Paint smell in bathroom after showering

Discussion in 'Painting Forum' started by amberscove, Jan 24, 2010.

  1. Jan 24, 2010 #1

    amberscove

    amberscove

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    I live in NYC on the 9th floor of a building built in the 60s. Since I moved in a month ago, the bathroom smells up like paint every time I shower. It seems to be from the moisture in the bathroom and steam hitting the ceiling and causing the ceiling paint to get wet/soft and exude the smell or release the chemicals.

    There is no exhaust fan or window in the room so that doesn't help. I have to put a stand alone fan in there after showering to air it out. I've read online that vinegar, onions, and things like that can help get rid of the paint smell but I think that's just for when a room is initially painted? I'm not sure those things will help my situation since the catalyst is the hot water from the shower. Also, the room was painted a month before I moved in and no one lived here, so it had plenty of time to dry.

    I've contacted the building management but they can't seem to fix it. They are EXTREMELY difficult to work with and get in touch with (I've been trying for a month to get them to acknowledge and fix this to no avail). They came in and did a repair to the ceiling and repainted this week, but I guess they just used the same exact paint as before because it didn't help.

    From looking online so far I can't find an answer to exactly how to fix this. So it seems it's not an easy issue to resolve. It seems the wrong paint was used or cheap paint was used, as mentioned. But I'm not sure what the right paint primer or moister protector is and what's the exact process to fix it (i.e. do I need to scrape the ceiling entirely if I decide to just repaint myself with the right paint?). I need to know exactly how to fix this or else I need to move out because I can't deal with the smell.

    Has anyone else experienced this issue? If so, any advice on how exactly to resolve the smell once and for all? Can you recommend the steps needed to fix and what products to use, specifically please?

    Is the smell from the paint fumes (or whatever it is) harmful? I feel it must be and that's another reason I'm so desperate.

    I can ask the building for another unit, or should I just move out? At this point that's what I feel is my only option.
     
  2. Jan 25, 2010 #2

    SJNServices

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    Sounds like the smell may be coming from the plumbing. Are any other units getting paint right now? A lot of painters just dump or clean everything in the sink.
     
  3. Jan 26, 2010 #3

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Amberscove:

    I can't think of anything that would cause that problem either.

    Can you let us know:

    1. What kind of paint is on the walls now; is it oil based or latex.

    2. You say that the bathroom smells like "paint" after you shower. The thinner in oil based paints is mineral spirits, and it smells completely different than the smell of Texanol, which is the most common coalescing solvent found in latex paints. Does your bathroom smell like paint thinner after a shower or like the "freshly painted smell" you get after painting with some latex paints.

    If it's that freshly painted smell, it's very difficult to explain how that smell could be turning up years (presumably) after the bathroom was painted. Coalescing solvents are volatile, and will evaporate of their own accord from the paint. The latex paint couldn't form a film properly without the evaporation of those coalescing solvents, and so they must have evaporated from your bathroom paint years ago. Exposing that paint to moisture should not cause the paint to create any smell.

    I can't help feeling that the best solution would be to eliminate each possibility one by one. To eliminate the possibility that there's anything funny going on with the paint, if it were me, I would paint over your existing paint with one coat of an interior alkyd primer and two coats of a paint intended for bathrooms like Zinsser's PermaWhite Bathroom Paint (available at Home Depot). This paint is a tintable white and comes in two (?) different gloss levels, satin and semi-gloss I think.

    It IS possible that whomever painted your bathroom may have used a powdered mildewcide like Mildex or Sherwin Williams M-1 in the paint, and it's possible that the mildewcide could be what's causing the smell. Painting over your existing paint with the alkyd primer and two coats of PermaWhite should correct the problem if that's what's causing it.
     
  4. Jan 27, 2010 #4

    frozenstar

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    That's a bit hard to determine. :( But it seems like the smell comes from the plumbing. Can you tell us more details as to what Nestor asked?
     
  5. Feb 1, 2010 #5

    amberscove

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    Hi All:

    First off, thanks so much for the responses. I would have gotten back sooner but I didn't realize that I had responses.

