seliles

How do you get rid of polyurethane smell?

seliles
April 21, 2010

I had hardwoods installed in my kitchen and dining room the first week in April. But the fumes from the polyurethane varnish literally makes me sick. It triggers migraines, so I'm having to stay with a relative.

Are there any tips that might help the fumes dissipate more quickly?

I've run the ceiling fan in the adjoining living room. Guess I could try cooking something with some nice aromas.

Just wondered if anyone else has had this problem and what you did?

Thanks!

pbear

Comments (47)

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    Open the windows, keep them open until the house is habitable.
    Warmer temperatures and more airflow across the floor will accelerate the off-gassing. But you need to exhaust the bad air from the house, not use any cover-ups.
    Casey

  • Circus Peanut

    Borrow or buy some of those box fans that fit into windows, and run them all day, making sure you have one fan and one open window across the way for each space, to ensure good air flow.

    You do need to just keep flushing the air out of your house; it carries the smelly VOCs and you can't cover them up. Be healthier for you that way too!

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  • seliles

    Thanks so much circuspeanut and Casey. I will definitely try that next.

    pbear

  • riskaverse

    Yup, we had the floors done in our newly purchased home in March 2004 and we just had to live with all of the windows (and doors when we were home) open (it was cold!!) for a very long time. I was pregnant and it was really a health concern, so I'm glad to hear that you have somewhere else to stay. To this day, that smell makes me nauseous.

  • seliles

    Does anyone know if the fumes are harmful to pets? I have 2 cats and a dog and am worried about their health.

    Thanks again!

    pbear

  • clg7067

    Yes, get the pets and yourself out.

    You can rent some of those super fans at rental stores.

  • seliles

    Thanks clg7067....good idea!

  • lazy_gardens

    The fumes are annoying, sometimes headache provoking, but not dangerous. Just ventilate like crazy to change for fresh air until the poly is cured.

  • sue36

    Since the weather is getting better I would use fans to pull air in and push it out. It took about 6 months after we moved into our new house before I stopped waking up with a headache and sore throat. (it never bothered DH, I'm more sensitive to odors and chemicals, he actually LIKES the smell of an outboard motor).

  • seliles

    Thanks for all of your comments.

    Can I assume if I still smell the polyurethane, it is still off-gassing? I'm still worried about my pets; they will be the closest to the floor unfortunately.

    I was wondering if an air purifier/cleaner would help...one that can help with VOC's? Has anyone had experience using one? Is it just throwing more money away? See link below.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Room Air purifiers?

  • Circus Peanut

    I can't guarantee, of course, but I have this air purifier (Healthmate Jr. by Austin, linked below) and it has worked well to get rid of a lot of smells during the course of our DIY renovations, including floor refinishing, painting, etc.
    Not cheap, but I like it quite a bit. It was the best bang for the buck a few years back when I was shopping for one.

    It's also splendid for removing cigarette smoke and cat dander, if that's ever an issue (we use it for my allergic SIL when she comes to visit and she says she doesn't notice cat in the air at all, which is remarkable since we have a longhair).

    If you have the cash, I'd say it can't hurt to invest in one -- cats do have very sensitive noses and what only annoys humans might well be harmful to their more delicate systems.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Healthmate purifiers

  • babushka_cat

    i had my floors done in the whole house and the odor was so bad the house was not habitable for at least 2 weeks. took way longer to disipate than i realized, had to extend my stay at a friends house (with me and my two cats in her back bedroom!) i went to walmart and bought 4 large cheap box fans and had them running 24 hrs a day on high placed strategically for the air to flow out the window and new air flowing in. had to close lower ones at night due to security concerns but went back to house every morning to reopen. made a huge difference but still noticed lingering odor for a month or so until it really got out of the house. just keep those fans running on high!

  • jem199

    I use my Lamp Berger. I highly recommend having one for poly-smell and all kitchen cooking smells (fish, stir fries, accidental burnings, etc)

    It's an amazing product. You won't beleive how great it is until you get one and then you will stock up on them to give as gifts. I can't say enough good things about my lamp berger. If anyone is interested, i can post tips and budget oil recipes (since $18 a bottle is kinda out there).

