How to get rid of varnish smell in house

The primary source of varnish smell in your home is wood stains. These are coatings that protect the surface of furniture. Although they promote a dramatic look of your furniture, they contain chemicals and compounds that sometimes produce strong odors.

The lingering odors are from vapors that are given off by the wood stain as it dries. For most people, the smell can be overwhelming. In some cases, the odors can trigger migraines and make you sick.

You have to figure out how to get rid of the wood stain smell from your home to make it more habitable. The best way of achieving this is by drawing out the smelly air and drawing in the fresh air.

To eliminate varnish smell, start by ventilating your house to increase airflow. You can also take the specific furniture outdoors or run an air purifier to remove contaminants from the air.

Alternatively, consider placing bowls of baking soda or activated carbon in the corners of your room to remove lingering odors. Read on to know how to use the mentioned methods to eliminate the smell.

Are fumes from varnish harmful?

Many paints, varnishes, and clear coats can be harmful to your health because they emit VOCs. According to the EPA, they can cause several side effects, including:

  • Eye and throat irritation
  • Allergic reactions
  • Respiratory issues
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches

The smell can also cause coughing and shortness of breath in some individuals.

To avoid these issues, give items with varnish enough time to cure before using them. If it is a room, leave the windows open until the varnish cures. You shouldn’t use the room either.

If you don’t have much time, invest in a low VOC or eco-friendly polyurethane clear coat to treat hardwood floors.

How long does it take for the varnish smell to go away?

Varnish is used to protect wood
Varnish is used to protect wood. Image: ronstik

It is difficult to determine the time for the varnish smell to disappear. That depends on the type of product used, how you applied it, how long you waited before coats, the number of coats you used, and the kind of wood. ‘

For example, spirit-soluble and oil-based varnish smell strongly and for longer compared to water-based equivalents.

Another factor is drying. Drying depends on the environmental temperature and airflow. The smell can hang around for over two weeks if you have used a lot of paint in a room made not to be leaky.

If the varnish is in an enclosed space, the odor can be persistent and can take months. Before the smell dissipates, consider opening a window or setting up a fan to blow over the surface.

In short, the varnish smell can either last for days or weeks depending on environmental factors, type of varnish, number of coats, type of wood, among other factors.

How to eliminate varnish smell using

You can get rid of the varnish smell from your house using:

1. Air purifier

The best way to get the smell of lacquer out of your house is to use an air purifier for VOCs. These purifiers force air through the filters to remove pollutants, such as VOCs.

Here is how to use an air purifier:

  • Place the device in the best location with ample space. Here’s a guide for air purifier placement.
  • Point the flow in the direction of the smell.
  • Turn the air purifier on to start cleaning the air.
  • Leave it on to run continuously.
  • Keep all windows and doors closed to limit the introduction of outside air and its pollution.

Run the air purifier until you can’t smell the varnish anymore or until the varnish dries.

One factor you shouldn’t ignore when shopping for an air purifier is the device’s reliability. With many options in the market, it can be quite hectic to settle on the best.

If you are shopping for one, these are the best air purifiers for varnish smell:

The air purifiers will remove VOCs by chemically attracting organic contaminants and absorbing them inside their filters. That will help to speed up the process of cleaning the air and eliminating the varnish smell.

2. Baking soda

baking soda

One reason to use baking soda for the polyurethane smell is it offers a natural solution for cleaning the air in your room. Also, it is a cheap alternative that gives you quick results.

Here is how to use it:

  • Fill several bowls of baking soda.
  • Place them near the furniture with the varnish smell. You can also set them in some corners of the house for better air cleaning.
  • Let the bowls remain in place until the odor dissipates.

Baking soda absorbs the varnish smell from furniture and neutralises the air.

3. Vinegar

You can get the polyurethane smell out of your house using vinegar. Vinegar works well because it contains acetic acid. The acid will bond with volatile molecules from varnish, which helps to banish odors from a room.

Here is how to use it:

  • Place several bowls of vinegar near the source of the varnish smell.
  • Leave the bowls in place to get rid of the odor.
  • Empty the bowls daily and replace the vinegar.
  • Repeat the above steps until the smell disappears.

Understand that the vinegar smell does not stick around. It will move into the air because it is looking for something to bind with and eliminate it.

4. Activated charcoal

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal or carbon removes odors by acting as an absorbent. It will trap the smell of varnish inside and retain it, thus neutralizing it from the air. Here is how to use the product:

  • Buy a bag of activated charcoal as loose granules. (Here is a list of the best options)
  • Identify the areas of the house affected by the varnish smell.
  • Create some sachets filled with granules.
  • You can also use a shallow bowl and add activated charcoal.
  • Place the sachets or the bowl near the problem areas.
  • Leave it until the smell disappears.

Activated charcoal is safe to use. It will absorb odors in your home and leave it smelling fresh.

Other methods

Other ways to get rid of the varnish smell in your home include:

  • Take the item outdoors to allow it to air out throughout the day. Consider airing it out for several days if the odor is overwhelming.
  • If the smell is from a wooden floor, open the windows and door throughout the day.
  • Leave drawers open for several days to allow proper airflow.

Avoid using an ozone generator to eliminate varnish smell. Ozone works by destroying cell walls and killing biological cells. However, it is not effective at removing VOCs from the air.

Instead, it will get rid of the varnish smell trapped inside your furniture and release it into the environment. That can cause some health issues.


You can get rid of the varnish smell in your house using different methods. Some of these include ventilating your home or taking the varnished item outside.

Alternatively, run an air purifier in your home to remove the lingering odors or place bowls of activated carbon or baking soda to remove the smell. That will help you to avoid side effects like migraines, vomiting, and other respiratory issues.

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