Why do My Walls Smell After Painting: The Dangerous Facts

You finally got around to painting the walls, but now you have a new problem. The paint smells bad, but you don’t know why. Is it dangerous? Or is bad-smelling paint standard? What can you do about it? There are typical scents associated with paint. However, it can also go sour. Luckily you don’t have to live with nasty odors. I’ll walk you through what’s normal and when o be concerned about the new color. Plus, I can show you some easy hacks for both regular problems and genuinely rancid issues. It’s easy to fix either way.

Why do my walls smell after painting? Your walls smell because the paint is bad. While some regular paints have a strong scent, rancid color is a serious issue. Moreover, you should never ignore a strong paint odor because it’s not safe to inhale. 

Removing Sour Paint to Get Rid of the Smell

No one wants a stinky wall. Whether it’s mold or just rancid paint, you don’t want to ignore the problem. Far more than just embarrassing, it can do real damage to have a wall with sour paint.

Unfortunately, when you’ve used sour paint, the solution is to get rid of it and repaint it. Luckily, both paint removal and repainting are relatively quick projects. You’ll have the new paint up in a day and dried in two if you do it right.

Some people recommend paint thinners to help remove problem painting. However, I don’t think that adding toxins to your air is a healthy solution. Instead, remove all the furniture, and put dropcloths on the floor. Then, with excellent ventilation, a high-quality mask, and eye protection, sand that nasty paint entirely away.

Remove & Replace

To eradicate your bad paint, it helps to have the right tool for the job. The Wagner 0513040 PaintEater lives up to its name. The rotating disc sander lets you take away the mistake while leaving your walls intact. You’ll be pleased with how fast the PaintEater gets rid of your problem-paint. Learn more on Amazon by clicking here.

Once you have all the old sour paint off the wall, it’s vital to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Although you’ll need to make sure your next batch of color is fresh. If you shopped harmful paint from the local home improvement store, insist on opening the container to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Otherwise, go somewhere else.

Also, it pays to look around. You may find another seller who can get the paint you need even if it’s not in stock. Check the expiration dates before you buy, or send them back if you get expired paint from an online source. Finally, there’s another simple solution to help keep you from ending up with moldy paint issues.

A high-quality mold-killing primer like Zinsser Rust-Oleum 276087 from Amazon will help you keep the paint and your walls fresh. More importantly, you can paint it right over an existing problem area and kill it at the source. You can use this primer under any top-coat you choose. It’s worth the extra effort to avoid having more problems down the line. Check the reviews for Zinsser right here.

Is Bad Smelling Paint Dangerous

Whatever you can smell, bad paint or anything else is going directly into your lungs. Most nasty scents are a warning that something is wrong. In food, it means ‘do not eat,’ and in nature, animals produce bad odors to warn off predators. Your nose is an incredible tool that you need to listen to when it warns you.

To answer the question simply, yes, bad-smelling paint is a danger to you. Whether it’s usual fumes or sour paint, you must handle the situation. Luckily, when it’s only a regular paint-odor, you can remedy it quickly.

You should always wear a mask while painting. Additionally, you’ll want to open windows and run a fan. It doesn’t matter why there’s a smell because you need to practice paint-safety regardless.

How to Tell Rancid Paint From Normal Paint Smells

here’s a big difference between sour or rancid paint, and the chemical smell of many commercial options. When paint goes off, the scent is more organic. You’re looking for the difference between a science lab or hospital ‘bad’ smell, and moldy or sour milk-like odors.

Most paint has what’s called VOCs or volatile organic compounds. Unfortunately, even these typical paint smells can be bad for you, or your family. Look out for paint with ingredients like ethyl acetate, formaldehyde, glycol, methylene chloride, toluene, and xylene. Any of these can adversely affect the air you breathe at home. Opt for low VOC paints instead.

Unfortunately, mold is one of the things that can go wrong with paint. Naturally, that’s terrible news for your health. Alternately, the sour or rancid smell is a result of the preservatives in the liquid paint failing. Other sources of contamination are also a possibility, although it’s rarely an issue.

