Redecorating a bedroom reduces the number of places available for sleep. Unfortunately, sleeping in a freshly painted room is inadvisable as you could be placing your health at risk.
As paint fumes contain toxins, never sleep in a freshly painted room. Wait at least 72 hours before spending any prolonged time in the room, especially sleeping. If you used oil-based paint, consider doubling this waiting time. Thoroughly ventilate a painted bedroom before sleeping in it.
Of course, walking into a bedroom isn’t the same as sleeping in it. Wandering into a room to grab something isn’t the same as taking in deep lungfuls of air while sleeping.
Can You Sleep in a Bedroom After Painting?
Choosing the perfect color of paint for a bedroom can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of sleep. However, you need to wait before you can enjoy the fruits of your decorative labors.
The answer to the question “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.’
As a rule, it’s best to wait at least 72 hours before attempting to sleep in a room. Some paint styles can be theoretically safe to sleep in after just a couple of hours, while others need much longer to settle.
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. The choice of paint in both instances will contribute to the waiting time.
The risks of wet paint are apparent. As well as the fact that wet paint is still emitting fumes, you risk staining skin or clothing by walking into it. Even if you don’t sleepwalk, you’ll 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 drying time.
Oil-based paints are usually wet and slick for up to eight hours per coat. Water-based paints, meanwhile, can be touch-dry within two hours.
This means you’ll theoretically be much safer in the bedroom with water-based paint.
Sleeping in a room with paint fumes that linger in the air is widely considered a no-go.
There’s no denying the smell of fresh paint on a wall. However, this distinct aroma isn’t designed to stop you from smudging paint on a wall.
Common side effects of spending time in a room that contains paint fumes include:
- 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. This typically happens 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
VOCs come in all shapes and sizes and aren’t exclusively limited to paint.
Despite this, the following VOCs can be found in tinned paint used to decorate our 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 painted with oil paint must be avoided. Oil-based paints are packed with VOCs. Latex or acrylic paints are water-based and contain less.
When you review paint tins, you may find some are marketed as low- or even 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.
Given that oil paints contain VOCs, why would we still use them? Oil paints are considerably more durable and long-lasting than latex and acrylic alternatives. This makes oil paints appealing for anybody keen to avoid redecorating a room for some time.
High Risk Groups
Everybody needs to avoid VOCs. Professional painters and decorators wear face masks to protect themselves from these unwelcome toxins. Some people are at even greater risk than others, though.
As you may imagine, the first group is anybody living with a pre-existing respiratory concern. VOCs can irritate the throat of anybody, but they can trigger a severe attack of asthma or COPD.
Pregnant women must also give VOCs a particularly wide berth. Even if you merely suspect that 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 child’s bedroom. Cancer Causes Control even links VOCs to leukemia in the very young, while exposure can also increase the risk of developing asthma.
The final group we need to consider is not human but are equally important family members. Pets are highly sensitive to VOCs as their tiny lungs cannot filter and process the toxins.
Birds, in particular, can be killed almost instantly by paint fumes, but cats and dogs are also at risk. If you sleep with your pets in a bed with you, consider how long you wait before letting them back into a newly painted bedroom.
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, try not to sleep in there for at least 72 hours. This timeframe also applies to sleeping in a room after glossing. If you used oil-based paints, try to wait around a week before sleeping in the room.
This may sound a little draconian, but it’s for the best. It can often take this long for paint to dry and a room to ventilate after a complete paint job. You can wait considerably less time if you only paint a single wall or a closet.
The thinking behind this wait time is to ensure that the paint is dry and all fumes have dissipated. Only time can take care of the former concern, but ventilation will ensure that the room becomes more habitable as quickly as possible.
Testing Dryness of Paint
Of course, it’s simple to test if the paint is dry. Just touch it 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.
However, what also needs to be noted is the difference between dry and cured paint. When the paint is touch-dry, the solvents have fully evaporated. In theory, this also means that your room is VCO-free. The paint could still do with longer to cure, though.
Cured paint has reached a 100% level of hardness. This is the level you should seek before sleeping in a room, for all the reasons discussed before. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a realistic proposition.
This is because cure time offers a role reversal between oil-based and water-based paint. While oil paints take much longer to touch-dry, they can be cured within 72 hours. It may take latex or acrylic paints as long as a month to cure.
Naturally, you can’t be expected to spend a month outside your bedroom. 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 also 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 doors. Skip this step if you live with children or pets
- Get an air purifier to help dissipate lingering VOCs
- Use fans to redistribute air around the room
If you can keep this up for three days without sleeping in the room, it’s advisable to do so. Even then, do not take any chances. If you feel that you can still smell lingering paint fumes in the bedroom, sleep elsewhere.
It can be frustrating waiting for a freshly painted bedroom to become hospitable again, especially if you are excited about the redecoration. Your patience will be rewarded in spades, though. Give the room enough time to dry and ventilate, and you’ll be able to enjoy it for some time.