That new house smell is a mix of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) coming from the building materials.
Strategies to mitigate and reduce the VOC levels range from diluting the air, absorbing the VOCs, speeding up the offgassing, sealing in the offgassing, containing the offgassing to create a safe room, and lastly chemical breakdown of VOCs.
Of course, you will need different strategies for different situations and for different materials that are offgassing. Only some materials can be sealed up, for example.
This article ranks the strategies from what I would start with to the last thing I would consider.
I recommend all of the products here, some products have affiliate programs and some do not. Upon purchase, I earn a small commission through affiliate links at no extra cost to you.
1. Diluting the Air to Reduce VOCs
The first thing you should do is to increase ventilation. You want to “turn over” the air as much as possible while keeping an eye on the temperature and humidly.
Fan In, Fan Out
The simplest way to overturn the air and ventilate (diluting the VOCs) is to put one box fan coming in and one going out – ideally on the other side of the room.
You can get these on Amazon.
Here you need to have tolerable outdoor temperatures and acceptable humidity levels. Humidity should not be pushed over 60% for prolonged amounts of time. Both low and high humidity can damage some materials.
Positive pressure will be discussed in detail in another section, but this strategy is to move air in and out.
ERVs and HRVs overturn the air and ventilate a house. I use the Panasonic Whispercomfort ERV.
It provides 40, 20 or 10 CFM, which is a high turnover of air.
This one is not made for very cold climates. The air it brings in is halfway between the temperature outdoors and indoors, which means it’s bringing is fairly cold air most of the year in Canada. It stops working at -7 C.
When using an ERV in a small space, consider the effect on humidity as well as temperature.
Another popular one for tiny houses is the Lunos which is an HRV.
There are whole-house systems as well. Check to see if your new house has a whole house or localized ERV or HRV. You will also want to know if it has fresh air intake or dampers to let air in to make up for air that is exhausted.
A whole-house air exchanger is ideal.
2. “Baking Out” a House
This section was written with Carl Grimes (HHS CIEC) of Healthy Habitats. Once you have ventilation in place you can begin the bake out. This strategy heats the house to promote faster offgassing of VOCs from building materials while moving them out.
These are general guidelines, and your results will depend on the specifics of your house including the type of offgassing.
To bake-out a house you want about 3-5 days of constant (24 hours a day) increased temperature of at least 85-90 F. You also need ventilation, at least 2-3 air exchanges each day. If you don’t ventilate, you could have reabsorption.
How to Bake Out a House (Bake out VOCs):
Step 1: Turn up the thermostat to max, use additional space heaters if needed. Get to the air to 85-90 F. You have to do a 2 day heat up at least. With 3-5 days for one full treatment.
Consult with your contractor about any materials that could be affected by high temperatures.
Step 2: Ventilate 10-20 minutes at a time to get an air exchange – one air exchange means you are replacing all the inside air with outside air, removing the VOCs outgassed so far. Do this 2-3 times a day.
You can ventilate by opening doors and windows for 10-20 minutes. If the wind is blowing, 5-10 min will do. Note: Most HVAC systems do not ventilate, most of them circulate the inside air.
Fans in windows can draw air in and out.
Watch your humidity so that you do not cause damage to materials.
Step 3: Repeat
Keep in mind, outgassing even with heat is a slow process.
Carl explains the most common reasons for this taking extra long or not working include:
• Not getting the temp elevated for long enough – it’s hard to stay out of the house for 3-5 days – so folks usually only heat only during the day so they can come back at night to sleep. That doesn’t work because it takes at least 24-36 hours to get the materials in the house warmed up.
• They don’t ventilate 2-3 times a day to remove the VOCs that have outgassed. If you don’t ventilate the house reaches a saturation equilibrium – no more can come out because the air is full – and – what has come out is reabsorbed back into the materials.
• They try to shorten the time by heating extra hot for a shorter time. This doesn’t work because it simply takes time for materials to outgas. And it takes time to get the inner materials warmed up.
If you have done this without sufficient success – especially with no improvement – then you either have a massive source of VOCs or the problem is something other than VOCs.
If you have spray foam done wrong, don’t do this. Speak to a lawyer about spray foam that is offgassing due to mistakes in installation.
NOTE: Watch the temperature and the humidity to make sure you are not damaging any materials or furniture in the house.
3. Air Filters/Air Purifiers to Reduce Offgassing
Once you have to close up again, you want to use air purifiers with high amounts of sorbent material. The charcoal and other sorbent materials absorb VOCs.
Using these while you are aggressively ventilating is pointless. Ventilation usually has a bigger impact and these can’t battle with the outdoor air, so this comes after.
Charcoal is the main sorbent material that absorbs VOCs. Check for how many pounds the unit contains. You will pay more the more charcoal it contains.
Potassium Permanganate (PP) is added to some filters to increase the removal of formaldehyde. Not all super sensitive folks tolerate PP.
EnvironKlenze uses a mineral technology which can be particularly effective for formaldehyde as well.
What about PCO Air Purifiers?
I don’t recommend PCO air purifiers (like Molekule) for high offgassing, generally. I prefer PCO for mold spores. I have a separate article about choosing the best PCO air purifier for mold.
These are the top three brands
NOTE! I have a more detailed post comparing all the brands that are best for people with chemical sensitivity. In that, I compare costs, pounds of carbon, how much air they move, how loud they are, and more.
$885 * 250 CFM * 15 lbs of Activated Carbon Impregnated with Potassium Iodide and Zeolite * True HEPA * dB 50-66 3-5ft (they are not sure) * EST early 90s
Filter replacement: HEPA/ carbon,/prefilter 3-5 years (5-year warranty filter warranty) $360
There are different filter options with different types of carbon/absorptive material. Again, reactions often attributed to Potassium iodide. You can test out their different filter options.
Steel units, plastic on the wheels, not plastic inside.
Some with extreme MCS have picked up offgassing, but many with MCS prefer this brand.
You can buy them at Green Design Center and Amazon.
$699 * CFM 250 * dB 50 on high @6 ft
EnviroKlenz is a slightly different technology than the others here. I have been using this unit and have been happy with it.
Like the others, this unit has a HEPA filter, but instead of charcoal/zeolite it uses minerals including magnesium oxide, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide to neutralize VOCs, chemical odors, and smoke.
The EnviroKlenz according to the literature, destroys most pollutants. Contrary to odor masking methods, the nanocrystalline materials contact, adsorb and then neutralize the odor-causing substances.
It is effective against aldehydes and pollutants and particularly effective against different kinds of smoke and pesticides. Activated carbon does not help that much with formaldehyde and smoke can be difficult to filter as well. My preference for this unit comes from its ability to deal with formaldehyde and smoke.
EnviroKlenz materials will chemically dismantle many VOCs. Hydrocarbons will be absorbed but not chemically modified.
The company has a number of patents and it has been tested you can see that info here (you can search and read patents here) and for a summary of research articles and references on this technology you can ask to see their technical report.
Filter replacement costs: Mineral cartridge 4-5 months 100$, HEPA every 2-3 years $150. Rated the same as true HEPA.
This air purifier has been in production for 7 years.
$1299 * CFM 300 * 12 lbs granular activated Carbon & Alumina inpregnated with Potassium Permanganate) * True HEPA * dB 35-69 – (the company will not state how many feet this test was done at). * EST 1963
Their HealthPro is (40 to 300 CFM) (2 air changes/hr in 1125 sq. ft), dB 25 to 59
Filter replacement: Multigas cartilage 2 years $400; Post Filter 2.5 year $129; HEPA about a year (on 10 hours a day on speed 3) $109; optional Filter Pads $79
This might be one of the best-known brand names in air purifiers. Some people with MCS swear by it. But, the most severely sensitive do not always tolerate it.
