How to Clear Your Lungs of Spray Paint Illustration

Top 15+ Best Ways to Clear the Lungs of Spray Paint (2023)

by | Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Spray paint is a versatile and convenient tool that has revolutionized the world of art, DIY projects, and home renovations.

While its ease of use and vibrant colors make it a popular choice for many, the chemicals in spray paint can pose serious health risks, especially when inhaled into the lungs.

Prolonged exposure or accidental inhalation can lead to respiratory problems, irritation, and in severe cases, even long-term damage.

As a licensed respiratory therapist, I’ve treated many patients who’ve experienced symptoms from inhaling toxic substances, such as spray paint.

In this article, you’ll learn how to clear the lungs of spray paint effectively and safely, as well as precautionary measures that can minimize exposure and protect your respiratory health.

How to Clear Your Lungs of Spray Paint

  1. Use steam therapy
  2. Perform controlled coughing
  3. Use chest percussion
  4. Avoid allergens
  5. Try herbal remedies
  6. Try essential oils
  7. Avoid household toxins
  8. Prevent lung infections
  9. Eat a lung-healthy diet
  10. Clear mucus from your airways
  11. Avoid secondhand smoke
  12. Perform breathing exercises
  13. Avoid artificial scents
  14. Get the essential vitamins for lung health
  15. Stay hydrated

1. Use Steam Therapy

Steam therapy is a natural and effective way to clear the respiratory system. Inhaling warm, moist air can help loosen mucus and trapped spray paint particles in the lungs, making it easier to cough them up.

You can try this method by taking a hot shower, using a facial steamer, or simply pouring hot water into a bowl and inhaling the steam with a towel draped over your head to trap the moisture.


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2. Perform Controlled Coughing

Controlled coughing is a technique that can help clear the lungs more effectively than regular coughing.

To perform controlled coughing, sit in a comfortable upright position, take a deep breath in through your nose, and then exhale slowly through your mouth while making a “ha” sound.

This gentle, focused cough can help remove mucus and trapped spray paint particles from your lungs without causing further irritation.

3. Use Chest Percussion

Chest percussion is a method often used by respiratory therapists to help loosen mucus in the lungs. To perform chest percussion, cup your hands and gently tap your chest wall in a rhythmic pattern.

This can help break up mucus and trapped spray paint particles, making it easier to cough them up. Ensure you don’t tap too hard, as this can cause discomfort or injury.

4. Avoid Allergens

While recovering from spray paint exposure, it’s essential to avoid environmental irritants and allergens that can exacerbate respiratory issues.

Common allergens like pollen, pet dander, dust, and tobacco smoke can worsen your symptoms, so make sure to keep your environment clean and free of these irritants as much as possible.

5. Try Herbal Remedies

Several herbs and natural remedies have been used to support lung health and promote the removal of toxins, including spray paint particles.

Some of these remedies include eucalyptus, licorice root, and peppermint. These herbs can be used in the form of teas, essential oils, or as an ingredient in steam therapy.

Note: It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedies, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any medications.

6. Try Essential Oils

Some essential oils have properties that can aid in clearing the lungs and promoting respiratory health.

Oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender are known for their decongestant, anti-inflammatory, and soothing effects.

You can use essential oils in various ways, such as diffusing them into the air, adding them to a bath, or using them in steam therapy.

However, be sure to follow proper usage guidelines and dilution ratios, as some essential oils can be irritating if used improperly.

7. Avoid Household Toxins

Reducing exposure to common household toxins can help your lungs recover more efficiently.

Limiting the use of chemical cleaning products, synthetic air fresheners, and tobacco smoke can greatly improve your respiratory health.

Opt for natural, eco-friendly alternatives whenever possible, and ensure proper ventilation when using products with strong odors or chemicals.

8. Prevent Lung Infections

Keeping your immune system strong and avoiding lung infections can aid in the recovery process.

Make sure to practice good hygiene by washing your hands regularly, avoiding close contact with sick individuals, and getting recommended vaccinations.

Maintaining overall good health can help your body fight off infections and clear toxins from your lungs more effectively.

9. Eat a Lung-Healthy Diet

Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can support lung function and improve respiratory health.

Foods like leafy greens, berries, nuts, and fish are known for their lung-protective properties.

Additionally, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can help thin mucus in the lungs, making it easier to expel trapped spray paint particles.

