yes, that is normal, especially if you used an oil based primer.


I moved into a great apt. The main problem I am having is that the flooring is engineered hardwood. It smells like chemicals. I just prefer sleeping without any odor. I don’t want to move. I bought a formaldehyde tester that didn’t show any of that. I’ve thought of lots of things – put Safecoat Hard Seal on it, cover it with polyethylene plastic that is 6 mil, ripping it out (although it appears to be glued to the cement underneath), and finally putting the plastic above and also putting zero voc thinset mortar on that and then laying some ceramic tile. I’m desperate to to block this “engineered wood” odor and stay here. My windows and doors have been open for 2 weeks now. Do you think any of those would work in all seriousness? I’m worried to use Safe Coat because I’ve heard it actually smells bad.


I’m wondering if you went with any of those options, and if so, what was your experience.

Most renovation projects bring in more VOCs, so there is no perfect solution.


Well, I found the perfect solution. I moved out after a month and broke the lease. Words cannot describe how toxic that place was. Also, all the windows were open 24 hours a day. I truly wish for a day when you could get air quality testing done before you rent an apt. Poor people have no recourse when it comes to stuff like this because there is no way to move out quickly.

What saddens me the most is that landlords don’t care about air quality – they care about cost – often getting the lower cost more toxic stuff to full their apt with.

Also, I would like to add that I bought Safe Coat and that stuff stinks very badly. I would not recommend it if you are sensitive to chemicals. I tried a sample of it and when it dried, it still had a faint odor.

Thank you Ian. I had all the bead board removed, sheet rock refinished and bedroom deep cleaned to get rid of any residual mdf dust. Thank you for your response.

Hi Ian, I recently moved into a apartment. The wall of the apartment was painted 2 weeks ago by using the PPG Hi-hide flat latex paint. Because the previous tenant has a cat, the landlord selected this paint which contains strong fragrance smell to cover up the cat smell as well as the paint smell. The fragrance smell is so strong that I cannot smell anything else except that, the smell can remain on my shirt for hours. Do you think this kind of paint is more toxic than the normal one? Can I sleep in this unit? Any way I can get rid of this smell faster, my classes have started already. ~~~help~~~~


The best option is just to open windows as much as possible. Without measuring the VOCs in the air, I can’t speak to the air quality. You can look up the product’s “Safety Data Sheet” from the manufacturer and look through the list of ingredients. That will at least tell you what was in the bucket of paint.


We are currently remodeling one of our bathrooms in which the contractor told me that instead of laying the Hardie Backer down on the floor, he will put down particle board, then cover that with a layer of Cement. He said since the Particle Board is under the cement and not exposed to the air, I won’t get the off-gasing from the particle board. Is that true? I need to know ASAP as I think he is putting in the particle board now as I write this.


The Hardie board will certainly prevent some of the off-gassed chemicals from migrating into the breathing zone. If the chemicals cannot evaporate up, you might find a greater amount of off-gassing down. I’m not sure what you have below the subfloor. If it can’t off-gas easily up or down, it will have a reduced off gassing rate now, but may off-gas for a longer period of time.


Do you have any information on how long VOCs take to dissipate in a new office building where there is no opening windows? We are moving office and after some stats.

Ian, I have a very small strawbale home reeking of napthalene from moth balls inside interior stud walls, sheathed in sheet rock, and built up against the interior strawbale walls. I get deathly ill whenever I spend time there. I’m currently caregiving an elderly parent in CA and wondering what can be done to dissipate the noxious fumes before I return.. Any suggestions? C.D.

Of course the best is to remove the moth balls. You could create a positive pressure in the home with a fan, but that introduces many complications based on outdoor conditions. For example supplying outdoor air with a fan without conditioning it is problematic on both a very cold day and a hot and humid day. I suggest finding a way to hunt down the moth balls.

Trying to remove the ethanol vocs from a home after wildfire season. The house is perfectly clean with no contents. The only elevated vocs I have to deal with is Ethanol. Any good tried and true methods to deal with this? I am having no luck in finding a protocol for cleaning out methanol nor can I find any threshold values on what level is permissable.

