Residential Painting Safety Tips
It is time to start that painting project. You’ve purchased brushes, paint, rollers, and more, and everything is almost ready to start. Have you taken all the necessary safety precautions? Painting safety is not something a lot of people dwell on but should seriously consider if undertaking a DIY painting project. Consider if you have all the equipment needed, if there’s adequate ventilation available in the room to be painted, and how to properly clean and dispose of materials when the job is done. Follow these safety tips to ensure the project will be a safe one.
Ensure Adequate Ventilation
Proper ventilation is probably the most important thing to consider if using a solvent-based paint. According to the National Capital Poison Center, exposure to paint fumes from solvent paints can cause dizziness, headaches, and nausea. These problems are most likely to occur when painting a room with poor ventilation. To avoid these potential hazards, open the doors and windows of the project room. This will create a cross breeze that will circulate air in and out and prevent you from inhaling too many paint fumes. If the room has a fan, then make sure it is turned on. Lastly, consider wearing a respirator. You do not need a fancy oxygen unit, but rather a simple painter’s mask that can be purchased at a local building supply or hardware store will do the trick.
Purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Along with fumes, solvent paints, cleaners, and strippers can also irritate your skin and eyes, if they are exposed directly to the chemicals. Pick up at least a few pieces of PPE, like goggles and gloves. Also, consider wearing a long-sleeve shirt to protect your arms from splashes. Perhaps even consider wearing an old hat to avoid irritating your hair and scalp.
Don’t breathe chemicals.
Some paints and painting products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and some do not. Whenever possible, opt for those that don’t because their fumes are much safer to breathe. When painting indoors, ventilate the area to be painted, opening all doors and windows and using fans. Do not let a freshly painted room be occupied, particularly by older people, children, and pets.
Beware of chemicals and poisons. Clean up carefully and thoroughly when you are done for the day. Don’t leave materials, tools, ladders, or rags in work areas that are accessible to children or pets.
Avoid fire hazards. Do not paint or store solvent-based paint, thinners, or strippers near any heat source such as a water heater or fireplace. Never smoke while painting. Don’t use a heat gun indoors. If you use one outdoors, be sure you have a fire extinguisher handy. If rags have alkyd paint or thinner on them, leave them to dry outside on a non-combustible surface to avoid any chance of spontaneous combustion. Choose an area inaccessible to children and pets, and when they are thoroughly dry, take them to a toxic-waste dump site.
Further ensure your safety and the safety of your loved ones by taking the following precautions:
- Pregnant women are advised to stay away from wet paint till it is fully dried and outgassed.
- Don’t mix painting with food, drink, or smoking.
- Keep children and pets away from painted areas and equipment.
- Use ladders safely.
- Keep painted areas and paints away from heat sources.
- Make sure there is ample ventilation available before, during, and after.
- Give painted areas 24 hours minimum and 3 days max to dry, keeping home dwellers from sleeping or working there until it’s safe.
Healthy Painting with Latex Paint for Both Homeowners and Contractors
While latex paint is one of the safest types of paint available, you should still take certain precautions with it, particularly with indoor painting. Here are some tips to make your latex painting healthier:
Safety Before Painting with Latex
- Check for lead paint using lead-safe methods if your home is more than 20 years old
- Choose a low-toxicity paint – look for low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are oil-based petroleum products. Ask your paint store for assistance.
- Read all paint labels carefully as even ones categorized as low-toxicity can contain VOCs. Also make sure you choose indoor latex paint for indoor jobs, not outdoor paint.
- Try to avoid spray painting indoors, particularly with spray cans
- Turn off all air conditioning/HVAC units and cover with plastic as these units cannot filter latex paint vapors
Safety During the Latex Painting Process
- Wear protective gear such as gloves, goggles and filtered respirators. Dust masks are not considered protective gear as they do not filter out latex paint’s vapors
- Pregnant women and children should not be around freshly-painted areas
- Make sure windows are open for air flow, and if possible, use a fan backwards in a window to act as an exhaust system
- Step outside for fresh air frequently while painting with latex
Safety After Painting with Latex
- Save a small amount of paint used to accommodate for future touch-ups
- Allow newly-painted area to dry and air for 2-3 days after painting
- Latex paints emit vapors for 2-3 days after painting, even when dry; therefore, keep children, pregnant women and those with respiratory ailments out of the area during this time
First aid for paint exposures is simple.
- If any kind of paint gets on the skin, wash it off with soap and water. Paint removers can irritate the skin.
- If paint gets into the eyes, rinse with running water for 15 – 20 minutes. Rest with the eye closed for 15 minutes. Call Poison Control if there is any pain or trouble with vision.
- If someone swallows paint, give a small amount of water or milk to drink. Watch for stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. Swallowed paint may come out in the stool in a day or two; be aware – and tell babysitters! – so that no one is alarmed.