    To answer your questions.

    1) What kind of paint - oil or latex?
    Unfortunately, I do not know. I would try to ask the supers but they hired contractors to do this work so it will make it that much more difficult to get this information. The supers/management here are unbelievably difficult so I don't think I'll have any luck but I'll ask tomorrow. One guy who came in to look at it just kept mumbling "cheapie paint, cheapie paint". So I think whatever it is it's cheap.

    2) Paint thinner vs. paint?
    This is hard to say but I'm going to stick with paint. I have only smelled paint thinner a couple of times in my life but I'm pretty sure it's not the smell of paint thinner. But I'm not positive. Paint was my initial gut feeling - meaning - "fresh paint" was the first thing I thought when I first smelled it.

    Regarding plumbing:
    I should mention that during/after showering, if I rub my finger over the ceiling the paint comes off - like chalking. I don't know if this tid bit of info helps or not, but the fact that the ceiling gets wet and beady paint forms and it comes off in a chalking fashion leads me to think that's the source of the smell. I don't think it's the plumbing because when I run the bath it doesn't happen. When I run the bath it still can smell slightly but it's .00001 of what it smells like when I run the shower. I've attributed this to the steam/moisture hitting the ceiling. But I could be wrong?

    Regarding painting over existing ceiling paint: This concerns me because I don't want to just cover up the issue and have the toxins still there. I guess it would help with the process of elimination. However, my biggest concern here are the fumes, chemicals being released, and the health affects, so I'm not sure how I feel about just covering up the smell. Also, would it not be necessary to scrape the existing paint off first? I don't want to expose myself to harmful fumes even more but it seems to me that might be necessary to actually fix the issue. Let me know your thoughts.

    Maybe I'm being paranoid but I honestly cannot live with this smell. My eyes and nose are itchy and runny from it, I feel I'm also suffering from fatigue and headaches and woozy from it. At this point I just want to move out.

    Thanks again for your help and support.
     
  6. Feb 1, 2010 #6

    bobtheblindguy

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    Caulking is associated with an exterior grade paint. Not sure if that would cause the smell. Is this drywall or plaster. Might be hard to remove the paint. But that might be your best bet. When you get all the paint off. Clean the surface real good use sometine like tsp. Then let it dry for days maybe even a week or 2. During that time see if you the smell it still there. If not then proceed to prime and paint. I would make a new post at that time for recommendend primer and paint. Let us know how it's going.
     
  7. Feb 2, 2010 #7

    amberscove

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    Hi All:

    The walls are plaster. I have someone painting tomorrow morning. If it doesn't work then at least I can start considering other possibilities like the plumbing or pipes. Someone at my office today told me that it sounds like there is paint on the pipes and that's the source. Or maybe it's the insulation or something else.

    I guess this paint job tomorrow will help with the process of elimination.

    Thanks for the responses / help. I really appreciate it.
     
  8. Feb 2, 2010 #8

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Amberscove:

    If someone is going to be painting in your bathroom tomorrow, make sure that they use a paint that's intended to be used in bathrooms. Not all latex paints are equally resistant to moisture, and inexpensive paints will crack and peel if they're used in areas where it's moist or even humid.

    If your painter doesn't have a favourite brand of paint that's intended for use in bathrooms, then I'd suggest Zinsser's PermaWhite latex bathroom paint. It comes in both satin and semi-gloss, and it's tintable to any off-white or pastel colour.
     
  9. Feb 3, 2010 #9

    amberscove

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    Hi Nestor:

    An interior bathroom paint was used and it looks good. However, I'm not sure how long I should wait to let it dry before I "test" by turning the shower on. What do you think?

    Thanks
     
  10. Feb 3, 2010 #10

    bobtheblindguy

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    You want to let it fully cure. I would wait as long as you can. Play it safe and wait several days to a week.
     
  11. Feb 3, 2010 #11

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    I'd agree with Bob (who apparantly knows about window treatments).

    "an interior BATHROOM paint was used"
    Good, that means that the paint used was intended for bathrooms, and that means the acrylic resins in it are highly resistant to moisture and wetting, and you need that for a paint to provide good performance in a bathroom.