The unit is made of plastic and the offgassing of the unit itself might be an issue. The potassium insert can be hard to tolerate for many (which is not a unique issue to this brand). Some people have sent back filters that smelt especially sweet or strong and received ones that were more tolerable.
Nevertheless, this is a favorite and well-trusted brand for many with MCS who want a robust top-of-the-line air purifier.
You can buy the Healhpro and Multigas directly through the IQAir website. The Multigas can also be found on Amazon.
Other contenders include AllerAir, E.L. Foust, Amaircare, and Airpura which I review in a dedicated post on air purifiers for offgassing.
4. Passive Absorption of VOCs
It’s not as effective as air purifiers that move a lot of air through the sorbent filter material, but you can also use sorbent materials placed around the house.
Targeting these to high-impact areas like inside kitchen cabinets would be wise.
Placing carbon around the house can be quite effective to absorb offgassing including new offgassing.
You will need large amounts like these from Amazon.
Some of them come ready in little bags (pictured), which can make things easier.
Or, something in between the bags and an expensive air purifier, is to attach charcoal to a fan.
You can place carbon onto an inexpensive box fan like this – either the sheets or the pellets. The pellets will have more absorption capacity (you may need a barrier between the pellets and the fan if it blows dust).
The Holmes box fans are strong enough to pull air through a filter.
You can also use activated carbon fabric to cover areas that are offgassing.
You can hang up zeolite in bags where the problem exists especially if it’s an isolated odor. Zeolite is a good absorbent material.
5. Alternative Strategies
I have heard the following anecdotal strategies from other sensitive folks who have said these have helped them to reduce offgassing. I have not tried these myself.
- Onions chopped up and placed throughout the room (more info on how that works here)
- Plates of baking soda (another sorbent material)
- Lemon oil in a diffuser (note essential oils add aldehydes and other VOCs, but can kill bacteria and mold – how to use it safely is covered here)
6. Using Sealants to Seal in VOCs
There are some areas where using sealants could be very effective and some that are not as worthwhile.
I would seal wood products that are offgassing formaldehyde. This could include cabinets (the edges, the boxes, and even the faces in some cases), shelving, laminate countertops (from underneath), MDF molding, doors, and flooring.
Sealants could also be used in trailers to seal in other materials like vinyl walls.
I don’t like this strategy as much for general sealing of drywall. These products tend to create an interior vapor barrier which can cause problems where AC is used. And unless you are sealing the odor of the paint, new home offgassing is mostly coming through other openings from behind the drywall.
For general sealing you might do better to create an air barrier, that might mean sealing around outlets and baseboards.
1. Sealer: AFM Safecoat HardSeal is a product made by AFM to block offgassing. Use it in multiple coats (2-3) can be used on the wall. Leaves a semi-gloss finish and is low VOC. To paint over this you would need to lightly sand it. This is an acrylic product. AFM PolyBP is a polyurethane, not originally formulated to block offgassing, but if that works on your substrate it is the best AFM sealer for blocking VOCs.
2. AFM Safecoat Transitional Primer: low VOC, not always tolerated (1 coat) followed by Safecoat Paint or ECOS paint (2 coats). The higher gloss the paint, the more sealing properties it has. AFM Transitional Primer plus their paint has better sealing properties than most other brands of primer/paint. This is an acrylic paint.
Sealing in new drywall and insulation: AFM Safecoat New Wallboard Primecoat covered by your choice of safe paint. It’s unlikely that it is the drywall itself that is offgassing (and more likely the paint or drywall mud, the glue behind the drywall, and other materials behind that cannot be sealed easily).
3. AFM Carpet Seal: This is used to seal in the offgassing in new carpet if you don’t want to (or can’t) remove it. This is a three-part system.
Shellac to Seal in Offgasing
Shellac is the best sealer for sealing in odors/VOCs.
The most well-known brand is Zinsser. The company recommends BIN Shellac as its best odor-blocking primer. But not all will tolerate that. That is not what I would use in most cases.
The purest premixed shellac is Zinsser Bullseye Shellac which only lists alcohols and shellac (but does not have to disclose ingredients under 1% and I have not been able to get a clear answer on if there are any unlisted ingredients).
I used this one and was very happy with it. The alcohols need to flash off.
Their Sanding Sealer (pictured) can also be used. Sanding Sealer is dewaxed so you can paint over it with a transitional primer and paint.
To paint over the waxed Bullseye Shellac you can use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, or a layer of dewaxed shellac first.
Make Your Own Absolutely Pure Shellac
The absolute purest shellac formula would be to make it yourself with the flakes and alcohol.
This is just the natural resin from a beetle mixed with 90% ethanol.
Both dewaxed and regular shellac (with wax) have the same ability to seal in odors.
The purest version will still show high levels of VOCs but that is from alcohol. When the alcohol evaporates those are gone, all you have is the natural resin.
Pros and Cons of Shellac
One benefit of shellac is that it works on almost every surface including plastic, metal, wood drywall, and if it’s dewaxed you can paint over it.
The downsides are that it is a very good interior vapor barrier which can cause problems with “breathable walls” when using AC. Make sure this will work for your building envelope.
Paint as a Sealant
ECOS Purifying Paint which uses zeolite as the absorptive ingredient was not very helpful in my experiments on drywall. This paint claims to use zeolite to absorb VOCs but it does not work well as a sealant in my experience.
To paint and seal over oil paint that is offgassing, you can get the best seal with shellac (dewaxed) then AFM Hardseal.
Painting, in general (with any brand), can help a little bit because it has a small sealing effect.
Sealing Formaldehyde Offgassing from Wood
Sealing in formaldehyde from wood products can be very impactful. Engineered woods including particleboard, MDF, HDF, OSB, engineered lumber, and to a lesser extent plywood all offgas formaldehyde or isocyanates.
AFM Safe Seal is used to seal in formaldehyde in plywood, particleboard, and OSB.
Not recommended by the company for sealing walls, it’s almost exclusively for sealing formaldehyde in wood. It’s low-VOC.
For sealing melamine particle board (laminate) – only seal edges with SafeSeal.
I tested this on wood products that were offgassing formaldehyde and it works quite well.
I tried it on plywood, laminate flooring (underneath, not on top), and MDF (used as a base of a laminate countertop) and it worked well.
You can paint over this.
Shellac outperformed it, but shellac can’t be used in every application. The two can also be layered for the most blocking.
Sealing in the Odor of Terpenes in Wood
Clear Look – Shellac, or if you can tolerate AFM products, you can use Safecoat Acriglaze, HardSeal, or Acrylacq.
Shellac on its own is good at sealing in terpenes.
Painted Look – One coat dewaxed shellac (then sand slightly), then AFM Transitional Primer, then any acrylic/latex paint that you tolerate.
If you are not extremely sensitive to terpenes you can skip the shellac and just use paint. Use a primer like ECOS (0-VOC, generally the most popular brand) or Safecoat Transitional Primer (low VOC, not always tolerated) (1 coat), followed by safe paint (2 coats).
Pearl (or higher gloss) will give the best sealing properties. Many people sensitive to the odor of wood find that painting is sufficient.
Sealing in Fungicides in Wood
Wood windows almost always contain fungicides and should be sealed. You can use one coat Safecoat New Wallboard Primecoat and two coats of paint is the recipe, or shellac.
For sealing fiberglass in trailers, domes, or other shelters you can use shellac. You can topcoat that with AFM Hardseal if tolerated, to add more sealing.
This is not for sealing fiberglass showers.
