How do you get rid of polyurethane smell?

pbear_2007April 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

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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

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 9:59AM
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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!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 10:49AM
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pbear_2007

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

pbear

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 11:25AM
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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.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 1:09PM
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pbear_2007

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

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 8:18AM
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clg7067

Yes, get the pets and yourself out.

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

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 9:18AM
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pbear_2007

Thanks clg7067....good idea!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 9:45AM
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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.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 10:52AM
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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).

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 11:25AM
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pbear_2007

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?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 12:08PM
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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

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 12:18PM
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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!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 12:22PM
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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).

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 12:57PM
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pbear_2007

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?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 2:53PM
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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

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 4:09PM
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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!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 4:40PM
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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

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 4:40PM
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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

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 7:27AM
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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

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 10:06AM
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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

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 6:53AM
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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!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 3:27PM
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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!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 2:37PM
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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.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 9:02PM
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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

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 10:33AM
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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

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 10:36AM
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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.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 10:18AM
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