Skip to main content

Painting Like a Professional: Safety Tips for Redecorating Your Home

Painting Like a Professional: Safety Tops for Redecorating Your Home

Thinking that it’s time to give your home a fresh, new look? Painting is an easy and inexpensive way to update any room that might be begging for a face lift. Some people see painting as the perfect opportunity to get their hands dirty in an at-home DIY project. Others can’t sign the check for a professional painter fast enough! No matter which category you identify with, the health risks of using paint inside your home are all the same. Paint contains chemicals that can be harmful to our health, and therefore it is important to understand the proper procedures for use, storage and disposal of paint products to keep yourself safe. Read on to learn how to conquer home redecorating easily and safely!

What do I need to know?

Generally speaking, when you go to the store to choose your perfect paint color, you will be deciding between a solvent-based paint and a water-based paint.

So, what’s the difference?

  • Solvent-based paint is also referred to as oil-based or alkyd-based paint. Solvent-based paint contains chemicals that could be harmful to our bodies and our health. They contain what are called additives, any kind of dissolved solvent that provides an additional feature such as faster drying, mold and mildew resistance, or killing bacteria.[1]

  • Water-based paint, on the other hand, contains significantly lower levels of chemicals and is recommended to consumers for interior painting. Even without the additives, water-based paints have become increasingly popular and have proven to be as effective as solvent-based paints in getting the job done.[2]

Another important concept to be aware of when preparing to paint your home is the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. When a paint can is opened, these VOC chemicals evaporate into the air which can often trigger adverse health effects such as headaches, eye irritation, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Even worse, if exposed to these VOCs for long periods of time, one can suffer from central nervous system, liver, and kidney damage.[3] Paints with high levels of VOCs are making their way off the market, however be sure to always read the label before purchasing your paint. By reading the label, you can ensure that your paint is low in toxins and VOCs.[4]

Where do I store my paint?

Paint is most commonly sold in metal cans, which has its drawbacks. Metal is conducive to rust, especially when it is not housed in the proper environmental conditions. Paint should be stored in a dry location, where temperatures are above freezing and rarely fluctuate. It is also important that the metal cans are stored on shelving made of wood or plastic to prevent rusting.[5]

An alternative is to change the storage container. Rather than keeping the leftover paint in its original metal can, transferring the excess to an air-tight container will help the paint last longer and prevent drying. Examples of air-tight containers might include a glass jar, a plastic container, or a smaller can. In order to create an air-tight seal, use plastic wrap to cover the opening of the container and then secure the lid. Create a natural seal with the paint by turning the container upside down.[6]

If you do choose to transfer your paint to another container, be sure to label it with the designated color, the date it was opened and the product information located on the original paint can. If you decide to reuse it for touch ups later on, you will have all of the information readily accessible without the hassle of saving that giant, clunky paint can.

Lastly, before reusing the paint it is important to ensure that it hasn’t gone bad. The paint should have the same consistency as the first time it was opened and should not emit any strong or foul odors.

What should I keep in mind when painting?

Ventilation is key when painting indoors. Keep windows and interior doors open, and use fans for additional ventilation. Aside from wearing old clothing, it is also a good idea to wear protective equipment such as a dust or cleaning mask to cover your mouth, gloves, and goggles if necessary. Be sure to close paint cans when they are not being used, and keep all painting equipment out of reach of children and pets.[7]

When is it safe to return to the room after painting?

Typically, it is advised that you wait anywhere between 2-3 days before returning to a space after painting. Even though the paint may dry before then, it is likely still exposing chemicals into the air. Be sure to continue ventilating the room after it has been painted to allow all chemical vapors to exit the space.[8]

How do I properly dispose of the paint?

Congratulations, your paint is dry and you are almost finished! What next? The last step is getting rid of the painting materials you’ve used. Most disposal instructions are located on the label of the paint can. However, here are some helpful hints just in case you can’t find them.[9]

  • If you have an excess amount of paint leftover that you are not looking to keep for a later use, you can add kitty litter or scraps to dry up the paint. That can then be disposed into your regular trash.

  • Metal paint cans can be mixed in with regular recycling as long as there is less than one inch of dried paint remaining. Any liquid paint can seep out of the can if it is not sealed tightly, and this can seep into the ground water if taken out with the trash.

  • Some communities have specific recycling programs where your extra paint could be put to good use (i.e. in schools or community centers)! Look for these opportunities before disposing of your paint.

  • Never pour paint directly down the drain as it can be damaging to the pipes as well as the water.

You are now fully equipped to master your next DIY home redecorating project. Happy, and healthy painting!


Stay Connected

Sign Up For Our E‑Newsletter