10. Clear Mucus From Your Airways

To help your lungs clear spray paint particles, it’s essential to remove excess mucus from your airways.

Techniques such as steam therapy and controlled coughing, as mentioned earlier, can be beneficial in achieving this.

Additionally, using saline nasal sprays or over-the-counter expectorants can help thin and loosen mucus, making it easier to expel.

Remember to consult with a healthcare professional before using any over-the-counter medications.

11. Avoid Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke can cause significant harm to your respiratory system, as it contains numerous toxic chemicals that can irritate your lungs and worsen symptoms.

To help clear spray paint from the lungs, it’s crucial to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

Create a smoke-free environment in your home and workspace, and try to steer clear of public areas where smoking is permitted.

12. Perform Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises can help improve lung function, expand lung capacity, and promote the clearance of pollutants like spray paint particles.

Techniques like diaphragmatic breathing, pursed-lip breathing, and the Buteyko method can be particularly beneficial.

Regular practice of these exercises can help strengthen respiratory muscles and increase overall lung efficiency.

13. Avoid Artificial Scents

Artificial scents, such as those found in air fresheners, candles, and cleaning products, can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can irritate the lungs and exacerbate respiratory issues.

Opt for fragrance-free products or natural alternatives like essential oils to help create a cleaner and safer environment for your lungs to recover.

14. Get the Essential Vitamins for Lung Health

Ensuring you consume a diet rich in essential vitamins and nutrients can support lung health and help the body clear toxins like spray paint particles.

Key vitamins for lung health include vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E, which can be found in foods like citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, and nuts.

You can also consider taking supplements if recommended by your healthcare professional.

15. Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is crucial for maintaining overall health, and it plays a significant role in lung function.

Staying well-hydrated helps thin mucus in the lungs, making it easier to expel trapped particles and pollutants.

Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day, and consider incorporating other hydrating beverages like herbal teas or fruit-infused water to keep your fluid intake up.

Symptoms of Inhaling Spray Paint Fumes

Inhaling spray paint fumes can cause various acute and chronic symptoms, as the chemicals in the paint can irritate and damage the respiratory system and other organs.

Some common symptoms of inhaling spray paint fumes include:

  • Respiratory irritation: Exposure to spray paint fumes can cause irritation in the nose, throat, and lungs. This may lead to coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, and a burning sensation in the respiratory passages.
  • Headaches and dizziness: The solvents and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in spray paint fumes can cause headaches and dizziness, especially in poorly ventilated areas or after prolonged exposure.
  • Eye and skin irritation: Spray paint fumes can also irritate the eyes and skin, leading to redness, itching, and watering of the eyes, as well as skin rashes or dryness.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Ingesting or inhaling spray paint fumes can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, as the chemicals in the paint can be toxic and irritate the digestive system.
  • Allergic reactions: Some individuals may have an allergic reaction to the chemicals in spray paint fumes, which can cause symptoms like wheezing, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and even anaphylaxis in severe cases.
  • Neurological symptoms: Prolonged or high-concentration exposure to spray paint fumes can lead to neurological symptoms such as confusion, disorientation, memory problems, and even unconsciousness.
  • Fatigue and weakness: Inhaling spray paint fumes can cause a general feeling of fatigue, weakness, or malaise as the body attempts to fight off the harmful chemicals.

It is essential to recognize these symptoms and take appropriate measures to reduce exposure to spray paint fumes.

Always use spray paint in well-ventilated areas, wear appropriate protective equipment like masks and gloves, and follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines to minimize the risk of experiencing these symptoms.

If symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention promptly.

When to See a Doctor

While implementing the above-mentioned strategies can help clear your lungs of spray paint particles, it’s essential to know when professional medical attention is necessary.

If you experience persistent coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, or wheezing, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional promptly.

Additionally, if you notice any signs of an infection, such as fever, chills, or increased mucus production, seek medical advice immediately.

Timely intervention can help prevent complications and ensure appropriate treatment for any underlying issues.

Spray Paint Ingredients that Make it Hazardous

Spray paint contains a variety of ingredients that can make it hazardous to human health, particularly when inhaled or ingested.