Ethanol is often the result of personal care products or hand sanitizer. I don’t suspect it would be increased by the wildfire season. Maybe you are thinking of methanol. Did you do a laboratory test of VOCs in your home?

Yes I did, and the only elevated vocs was Ethanol. House has been unoccupied for about a year and a half. Full time staff of housekeepers. I’m sure ventilation has been minimum. Perhaps cleaning products?

I am going to try multiple air changes of outside air. Then close everything up and charcoal filter the “new” air at length before testing. Thots?

I just moved into a rental apartment where the landlord painted, put in new carpet and did some dry wall repair, construction on the bathrooms. The previous tenant lived there for 18 years so I’m guessing it was due. But, I’ve been in there for 3 weeks and they said they painted 2 weeks prior to that – so a total of 5 weeks and I can’t stay in there overnight! When I’m in there I get a sore throat, dizziness, and a heavy feeling in my chest. I can taste the paint for hours after I leave the house. I’ve got all the windows open, a fan and a VOC air purifier in there trying to clean there air. It’s gotten somewhat better but I’ve been sleeping at a friend’s house.

Any suggestions?

Hello, my daughter and I had toxic mold exposure for over a year and now I’m trying to find a mold free home to live in. We are both very chemical sensitive because of this. We tried living in a 6 month old RV and had lots of symptoms, mostly neurological for my daughter. I’m assuming this was from formaldehyde. I am in the process of renting a 4 year old apartment. I read online from three years ago a tenant complained about getting sick from VOCs and that they used really cheap construction materials. When I checked it out the first time and did mold testing I didn’t notice anything. But both my daughter and I reacted to the office a few times. I thought maybe it was just air plugs with fragrance or something like that. Well we just went to move in and without me knowing it they cleaned the carpets and waxed the vinyl floor. Both my daughter and I had extreme reactions immediately. So I guess my question is how long it will take for the wax to off gas? I know different factors play into the time frame but typically because it’s wax I’m assuming it could be months. I’ve have the apt open and aired out for three days now. Also after reading some of your responses am worried about the formaldehyde not being fully off gassed. Would it still be off gassing after four years and since we are so sensitive it could have more subtle affects I wouldn’t notice until living there? The apt will let me out of my lease if we don’t actually move in. I was going to take my daughter back tomorrow to see how she reacts but I already know that’s not long enough for the wax. What do you suggest knowing our sensitivities and the history of the property along with how long the wax will take to off gas? Thanks so much.

Thank you for your response. We are currently living with my mother. But I’m getting desperate to find a new living situation because her home has toxic mold too. Now that we are so sensitive it seems we can’t tolerate any new builds and most older places will have too much mold for us to heal. It’s frustrating we can’t find a place to live. This is the seventh place we’ve tested for toxic mold and it has the lowest score so far but voc’s seem to affect us even more severely than mold. That’s why I’ve not been listening to some red flags with the apt we’re running out of options.

Nancy, proceed with caution. You know exposing yourself to high level of voc’s will probably make you both more ill. You need to have a completely safe place free of VOC’s and mold in order to try to recover. I feel for you, I have MCS and it took me forever to find a safe place that I could tolerate. I think there’s a product that locks chemical smells into carpet. It might be an AFM SAFECOAT product. Re: the wax floor… I do not know how to advise. Perhaps someone could go in there for you and remove it? My prayers go with you. Best of luck.

Hey Ian, great info here, thanks!

We just had over 1,000 square feet of our houses wood floors refinished and they used oil based Minwax unfortunately. It’s been a month and there’s still a bit of an odor in our house. My wife is very concerned about continued off-gassing of VOC’s and our 3 year old son’s health.
Is there a tester that I can purchase or someone in the Atlanta Georgia area that I can bring in to make sure it’s safe that you’re aware of?
Thanks so much for your help!

Water based polyurethane is much better than oil-based, as you are now seeing. You could check out the Indoor Air Quality Association website and find members in your area. Go to and click the “find a pro” button. There are some home test kits for VOCs too, which you may want to research.