Sealing Vinyl Floors
Andy from Green Design Center recommends washing vinyl flooring with a degreaser that does not leave a residue. Then in one area, test to see if AFM Safecoat Hardseal adheres to it. If it does, this sealer will work well.
Shellac also adheres well to vinyl. Shellac is the best sealer for blocking offgassing and plasticizers. You can put a clear coat or paint over dewaxed shellac with some special primers.
ECOS Paints recommends making sure the floor is clean, dry, and free of any loose dirt, grime, or waxy residue. Then lightly scuff off any factory-applied clear protective layer with a fine sandpaper.
Then remove any sanding dust and apply three coats of ECOS Floor Paint in your desired sheen and color, allowing at least 8 hours between coats.
Some paint colors that are “poor hiding colors” will need a primer. You can use ECOS Universal Primer first, in this case.
Sealing Laminate and Engineered Wood Flooring
Laminate flooring does not have real wood on the top. I have sealed the underside successfully with Safeseal. If you want to seal the top, Hardseal will work better. Andy Pace recommends 3 very thin coats.
Engineered wood flooring has real wood as the top layer, so you can sand or buff off the surface. Then you can apply AFM Safecoat Poly BP.
7. Making a “Safe Room” within a House
If you are still struggling to tolerate the house after using the strategies above, you will have to give it more time. In the meantime, you can create a sealed off safe room.
There are a few ways to make a safe room in a house. You can use something impermeable to seal off the walls, use positive pressure to push contaminates out, or replace all the materials in that room.
Using an Impermeable Barrier on the Wall
To create a non-toxic room in your home you can use Denny Foil, or heavy-duty aluminum foil on the walls/ceiling/floor. You can buy large sheets of foil radiant barrier at some places like Innovative Solutions.
These materials block VOCs.
Heavy-duty aluminum foil is much easier to work with than the thinner type used in cooking or the grilling foil.
You may need several layers to totally block smells, though for most people one layer will suffice.
Attaching the foil with tape
The most obvious and temporary way to attach the foil is with tape. Though tape does offgas.
You want to use green Painting Tape for this as it will not damage the walls and is easy to remove – a healthy person could rip off/take down the whole room is probably 20-30 min.
The blue tape is more toxic so I wouldn’t use that. You could use aluminum tape but it is very sticky and will leave a residue and will be hard to take off.
Aluminum tape also smells much more than green tape, though the aluminum blocks most of the smell, the smell/VOCs do come in through the edges.
Another very tolerable tape which claims 0 VOCs, but still smells a little like glue is SIGA Rissan. That is the most tolerable tape that is going to hold up, in my assessment.
Don’t underestimate the smell of the tape when you have a whole room full of it. I can tolerate any tape in small amounts sniffing it right to my nose. I am unable to tolerate any tape when there is a whole room full of it. The larger the sheets of foil the less tape you will have.
Attaching the foil with an all natural glue
I have also used the all-natural gum arabic to make a totally benign glue. As long as this can dry to the inside of the wall from the interior that will be fine to use. Do a test piece, let it dry, remove it and see how easy it is to then remove the gum arabic paste.
I would not do this where you have colder air inside than outside (AC use), though it does depend on your outside humidity and dew point. This can create condensation and mold behind the foil.
If you have central HVAC you won’t be able to isolate this room properly. You can in most instances block up one or more vents, but this can also cause trouble to the whole HVAC system.
Note: You can use foil on isolated areas to block offgassing. I have used this successfully on smaller areas that were offgassing like a new door.
Other materials to block offgassing
You can also use glass panels, aluminum sheets or tile.
Using Positive Pressure to ‘Push Out’ VOCs
Positive pressure means you are bringing in more outdoor (or filtered) air then you are exhausting from the room.
This is done with a fan (like an inline radon fan) or air purifier with an attachment for outdoor air intake.
Some people tile a room or put aluminum walls or glass up as a more permanent version of foiling walls. (Same risks with interior vapor barriers when doing this).
While this can be quite effective in pushing offgassing out of that room it comes with risks and so is not used that often.
It should not be used with it’s warmer inside than outside (generally), you can push warm air towards the cold exterior layers and cause condensation and mold.
If it’s hot and humid outside you would be bringing in hot humid air, which could also be a problem.
Strategies to make positive pressure successful
If you don’t want to seal the walls with foil or another barrier you can redo one room with all safe materials.
Going as far back as redoing the walls, insulation, and floors.
As long as you have adequate isolation from the rest of the house that will usually work really well.
The simplest way to do this is with the IQ Air, on the accessories page scroll down to Health Pro Plus and you will see the InFlow W125.
Keep in mind, mold VOCs (mVOCS) come through the air and cross-contaminate much easier than VOCs. This strategy is for chemical VOCs from building materials (or to keep out a neighbor’s contaminants).
This should not be attempted in a significantly moldy house. I can smell and react mold off most houses up to 100-200 ft away.
Set this up fast
Positive pressure is easiest if you have a room within a room.
I have created the smaller room with sheets of rigid foam. But polyethylene plastic, house wrap, foil, a glass greenhouse or any other air barrier can be used.
Having a room within a room simplifies problems you could cause by creating an interior vapor barrier (humidity, condensation in walls) as well as pushing air into walls with positive pressure.
You want the room to be big enough to be able to put in a dehumidifier if needed and a heater.
Positive pressure without a barrier on the wall
Some people have used positive pressure in a room (with no barrier) which is the riskiest way to do it.
This could push moisture into the wall and I would consult with an architect or building science expert before using that in your house.
Double room for extreme containment
If you need to go to extremes to control for cross-contamination you need an entrance room as well. Use zipper doors to create a vestibule.
When using a double room system, pressurize the main room at 2 pascals for pressure – as recommended by Carl Grimes.
When using the entrance room, pressurize that with the air from the main room to control contamination from the main house.
The air that you are bringing in needs to be clean.
How to bring in the air
You may choose a simple in window fan system, an inline radon fan, an ERV/HRV with bias, or the IQAir intake kit to bring in air, depending on your needs.
On the IQ Air website go to Accessories, then click on HealthPro Plus, under that, you will see the InFlow W125.
8. Should you Use Ozone?
Though some folks have successfully used ozone to help reduce offgassing, this is the riskiest strategy so it’s last on the list.
Ozone can work for smoke, fragrance and mold. But with new homes VOCs, it doesn’t act as predictably. Plus it leaves behind terrible oxidization odors in many materials.
It’s also dangerous to work with and can do damage to materials in large doses.
I have used this successfully to offgas an all metal trailer. But I would not use this to break down VOCs in a new house, personally.
See my post on ozone for more details and safety precautions.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
Did you find this post helpful? If so you can buy me a coffee to support the research behind this blog. Thank you!
Carl Grimes, Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant, wrote the section on baking out a house and consulted on the section on using positive pressure to create a safe room.
Luke Skaff, Electrical Engineer, consulted on the section on air purifiers.
My subfloor stinks. It’s not moldy and zero signs of water damage. It has a gasoline like smell to me. The previous owners did have four dogs. If I want to seal the subfloor before installing wood vs replacing subfloor how do I layer the shellac and the amf sealer? Which one goes on first ? Could we also lay foil down or some kind of thin underlayment between subfloor and wood? We can’t use the normal wood underlayment because of how thick the subfloor is. Thank you!!!