  • seliles

    Thanks circuspeanut! Funny, I had just been searching this morning and found the Austin Healthmate Jr. and thought it sounded pretty good.

    And thanks babushka_cat! I have 2 fans, but maybe I better a couple more.

    I'm not so sure about the the Lamp Berger. Doesn't that just mask the smell?

  • jem199

    They aren't just fragrance lamps. They are air purifiers. You can use 90% alcohol and no frgrance at all.
    These were originally used in hospitals to purify the air. They attract unstable molecules, which includes bacteria and odors and they burn them. You really need to try one to believe how great it works. You have no idea how clean your home can smell.

    We aren't fragrance people - no candles, glades, etc. I was like 'oh great, another regifting item' when I got one. I never knew how much I needed it. It's one of the best gifts I've ever received.

    I added a link with more information. Seriously - go buy one now!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Catalytic Lamp

  • Circus Peanut

    I don't know a thing about these lamps pro or con, but I would caution anyone against sparks or open fire of any sort while polyurethane finish is outgassing: the vapors can be HIGHLY INFLAMMABLE!

  • redroze

    I had the same concern, as we're staining our stairs and landing. I'm expecting so I didn't want to inhale fumes.

    According to this website, if you open the windows the fumes will go away after 24 hours.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Wrights FAQs

  • ajard

    We just refinished our kitchen floors last week. The polyurathane went on last mon and tues and the cabinets came wed.Last night was the first night my family and I slept here and I woke up with swollen eyes and coughing. I was hoping 5 nights out of house was enough.. My youngest son woke up coughing too! We did sleep with all the windows shut for safety... but I opened them at 6 am again. I will have to try the fan idea too

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    Once the solvent has evaporated, there is but a tiny amount of flammables in the air. Not anywhere close to explosive levels. That's why an open flame is probably helpful in burning off those hydrocarbons given off during the "curing" part of the process (as opposed to the solvent evaporation part). I never knew they made a specific lamp "tool" for that. I have always noted the odd smell in the air when I use my gas stove while painting or varnishing; I suspected the hydrocarbons were partially burning in the open flame.
    Casey

  • rosiew

    JEm199 - I would love more information re "If anyone is interested, i can post tips and budget oil recipes (since $18 a bottle is kinda out there)."

    Not familiar with the catalytic lamps but have found lots of discussions online about them. My primary stinky smell is from cigarettes. And currently dealing with the smell of varnished kitchen drawer interiors.

    Thanks for telling us about these!!

    Rosie

  • jem199

    LOL - nothing will blow up. I wouldn't blow the fumes around with a fan when you can burn them up. You will not believe how great these lamps are until you get one. I'm pasting the tips below.

    Lamp Berger Tips

    If your wick wonÂt stay lit, make sure your lamp is not overfilled. Fill it a little less than halfway.
    To unclog a wick, try this before replacing it. Soak it in 90% alcohol overnight to clean it of the oils. Empty your lamp and fill it with pure 90 to 91% alcohol. Burn that through and it will remove any residues and make your wick like new.

    DonÂt buy the Âneutral fuel. ItÂs just pure alcohol, like were used in these lamps in hospitals. Buy 90-91% alcohol. (Walgreens and Walmart have this)
    Make your own fuel (this will void your warranty, but I've done it for a couple years now without any problems.)
    1 16 oz. bottle 90% alcohol (do not use weaker strength)
    1 1/2 tsp essential oil (not fragrance oil)
    Put the oil right in the alcohol bottle and mark scent with a sharpie on the bottle.
    Some recipes call for 1/8th oz. distilled water, but I don't add it and it doesn't seem to matter.

    Mix scents for different combinations.
    To change scents, wring out your wick and put in a new scent. ThatÂs all!

  • rosiew

    So glad you posted this Jem. Any recommendations of the essential oils? Would love something fresh and spring-y. And where good places are to buy the oils?

    My drawers still stink!

  • jem199

    sry - just seeing this now. I came back to it b/c I just put poly in my mudroom - 5 doors, an entryway and a picture window. I ran the lampe berger for an hour and the next morning, there is NO SMELL. I'm still amazed at this lamp!