Hi there Ian,

So glad I came across your site. My wife Carlotta and I are going through a remodel and have a bunch or new drywall. We are looking for a good zero VOC option to seal it prior to painting. Now I have heard that sealing new drywall can be a beast of a job but if you don’t do it then the dadgum drywall just Laps up paint like crazy. I don’t want to have to do 33 coats! I have heard that there are some good products used in Egypt but I have never been there. Have you? Anyway if you have any recommendations on a specific drywall sealing product that would be great!


Hi, I was hoping you could help. We recently moved into a new ( to us ) home and have been re painting. I’ve been using valspar no VOC signature paint. Well the lady at the home improvement store accidentally also gave me a gallon of valspar latex *exterior* paint….I didn’t even notice until the day after I used it to paint our bedroom. I called valspar and they said if I gave it a couple days to dry and then re painted over it with kilz interior oil based primer, then let that dry and then used a regular interior no voc paint, that should fix it…..he said exterior paint takes 30 days to “cure” but covering it with the oil based interior primer would lock it in…..will the room be safe after that? Should we just sleep in a different room for the next month? I’ve kept that room closed with the bathroom fans going and during the day windows open.
Please help as we have a infant and older children.

Sorry to hear about that. I’m not sure if using Kilz primer will work, but I’m not sure what other options are available. I would try it and keep aggressively ventilating the room. Would you please report back if the Kilz primer worked for you?

Hello Ian!

My husband and I want to rent a house in the mountain area of the Laurentians, close to Montreal. I have fibro + MCS. It is really our dream house, BUT, we rented the place for a week-end, to try it, and I reacted to the varnish that has been applied on the beautiful wood siding, on all the ceiling and walls. The house had been closed for 2 years when we visited the first time (the odour was sooo strong, and it trigged a fibro flare). this week-end, we opened all the windows, and put 3 ventilators to work, basement + 1st floor. The first day, it was fine. But yesterday, the smell popped out again… and triggered me some symptoms. We wonder: could it really be possible that a wood varnished 10 years ago (at least, according to the owner) still emits some VOCs or whatever else that could make feel bad? It really concerned me… anyhow, it seems like it did, and it is not in my head, because I LOOOVE wood, and the sight of it is a beauty to me… So, OUR URGENT QUESTION IS: apart from ventilating as much as possible until the cold weather shuts us in, is there any sealer or wax that could be applied to the wood before we move in, that would PREVENT THE OLD “FUMES” to leak into the air? We have to give an answer in regards to the rental tonight, at 7 pm (eastern time)! Imagine! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Wood naturally gives off VOCs, so the odor could just be the wood itself. 10 years is a long time to off-gas, but many of the oils that can be used have a low vapor pressure and it is not unheard of for it to off-gas over a long time. My advice would be similar to the common relationship advice: marry a person for who he/she is, not who you want them to become. If you don’t feel well in the home, adding more chemicals (sealers, waxes, etc.) probably won’t make you feel much better. Ventilation does wonders, as you have seen, but that cannot be maintained year round (snow, cold, rain, etc.).

Thank you SO much for your reply Ian – excellent advise!!! You are very generous 🙂
One last little inquiry: what about some sort of natural beeswax? Would it be usable – feasible as a cover? We love the place so much, such a shame…

Thank you so much again!!!

Mel 🙂

There is little to no research about the effectiveness of coating high-emitting surfaces with low-emitting products. If you try such a thing, let me know if it works for you.

Hi Ian!

We are making a nursery for our soon to come baby and we bought a new dresser for the room. The dresser gave off a very intense smell, which caused itching on my skin and eyes as well as difficulty to breathe. My husband noticed the smell but didn’t have any symptoms. We decided to air it out outside, so we left it outside on a sunny day, and then we put back in the room. After airing it out the smell was a lot worse! Maybe because it was hit by the sun and it was heated up? We decided to throw it away. However, even now that the dresser is gone the room still smells very much. We have aired it out, used A/c, used an air purifier for 2-3 days, and although it is better, when the windows are closed the smell is still intense enough to cause me symptoms. What can we do to eliminate the smell from the room? Should we wipe the walls and the other objects in the room with something? Should we burn a candle?

Thank you so much!

You make good point that I don’t think I have explicitly stated in the past. When you air something out, it is best to let it cool down before bringing it back in. A hot dresser will off-gas at a much higher rate than a cooler one.