    People presume that once a latex paint is dry to the touch, then it's finished it's film formation process, and that just isn't true. Coalescing solvents will be evaporating from the paint over the next several days. Also, if the paint was tinted to the colour you specified, then glycerine was added to the paint with the colourant, and that glycerine will be evaporating from the paint as well. Finally, if this is a cross linking acrylic paint (which it probably isn't since it's a bathroom paint), then the cross linking will take a good month or so (but won't be affected by moisture).

    But, realistically, I don't think any of those things would affect the paint negatively once you start smelling that "newly painted smell" in the bathroom indicating that the coalescing solvent is evaporating. The worst possible thing that could happen is something called "surfactant exudation". They add surfactants (pronounced "soap") to latex paints so that they better wet the substrate for better adhesion. If fresh latex paint is exposed to moisture too soon after it's applied, then it's possible that those soaps in the paint can migrate to the surface to form an "oily" film on the surface of the latex paint. However, this soap film can just be washed off at your convenience, and it's formation or removal won't affect the paint.

    So, I agree with Bob that it's best to leave the bathroom paint to complete it's film formation in peach for a couple of days at least before showering. Under normal circumstances you shouldn't need to leave it any longer than 3 days tops. But, it's winter now, and if any of the bathroom walls are exterior walls, then the cooler temperature of the paint could slow it's film formation process. Dampen a white tissue with water and clean a spot on any exterior walls after 3 days. If any of the paint comes off on the tissue, then it isn't finished film formation and needs to be left longer. If the tissue comes out clean, then you're ready to go.

    Also, I always advise using a factory made bathroom paint rather than just adding mildewcide to any paint. The performance of a bathroom paint depends entirely upon how quickly the mildewcide leaches out of the paint under damp or humid conditions. If the mildewcide leaches out too rapidly, then there'll be too much mildewcide leaking out too rapidly, and the paint won't stay mildew free for very long. If the mildewcide leaches out too slowly, then it won't be effective in preventing mildew from forming on the paint. Paint companies do their own tests with different mildewcides at different paint gloss levels to establish the minimim mildewcide leaching rate that is still 100% effective at preventing mildew growth, and therefore will keep the paint mildew free for the longest possible time.

    You simply can't get as good results by tossing a pack of Mildex in a can of paint, except by sheer fluke.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2010
  12. Feb 7, 2010 #12

    amberscove

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    Hi Nestor and Bobtheblindguy:

    The bathroom paint job helped a lot. The smell is probably only 1/4 of what it was before, however it's still not gone completely.

    We found out that the painter used Behr paint (on the back label it says the use includes bathrooms) but she did not use a primer. We requested it but unfortunately a primer wasn't used.

    So, I'm wondering if I were to go and buy the interior alkyd primer and redo the job myself using the primer then repaint with the Behr paint then do you think that will help even more? I believe the answer is yes but would just like confirmation / reassurance. A

    lso, is this Behr paint okay to stick with, I still have the gallon that was left here.

    Thanks!
     
  13. Feb 8, 2010 #13

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Does it say Behr Bathroom Paint, or does it just say Behr Eggshell (or whatever) Enamel and somewhere in the fine print says it "can be used in bathrooms". You see, a paint specifically made for bathrooms will use an acrylic resin that's been chosen specifically because of it's resistance to moisture. And, then the mildewcide in the paint will have been chosen based on it's having good mobility in that acrylic resin. If you just use a wall paint (like most painter's would), it simply not going to provide as good performance in a wet environment like a bathroom that a paint specifically formulated for a wet environment (like a Bathroom paint) would.

    Also, can you see anywhere on the label where it says the can contains either:

    "100% Acrylic"

    or

    "Vinyl Acrylic"

    resins or binder?