    I buy oils on ebay and once a year we have a local craft show where there is a vendor that sells essential oils. I get one or two a year to add to the collection. My faviorite is mixing orange and vanilla and I'm still partial to the Lampe Berger seabreeze scent. They are much cheaper on ebay.

  • dreamgarden

    We just had our floors done and the smell is overpowering. All the windows are open but DH has chemical sensitivities so we will be staying elsewhere until the smell dies down.

    We will use fans to push/pull air out and then have our ducts cleaned in a few weeks.

    We had discussed other options besides polyurethane and found out AFTER we used the poly that folks with chemical sensitivities use Tung oil on their floors, deck and wood furniture because it is non-toxic.

    They say hindsight is 20/20, but if we had it to do over again, we would have used this instead of poly. Oh well, live and learn!

    "TUNG OIL HISTORY: Pure Tung Oil comes from cold pressing of the seeds or nuts of the Tung tree. Pure Tung Oil was and is one of the first truly "Green" finishes. It is all natural and contains ZERO VOC's. Pure Tung oil (China wood oil) is an all-natural finishing product that provides a tough, flexible and highly water-resistant coating or wood finish."

    A link that might be useful:

    www.realmilkpaint.com/oil.html

  • dreamgarden

    We just had our floors done and the smell is overpowering. All the windows are open but DH has chemical sensitivities so we will be staying elsewhere until the smell dies down.

    We will use fans to push/pull air out and then have our ducts cleaned in a few weeks.

    We had discussed other options besides polyurethane and found out AFTER we used the poly that folks with chemical sensitivities use Tung oil on their floors, deck and wood furniture because it is non-toxic.

    They say hindsight is 20/20, but if we had it to do over again, we would have used this instead of poly. Oh well, live and learn!

    "TUNG OIL HISTORY: Pure Tung Oil comes from cold pressing of the seeds or nuts of the Tung tree. Pure Tung Oil was and is one of the first truly "Green" finishes. It is all natural and contains ZERO VOC's. Pure Tung oil (China wood oil) is an all-natural finishing product that provides a tough, flexible and highly water-resistant coating or wood finish."

    A link that might be useful:

    www.realmilkpaint.com/oil.html

  • sharron49

    My brother has very bad asthma and is immune suppressed. He went into the hospital with pneumonia and my aunt came over and refinished some attached cabinets in his bedroom without letting me know!!!!!! The chemical volitle oils and carbons off gassing was terrible. I knew that he had to come back in two weeks and the smell was so bad, even I could not take it. I tried my container of activated ch1arcol that I use when I clean his house (he is very chemically challenged). I used three quart bottles (you can get it at any pet store or Meijers pet area) and put it all around the room on paper plates. It took 24 hours to notice a difference, but in 3 days ALL of the smell was GONE! From what I understand the volital oils and chemicals bind to the charcol and remove it from the air. It must be activated charcol to work. Try it and you will be able to breathe once again.

  • lynnster52

    Just put new floors in. 1200 sq ft of partial 1st floor of house. Have 2 cats. We ran powerful fan from outside patio screen door & cracked all downstairs windows. Had fan sucking air out. We also put a barrier film up between the newly-finished rooms and the foyer to prevent fumes from getting upstairs. Some fumes still made their way upstairs but not enough to have to leave. We have 2 zone a/c with sep ducting so were able to turn a/c on after each day of poly application, but only after also running window fans on 2nd floor. WE HAVE 2 BERGER LAMPS that I'd forgotten about until I read jem199's comments. After 2 days of poly, the downstairs rooms (with new floors) still have odor (even with powerful fans) so I put the 2 lamps down there & shut off the fans. WIthin 20 mins the poly smell was gone. You can't leave these lamps burning all day, so we did 20 mins and will do it again later, if needed. Tks Jem199! I do recall reading they purify the air but poo-poohed & just used them to put a nice scent into my house but now I know they do more than that!

  • lynnster52

    I forgot to say that we just used the Berger Lamps this morning so I can't update yet whether we'll need to keep burning them daily, but it will be worth it as in 20 mins they did the job.