I used an ozone generator 7 weeks ago (1-7-23) to eliminate VOC off-gassing from an online, mattress-in-a-box. I was guided to run it way too long & now, after 2 air quality tests, I have a “Severe” level of ultrafine particles throughout my house. I haven’t been able to return to my home for more than 5 minutes w/o getting throat tightness & burning lungs. For the last 2 weeks I have been running 2 Beyond Guardian Airs ($2K/each…ouch) & am having my 3rd air text tomorrow (2-27-23). Since I’m in New England w/ < 32 degree temps, I haven't been able to ventilate much at all. I read about creative a positive air pressure in the house but I feel like negative air pressure may be better in my case. My thought is venting a single window in the back of my house & using a high-volume fan w/ a tube fed outside my window in the front of the house. It'll essentially force fresh air to come in…negative since less air is coming in than going out. What do you all think? Passive ventilation in warm weather sounds good, but I'd like to really speed this up b/c my air purifiers aren't cutting it.
you can just use your kitchen and bath exhausts and crack a window a little for each one.
Thanks Corinne, makes sense. Since the odor is so strong throughout the house, I may try a little more aggressive option but I’m very happy to hear that this process should do a good job changing (not re-circulating) the air.
Cheryl Turner says
I recently renovated a new house and tried to be careful about the paint the contractors used. I even went so far as to buy the paint myself. After they finished, I discovered that the painter brought the trim and door paint with them, and it contained latex and oil based paint. (I kept wondering what I was smelling.) Now I have to accelerate the off-gassing so I can move in. I am going to start with ventilation as you suggest, but I was wondering if you thought it would be helpful to run a VOC air purifier while doing a bake-out? I am also open to painting the trim with shellac and AMF Hardseal, but am a little concerned it will cause some discoloration. Thank you for your thoughts and your wonderful website.
focus on the Bakeout with ventilation no air purifiers. you can use an air purifer once you are done. shellac always is a little yellow.
Diane Zerega says
Been reading and hope you can help. I unknowingly purchased a home that was owned by a smoker for about 20 years it looked pristine, newly painted and we saw it on a cool well ventilated day in Florida. After replacing HVAC, new air ducts replaced and cleaned, Walls , doors, woodwork cleaned with ammonia still off gassing stale cigarette smell. Have been told to remove popcorn ceilings and seal and repaint walls. We have even replaced plugs and light switches. Can’t get behind walls but really want to get rid of cigarette residue smell. Would appreciate your expert advice.
There is a post on fragrance and smoke remediation which will help.
James Pratt says
When using Bullseye Shellac on walls, did you cut it with alcohol or did you use it straight out of the can? Most articles I read online about using shellac in its normal uses (furniture, wood, etc) says to cut it 50% or more with alcohol before applying. Thanks!
I would not dilute it on walls and only use if you don’t use AC.
Why does sealing dry wall with shellac cause problems when AC is used. I want to seal an odor (a VOC) out of my dry wall ceiling, but live in Florida, lots of AC needed.
it creates an interior vapor barrier which can cause condensation at that point when AC is used
Thank you for the time and attention given to each of your blog post. They have been very helpful for our family with chemical sensitivities and lyme.
Our family is looking to use products that we can afford while going as “clean” as possible. Have you heard of the product call Roman PRO-999 RX-35 Wallcovering Sealer and Primer for Porous Surfaces. this is the VOC information (VOC (Regulatory): < 25 grams/liter). We do not desire to use this but we are having a hard time finding a low VOC or no VOC primer to go on a lot of SKIM COATED walls. We are hoping to use Promar (ZERO VOC Sherwin Williams primer) for the other drywall walls. My question is if we use the Roman PRO-999 RX-35 for primer and the paint over with Sherwin Williams super paint air purifying or Promar (which both are ZERO VOC) would that seal up the VOC off gassing from the Roman PRO-999 RX-35. If you could offer any wisdom it would be GREATLY appreciated!! We are trying to make wise choices financially while trying our best to use chemical free alternatives for a safer first home for our little family. Thank you!!
Roman PRO-999 RX-35 Wallcovering Sealer and Primer for Porous Surfaces:
Seals drywall, contractor’s flat paint and old wallpaper paste residue
Seals and locks down textured walls and popcorn ceilings
Use as primer over skim coats, spackling or mud joints
Dries with slight residual tack, enhancing adhesion of wallpaper
Dries clear-matte finish
Low odor, no spatter
VOC (Regulatory): < 25 grams/liter
Check the post on primers, there are 0 VOC primers there.
While my house is off gassing I want to make a room within a room in my house using clear polyethylene plastic. Would I still need this to be raised off the floor to prevent mold? I figured if anything were growing I’d see it and am already planning on having the bed raised off the floor.
Don’t put that on a ground level floor but you can put it on an upper level floor if the level below is also conditioned the same way as upstairs.
Thank you for sharing such comprehensive and helpful article! Another thing I want to suggest is staying aware of the products you buy by aiming for non-VOC items. When you must use a product that contains VOCs, make sure you ventilate the area well, and if possible, do the task outdoors. Many household cleaners, paints, and aerosols contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which cause a host of health issues.
Great article, thank you for the information. We are moving into a townhome that has just been painted this week. We want to get the fumes and everything out of there. Would a bake-out be good for this? That is what we are planning to do but I wanted to double check with you. Are things like the fridge and other electronics okay in temperatures of 90 degrees? It seems there are resources now saying not to bake-out the home, your thoughts?
Thank you so much in advanced!
Thanks for all the info and we have recently moved into an old house and put in a new laminate floor downstairs. My husband has a bad reaction when’s he’s downstairs. Now wearing a mask when he is downstairs and windows all open.
The Dr thinks it’s off gassing from flooring can we do anything to reduce VOC’s from the flooring.
We have a carbon air filter and I will use baking soda to capture with plants gasses and odours.
Would washing the floors with vinegar or bicarbonate soda help off gassing in any way?
You will want to find out exactly what kind of floor it is first. The term laminate is very often used incorrectly to refer to a number of floors. You also want to find out about any glues and underlayments used to install it.
Hi Corinne, thank you for such an informative article! I have a storage dining bench made bespoke. It is still offgassing like it was 6 months ago even though we’ve tried fanning it, placing our Austin Healthmate plus next to it, placing carbon packets all over it. The drawers boxes in cabinets are even worse..the meter is coming out with hazardous warnings and off the charts toxic readings! I’m sure the glue they used to stick the veneer on the mdf wood was fishy. Upon reading your article, we would now like to seal in the offgassing bench,
What is the best product to use?
Can the “AFM Safe Seal” be used on MDF that already has wood veneer stuck on it? If not, what is the best product to use for this offgassing factory finished storage bench (mdf wood with a wood veneer coating)?
Thank you so much for your professional recommendations. It is higher appreciated!
Hi Corinne! Thanks for all the helpful recommendations. We are purchasing a new home and the new paint smell is pretty overwhelming. I know you mentioned concerns about sealing walls because it would serve as a vapour barrier. What do you think about sealing only the interior walls? Not sure how much that would help but I would like to reduce the paint smell as much as possible.
You can seal interior walls with shellac/shellac based primers, no problem.
Phil Heyland says
We are trying to decide between Schluter SET and Schuter ALL SET. In general, the chemically sensitive client can test materials.
But we feel that the chemicals in ALL SET are the sort that might build up slowly in the human body. If this is true, then even if the first few exposures to ALL SET go well, this may not be a true indicator of how the client will react after living in the building for a few months.So maybe testing is not useful?
In your opinion, how bad are the chemicals in ALL SET compared to those in regular Schluter SET? Would you say they are the sort of chemicals that will slowly build up in the himan body, or do you feel that testing ALl SET a few times (ie, sniffing and holding in on the skin) will give a good indication of how the client will tolerate the product in the long run.
I realize these questions are almost impossible to answer, but please give us the best indication that you can. We are trying to arrange the design so that we can use regular SET but this just may not be possible.
