If you haven’t painted recently, however, there’s a good chance you’re smelling a leak from your air conditioning unit.
Let’s go through some of the reasons you might be smelling paint thinner in your home.
Then, we’ll provide you with some ways to fix it.
House Smells Like Paint Thinner
When your house smells like paint thinner, it can be scary and alarming, especially if you haven’t painted recently.
It’s important to remember that some chemicals smell alike, so the first thing you want to do is identify what’s causing the smell.
The smell of paint thinner can often indicate the presence of chemicals, which can be harmful to your health.
Typically, the paint thinner smell is caused by volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
Volatile organic compounds can quickly escape into the air and have a strong odor like that of paint thinner.
Since VOCs evaporate easily, they can irritate your eyes, skin, and other body parts.
1. Paint Thinner Smell Caused by Paint
If you’ve painted your home recently, it should come as no surprise that you smell paint thinner.
Paint thinner is often used to reduce the thickness of paint so it can be applied more evenly.
This is particularly important when painting with a sprayer applicator instead of a brush or roller.
Paint thinner is also commonly used to remove unwanted paint from walls, brushes, rollers, and other painting tools.
First, make sure to clean up any items that have come into contact with paint thinner.
During the painting process, you might use a lot of different equipment.
It’s important to make sure to properly clean or dispose of all of these.
Rather than just throwing them into the trash, put them inside a sealed bag first.
This way, you can contain the source of the smell, preventing additional chemicals from being released into the air.
In addition, make sure to properly seal and store any opened containers of paint thinner.
The best way to get rid of a paint thinner smell in your house is to neutralize the odor.
There are several ways to do this, so you can choose whichever one you prefer.
2. Opt for Low Odor Paint
Nowadays, there are countless paint and paint thinner options to choose from.
If you’re sensitive to the strong odors produced by paint, opt for a low odor or low/zero VOC paint.
These products should be readily available online and at your local home improvement store.
The Best Ways to Neutralize Paint Thinner Smell in Your House
Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best.
Using nothing more than simple bowls of water, you can neutralize paint thinner smell in your home.
Fill up a few bowls of water and let them sit overnight in the room you painted.
Over time, the water will absorb some of the chemicals and neutralize the strong smells.
This is the easiest solution, since we all have ready access to bowls and water.
2. White Vinegar
Another household staple for cooking and cleaning is vinegar.
White vinegar is the prescribed variety for removing paint thinner smell, and as with water, you’ll need some bowls.
Fill the bowls with vinegar and let the acids in the vinegar do their work.
Within just a few hours, the vinegar will absorb the odorous compounds in the paint thinner.
After a few hours, simply dispose of the vinegar in your sink.
You may have heard about activated charcoal being used in high-quality air or water filters.
Charcoal is a miracle substance when it comes to removing toxins.
For this reason, it’s another great way to naturally neutralize the odors from paint thinner.
You can buy activated charcoal powder on the Internet or at various stores for just a few dollars.
Like other neutralization solutions, you can just fill some ordinary bowls with charcoal powder and wait.
4. Baking Soda
You’ve probably used baking soda to absorb odors in your fridge, on your carpet, or elsewhere.
It’s used in households around the world and costs as little as $1.
It neutralizes odors naturally, and it is easy to vacuum off rugs and other fabrics.
Baking soda can be sprinkled anywhere around the house, so use it liberally anywhere you find paint thinner smell (or other unsettling odors) in your home.
5. Ventilation for Getting Rid of Paint Thinner Smell
Ventilation is another great way to mitigate the smell of paint thinner in your house.
Since VOCs evaporate in the air, circulating fresh air is crucial to eliminating the smell of paint thinner.
Opening the windows and doors in your home is the simplest way to let VOCs and nasty smells out.
Other ways of ventilating your home including running exhaust fans or other fans.
Ideally, you should ventilate your home from the start of your project until after you finish.
Even after you’re finished painting, keep your windows open to allow air to circulate freely.
Covering Up Paint Thinner Smell in Your Home
While it’s best to address paint thinner odors directly, you can always mask the smell by covering it with a different scent.
Some people will turn to their kitchens and cut up strong-smelling vegetables like onions.
The chemicals in onions may help to counteract the paint thinner odors you’re smelling.
Another option you can use that’s easily accessible in your kitchen is coffee beans.
A bowl of fresh coffee beans can smell great in the morning, and it can also be used to fight the stench of paint thinner smell in your home.
When it comes to masking the smell of paint thinner in your house, it’s a matter of preference.
You can light a scented candle or break out your favorite diffuser.
Air Conditioning Leaks Causing House to Smell Like Paint Thinner
One of the most common causes of paint thinner smell in your home is an air conditioning leak.
Smelling paint thinner in the vicinity of your air conditioning is usually a telltale sign of a problem with your unit.
In most cases, a paint thinner smell from your air conditioning comes from a fluid leak in the system.
AC units use chemicals to quickly convert between gases and liquids.
These chemicals, known as refrigerants, convert hot outdoor air into the cool air blowing from your AC unit.
As with any appliance, air conditioners can malfunction and are susceptible to leaks.
Over time, the coils in your central AC can break down, causing the refrigerant to leak through.
When these refrigerants leak, they can quickly fill your home with the smell of paint thinner.
As with actual paint thinner, the chemicals that help your AC unit run are toxic.
Since refrigerants can be harmful to your health, it’s important to fix this problem as soon as possible.
Still not sure whether the paint thinner smell in your home is coming from your air conditioner?
Here are a few other ways you can check:
- If you’re having trouble cooling your home, you probably have a leak from your AC unit.
- If you see ice forming on the lines or coils in your AC unit, it’s most likely a refrigerant leak.
- If your AC unit is making strange sounds and smells like paint thinner, it may be yet another indication that you have a refrigerant leak from your air conditioner.
How to Fix a Refrigerant Leak in Your AC
When you have refrigerant leaking from your AC, you’ll want to call a professional HVAC technician.
A licensed, experienced HVAC technician has the experience, skills, and tools to help you resolve your leaking air conditioner.
Finding a local, reputable HVAC company should be easy with the help of a quick Google search.
The HVAC technician will come to your home and inspect your unit, finding the source of the leak.
If your HVAC is older, it may contain a Freon refrigerant, which is not used in newer AC units.
Scientific evidence points to the fact that Freon is harmful to both the environment and human health.
As a result, the import and production of Freon has been banned in the U.S., so if you do have an older AC that utilizes Freon, your only option will be to replace the entire air conditioner.
If one component of your AC is malfunctioning, you may be able to have the part repaired or replaced.
A certified HVAC technician will be able to identify the broken part and make the necessary repairs.
Once repaired, your HVAC professional will top up your unit with fresh refrigerant, and you’ll be on your way.
The cost to repair a refrigerant leak can depend on the unit and which component is causing the leak.
You can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to as much as $1,600.
Sometimes, even if you have a newer unit, repair costs are prohibitively expensive.
In these cases, it might make more sense to explore buying a new AC unit.
Other Reasons Your House Smells Like Paint Thinner
If you haven’t painted recently and you’ve already ruled out a leak from your air conditioner, don’t worry.
While these are two very common reasons your house smells like paint thinner, they’re not the only ones.
1. Your Old Refrigerator is Leaking
If you have an older refrigerator, it’s possible that it may be leaking Freon.
This is often the result of a puncture in your fridge.
Since Freon is no longer used in refrigerators, you’ll have to replace your refrigerator right away.
If you have a Freon leak, call an HVAC professional immediately and stay away from the area.
Since Freon is a hazardous substance, do not attempt to clean up a Freon leak on your own.
A professional will handle the cleanup and installation of a new, Freon-free refrigerator.
While you may have to be out of the house for a bit, you’ll soon be rid of the paint thinner smell.
2. Someone Used Nail Polish Remover Recently
Just about everyone knows what nail polish remover smells like, and most people find it distinctly unpleasant.
Like paint thinner, nail polish remover contains potent chemicals like acetone.
When the chemicals are exposed to the air inside your home, they can stink up the entire place.
Fortunately, the paint thinner-like smell that you often get from nail polish remover is short-lived.
Open a few windows and leave the area, and the smell should subside shortly.
3. You Recently Refinished Your Floors or Furniture
Refinishing your floor with varnish can really transform the aesthetic appearance.
With a little sanding and a few coats of polyurethane or varnish, old wood can sparkle like new.
Unfortunately, the paint thinner smell in your house might be coming from that beautiful stained flooring or furniture.
Polyurethane, resin, and varnish all contain highly odorous solvents which can quickly stink up your home.
Like paint thinner and refrigerants, the chemicals released into the air from these staining materials can be hazardous.
Anyone who’s refinished a floor or stained furniture knows how important ventilation is.
If your floors were recently stained or refinished, open your doors and windows, and run any fans you have.
If the source of the smell is a new or stained piece of furniture, try and confine it to the shed or the garage, and allow for as much ventilation as possible.
Remember, it takes time for ventilation to work, so don’t be surprised if the smell doesn’t disappear right away.
4. Check Your Clothes and Carpets
When you’re working with chemicals that smell like paint thinner, spills can be a mysterious source of the stink.
If you haven’t covered your carpet and aren’t wearing protective clothing, a spill can keep the paint thinner smell lingering for days.
When you identify where you may have spilled, there are several ways you can remove the chemicals and smell.
Isopropyl rubbing alcohol, a household staple, is a great cleaning solution, despite having a strong smell of its own.
Using a rag and some rubbing alcohol, scrub at the site of the spill.
As with any spills in your home, another solution is to sprinkle baking soda on the affected area.
For tougher jobs, you can mix white vinegar and baking soda together.
Using this solution, take a clean rag and scrub the area as needed.
Another simple yet effective solution to cleaning these chemicals is with hot water and dish detergent.
Like any other stain, you’ll want to act quickly, before the stain has a chance to set in.
Apply dish detergent to the clothing or fabric that’s stained.
Let the soap work its way into the stain, lifting it out of the fabric.
This should take about 10 minutes.
Once this is complete, use hot water to wash the paint thinner away, and repeat the process if necessary.
If possible, you’ll always want to move the affected item or area outside of your main living spaces.
For furniture, you could let the item air out in your garage.
The main key to getting rid of a paint thinner smell in your home is going to be ventilation.
Fresh, circulating air will work wonders at removing the malodorous chemicals from your air.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure you find the source of the smell first, and then take the necessary steps to ensure new smells and VOCs aren’t continuing to be released into the air in your home.