Spray Painting 101: Dealing with Fumes and Overspray

Spray Painting 101: Dealing with Fumes and Overspray

Posted by Matt Piggin & Nikki Michaels on 31st Aug 2020

Spray Painting 101: Dealing with Fumes and Overspray

Today, we’re talking about paint fumes and overspray — two of the biggest challenges when it comes to spray painting.

It’s no secret that paint fumes (and the overspray that contributes to them) aren’t exactly good for you; they can be seriously harmful to your health and that of anyone in the vicinity of the work area, and it’s incredibly important to take all the necessary safety precautions to mitigate fumes and protect yourself from their adverse effects. Read on to learn how to do just that.

Dealing with paint fumes

Unless you’ve paid for low- or no-VOC paint, the liquid you’re working with likely contains large amounts of volatile organic compounds. VOCs include substances such as acetone and formaldehyde, and they release toxic fumes as they dry and dissolve — resulting in the pungent odours we smell during and after painting.

Inhalation of VOCs has some debilitating side effects, ranging from headaches, dizziness, nausea, and breathing trouble in the short term to nervous system, liver, and kidney damage in the long term — and some compounds are even believed to be carcinogenic.

These side effects worsen and intensify the longer you’re exposed to VOCs, and VOC concentration is higher in enclosed spaces, which is often the kind of spray painting environment you’ll find yourself in.

So how do you reduce the risk of exposure to VOCs when you’re on a spray painting job?

Obviously, use appropriate PPE.

Outside of personal protection, adequate ventilation is the number-one consideration when it comes to fumes. If you can, use a spray booth — but otherwise, you’ll need to make sure you have an appropriate extraction system in place to siphon out those harmful VOCs.

And speaking of extraction systems…

There are two main types of portable ventilation fans: general purpose and EX-rated. The latter must be used with solvent-based paints to mitigate any possibility of explosions.

Ventilation fans can be used to extract bad air or — when required — to blow fresh air into confined areas. Note that the Explosion Proof fans need to be used with specifically designed explosion-proof ducting that’s been coated with flame retardant.

Dealing with overspray

Overspray is excess paint that lands on surfaces you’re not actually working on; it’s a waste of your paint material, and it can cause significant damage to unintended surfaces. Overspray also contributes to the amount of paint fumes in your work area. The more overspray, the more fumes — and the more VOCs.

You can use a few techniques to minimise overspray. First: carefully calibrate your distance from the work surface. Too far away, and you won’t get enough coverage — but too close, and the overspray will be abundant.

And second? Choose the correct spray tip for your particular job. If the tip’s too large, you increase the possibility of costly and wasteful overspray.

You can also procure filter boxes and fans that are specifically designed for removing overspray throughout the spray painting process. This ventilation system, for instance, is an all-in-one solution for overspray removal and comes complete with a powerful extraction fan, five metres of ducting, and a portable filter box that captures up to 98% of overspray.

These are ideal when repainting onsite (especially kitchen and bathroom cabinets), spraying a car in the garage, or redoing doors in a confined area.

A quick tip for the contact lens-wearing painters out there: all you need to save your eyes from paint overspray is a face shield and a roll of Gladwrap.

Have more questions about handling fumes and overspray? Need help sorting out these issues on a particular job? Get in touch at