Phil Heyland says
I have been looking at fiberglass mosquito mesh to use over the windows of a home. And it is causing reactions! The reactions only seem to happen when the product is heated. It gets heated in the sun in the natural course of things of course. We have also experimented with boiling the product and, once again, it causes reactions when heated.
Does this product offgas eventually? Have you ever heard of fiberglass mosquito mesh being made with a bug repellent built into the product? This problem is very confusing and we would appreciate any guidance you could give.
I’m not sure if it’s treated with pesticides but it does have some off gassing that could take a good amount of time to do down.
I had fiberglass mosquito mesh on a house front door full-time for almost 3 years and it was fine, I spent much time no far from the screen (I left it with the house). I purchased a replacement in 2021 and woooo did it stink. Whatever was on that also stunk up the other contents of the box…so that was a no. Currently have a woven polyester one that isn’t causing any problems, but was only looking for a very temporary solution and I am not hanging out in the room where it is (dog is in and out all night). My suggestion would be to physically sniff anything out before purchase — I don’t know what they are doing, but my first fiberglass one from 2013 or so was fine! Good luck.
Corinne, thanks for writing this article. Our first child is due to be born (very) soon and the room designated as the nursery of our fixer-upper that I painted 4 months ago is still off gassing paint fumes! I *think* what I smell is the primer, but not 100% sure. Any recomendations? My take away from your article was to try to “bake and vent” … How long might that take if the culprit is primer under a top coat? Thanks!
I live in a basement rental suite. I spilled liquid laundry detergent (biodegradable Seventh Generation) inside an (I think) unfinished plywood cupboard. I spent many hours cleaning it, but I don’t think it all came up. I think it has soaked into the wood and the off-gassing is bothering my throat and lungs. Do you know how long the off-gassing will last? If I leave it sealed up with tin foil and green painters tape, this blocks the fumes very well (thank you!) but will the fumes ever go away if I leave it sealed up? Do you think I need to ask my landlord if I can use a sealant like shellac on the plywood?
it needs to dry out first. It sounds like it’s likely that because it got wet it brought out a smell of the plywood.
Thanks for replying so quickly. The cupboard has been dry almost all the time since November when I initially spent many hours trying to get all of the detergent off, and it never had any smell – just odorless fumes – which made it hard to tell if I’d gotten all of the detergent up. If it is still the fumes from the detergent, do you know how long it would take for them to outgas? Should I use heat? Would shellac work in this case? Thanks.
What are your thoughts on enviroklenz odor eliminator for washing vinyl floors? Does this help at all to remove VOCs? I care less about the odor and more about how I feel in a space.
I’m not sure if that would work. You can ask the company or try it on a sample. LVP has very little offgassing though. Wiping it with vodka is another thing to try.
Lauren Kramer says
Hi Corinne, thank you for your invaluable article. When we moved into our new house, we had the existing kitchen cabinets sanded, primed with shellac primer (Zinsser BIN), and painted with Benjamin Moore waterborne paint during the winter. It was very cold in the house during this process, and as a result, we think the the primer did not fully dry before the paint was added on top of it. It now seems the primer underneath the paint is offgassing constantly because the cabinetry still smells like the primer. I get a headache/dizziness within 10 minutes of entering the kitchen. The work was done in December 2021 and we have been living in the house since January 2021 (it is now March 2022).
The only thing I can think of doing is adding a sealer on top of the cabinetry paint to seal in the offgassing. Does that sound viable? If so, what product would you recommend? Thanks so much.
I would not want to add another product on top of a primer-paint mix gone bad or over paint “blocking”
Thank you for your response. What would you recommend in this scenario?
We got the same problem. Looking forward to Corrine’s response as well.
if the problem is “blocking” you need to remove the paint and start over.
Hello Corrine! So amazing to find all of this info in one place— thank you for all you do! I was wondering, other than supplements/prescriptions/shelf stable foods, hangers with grips, etc. if it is ok to leave belongings like clothing inside during the 3 to 5 day bake. Furthermore, I was told all I needed to do was ever so slightly crack windows and that that could act as the ventilation (instead of an air exchange 2 to 3 times daily via fully opening windows and doors). Any thoughts on whether window cracking is ineffectual? I’m swelling so badly in an extremely new build (yay, no mold, but VOCs galore), and I’m not sure to what one or many things I’m responding to; the space isn’t large, 640 sq ft. Can smaller places heat up faster? Any advice is deeply appreciated!
I would leave your clothes there but if you don’t have enough ventilation you will get reabsorbtion of VOCs into porous items.
Thank you so much! I will choose to open things up for the recommended times specified here for enough ventilation, then; no reabsorption wanted! Not having to pack everything up and then having to remove every item out of the space will let me get to it faster. Gonna leave clothing and dishes, for example. This was one of those cases where I had to move fast and couldn’t bake beforehand.
Thank you for the very helpful article. I have a quick question. After discovering my mold sensitivity, my husband and I bought a new Coachman Chaparral for our family to live/travel in while we sell our house and figure out what we want to do next for housing. We’ve been living in it for two months, and I am reacting to something in the air (assuming it’s VOCs because it’s so new, and it doesn’t feel as intense as mold reactions). We are considering doing the bake out method since we never addressed off gassing. Before we give it a shot, is there anything we need to keep in mind doing this method on a travel trailer?
Not that I know of, trailers should be able to withstand the hottest desert temperatures. You can ask the company if you are not sure.
Alison David says
I bought a former garage where there has been paint spraying though it had a good ventilation system at work. It’s dry wall. I want to turn it into a grow room. Is there a way to test toxicity levels? If it is toxic can I cover the walls with something?
You could run VOC testing and mold testing. The most important thing would be to get advice on not causing major mold when running a grow room.
I had open cell SPF installed two months ago in our rim joists having been told it was the “green option.” Reading your only note about SPF above made me sad as a lawsuit isn’t really an option from both a timing and results POV. I’ve reacted strongly to the foam’s presence this whole time, and in the last two weeks it has really ramped up and I went to stay at a neighbor’s after my partner saw me slurring my words. I’m still there.
I was hoping you could weigh in on if sealing the foam with AFM SafeCoat might be a good option after scraping out as much as possible. Or any other option Our general contractor — who did not put in the foam — did that first part and then applied two coats of water based acrylic latex. I’m still reacting the same way to the foam as before.
I don’t have much time before my partner has surgery in a few weeks and will need 6-8 weeks to recuperate with myself and others acting as nurses. So it’s imperative I figure this out quickly, and there’s next to no information online. Thanks for your blog and any advice you or this community could provide.
When it’s actually gone wrong, like non-sensitive people have deemed it having done wrong it has to be removed for sure. You will have to figure out if that is the case. It’s also possible to be very sensitive to the offgassing when most people can’t notice it if you yourself are sensitive.
Jeff Walton says
Thank you for the great information Corinne. I have a murphy bed made out of furniture grade plywood. Should I use a sealer over the veneer or only the plywood exposed edges?
Plywood offgasses very little. The veneer side will have a sealant on it already unless it’s unexposed. So you could see if that sealant is doing a good enough job of blocking it from that side.
Amazing. So much clear and thorough information, I wish i’d found your site sooner.
This is my go-to site for helping me with MCS issues and healthy building.
Thank you Corinne
So glad it has helped you
Hi Corinne, thank you for your website. I have just finished renovating our house, making as many nontoxic choices as possible, but then in the last week I accidentally used 1L of Zinsser’s shellac bin, rather than the water-based Zinsser 123, on all our bedroom skirtings. Would you recommend coating the shellaced skirtings with AFM Safecoat Hardseal before we move in? Thank you
I dont find that that one takes too long to offgas. Only the most sensitive would find that it could take up to 5 weeks. It’s a great seal for MDF if that is what you were blocking.
