Is it Safe to Sleep in a Freshly Painted Room? (4 Dangers)


This article has been researched and reviewed by Stephanie Abi Zeid (Embryologist, Andrologist, B.S, MSc) for factual accuracy.

If you’ve just painted your bedroom then you might be wondering if it’s safe to sleep in your freshly painted room or not.

Sleeping in a freshly painted room is NOT safe and is especially harmful for children, pets, the elderly, and pregnant women due to the VOC chemicals that can damage the nervous system and organs, cause allergic reactions, and cancer. Wait for at least 72 hours after the paint has dried before sleeping in the room.

The rest of this article explains in more detail the dangers of sleeping in a freshly painted room and reveals the best types of fast-drying paints with low VOCs to use in your room to reduce the amount of time that you need to wait.

Related: the 5 best bedroom paint colors for children with autism.

Sleeping in a Freshly Painted Room is Not Safe

Sleeping in a freshly painted room is unsafe because the paint contains chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which can turn into gasses at room temperature and cause detrimental health effects which are as follows:

1: Damage to the Nervous System

The emitted paint chemicals can accumulate in the brain and affect the function of the central nervous system and cause dizziness, loss of memory, and coordination impairment.  

2: Damage to Multiple Organs

VOCs can pass through the bloodstream via contact with the skin or through inhalation, and can impair the function of some organs such as the liver, kidneys (organs responsible for eliminating toxins from the body), and the lungs. 

VOCs can cause respiratory and breathing problems that are manifested by eye, nose, and throat irritation, coughs, and asthma attacks. 

3: Allergic Reactions

Paint fumes can trigger allergic reactions manifested by symptoms like asthma attacks, itchy and watery eyes, a runny nose, rhinitis, difficulty breathing, nausea and headaches, and sometimes skin rashes like eczema.  

4: Cancer

Exposure to VOCs over a long period of time can cause forms of cancer. 

Studies have shown a correlation between exposure to fresh paint during pregnancy and childhood leukemia in newborns [1]. 

Wait 72 Hours After Drying Before Using the Room

It is safe to sleep in a freshly painted room when the paint is completely dry and the room has been ventilated for up to 72 hours or more thereafter depending on the type of paint used and the VOC level it contains.

Ventilating the room will help to push the VOCs out so that the room becomes safe – which is especially important for susceptible groups like pregnant women, children, the elderly, and pets. 

Pregnant Women Should NOT Sleep in a Freshly Painted Room

Pregnant women should avoid sleeping in a freshly painted room – especially when oil-based paint is used because this type of paint emits the highest level of VOCs. 

Exposure to VOCs during pregnancy – especially during the first trimester – may cause developmental anomalies in unborn babies and can increase the risk of childhood leukemia [2]. 

Wait 2-3 Days Before a Child Sleeps in a Freshly Painted Room

In general, it is advised to wait two or three days for the fumes from the paint to dry completely before a child can sleep in a freshly painted room. 

Exposure to VOCs can induce allergic symptoms in children such as asthma, eczema, and rhinitis [3]. 

However, the use of low-VOC paints is safer and may allow children to sleep in the room three to four hours after it is painted.  

Pets Should NOT Sleep in a Freshly Painted Room

Domestic pets that stay indoors all day like dogs, cats, or caged birds should not stay in a freshly painted room because they are at a higher risk of developing health issues from paint fumes in comparison to humans.

Pets have a smaller lung capacity, which makes them more vulnerable to outbreaks of breathing problems.

Even the tiniest amount of paint fumes can irritate dogs’ respiratory tract as dogs can smell up to 100,000 times better than humans [4].

So it’s better to keep your pets away from the painting area even if you are using low emission paint. 

Not only do VOCs affect one’s health, but they can also be lethal to smaller animals like birds and hamsters.    

Ventilate a Freshly Painted Room For 72 Hours

You should ventilate the room while painting and for about 72 hours afterward in order to improve indoor air quality. 

Open the windows and doors, bring in box fans and place them angled towards the windows and doors to direct the airflow to the outside. 

Proper ventilation makes paint dry faster, lets fresh air in, and pushes VOCs out. 

Keep in mind that some paints have VOCs that require several days to dissipate even after the paint dries and becomes odorless. 

Oil-Based Gloss Paint is the Most Harmful

In the past, gloss paints were oil-based – meaning they emit a lot of VOCs, release strong odors, and take around two weeks to dry.

Nowadays, due to innovations in paint technology, gloss paints have become water-based and fast-drying with low VOCs content. 

Such gloss paints have less risk of causing health issues than other types of paint where the VOCs continue off-gassing even after the paint dries and the smell disappears. 

To keep off-gassing to a minimum, it is recommended to use non-VOC or low-VOC paints, as they are the safest paint types to use indoors. 

