Redecorating a bedroom reduces the number of places available for sleep. Unfortunately, sleeping in a newly painted room is inadvisable for health reasons, especially if you fall into a high-risk group.
Oil-based paints are usually wet and slick for up to 24 hours, while water-based paints will usually be touch-dry within 2 hours. However, that doesn’t mean that you can sleep in the room safely.
Always ventilate a painted bedroom thoroughly before sleeping in it. Paint fumes are toxic, so never sleep in a freshly painted bedroom. Wait at least 72 hours before spending any prolonged time in an emulsion-painted room, especially sleeping. If you’ve used oil-based paint, allow up to 2 weeks.
Can You Sleep in a Bedroom After Painting?
Choosing the perfect color of paint for a bedroom can go a long way to improving your quantity and quality of sleep. However, you must wait before enjoying the fruits of your decorative labors.
The answer to “can you sleep in a newly painted room?” depends on many factors. You’ll need to pose additional queries, such as what kind of paint was used to decorate and what timeframe constitutes ‘newly painted.’
Why Should I Not Sleep in a Newly Painted Bedroom?
There are two main concerns related to sleeping in a newly-decorated room: the inhalation of paint fumes and the damage that can be done to paint that is not fully dry.
Wet paint and wallpaper emit fumes, and you risk staining your skin or clothing by walking into it. You’ll also risk marking the walls and creating permanent imperfections by smudging the paint.
How long the paint takes to dry depends on the materials used. In most cases, latex or acrylic, water-based paints are preferable due to the quick drying time.
Sleeping in a room with paint fumes that linger in the air should be avoided. The most common side effects of spending time in a room with paint fumes include the following:
- Dizzy spells
- Irritability in the throat and shortness of breath
- Temporary blindness
- Short-term memory loss
Paint fumes stem from liquid ingredients evaporating into the air as soon as paint reaches room temperature.
The reaction to liquid ingredients, most notably solvents, evaporating leads to a release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Hazards of VOCs
The following VOCs can be found in tinned paint used to decorate homes:
- Glycol ethers
- Propylene glycol
If you’re keen to avoid flooding your bedroom with VOCs, shop carefully when choosing your paint.
Sleeping in a room with oil-based paint must be avoided because they’re high in VOCs. Latex or acrylic paints are water-based and contain fewer toxins.
When you review paint tins, you may find some are marketed as low-VOC or zero-VOC. This is undeniably an advantage, but the paint will still emit strong fumes that result in the same side effects.
Equally, as per The Annals of Occupational Hygiene, water-based paints can still irritate the throat.
Everybody must avoid VOCs. Even professional decorators wear face masks to protect themselves from toxins. However, some people are at more risk than others.
The first high-risk group is anybody living with a pre-existing respiratory concern. VOCs can irritate the throat of anybody, but they can trigger severe asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease attacks.
If you’re pregnant, approach paint cautiously. As per Environmental Health, unborn infants in the first trimester can suffer congenital disabilities due to breathing in VOCs.
Babies and young children remain vulnerable after birth, so be mindful about how you paint a nursery or a child’s bedroom. Cancer Causes Control links VOCs to leukemia in very young children, while exposure can also increase the risk of developing asthma.
Certain pets are highly sensitive to VOCs as their lungs can’t filter and process the toxins. Paint fumes can instantly kill pet birds, but cats and dogs are also at risk.
How Long Before You Can Sleep in a Freshly Painted Room?
If you’ve recently painted a bedroom using water-based latex or acrylic paint, don’t sleep in there for at least 72 hours. If you’ve used oil-based paints, wait up to 2 weeks before sleeping in the room.
This may sound draconian, but it’s recommended, as it can take a long time for the paint to dry and a room to ventilate after a full paint job. You can wait less time if you only paint a single wall or a feature wall.
Testing Dryness of Paint
If light levels are good, likely in the early or mid-afternoon, you can see if the walls are still drying. A partially wet wall will have patches of wet and dry paint.
If light levels are insufficient, touch the wall and see if your finger comes back stained. This may be messy, and it risks leaving an imperfection in the painted finish, but it’s effective. If you allow enough time to expire, you’re unlikely to encounter any problems.
However, the difference between dry and cured paint must also be noted.
When the paint is touch-dry, the solvents have fully evaporated. In theory, this also means that your room is VCO-free. However, the paint still needs longer to cure.
Cured paint has reached a 100% level of hardness, which is the level you should seek before sleeping in a room. While oil paints take much longer to touch dry, they can be cured within 72 hours.
It can take latex or acrylic paints as long as a month to cure. You can’t be expected to spend a month outside your bedroom, especially if space is limited.
Just be aware of the hazards of uncured paint when you first move into the room. Avoid hanging anything on the wall or moving heavy furniture lest you scratch your freshly painted walls.
Knowing how long to ventilate after painting a bedroom is key to staying safe. The quality of ventilation is essential, as opening a small window for an hour won’t clear the room of paint fumes.
To ventilate a room after painting walls, follow these steps:
- Open all windows as wide as you can.
- If safe to do so, open the doors. Skip this step if you live with children or pets.
- Get an air purifier to dissipate lingering VOCs.
- Use fans to redistribute air around the room.
Maintain this up for three days without sleeping in the room. Even then, don’t take any chances. Sleep elsewhere if you can still smell lingering paint fumes in the bedroom.
Waiting for a freshly painted bedroom to be available again can be frustrating, especially if you’re excited about the redecoration. Always give the room sufficient time to ventilate and dry.