I think having windows open should handle the odor as the offending item has been removed. Let me know if 24-100 hours of airing out doesn’t do the trick.


I recently had my deck refinished with Cabots semi-transparent deck stain. I have had some sensitivity and medical issues on proximate exposure to VOCs in the past. I closed all my windows and doors this time and there has been very little odor in the house. It is now 5 days since application. Do you think it is reasonable to open my windows again ?

Had the upstairs of my house cleaned a couple of days ago and unfortunately they used large quantities of washing up liquid to clean the woodwork. I have eye problems and they have been irritated by this quite a lot. If I wash the surfaces down with water how long is it likely to take the VOCs to disappear. Have opened the windows and the smell has gone but am still reluctant to go upstairs.

Generally, cleaners applied on surfaces don’t off-gas for long periods of time. After wiping down the surfaces and airing it out, I wouldn’t anticipate any issues. Trust your body though… you could be sensitive to some particular chemical used.

Thank you for the reply. Just one last query – could the vocs emitted be trapped by the carpets of the walls or should it only be the surfaces that need wiping?

Conceivably it could be adsorbed onto most porous surfaces including carpeting, drywall, soft furniture, etc. When you air out the place, that helps drive condensed VOCs off the material into the air and ultimately flushed to the outdoors.

We got a 4×4 plywood from hardware store and used it to help cage our dog in a carpeted home. We had it for four months and i realized its not carb 2 complaint etc.I have the sds, which states formaldehyde 3-6% but i couldnt find anything re ppm.
Regardless, i have a 6 month old baby. I keep windows open for few hours daily. We vaccuum pretty regularly. We threw out the plywood and some other pieces of wood (?) which were holding the cage together.
I heard carpet re-emits vocs/formaldehyde. My husband feels since its only one piece of wooden plank there should not be much damage but how worried should i be regarding this since its getting cold i might not be able to ventilate daily?
How long will the vocs/formaldehyde persist after getting rid of the “source” (presumably). There is no bad smell but i am still worried.
How long can carpet “re-emit” after i already got rid of the plywood in question.

If you were in our area (Chicago) I would recommend we measure the formaldehyde and VOCs in the air to give you an “official” answer. Without data, I can only give you my gut feeling. I suspect if the offending plywood is now gone, and you have aired out the place, there is probably only a negligible amount remaining. I wouldn’t worry about it if it were me and my baby.

Thank you so much for your response. Do you test these in indianapolis?!

Another question,
I have read High pile carpet would likely absorb and “remit” more vocs than low pile carpet.
Is that true? There is a home we like whose carpets and paint was done in 2014 oct. But i noticed its high pile carpet so dont know if that would be a deal breaker..? Again, no bad smell but it has been rented out a lot before us i presume. We can steam clean carpet before move (if at all)

I am a medical student who follows your site quite regularly.
In one of your video on attached garages you state hvac should not be in garage due to several reasons. Is that issue solved if we are able to keep the garage open for a few hours of the day and/or donot keep multiple items in the garage like empty paint cabs etc.
Technically wouldn’t that be the exact same issue if the hvac was in uncleaned, unfinished, non ventilated basement or attic?

If the indoor environment is no worse in the garage when compared to the indoors, the problem of an attached garage is minimized. Pulling a car in and out will result in some emissions getting in, but so long as you’re not warming up the car in the garage, it would be minimal. There are also energy implication of having HVAC equipment in an unconditioned space, but my primary focus is indoor air quality.

I posted a question a few weeks ago about cleaners who used washing up liquid to clean the woodwork in the upstairs of the house and you replied that washing up liquid does not off gas for long. My eyes have been quite badly affected by this and I have avoided going upstairs. for long. Is it likely that there would still be any VOCs in the atmosphere after 5 weeks? I have had the windows open every day for a few hours but am still nervous about the effect on my eyes.

It is a UK brand coop lemon washing up liquid
It has the following ingredients

5-15% anionic surfactants,
Less than 5% non-ionic surfactants, amphoteric surfactants,methylisothiazolinone, benzisothiazolinone perfume, limonene.