    For the $15 you're gonna save, and all the work you're gonna go to, I would paint over your existing paint with an INTERIOR alkyd (oil based) primer, and give that a few days to dry, and then paint over that with Zinsser's PermaWhite Bathroom Paint (available at Home Depot or most paint stores) in either the satin or semi-gloss finish tinted to any white, off-white or pastel colour of your choosing. The work involved is worth way more than a half gallon of cheap paint. Don't compromize the quality of this job to save that $15.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2010
  14. Feb 8, 2010 #14

    amberscove

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    Hi Nestor:

    It doesn't say Behr Bathroom, it just says can be used in bathroom in the fine print on the label. Regarding, "100% Acrylic" or "Vinyl Acrylic", resins or binder? I'll have to check the label tonight when I get home. So I guess I'll buy the other paint you've recommended, along with the primer. I'm a little nervous to use an oil based primer though because there's not a lot of ventilation in the room. Is that okay?

    Also, you get to the bathroom in my apt by way of a small room (like a walk in closet). I think I'm going to also paint this closet area because it's generally just stinky (like paint) as well. I plan to use the same materials for this small room outside the bathroom as well. Just putting that out there.

    Thanks!
     
  15. Feb 8, 2010 #15

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Amberscove:

    If there's not much ventilation in that bathroom, maybe just do the painting over several days. Do all the edging with a sash brush one day, then fill in with a 3, 7 or 10 inch roller the next day, etc.
     
  16. Jun 17, 2012 #16

    labb_sleuth

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    amberscove, you wrote that your bathroom smells like paint every time you shower.

    SJNServices replied, " Sounds like the smell may be coming from the plumbing."

    Yep, sounds like it's coming from the plumbing.

    I've encountered a similar problem in my apartment, and some research on the Net had me turn up the following information.

    Paint smell is attributable to aromatic hydrocarbons.

    The following are aromatic hydrocarbons which have been described as having a "sweet smelling" nature: methylene chloride, trichloroethane and toluene.

    All three of the above chemicals are the toxic waste byproducts of methamphetamine production in clandestine drug labs. (See: http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20102708-21264.html ).

    Meth chemists produce about five pounds of toxic waste for every pound of finished product made.

    Their toxic waste has to go somewhere. Typically, it is dumped down a drain.

    If the above chemicals cited above are not the problem, perhaps the breakdown of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) of your pipes into its component parts: Vinyl chloride, toluene, ethylbenzene, phenol, methyl isobutyl ketone, xylene, acetophenone, cumene may be what is happening. (See: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jun/13/local/me-showercurtain13 )

    Check out the Wikipedia article on polyvinyl chloride at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyvinyl_chloride and you will learn that polyvinyl chloride is "slightly soluble in tetrahydrofuran."

    Click on the word "tetrahydrofuran," and you will learn that it is ether, a solvent.

    Research ether and meth, and you will learn that meth chemists use ether as an ingredient in their doings.

    I hope that this was helpful. You may wish to check out the postings on www.methlabhomes.com.

    Best of luck to you
     
  17. Jun 21, 2012 #17

    labb_sleuth

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    I am a bit disappointed that nobody has chosen to respond to my [reply] post above, positively or negatively.

    While I am on the subject of paint and smells from toxic contamination, I read, from a contributor (possibly a misinformed one) from a different website, that the worst thing a painter can do is to paint over residual drug/meth lab contamination. Doing so will "encapsulate" the poisons necessitating the ripping out of all the drywall. Comments?

    Anyone who does any kind of remedial work in another person's space should be warned about the perils therein due to what may be the history of that place.

    I would venture a guess that being a carpet installer is one of the most hazardous jobs these days. Installers typically rip out existing carpet thereby sending up a plume of dust containing who-knows-what from possible past abuse of the premises.
     
  18. Jun 21, 2012 #18

    nealtw

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    Labb: Most will skip over this posting after seeing the first date on it. If you are correct, you have given us plenty to think about.
    And welcome to the site.
     
  19. Jun 24, 2012 #19

    labb_sleuth

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    Here's a status update on the situation in my bathroom:

    At 4:30AM, yesterday, SUNDAY (I was up even earlier with diarrhea, as usual), I noticed the "paint" smell in my bathroom; by 5:20AM, it became very strong. There was no showering activity there and no steam, nor much of anything else going on in my bathroom for that matter at the specified times, yesterday morning.