Hi Corrine,there was a bad smell in the office,like cats urine,I removed the lino flooring,and it looked like black mold underneath,;washed the floor with bleach,then I got chest pains and headache. Sealed floor with epoxy/resin but still got headaches and chest pains..Can you help?
You will need to find out why the mold is growing there. Likely a point of condensation and correct that source. Remove materials with mold and any mold that can’t be removed should be professionally remediated (not cleaned with bleach). I would not use Epoxy on concrete, it’s not breathable and your reactions is a typical reaction to offgassing after a mold exposure. Cleaning mold is a big exposure and epoxy is very strong at first.
Thanks Corrine, I have an air purifier in the office and it has improved some bit,but do you think I should cover the epoxy floor or remove it.
Also I don’t see any mold.And is it that ,I have become allergic to these exposures?
Sonia Johnson says
Wow! This is an awesome resource! I wish I had of saw it a year ago (sad emoji face).
We have painted over the old carpet glue, but now I think would might should not have. Can baking the house still be effective or should we try to remove the paint 1st?
I have chemical sensitivities and a terrible problem with my next door neighbour in my duplex. She has always used lots of perfume and fragrances. But with the virus she cleans, disinfects and does the laundry several times a day and night. I bought the IQ multigas for my bedroom but chemical smells are constantly coming through the furnace vents and baseboards. The air outside is bad because of her. She refuses to change anything.
Any suggestions Corrine?
I have an article on keeping out neighbours’ contaminants https://www.mychemicalfreehouse.net/2021/06/how-to-stop-fragrance-smoke-coming-in-from-neighbours.html
Oil based polyurethane was used for a window sill, shelves and staircase in a small tiny home I moved into. I got very sick my first night. Landlords had me move in next day after they finished construction.
Is a sealant going to help stop off gassing. Which kind. What’s proper way to seal ? Need to wait a certain time before sealing ?
Will this and air purifier censure I won’t be living in a space I am exposed to voc ????
After you have aired and heated the place to promote curing and offgassing, you can then move on to the shellac based sealers.
Penny Vere says
We moved into a new home two years ago and had natural gas hooked up by the city supplier. We had all our gas appliance installed professionally, three gas fireplaces, high efficiency gas hot water, gas stove, gas dryer. I have been having some inflammatory health issues since this time and feel there is a direct correlation. Also, my jewellery, some of which I have had for 5o years is suddenly tarnishing at an alarming rate. We have 2 Austin Air Heathmate air purifiers, 1 upstairs and 1 downstairs. Who could possibly shed some light on the potential air quality issue for us. Thanks for any suggestions
Lisa Karasic says
My contractor put in a new closet with lots of shelving made of plywood, which was primed and painted. (I imagine the installation also included glue). The smell was terrible and was giving me headaches and a funny taste in my mouth. I assumed it was VOCs.
After 3 weeks of heavy ventilation and many fans, and the smell was still so bad, I put on 3 coats of AFM Safecoat Hardseal — waiting 24 hours in between coats.
It is now three weeks after that last coat and the smell is still very bad. Someone tells me my problem may not have been VOC but terpenes. They recommend Zinsser B-I-N shellac in clear or white. (white would work for my closet)
Do you agree? And, can I put that n the Hardseal without first sanding the Hardseal? Do i need to sand the shellac between coats? How many coats do you recommend?
After we accidentally left eggs to boil on the stove and left the house, we came back to our (newly renovated) home full of smoke. All was black and we were lucky it didn’t burn down. The smoke stench didn’t go away so the insurance sent a company who used ozone for a few days to get rid of that smell. When we came back to the house the smoke was replaced by a new smell, like chlorine. This was 3 years ago and smell is still here.
What do you suggest we do?
Oh wow, that is a really long time for that smell to linger. If you can find where it’s coming from I would see if you can throw out some items – some fabrics for example are badly damaged by ozone. You might be able to use sealants for some of it.
Trudi Trahan-upchan says
This is a great post Corinne! My husband suffers from IEI for the past 2 decades and has been implementing these strategies after all the research he has done and is commending you on the wealth of info you give in your site. We are wanting to add an ADU and a builder we interviewed mentioned they use SABS (Saebi Alternative Building systems) (strataus.com) which is EPS sprayed with GFRC (glass fiber reinforced concrete). My husband did not smell anything when we went to a sample unit but absolutely felt horrible with Chemical Sensitivity fogginess 30 mins after leaving there and it stayed for 2 hours (only spent 20 mins in the unit). I know your post about EPS mentioned it’s not toxic but could it be the PU glue keeping the EPS together or the GFRC that’s causing a reaction? We are lost. Is there a way to block or seal the PU glue or GFRC sprayed on EPS system like SABS? Thank you!
Hello! I have a question:
Is there any non-toxic way to get popcorn ceilings removed? I looked into this and it appears they scrape it away and then treat the drywall underneath by adding some new drywall and then using an oil-based primer and then painting. i’m concerned about the drywall product that may be added and couldn’t find any non-toxic oil-based primer with my research. thank you!!
You don’t need an oil based primer I’m not sure why your contractor is saying that. Check out the post on paint which has primers as well. You will also need drywall mud, there is a post on that too.
Mrs Carol johnson says
What do you think of wineo purline organic click flooring it claims to be solvent and chloride free and free from plastizies also claims to be odour neutral but I tested a sample and I could smell it I’m highly sensitive to chemicals and my current carpet is making me ill
It looks very similar to the Shaw Bio Based polyurethane which I quite liked but yes for those of us highly sensitive almost nothing is odor free. Check out the flooring posts for more ideas.
Yvonne Thomson says
Thank you so much for your informative article. We recently purchased a new sofa from a furniture store that is going through bankruptcy, so unfortunately there is no option to return it. But the off gassing has caused extreme issues for me. Within a couple of hours after putting the sofa in our living room, I had a severe headache, sore throat, burning eyes, my chest felt “heavy” and I had difficulty breathing. We immediately moved the sofa to our 3 season back porch where we keep the windows open whenever it’s not raining. It’s been a full week and I still smell the toxins whenever I walk out there. I imagine it’s better than it was a week ago, but I’m afraid to bring the sofa back inside since I can still smell it. Would the “baking out” method work for me? The room is not insulated, but does have electric baseboard heaters. Our temps are in the 60’s most days now so I might be able to get the temp up to 85-90 if I turn those heaters up high and leave them on. If you recommend I try this method, how often do I need to ventilate? Do I need to get up through the night to ventilate too? Thank you so much for your help. Anything you could recommend is so greatly appreciated. We just spent almost $2,000 on this sofa and can’t afford another new one. Please help!
Hi Yvonne, Im going through a similar issue. I purchased mine 4 days ago and since then nothing I’ve tried has helped. I sprinkled baking soda over the couch then sprayed a mixture of vinegar and water. I also keep my windows open from the time I wake up until about 7 when its getting dark..Im chemical sensitive and the only one affected by this. other people smell it a little but it bothers me. I cant leave mine outside and its too heavy to lift. I should have left it in the garage for a month ugh.
Daniel Tilley says
We are looking for some advice on a chemical smell issue we are dealing with. We painted our basement/garage floor a few months ago. Fumes started coming up into all floors of the house and started making us sick. Nausea, confusion, sweating, trouble breathing, watery eyes, etc… We have remediated the root cause, but the smell still resides in all rooms of our house and symptoms continue. Ventilation and cleaning has not been effective. The smell latches on to other materials and travels with us everywhere we go. We hired an indoor air quality engineer, but they were unable to solve the issue. The Austin Air Purifier they sold us got overloaded after 3-4 days of use and made things worse. My truck interior has been interior detailed three times and we have had to move out of multiple hotel rooms. We have not found a suitable cleaner/laundry detergent that has been 100% effective. The smell is not offensive. Short of throwing everything we own away is there anything we can do to cleanse our belongings? Thank You for any help you can provide.
