moldy paint in can

Question

Three weeks ago I repainted our bedroom walls using paint that was about 7 years old. It mixed well so I assumed it was fine to use. After applying the paint I noticed an odor unlike any smell I had ever experienced before. It was so strong that we couldn’t sleep in the room for the first few nights. Using an air purifier in the room helped diminish the smell a bit, but it’s still quite noticeable.

Can paint go bad? Can it make people sick? Is it possible that the paint could be responsible for the respiratory difficulties that my wife and I are presently experiencing like coughing, body aches, congestion and respiratory problems?

Answer

From what you describe, your environment seems to be moldy and unhealthy. We suspect the 7 year old paint is moldy and is contributing to your recent respiratory ailments.

We strongly suggest that you seal over that paint – pronto – with a KILZ solvent primer and then paint your room again. You must seal the old paint to block the smell, which is most likely mold. This sealing process is similar to the fire and smoke abatement methods used in houses with fire and smoke damage.

Imagine the organic growth culture that resulted inside that warm and wet paint can with no ventilation for 7 years. You have potentially (and inadvertently) created quite a biological Petri dish of organic culture. Then that liquid mold culture was spread over a massive square foot area where it can out-gas with super ventilation into your living environment. Yikes!

Drywall compound similarly gets moldy over time, so this is why spackles and paints can only be stored for a short time. When in doubt, discard. Your health is far more valuable than the cost of a new can of paint.

So please re-paint the bedroom as soon as possible and keep the room well ventilated (open the windows and run a fan) until it’s repainted. If you have other concerns about your home’s air quality or need further assistance, call the Mosby office at 314.909.1800 or contact us here.

And for more answers to common home maintenance questions, visit our Home Improvement Library.