Paint Contamination Warning

Although contaminants inside house paint are incredibly uncommon, there is a type of paint contamination that bears mentioning. However, it doesn’t come from the can you’re using to cover your walls. Instead, it comes from the layers underneath that you sand before application. Unfortunately, you cannot smell the lead in your paint.

Unlike most problems you might have with paint, contamination from older paint is a potentially lethal issue. Sanding off years of paint is a common practice before adding a new color. You must know how long the paint has been on a surface before you simply start sand-blasting or scratching it off.

Older lead-based paint is the last thing you want to tangle with. Sadly, it’s far more dangerous than even sour paint. The lead-paint dust can come from any surface painted before nineteen-seventy-eight.

Get Rid of Bad Paint Smell

Smelly walls from painting are somewhat normal. Unless you buy specifically odor-free ecologically sound paints, then you’ll need to deal with the chemical smell at least. However, bad paint needs a different solution. I’ll walk you through ways to remove the odors and solve all your paint-scent problems.

When it comes to simply clearing the air, there are several simple ways to get rid of the funk. Better still, you can use any or all of the following methods to help deodorize your home.


The first, and arguably most obvious step for removing any nasty smell, including paint, is proper ventilation. You should never paint the walls in a completely closed room. Hence, opening doors and windows are vital. Airflow is indispensable to help paint dry.

However, it’s even more essential for your health. If you have a fan or two to set up, then you should leave them running in addition to opening everything up. Reading the instructions on a paint can and using common sense helps a lot.

Air Purification

Fans and open windows are great. Yet, there’s another way to help keep your air clean that many people overlook. Investing in powered air purifiers for your home is a wise decision even when you’re not painting.

The Zeonetak Hepa Air Purifier can help you keep the paint-funk out of a room. Plus, it reduces allergens and contaminants in any room. You’ll be surprised at how quiet, and efficient the Zeonetak is, even in small spaces. Improving indoor air quality is something most people don’t think about enough. Click here to get an air purifier from Amazon. 


Yet another incredibly important step to painting indoors is wearing a mask. Any professional painter who knows their business can tell you that a face-mask is an essential part of their work equipment. The reason is simple. Inhaling paint fumes isn’t good for you.


One of the best natural solutions for odor removal is charcoal. Sadly too many people overlook this simple solution. Yet activated charcoal has been used for centuries because of how effective it is.

I suggest you pick up some AAGUT Air Purifying Bags from Amazon. They also help with humidity issues by absorbing moisture from the air. Furthermore, these outstanding bamboo charcoal bags last for up to two years. To refresh them, you only need to take the bags outside and set them in the sun for about an hour once a month. Better yet, the company has a hundred percent satisfaction guarantee. To check the reviews on Amazon, click here. 

Chemical Deodorizers

There are plenty of chemical deodorizers available. I typically recommend natural solutions instead of those with mystery ingredients because you never know what you’re breathing in with those lovely scents. Moreover, it’s crucial to find a solution that does more than merely cover up the smell.

Sprays, carpet powders, and plugins certainly make your home smell nice. However, I strongly recommend that you check the ingredients list. Once you know what’s in a product, do your homework and look up what possible side effects each ingredient has on a human body. You don’t want to add to the problem by putting more unhealthy chemicals in the air.

Baking Soda

We’re all familiar with the little yellow boxes our parents taught us to put in the fridge and freezer to prevent unpleasant odors from getting into our food. If you haven’t considered using it to remove smells in other locations, then you’re missing out. As simple solutions go, it doesn’t get much more straightforward.

Final Thoughts

If you used bad-smelling paint on your walls, fix it right away for your health. It’s never a good idea to wait and keep inhaling rancid paint or mold. Sure, it’s no fun to start over, but it’s better than getting sick.

Using a better quality paint can help with the ‘normal’ smell from VOCs, but there’s a dark side to the low VOC paints. Watch this video to learn more about what goes wrong without the chemicals that stink up your color. Remember to ventilate the room you’re painting either way.

Any bad odor coming from your freshly painted wall should concern you. Trusting your nose and your instincts could save you and your family.

Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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