What Does Acrylic Paint Smell Like? Distinguish Spoiled and Normal Paint

If you have been working with acrylic paint, you might be familiar with its normal smell; if not, you must be wondering, “What does acrylic paint smell like?”

Acrylic paint has a mild, chemical-like odor. The smell is often described as similar to the scent of certain cleaning agents, strong markers, or faint ammonia. However, acrylics tend to have a less pungent and overpowering smell compared to oil-based paints. 

The odor intensity can differ depending on the brand and specific additives used in the paint formulation. 

In the blog post, I’ll help you understand the odor of acrylic so that you may able to distinguish between expired or spoiled paint and normal paint.

Does Acrylic Paint Have an Odor?

Yes, acrylic paint does have an odor, but it is less strong and offensive compared to some other types of paints, such as oil-based paints. Acrylic paints are water-based, which means they use water as a solvent rather than harsh chemicals or oils. As a result, the odor of acrylic paint is milder and less toxic.

However, some people may still be sensitive to the smell of acrylic paint, especially in confined spaces with poor ventilation. If you’re using acrylic paint indoors, it’s a good idea to have proper ventilation or use a fan to help disperse any odors.

Does Acrylic Paint Have an Odor

Why Does Acrylic Paint Smell Bad?

Acrylic paint can emit a strong and sometimes unpleasant odor due to several factors:

  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Acrylic paints contain volatile organic compounds, which are chemicals that evaporate into the air at room temperature. VOCs contribute to the paint’s characteristic smell. Some of the common VOCs found in acrylic paints include formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene. 

  • Solvents

Acrylic paints are water-based, but they often contain small amounts of solvents to help with flow and consistency. These solvents can release fumes as the paint dries which leads to the characteristic smell.

  • Pigments

Some pigments used in acrylic paints, especially organic ones, can have distinct odors. These odors might become noticeable when the paint is wet and still fresh.

  • Chemical Reactions

As acrylic paint dries and cures, various chemical reactions take place. These reactions can produce odor-causing compounds.

Why Does Acrylic Paint Smell Bad

What Does Spoiled Acrylic Paint Smell Like?

Acrylic paint, when spoiled or gone bad, can emit a strong, foul odor. The smell is often described as sour, rancid, or reminiscent of ammonia. Spoiled acrylic paint may also have a thickened or lumpy consistency, and its color and texture may change. 

Additionally, the paint might separate, with the pigments settling at the bottom and the liquid becoming more watery on top.

Acrylic paint can spoil due to exposure to air, extreme temperatures, or contamination. So it is advised to store acrylic paint properly in a sealed container and in a cool, dry place to prolong its shelf life.

What Does Spoiled Acrylic Paint Smell Like
What Does Spoiled Acrylic Paint Smell Like

Why Acrylic Paint Smells Like Rotten Eggs?

Acrylic paint generally does not smell like rotten eggs. In fact, if acrylic paint has a foul or pungent odor resembling rotten eggs, it could be an indication of a problem with the paint. The most common cause of this unpleasant smell is the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) in the paint.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas that has a distinctive odor resembling rotten eggs. It is usually generated by the breakdown of organic matter containing sulfur compounds. 

In acrylic paint, hydrogen sulfide can be produced due to the degradation of certain components or additives in the paint. This could happen if the paint has gone bad, expired, or was stored improperly.

Here are some reasons why acrylic paint might emit a rotten egg smell:

  • Spoiled paint

Acrylic paint, like any other paint, has a shelf life. If it is stored for too long, exposed to extreme temperatures, or contaminated, it can go bad and emit unpleasant odors.

  • Contamination

Sometimes, external contaminants may get into the paint during storage, transportation, or mixing, leading to chemical reactions that produce hydrogen sulfide.

  • Sulfur-containing additives

Some paints may include additives or pigments containing sulfur, which could react and release hydrogen sulfide over time.

  • Poor ventilation

When working with acrylic paint indoors, poor ventilation can concentrate any unpleasant odors that might be present, making them more noticeable.

How To Get Rid of Acrylic Paint Smell?

Getting rid of the acrylic paint smell can be achieved through a few simple methods. Here are some steps to help eliminate the smell:

  • Ventilate the area

Ensure proper ventilation by opening windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate. Use fans to help move air around and speed up the process of odor removal.

  • Use air purifiers

Air purifiers with activated carbon filters can help absorb and neutralize paint odors effectively. Place one or more air purifiers in the painting area for better results.

  • Activated charcoal or baking soda

Placing bowls of activated charcoal or baking soda around the room can also help absorb the paint odor. These substances are known for their odor-absorbing properties.

  • Coffee grounds

Like activated charcoal, coffee grounds can help absorb and neutralize odors. Leave bowls of fresh coffee grounds in the painting area to help mask the smell.

  • White vinegar

White vinegar is known for its ability to absorb odors. Fill bowls with white vinegar and place them around the room to help neutralize the acrylic paint smell.

  • Lemon water

Mix lemon juice with water and place it in shallow bowls around the room. Lemon has a pleasant scent and can help mask the paint odor.

  • Use odorless acrylic paint.

Some brands offer odorless or low-odor acrylic paints. If you regularly work with acrylics and are sensitive to the smell, consider using these alternatives.

  • Store leftover paint properly.

Seal any leftover paint containers tightly to prevent further odor release. Store them in a well-ventilated area or an outdoor storage space.


How long does acrylic paint smell last?

The duration of acrylic paint smell varies, usually lasting for a few hours to a couple of days, depending on ventilation and drying time.

Is it safe to smell acrylic paint?

Smelling acrylic paint occasionally is generally safe, but prolonged exposure to strong fumes can cause discomfort. Adequate ventilation is recommended.

Is acrylic paint fume safe to inhale?

Inhaling acrylic paint fumes occasionally is not likely to cause harm, but prolonged or excessive exposure can lead to respiratory irritation. Proper ventilation is essential.

What kills the acrylic smell?

To minimize the acrylic smell, ensure good ventilation while painting. Using air purifiers or placing bowls of vinegar in the room can also help neutralize the odor.


In conclusion, the distinct smell of acrylic paint can be described as a mixture of various chemical components that make up its composition. Though the odor might vary slightly among different brands and formulations, it generally emanates a pungent and somewhat chemical scent. 

The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in acrylic paint are responsible for the characteristic odor, and while they can be concerning in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, the use of low-VOC or water-based acrylic paints can significantly reduce the intensity of the smell. 

Despite its initial off-putting nature, many artists and painters find comfort in the familiarity of the acrylic paint smell, associating it with the joy of artistic expression and creativity.

Jose Scott

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