Choose Paint With Low or Zero VOC Content 

To shorten the time that you need to wait before you can sleep in a freshly painted room, go for paints with non or low VOC content.

1: Water-Based Paints Have Low VOC Content 

Water-based paints – also known as latex paints – have low VOC content and emit fewer paint fumes than oil-based paints. 

Water-based paints require three to four hours to dry, which allows you to sleep in a freshly painted room the same day it is painted. 

But keep in mind that the room can continue to emit vapors long after the paint dries even if there is no detectable smell.  

2: Oil-Based Paints Have High VOC Content

Oil-based paints – also known as alkyd paints – are durable but have high VOC content, emit stronger odors, and take more time to dry than water-based paints.

You should wait for at least two weeks after the room is painted for the VOCs to evaporate and exit the room completely before you can sleep in the room. 

3: Non-VOC and Low-VOC Paints   

These are the safest type of paint, as they contain zero or minimal VOC content, are almost odorless, and don’t emit toxic chemicals. 

Therefore, you can sleep in the room on the same day that it is painted without worrying about developing health problems and allergies.

However, there have been studies that claim that even zero-VOC paints still contain a small amount of VOCs (less than 5 grams per liter) and still release chemical vapors [5]. 

It is always better to wait a few hours while keeping the windows open before you sleep in a freshly painted room. 

Paint Fumes Can Be Harmful For Several Days

Paint fumes can potentially be harmful for several days for paints with a high VOC content – although determining exactly how long paint fumes take to dissipate is difficult because VOCs remain in the air even after the paint dries completely.

Most studies agree that the paint with the lowest VOC content has less risk of causing harmful health effects [6]. 

Therefore, ensure proper ventilation and opt for non-VOC or low-VOC paint to minimize off-gassing and to prevent the release of toxic chemicals in the room.    

3 Tips to Get Rid of Paint Fumes

To get rid of paint fumes, choose indoor paints with a low VOC content, close up any leftover paint tins firmly, and increase the ventilation in the painting area.

More details below:

1: Choose Indoor Paints With Low VOC Content

Choose water-based paint with 50 grams per liter of VOC content or less – these are commonly used indoors and emit lower amounts of toxic chemicals. 

2: Close Any Leftover Paint Containers Tightly 

Close any leftover paint cans tightly and store them away in a garage or somewhere far from the house because the containers can continue to leak VOCs into the surrounding area after they have been opened. 

Check with your local waste disposal service if you wish to properly dispose of old paint. 

3: Increase Ventilation in the Painting Area

Consider painting during dry weather and keep the windows open during and after painting the walls of your room. 

Use box fans to help direct airflow towards the outside. 

Ventilate the freshly painted room for about 72 hours even if the paint appears dry and there is no more detectable smell. 

Use air purifiers to optimize the quality of your indoor air. 

Conclusion: Don’t Sleep in a Freshly Painted Room

Paints contain VOCs, which evaporate inside a freshly painted room and turn into health hazards – especially for pregnant women, young children, and domestic pets – so it’s best to wait for at least 72 hours after the paint has dried before sleeping in that room.

You can speed up the paint drying time and minimize health risks by choosing low or non-VOC paints. 

Proper ventilation for a few days after painting a room and safety measures are vital to push the VOCs out and make freshly painted rooms safe again. 

Related: 9 ways to make a small bedroom look bigger with furniture.

Sources and References

[1] Bailey, Helen. “Home paint exposures and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia: Findings from the Childhood Leukemia International Consortium.” HHS Author Manuscript, vol. 26, no. 9, 2015, pp. 1257-1270. PMC, View Source. Accessed 3 December 2020.

[2] Hjortebjerg, Dorrit. “Non-occupational exposure to paint fumes during pregnancy and risk of congenital anomalies: a cohort study.” Environmental Health, vol. 11, no. 54, 2012. NCBI, View Source. Accessed 3 December 2020.

[3] Hyunok, Choi. “Common Household Chemicals and the Allergy Risks in Pre-School Age Children.” PLOS, 2010, View Source. Accessed 3 December 2020.

[4] Coates, Jennifer. “8 Dog Nose Facts You Probably Didn’t Know.” PET MD, 2016, View Source. Accessed 3 December 2020.

[5] Schieweck, Alexandra. Building And Environment. vol. 85, 2015. Science Direct, View Source. Accessed 3 December 2020.

[6] Karmazyn, Joel. “Low-VOC Paint Helps You Breathe Easier.”, 2020, View Source. Accessed 3 December 2020.

Image Attribution and Licencing

Main image: ‘Bedroom With Colorful Paintings’ by Stockernumber2 (Getty Images) used with permission under Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.