    Management of this complex (and a detractor on some other website) attempted to have me believe that routine building maintenance is the cause, even at oddball hours… even though the superintendent was painting the halls recently with odor-free paint.

    Go figure! (I heard through the grapevine that when another tenant complained about these conditions, she was told bluntly: "If you don't like it, MOVE!")

    There already was a highly suspicious fire in another area of this building about five weeks ago. The occupants there were frantic while addressing the problem themselves and frantic about imploring of neighbors "Don't call the fire department! Don't call the fire department!".

    The really bad news is that this building was, no doubt, constructed on the cheap per the "lightweight" construction" methods.

    "Lightweight construction… is where the roof and/or floor supporting systems are constructed of lightweight prefabricated materials. Also used extensively in today's wood-frame construction are wooden I-beams. These typically consist of particle board and dimension lumber less than 2x4 inches to form the I-beam shape, and are often finger jointed and glued together…" From http://www.firerescue1.com/firefighter-safety/articles/455060-Dangers-of-Lightweight-Construction/ .

    Lightweight buildings go up like the phosphorus end of match once a fire gets a bit out of control.

    There was the case recently in the news about a family of four in just such a lightweight home which went up like a match. These four perished even though it was reported that the home had eight hard-wired smoke alarms. See: http://www.inspectpa.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-8590.html

    and http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/local/northern_suburbs&id=8643066 .

    P.S. It was also noted on the televised news that "lightweight" construction is very prevalent up and down the East Coast.

    L.B.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2012
  20. Jun 27, 2012 #20

    labb_sleuth

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    Recently, I ran into the former assistant superintendent for my landlords who have many, far-flung residential holdings (and possibly commercial ones, as well.)

    He told me that he frequently had to paint over brown walls in many apartments.

    I told him that that such walls may be due to phosphine gas which is poisonous, turns surfaces brown, and is a toxic by-product of methamphetamine making. (It smells like rotting sauerkraut and garlic, or alternatively, by some accounts, like rotting fish and garlic.)

    The guy just shrugged it off as if it was all in a day's work.

    You know, people have a hard time believing that I have, over the last eighteen years, resided in eleven, THAT IS, ELEVEN, residences, almost consecutively, that were plagued by the contamination of active drug lab activity (in most cases, MULTIPLE DRUG LAB ACTIVITY). The last nine of these residences are in what has been briefly reputed to be the wealthiest county of this country, NOT some ghetto areas.

    Let me tell you, exposure to active meth lab toxins ranges from misery to extreme torture.

    My story, regarding meth, probably goes back farther to the four-and-one-half years prior to 1994 when I resided in a very upscale neighborhood, again in the aforementioned affluent county, in a 4,000+ sq. ft. jumbo split-level home on a half-acre of land which was just a hop, skip and a jump from a McMansion/mansion area. THESE AREAS WERE WIDE OPEN CRAZY HOUSES, where, I swear everyone else must have been on the "crazy drug" (meth).

    The nocturnal lunacy there was putting me at the breaking point from sleep deprivation.

    At the time, I was very naïve, and I knew nothing about methamphetamine and drug labs. I was so naïve that when I witnessed people and cars coming and going all day at my immediate neighbors' house (those neighbors, by far and away, being the craziest in the neighborhood), I just assumed that they were very popular. It was my cousin who set me wise as to what transpired there (transacted there, to be more precise.)

    Footnote: while there are a lot, and I do mean a lot of clandestine drug labs in this county, you will never hear of a drug lab bust nor of a drug lab fire/explosion in the news. This, BTW, is the NYC Metro area, where fifteen years ago, it was reported on the radio that, at any given time, there were 1,000 active drug labs in NYC, alone. Now, there must be over 500,000 such labs in NYC and hundreds of thousands more in the surrounding areas, yet you will hear absolutely nothing about them in the news anymore. Ditto for national daytime TV talk shows. The subject apparently has been put OFF LIMITS. Crime statistics for 2009 and 2010 show absolutely ZERO drug lab busts for the entire state of New Jersey!

    L.B.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2012

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