  • movourneen

    just had our floors done a week ago with Glitza poly and we still can't live in our house. With doors/windows open, we can move around the rooms but not stay in them long. At night, even with fans running in windows halfcracked because of the temps outside, we can't be in the rooms at all. I'm sorry I used this stuff and will never redo these floors. My husband has already been in the ER via ambulance because of the remodel dust/dirt/smell. Does the activated charcoal really work? do these Berger Lamps really work? I'm desperate and am ready to get an apartment.

  • lynnster52

    Yes, movourneed, the Berger lamps really worked. We had to go thru this for each application of poly & they did 3 coats! Not sure what your hubby's medical condition is, but sounds like he has an allergy. None of us has allergies, but we feared our cats could get very sick which is why I had such concern. The barrier methods I described above worked perfectly & no smell came into the bedrooms above the 1st floor where the new floors were installed.

  • K M

    movourneen, any updates? Our floors badly need refinishing but I have extreme chemical sensitivities myself and have a one year old baby. Delaying the floor work for as long as I can but I'd love to know what finally helped in removing the odor.

  • movourneen

    time. I bought Dam Rid with activated charcoal and put a container in each room along with some lava rock stuff - being very careful not to get that lava rock on the floor for fear of scratching. opened the windows 24/7 and slept in the back hall for over a week. We had the floors stained on oct 1 and we were in a hotel that night and they finished them oct 2 and we moved back in oct 4 but the smell was bad. kept windows open etc as noted above and I got back into my own bed/room Oct 13 and there was still a slight smell so kept the windows open about 2" Each day it gets better. The rep was here 10/15 and he said that what minor smell he smelled yesterday was what he expected a week ago. Each place is different. In the bedrooms that are more contained it took longer. The livingroom/kitchen which has windows on both sides for better ventilation, I'd say it was 1 day earlier. Just be realistic of your expectation and if you can stay with family for 2 weeks, that is what I would do. we only had a hotel as a choice so did the back hallways with doors to the finished areas closed and windows open in the back hallway to mitigate any seepage of smell. (Could not get berger lamps in my area so don't know about them.)

  • lynnster52

    You can order Berger Lamps online…just google them. I use the scent "Charleston" in mine. I also think the smell of the stain might be worse than the poly odor. We left our floors natural so only had to deal with fumes from 3 application of poly (oil-based) but keeping windows open with fans, using barrier film to 2nd floor & Berger Lamps did the trick for us.

  • movourneen

    I had decided by the time I ordered the lamps and received them, the smell woud probably be dissipating. We didn't use poly but used the Glitza and that has formaldehyde in it and it had to be professionally done. . The VOC's do linger a while. I've used poly to redo furniture and never had a problem with that. So it depends on the product you use.

  • lynnster52

    our floors & the poly were also professionally installed; they didn't offer much info on whether or not to stay or go but we had no choice with 2 cats so did all the above & crossed fingers. Thankfully, it worked very well!


  • K M

    Thank you both so much for all the info. We're not going to stain, just sand off all the worn off poly and get to the stain then recoat. Good to know that the smell of the stain is worse than the poly.

    Is there a "no fragrance" version of Lamp Berger? Where can I buy these? I'm sensitive of all fragrances, even husband's cologne, household cleaners, incense, etc etc.

  • sambah006

    The lampe berger intrigues me. In the past I've used chopped onions in a bowel of warm water to neutralize paint fumes. Some chemical the onions give off destroys the other VOCs. Also, good quality candles with essential oils work really well too.

    Does anyone know if it matters if the catalytic lamp uses isopropyl alcohol, or denatured? Does it matter?

  • Brian Murray

    Just buy a foreclosed home and the previous owners had Cats and dogs and let them go to the bathroom all over the floor. It's soaked into the concrete underneath. So I had to put polyurethane down to seal the floors. So I could get rid of the pet smell. But now I can't get rid of the polyurethane smell and it's been 3 weeks and construction has stopped completely. I can't let any workers in with that toxic odor. Does anybody know a way to get rid of the smell.

  • movourneen

    Time is all I found - during the day if the temp is warm enough, open windows and at night, leave them opened a crack and then it still took us about a month.