Does unfinished solid wood (spruce/pine/fir) also off gas? For how long?
I realized we got bed slats from menards probably not carb compliant !! That was 2 years ago. I have a 8 month old now. We hadnt been using that bed but now moving to use it. Thinking will it be worth it to change the bed slats to unfinished solid wood ones? Should i air them for a week or so? Which will be better option (best guess).

We had our indoor doors stained 7 days ago and they used the Penofin Red Label. There is still a slight smell. We moved back in today and I’m concerned especially since we have 2 little ones. Is there anything that can be put on top of that stain to prevent anymore off gassing? We are keeping the windows/doors open as much as possible and have air purifiers going.

You could try AFM Safecoat Hard Seal and report back here how it works for you. A lot of their literature makes a compelling case, but I haven’t seen independent research in a trusted journal. Most claims I can find in their literature concerns reducing formaldehyde, which is one of the most concerning VOCs. But my concern is additional VOCs that are added by using their products. I don’t trust products until I see independent tests not funded by the manufacturer.

Hi, I am installing vinyl plank, and the underlayment the contractor is using has a strong rubber smell, so strong I can taste it, I can’t be in the room for more than a few minutes. The underlayment has been there 2 days, with open windows, and the smell is dissipating somewhat, and the (low VOC) vinyl plank has not yet been installed. Once installed will the plank keep the smell away, or should I get rid of the underlayment before installation? We are moving forward quickly, so a quick reply is much appreciated. Thank you!

I think you should either let the underlayment off-gas or get rid of it before installing the floor. The floor over it will slow down the underlayment’s off-gassing and you may be breathing it in for a long time.

This is so discouraging to read.

I moved three weeks ago, into a lovely new rental house, except the landlord varnished the hardwood floors with an oil-based polyurethane a few days before we moved in. I have never noticed particular chemical sensitivities in myself before, but I am finding the fumes intolerable. The odour is nauseating and I feel like I can taste it in my mouth all the time. I wake up every day with a headache, and eye throat and nose irritation, and if I stay inside for longer than an hour or two during the day I get dizzy and disoriented. This is despite keeping all the windows open and fans running every day for three weeks, through the dead of freezing winter!!

I keep on hoping the problem will just get better, but it hasn’t significantly improved, and this blog seems to suggest this problem might not go away for a very long time….

What are the options here? Sealing the floor with another product? Air filters? Moving out?

Option 1: sanding and resealing the floors, Option 2: aggressively airing out the space, Option 3: moving out, Option 4 of air filters won’t get you very far, Option 5: putting a coating over the top, but I have no experience with that and therefore couldn’t really recommend it.

Hi Ian,
Brilliant blog and customer engagement!

For my scenario, just moved into a new apartment. Insides of cabinets were painted with ZAR 36212 Ultra Max Oil Modified Polyurethane, about 50 days ago. I think that the cabinet doors were then left closed for most of that time, never allowing proper diffusion & offgassing of the solvent.

Now that I’m in and trying to air it out, I find myself about to handle the place for about 30 minutes before needing to leave.

I have all windows open and fans on the shelves. I’ll crank the heat to 90 once the heater is fixed (this is LA, could have been broken for years and no one would have noticed).

Based on the product, and its likely being trapped in closed cabinets for so long, with an ambient temperature around 60,what’s your thoughts on time that it might take to have livable breathing conditions?

Anything other than heat, fans, opened windows and time that can accelerate the process? I’d love to live in my new house..

Thanks,. Adam

You’re doing all the important things. Oil-based polyurethane just takes a long time. How long is dependent on many different factors. Report back in a few weeks if you’ve made any progress. Some people use activated carbon packets or filters. They can help a little bit, but I would try everything else first.

Hi Ian,

Thanks for the very helpful blog posts. A friend helped me build my dream desk, except he sealed it with an oil-based Urethane 🙁 It sits in my office which is a tiny 80 sq ft room. The smell isn’t overpowering but it is noticeable. Per instructions you have given others i have the window open 24/7 and am blasting the radiator, it is hot in there. I will do much of my work in the living room for the next few weeks. Typically do you think it would be okay for a few hours a day to work in there with the window always open? In the future is the smell test a good indication that the VOC emissions are probably at a low/safe level if i can no longer smell anything? Thanks so much.