What was the paint that caused such a big reaction? I would leave the house for a while and bring all new things with you.
Daniel Tilley says
We have left the house. Paint is old and the same paint that we used when we painted it 8 years before. Be believe the paint or the concrete cleaner we used reacted with whatever was spilled on the floor over the years. For some reason it only bothers us and not other people. We believe it will get better once the summer gets here. We heard that heat and ventilation is the best option to speed up the off-gassing. We have two specific questions. Can VOC smell transfer from item to item even after we have stopped the source? Is there a product or solution to help remove the VOC smell from these items?
Daniel..Hi! I know it’s been a few months, but did you ever resolve your issue? We have a similar issue. Had a garage coating put down, something went wrong, and horrible odor everywhere. Had it removed, but still the odor is lingering and it’s been 4 weeks.
Audrey L Foster says
We just installed a new HVAC system. What is the best way to prevent off gassing?
Thank you so much for this wonderful information. Due to significant cat urine damage, I am in the middle of replacing the hardwood floor of my toddlers’ bedroom. Once, I removed the hardwood, I realized that the urine soaked into the subfloor, which is made of wood. I plan to seal the subfloor, put a layer of Lauan plywood on top of that, seal that as well, and then put new hardwood down.
I am most likely going to use a shellac for sealing both the subfloor and the Lauan. How concerned should I be about the high levels of VOCs I see listed? Do they drop to zero or close to zero when the product dries? I see that you prefer certain Zinsser products over other ones. Are there particular reasons for your preferences?
Of course, my children will not be in the room during any of this construction. I’m just not sure when it will be safe. Thank you so much for your time.
Hi, the VOCs are just the alcohol they will be gone very quickly. I like Zinsser because it’s easy but you can certainly mix it yourself.
Thank you so much for your quick reply, Corinne. Do you think I need to wear some sort of respirator?
You’re supposed to yes.
Thanks again. I appreciate it.
Lisa Foster says
Could Vermont Natural Coatings also be used as a sealant for wood products containng formaldehyde, etc? I already have that product for other uses, but cannot find any information as to whether or not it would work to prevent outgassing. I assume it would being that it is a sealant but wanted to ask for confirmation. Thank you!
Polyurethanes do provide some sealing but it varies by brand and formula. Depending on what the wood product is and how it’s used it would not be my top choice of sealants.
Thanks for this post! I was wondering if you would recommend using a dewaxed shellac on pine? My husband built a crib for our new baby with generic pine from the local lumber store and now I’m paranoid it was pretreated with chemicals (I know arsenic is often used). I wanted to seal it with something to hopefully create a nontoxic layer between any potentially harmful chemicals in the wood and baby. After reading through your posts, I thought a shellac sounded like the best option, but was just wondering if you agreed or had any other helpful advice.
Thank you so much!
It won’t contain arsenic that hasn’t been used on most wood for a while. If it is pressure treated it will look like a green color. You can seal it with dewaxed shellac though yes. There is a post on sealing pine that goes more into detail https://www.mychemicalfreehouse.net/2021/01/how-to-stain-pine-with-non-toxic-products.html
Hi, thank you so much for your informative site! I am wondering if a product like the safe seal would work to stop offgassing of vocs from a solid soft wood furniture product like pine? Not sure if vocs from natural pine are a big issue or not, If so would you apply it to the unfinished wood before painting with a low voc paint, or if the product is already lacquered could you remove the lacquer first by sanding and then use safe seal? Would removing a lacquer by sanding be enough to stop any further off gassing of the product from the lacquer?
I am interested in booking a consult but am in the UK…I know you cannot give specific recommendations re products etc that aren’t North American…but are you able to give general advice on materials such as the questions above?
Many thanks, Lucy
Hi Lucy, yes we could do a consult like that. It would help to outline what kind of lacquer it was (like the type not the brand). Check out the pine sealing post as well. https://www.mychemicalfreehouse.net/2021/01/how-to-stain-pine-with-non-toxic-products.html
Robert Haverlock says
Love your site! One thing though, baking out is really not a thing anymore… Leed for homes doesn’t recommend as well? I am a sustainable building consultant and have ran into problems with offgassing and Inbedding toxic gasses into drywall and other soft-furniture making the clients pretty ill!
Just a thought
Lesley D says
Do you have any knowledge on systems air purifying systems installed in the HVAC system to reduce VOCs? Two products that I am interested in are the APCO-UV and the iWave system (R or C).
Very useful article. I’m wondering if it would be possible to use shellac to seal gap filling foam. We’re going to try and remove it but there’s alot of it so won’t be possible. It’s still off gassing after two years and more needs to be done. Already got piv which has helped a lot but not enough. Based in the UK so don’t really have the option of safecoat. Would the alcohol in the shellac react with the foam or should it be OK?
Thank you so much in advance!
Good question I’m not sure. I know you can paint over canned spray foam, so you might need that extra layer before shellac.
Hi Corrine thanks for the reply. Well I suppose if you can paint over it it might be OK. The foam was used to try and seal a huge gap under a party wall that was causing cooking fumes and cigarette smoke to come through into the bedroom. Little did I know it made matters worse. The vocs have dramatically reduced but that was done about a year and a half ago. Do you have any idea how long that foam takes to fully or almost fully offgas? The piv unit has done wonders and made the room livable with the door open at all times but it makes the house very cold and doesn’t stop the spike at vocs at around 4am every morning when the neighbours heating comes on.
I am curious how you would rate an Amaircare Whisper 675 whole home air purification system for VOC off gassing of a new build issue on one end of the house only. Would it be better to have a whole home system or a moveable unit put right where the main issue is?
Much appreciation for your site!
Brittney Omelchuk says
Hello, Thanks so much for all the information! We add a 500 sq ft addition to our farm home to have enough room for our kids to have bedrooms and a livingroom and it was unfortunately, unknown to me, built with OSB. I had no idea OSB stinks so bad and I am very sensitive to! I don’t seem to be as sensitive to other building supplies. Do you happen to know which air purifier is best for the price if the sole purpose of helping with OSB off gassing behind our drywall?
We already sealed the floor with shellac the most we could and will seal the baseboards and outlets too once we get to it.
I would really appreciate any extra insight that could help! We have waited a year now not using the new space and cramped into our old house area.
Hi, thank you so much for all the information! I am very sensitive to mold and chemicals. I just moved into a small 700 square foot apartment that is full of VOCs. The off-gassing smell is extremely strong and there is new carpet in my bedroom. What would you recommend doing for my small space? I’m currently on the first night of beating the place up while I stay with my parents and will ventilate it tomorrow. I already have a mini molecule, personal air IQ, a MERV 13 filter installed, and 2 small dehumidifiers. I was considering renting a HEPA air scrubbed with a carbon filter once I’m done heating the place up. Thoughts? Should I buy all the sealants for my apartment? Also bought a lot of new furniture since I was coming from a moldy apartment and didn’t keep anything.
It partly depends on if you are the owner or not. Do a bake out and then increase ventilation. Those are the most important steps. Then you can go on to the sealing things in. If you are the owner you can remove carpet.
Thank you so very much for all the helpful information that you provide on this site. I have a neurological disease and I am sensitive to many chemicals so I appreciate your recommendations.