  • dslwells

    Thank you, everyone! for sharing your tips and experiences. We are in an apartment and work being done to prepare other apartments for occupancy are creating overpowering unhealthy fumes. ~heading out to investigate options you suggest ... I am hopeful now. THANK YOU

  • Jen Seo

    The best thing to do is turn the heat on to the maximum all day while closing all the windows and leave the house. This works especially well in the hot summer. The heat will cause all the fumes to come out. Then when you come home, open all the doors and let the fumes leave the house using fans to push the toxic air out. This is the best way!

  • clementina_silva

    I just refinished the hardwood floors in my bedroom 4 days ago. I used 1 coat of oil stain and a few coats of the water based polyurethane to finish it off. When is it safe to move back in my room and actually sleep in there? the smell is still present but it's not as strong once I have the windows open and fan turned on. Is sleeping in my room after a week too soon?

  • Boo 339

    I guess I'm not the only one. With the new VOC regulation on the poly now it smell worse than ever!! I just did about 700 square feet of poly 2 coats and I wanted to throw up!! I used to love the smell of poly before they changed it. It smells 100 times worse then it did before the new regulations. like varnish gone bad and then throw in some disgusting ashtrays!! I used to smoke and it reminded me of that smell. I used to love the smell of varnish or paint and now it actually it is so repulsive that I couldn't even finish my project. I really need to do a 3rd coat but the smell is so strong and disgusting that I decided to just leave it as is. And the smell never lasted like this before, the smell should have been gone in a few days and it has been literally over a month. I sent a message to the manufacturer and all they could say is sorry and try some charcoal. I understand that people want to help the environment but this was a big mistake in changing the chemical makeup of varnish. I still feel sick whenever I go into that room and this is supposed to be better for who?? You or the environment? By the way this smells I can't imagine this is good for anyone. I also have a ton left over and I never had that before so I'm hoping this is better for the environment. I really wish someone would explain how this can be better if every time I go into the room I get a headache and want to throw up. I can't even stand being in that room for a long period of time because of the smell. It is cold where I live so I'm not going to run the heat AND leave the windows open. How long will it be before I can actually use my room? I am going to try the charcoal. I will let you know if it works. I am so upset about this and disappointed with this change.

  • emlouhall

    @Boo 339, any updates? We just had ours redone and we waited three days after the final coat before moving back in, they said we could move back as soon as a day after, what!? The smell is insane. It's soaked into our mattress and pillows, I have no idea where to begin to freshen those. Any advice, anyone!?


  • Boo 339

    I'm sorry, I have not had a chance to get any charcoal. The smell is still there. Not as strong as it was a few weeks ago and after a month it is tolerable, but everyone who comes into my new room asks "what is that smell?" This is INSANE how much worse the smell is after this supposed VOC compliant crap. There is no way in hell this is better for you. for the first 3 weeks I could not even stand being in the room as I would get a headache after breathing this in for 20 minutes. I loved the old smell of the old stuff and it would be gone within a week. This smell is going on over a month and It is still lingering. I think we need to find another brand or get everyone to complain to these varnish companies to bring back the old formulas. Why did they even change it? How in the heck did they ever test this and Say "Yeah this is better!! You would have to have absolutely no sense of smell to think this stuff is good for anyone to breath or use. Do they really think by changing the smell or recipe of varnish we are saving the planet? It is ridiculous!! I'm so sorry I wish I had the answer for you. I just left my windows open a crack for days until it was tolerable. Also you could use a damp rid bag and hope that will absorb some of the smell. It is strong at first but I know at least these hanging bags smell better than the varnish!! You can get these at Lowes or HomeDepot in the cleaning isle.

  • emlouhall

    @Boo 339 Ours is pretty much gone after two weeks, we ran air purifiers on high every day for multiple days, that really helped!


  • jennak5544

    @Boo 339 Can you say what polyurethane u used? What was the manufacturer and what was product called?


    My family had poloplaz primero put in two coats and the odor was terrible. It smelled so bad we couldn't stand being in the rooms. With kids in the house we were scared for their health.


    After 15 months we still smelled it, a little less but still, that's crazy. Finally sanded the stuff off and put water base on the floor.

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