Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

June, 2006

Preventing Odors from Painting Operations

Q. I am a cabinet maker and I usually finish my own cabinets and kitchen doors in my home garage. I have some problems regarding the odors which are expelled outside my home from my spray booth. Is there a system of filters that I can use which would reduce or eliminate totally the odors which are causing problems in the neighborhood? I would like to keep my home based business discreet and avoid being harassed by city inspectors.

A. I am aware of only one guaranteed method for eliminating odors from painting operations, and that is to pass all of the exhaust vapors through a carbon adsorber. By "all" I mean that the garage must not leak air to the outside; instead all of the air must pass through the adsorber.

Your garage MUST be properly designed and ventilated according to OSHA regulations for spray booths and NFPA Bulletin 33, otherwise you run the high risk of blowing up your garage and house, and perhaps even those of your neighbors.

With regard to the odors carbon adsorbers operate on the same principle as the carbon cartridge on a vapor respirator. As the exhaust air from your spray booth passes through the carbon, the solvents adsorb and do not pass though to the other end.

You can purchase canisters of carbon for this purpose, but they are expensive. The size of the canister depends on the air volume you intend to exhaust through the carbon bed. Also, at some point in time you will saturate the carbon with the solvents at which time you will need to send the carbon to a company that can regenerate it, or you if you choose not to go that route you will need to dispose of the carbon as hazardous waste.

You local air pollution control agency should be able to give you lots of information on this topic as it applies to other industries, such as restaurants, etc.

Again, please study the OSHA regulations (29 CFR 191.107 and other references.) NFPA Bulletin 33 can be purchased at and I strongly suggest that you get a copy and read it thoroughly. I'd hate to read in the newspapers that a cabinet maker blew up his house on account of an improperly designed spray booth (garage).

Best wishes,

Ron Joseph

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