We are currently in the midst of a remodel on a 1964 house that we closed on during the current pandemic. We have had professional mold and asbestos remediation completed and we’re doing our best to select healthy materials and finishes. However, the Omega Dynasty painted kitchen cabinets that may be installed, while CARB 2 compliant, may pose some off-gassing issues for me due to my heightened sensitivity. If they were more affordable and we were able to get them in 6-8 weeks, we definitely would’ve purchased Crystal cabinets.
Will it help to place dozens of charcoal bags in all the cabinets and drawers for 5-7 days before we move in? All kitchen cabinets and drawers will be lined with natural cork from Portugal. We currently use Honeywell Air Purifiers that utilize the Hepa Filter and the Charcoal Filter. We will probably be purchasing two more air purifiers for this house before we move in so that they can be run in advance.
Also, would it help to have our electrician install a Panasonic Whisper Quiet exhaust fan in the kitchen ceiling or would that be a waste of money?
Abundant thanks for your response and advice.
It depends on the composition of the cabinets. It might not have much offgassing at all. CARB is not enough to know what it’s made of and the offgassing levels. You would want to find out more about the materials and then see how much offgassing or air exchange you would need.
Gillian James says
Good morning Corinne.
First I want to thank you for all of this valuable information.
Secondly I am looking for advice.
I have been living for 9 years in the mountains of Co. Kerry in Ireland – a damp stone cottage with some mould issues , but isolated and environmentally very clean, no mobile phone or radio or tv signals to speak of and no neighbours in sight , a dead end road in a valley. So I have been spoiled really.
Though I love it here my landlord ha failed to maintain the property, I cannot afford to and my disabled son aged 22 is feeling depressed by the isolation here – so when I was offereda little house in a nearby small town I accepted. I was given the keys in March, but the new paint smell was too much for me and then covid 19 hit so we have not attempted to move in until this last week. We had been going there weekly with some furniture and ventilating for an hour or two – all doors and windows open and had a big honeywell air purifier going full whack.
We moved in on Thursday night along with my 2 elderly dogs – all windows and doors open in the day, but closing them at night xcept for 2 little windows because of security concerns- it is ground floor. I became increasingly ill and so did one of my dogs in particular- my son aged 22 became very pale, had constant heartburn- acid stomach and sore throat. I could not sleep more than an hour at a time, was dizzy, sore throat, headache, felt sick and was deathly pale with increasing facial oedema, eventually on day 3 I was peeing less and less and my face looking worryingly swollen and suspecting kidney damage , we baled out and went back to the cottage which luckily we have not given our notice on. We had 2 dehumidifiers going after day one – which maybe helped a little- and air purifiers of varying abilities in every room. There are only 4 small rooms and a hallway. I suspect the nasty, thick, newly applied paint/varnish which has been used both sides on 5 doors and 5 windowledges.. As I mentioned the house belongs to the local authority and I have been paying rent on both properties since early March. Our finances are very limited , consisting of state benefits. I have had Lyme disease 3 times in the last 3 decades – which is maybe relevant with regard to my sensitivity and vulnerability and I am 65. I am worried and depressed and not sure where to go with all of this. Most of our belongings have been moved into the new house – though we can manage to stay here at the cottage for a good while- better than being poisoned to death to be sure. Your thoughts please ? Yes likely VOCs from the varnish – thinking- remove the doors and place them outside for the council to take away-and hopefully then replace – we could manage to do that ourselves – beyond that- I am hoping for some of your excellent advice.
I would need to know your whole story to comment but that sounds like something a lot worse than just the new paint.
Thank you so much for this advice! I was wondering, does what’s been said here apply also to VOCs that are offgassing from inside air ducts (rather than from household materials)? About a month ago, elastometric sealant was used to seal ductwork that my air comes through. Ever since, my apartment has smelled faintly of paint thinner, and makes me feel very ill when I remain inside for more than 15-20 minutes. Would ventilation and the “bake-in” strategy be effective for that?
Yes, though in some cases folks prefer or have to turn off the HVAC system for a while when they are reacting to the HVAC sealants. If you are using that to heat or air the place it could get a little worse before it gets better.
That’s good to know, thank you! We live in the southern US, so the apartment will easily reach 85-90 degrees if we just turn off the HVAC system entirely. Thanks again for your help!
Help! I’ve made a mistake and I’m hoping to find the best remedy. I’m normally good at researching VOC levels and making the safest choice for my family. However, I recently bought a home that needed some kitchen cabinet “updating” color wise, and several people suggested I use minwax gel stain on thee cabinets. I impulsively (and foolishly) tried it without researching first and the fumes are unbearable! They’re even making my eyes and skin burn! I am trying to ventilate the area, but I can’t fully close it off or not use it – because it’s the kitchen in an open concept home. I am curious if there is a sealant I could use that could reduce the offgassing and make it a bit safer. Do you have any specific recommendations for this situation/product? I’d greatly appreciate your advice. At the moment, I am not even sleeping in the house because it’s so strong and I definitely don’t want my children to! Please advise. Thank you.
Thank you for all of the info! It is very helpful, I may be understanding incorrectly, but it sounds like there might be hope for a home that is a flip! Yet, A flip has so many new materials that it’s an overload, is this info more intended for smaller cases of offgassing?
Renovations won’t have as much offgassing as a new build. I wouldn’t go into any house expecting to be able to bring down the offgassing quickly. Unless you are not very sensitive. Flips usually have a lot of not well done renovations too, so I would be very wary of the quality there.
Thank you! They say it takes 2 years for new materials to off gas, does that sound about right for a flip as well? I’m assuming with these tips it might reduce the time a bit.
But yes you’re right, a lot of things are not done correctly in a flip. We were recently looking into Buying a home that was a flip and it was a nightmare how many things were wrong with it. Even the exterior paint was already chipping and it was only a month old! Thank you for all you do!
I wouldn’t agree with the 2 years quote. Some renovations will offgas faster than that. A whole build will take longer. It also depends on which materials they used.
Really? Wow, it’s great being able to learn about this. Especially to help people who may not know the dangers of some chemicals in building materials. How long would you say it takes for a remoled in a home to off gas if the house is baked? Let’s say a home needed a new kitchen, bathroom, and floor. Vs if it only needed new paint. I once read 60% of pollution is due to the construction industry. I don’t know if it is true but it does make sense that a lot of health issues come from the Chemicals we live with.
bought a $120 air purifier and it smelled like plastic, horrible smell tanks my room and house, I was coughing here and there, my sinused felt irritated and dry, even had a slight headache but it went away when i opened the windows for hours. I don’t know if is the plastic housing or the filters or the glue used for the filters and reading this page, made me realize all these air purifier suck, maybe the all metal case and housing with better filter would not off gas but who knows especially at those prices
ridiculous how one buys something to improve air quality and actually makes it worse, wouldn’t be surprised if this whole air purifier business is a huge scam, even those expensive ones off gas and don’t purify as much as they want you to believe, is a huge scam with their overpriced filters, that’s how they got you on the hooks for years on end
There are a few that have gone that extra mile to make sure the machine won’t contribute to offgassing. If it’s an inexpensive model not mentioned here it’s probably mostly HEPA (won’t get much or any carbon for a low price). In that case they are not meant to reduce offgassing but only to capture spores, dust and other airborne particulates.
Sorry, Personally, I don’t think anything at $120.00 will do anything useful? Most sir filtration I recommend is $700.90 or higher? I’ll always stand corrected!
Definitely depends on the person. I noticed the mineral odour as the main odour there. I'm not sure sensitive to motors anymore.
I purchased an EnviroKlenz air purifier and have been running it in the garage for 2 days to out gas. I think it is the machine motor area. It looks like the thing that spins is some sort of plastic. Do they usually have to out gas for long? It hasn't gotten much better running for 2 days.
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