I can’t provide any medical advice but I would suggest paying close attention to your body. If you feel lightheaded or get a headache, etc. I would suggest staying out of the room. Without advanced instruments, an unadapted nose is the best you have. Not perfect, but it can help you determine relative strength. Only trust your nose when it is unadapted… Step outside and evaluate it when you come back in.

Hi Ian!

My husband made me a beautiful headboard for our bed out of pine. He stained it with Minwax wood finish (250 compliant.) The first three weeks after he completed it, I had to have it outside because the fumes gave me so many symptoms. After 3 weeks of it off gassing outside, we moved it into the house and mounted it on the wall. There is no longer a smell. However, I’m wondering if (even though there is no smell) it is still off gassing VOC’s? Should my husband have sealed it? Because it is a headboard and we sleep next to it nightly, are we setting ourselves up for health issues? I’m not experiencing any symptoms anymore, but am still concerned about VOC’s.

Thanks for your help!!

Odors are only good for a relative evaluation. For example, to say it’s better now than it was a month ago.

With so many variables, maybe the best thing is to pay close attention to how you are feeling and only take corrective actions if you are symptomatic.


Hi Ian,

We installed stained in place hardwood floors about a month ago. Our contractor used Minwax 250 stain and Procoat H2Oil. I confess I knew about VOCs but having never done a whole house project like this, especially in the middle of winter, it never hit me both literally and figuratively just how real off-gassing is until I smelled it. I’ve since been researching like crazy and at this point, the scent is significantly dissipated but of course I realize it could be off-gassing odor-free for years. There doesn’t seem to be any clear answers on when off-gassing is finally done. The question we’re asking ourselves is given our clothes, mattresses, couch, drywall, printing paper at work, candles, and on and on plus both my husband, daughter and I spend work/school days in newly renovated buildings, is it really worth it to sand and refinish. My research is really leading me to the conclusion that moving forward I’ll look for low/no-VOC options (even there, I’m finding you have to look at the SDS sheets) but really the best thing to do is constantly ventilate. I’m wondering, since we’d like to do more renovation projects, in addition to choosing no/low VOC is there a system that continually exchanges outside air for inside or should we just seep our windows constantly? We do have a vent to exterior stove hood and have even been using that to try and exchange air. Thanks!

You should look into Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs), which are a great way to bring in outdoor air, even when it is crazy hot or cold outside (which you can’t do with windows).

Thanks so much for your reply, my husband just texted me that he’s airing out the house and when the wind blows he can smell the floors outside! After this experience I’m definitely a clean air convert. Still contemplating refinishing actually…

Hi Ian,

Thank you for your post. We have just rented a new flat that was painted inside on the back of the front door with a high gloss white paint that is high VOC that still stinks over a week after. I’ve looked into lots of options, but my question is can I just sand down the back of the door, and is that safe to do? Does sanding emit a lot of VOC from the paint?
My feeling is that the contractors didn’t wait for the first coat to dry long enough, which is causing such strong off gassing.

Thank you,

I think sanding and getting would remove the VOCs. You might temporarily emit some extra VOCs when sanding, so you could set up a plastic sheet in the doorframe and do the sanding outdoors, just to be safe.

Hi Ian, I’m wondering if you have heard or read much about molecular sieve paints which claim to lock in vocs? Several paint companies in the uk claim it works but I’m sceptical. Our painter used high VOC eggshell in all the woodwork in all bedrooms. I’m very tempted to take it all out and replace it then paint with minimal voc paint or replace with solid wood. It’s currentky all mdf or particle board.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge so generously.



I’m more familiar with paints that use titanium dioxide to get a photocatalytic oxidation reaction to reduce VOCs. A molecular sieve would adsorb VOCs but could desorb them back into the environment. If you have a link to a specific product you are considering, please reply here. I’ll check it out.

Hi Ian, My husband and I have bought a new house, which was renovated 9 years ago. We have painted with low VOC BM Aura paint. There is a very sweet smell throughout the house, which may be caused by scented candles. The 9 year old vinyl windows seem to be sweet smelling – is this possible? The smell of the house is killing my sinuses. We’ve cleaned everything with vinegar. Any ideas?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *