Redecorating a bedroom makes us have to sleep out of it for a few days. Unfortunately, it is not recommended to sleep in a freshly painted room, as we could be putting our health at risk.
Since paint fumes contain toxins, it is very dangerous to sleep in a freshly painted room. We will wait at least 72 hours before spending any length of time in the room, especially sleeping. If oil-based paint is used, this waiting time will need to be doubled. It is important to thoroughly air out a painted bedroom before sleeping in it.
There are two main concerns associated with sleeping in a freshly painted room: inhalation of paint fumes and damage to paint that is not completely dry. The choice of the type of paint in both cases contributes to the waiting time.
The risks of wet paint are obvious. Besides the fact that wet paint still gives off fumes, you risk staining your skin or clothes by walking on it. Even if we are not sleepwalkers, we run the risk of marking the walls and creating permanent imperfections by staining the paint.
The time it takes for the paint to dry depends on the materials used. In most cases, latex or acrylic water-based paints are preferred due to drying time. Oil-based paints are often wet and slippery for up to eight hours per coat. Meanwhile, water-based paints can dry to the touch in two hours.
Sleeping in a room with paint fumes lingering in the air is widely considered off limits. There is no denying the smell of fresh paint on a wall. However, this distinctive scent is not designed to prevent us from staining the paint on a wall.
Side effects of spending time in a room containing paint fumes include headaches, dizziness, nausea, throat irritation and difficulty breathing, temporary blindness, or short-term memory loss.
Paint fumes come from liquid ingredients that evaporate into the air. This usually happens as soon as the paint reaches room temperature. The evaporation reaction of liquid ingredients, especially solvents, leads to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Dangers of Volatile Organic Compounds
VOCs come in all shapes and sizes and are not just limited to paint. Despite this, the following volatile organic compounds can be found in the canned paints used to decorate our homes:
- glycol ethers
- Propylene glycol
If we want to avoid flooding the bedroom with volatile organic compounds, we will shop carefully when choosing paint. Sleeping in a room painted with oil paint should be avoided. Oil-based paints are full of volatile organic compounds. Latex or acrylic paints are water-based and contain less.
When we look at cans of paint, we may find that some are marketed as having low or even zero VOCs. This is definitely a plus, but the paint will still give off strong fumes that will cause the same side effects. Likewise, water-based paints can still irritate your throat.
High risk groups
Everyone should avoid volatile organic compounds. Professional painters and decorators wear face masks to protect themselves from these unwanted toxins. However, some people are at even higher risk than others.
The first group is anyone living with a pre-existing respiratory problem . Volatile organic compounds can irritate anyone’s throat, but they can trigger a severe attack of asthma or COPD.
Pregnant women should also avoid VOCs. Even if we only suspect that we are pregnant, it is recommended to approach the painting with caution. Fetuses in the first trimester may be congenitally disabled due to inhalation of VOCs. Babies and young children are still vulnerable after birth, so we must take into account how we paint a baby or child’s room.
The final group we must consider is non-human. Pets are very sensitive to VOCs as their tiny lungs cannot filter or process the toxins. Birds, in particular, can be killed almost instantly by paint fumes, but cats and dogs are also at risk.
How long to wait?
If we recently painted a room with water-based paint or acrylic paint, we will try not to sleep there for at least 72 hours . If we use oil-based paints, we will try to wait about a week before sleeping in the room. This may sound a bit dramatic, but it’s for the best. The paint can take as long to dry and the room to air out after a complete paint job.
The thought behind this wait time is to make sure the paint is dry and all fumes have dissipated. Only time can solve the above problem, but ventilation will ensure that the room becomes more livable as quickly as possible.
Test the dryness of the paint
It is simple to test if the paint is dry. We’ll just touch it and see if the finger stains again. This can be tricky and we risk leaving a blemish in the painted finish, but it is effective. However, what also needs to be considered is the difference between dry and cured paint . When the paint is dry to the touch, the solvents have completely evaporated. In theory, this also means that the room is free of volatile organic compounds. However, the paint could still use some more curing time.
The cured paint has reached a hardness level of 100%. This is the level to look for before sleeping in a room, for all the reasons discussed above. Unfortunately, this is not always a realistic proposition. This is because curing time offers a role reversal between oil-based paint and water-based paint. Although oil paints take much longer to dry to the touch, they can be cured in 72 hours. Latex or acrylic paints can take up to a month to cure.
Naturally, we can’t wait to be out of the bedroom for a month. We will only consider the dangers of uncured paint when you first move into the room. We will avoid hanging anything on the wall or moving heavy furniture, lest we scratch the freshly painted walls.
tips for ventilation
Knowing how long to ventilate after painting a bedroom is key to keeping us safe. The quality of ventilation is also essential, as opening a small window for an hour will not clear the room of paint fumes. To ventilate a room after painting the walls:
- Open all the windows as much as we can.
- If we’re sure, open the doors. Skip this step if we live with children or pets.
- Get an air purifier to help dissipate lingering volatile organic compounds.
- Use fans to redistribute air around the room.
- If we can maintain this for three days without sleeping in the room, it is recommended that we do so.
- If we feel like we can still smell paint fumes lingering in the bedroom, we’ll sleep somewhere else.