The main components that contribute to these risks include:

  • Solvents: Solvents are used to dissolve and mix the pigments and resins in spray paint, helping to create a smooth and consistent texture. Common solvents found in spray paint include acetone, toluene, and xylene. These chemicals can cause irritation to the respiratory system, eyes, and skin upon exposure, and prolonged or excessive inhalation can lead to neurological issues and organ damage.
  • Propellants: Propellants are used to force the paint out of the spray can under pressure, creating an even spray. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are the most commonly used propellants in spray paint. Inhaling high concentrations of propellants can cause dizziness, disorientation, and even asphyxiation in extreme cases.
  • Pigments: Pigments provide color to the spray paint and are usually made from various metal compounds. Some pigments, such as those containing lead, cadmium, or chromium, can be toxic and pose health risks upon inhalation or ingestion, including neurological issues, respiratory problems, and in severe cases, even cancer.
  • Resins: Resins, also known as binders, help the paint adhere to surfaces and provide durability. While resins themselves are not typically hazardous, some may contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be harmful when inhaled, causing irritation to the respiratory system and eyes, as well as headaches and dizziness.
  • Additives: Additives are used to improve the performance and properties of spray paint, such as drying time, UV resistance, and flow control. Some additives may contain hazardous chemicals that can pose risks to human health when inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin.

Note: Not all spray paint formulations contain the same ingredients or concentrations of hazardous chemicals. To minimize risks, choose low-VOC or water-based spray paints whenever possible, and always follow safety guidelines by using proper ventilation and protective equipment when working with spray paint.

FAQs About Inhaling Spray Paint

Are Spray Paint Fumes Toxic?

Yes, spray paint fumes can be toxic due to the presence of solvents, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), propellants, and other chemicals in the paint.

Inhaling these fumes can cause respiratory irritation, headaches, dizziness, and other symptoms.

Prolonged or high-concentration exposure can lead to more severe health issues, including neurological problems and organ damage.

What Happens if You Inhale Spray Paint?

If you inhale spray paint, you may experience a range of symptoms, including coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, eye and skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

In severe cases or with prolonged exposure, more serious symptoms like neurological issues, respiratory problems, and even unconsciousness may occur.

Can Spray Paint Fumes Give You Flu-Like Symptoms?

Yes, inhaling spray paint fumes can cause flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, weakness, and malaise.

Some individuals may also experience respiratory symptoms like coughing and sneezing, as well as gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

If you experience flu-like symptoms after exposure to spray paint fumes, seek fresh air and medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen.

How Long Does it Take for Spray Paint Fumes to go Away?

The time it takes for spray paint fumes to dissipate depends on factors such as the type of paint used, the amount of paint applied, and the ventilation of the area. In well-ventilated spaces, fumes can dissipate within a few hours to a day.

However, in poorly ventilated areas or with heavy paint application, it may take several days for the fumes to fully dissipate. It is essential to ensure proper ventilation when using spray paint to minimize fume buildup and related health risks.

What is the Best Way to Clear Your Lungs of Spray Paint?

There is no single best way to clear your lungs of spray paint, but a combination of methods can help, such as:

  • Using steam therapy to loosen mucus and trapped particles in the lungs
  • Performing controlled coughing and breathing exercises to strengthen respiratory muscles and improve lung function
  • Maintaining a lung-healthy diet and staying hydrated to support the body’s natural detoxification process
  • Avoiding allergens and irritants that can exacerbate respiratory issues
  • Consulting a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations and medical intervention if symptoms persist or worsen

Remember: You can prioritize prevention by using proper protective equipment and following safety guidelines when working with spray paint to minimize exposure and protect your respiratory health.

What Drinks Can Help Clear Spray Paint Fumes from the Lungs?

Drinks that can help clear spray paint fumes from the lungs include water, herbal teas, and warm lemon water. Staying well-hydrated can help thin mucus in the lungs, making it easier to expel trapped particles.

Herbal teas containing ingredients like ginger, turmeric, or peppermint can provide additional benefits due to their anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.

How Long Does Paint Fume Sickness Last?

The duration of paint fume sickness can vary depending on the individual and the extent of exposure. Mild symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and respiratory irritation can resolve within a few hours to a day once the exposure has stopped.

However, more severe symptoms or complications resulting from prolonged or high-concentration exposure may take longer to resolve and require medical intervention.

Is the Smell of Dry Spray Paint Harmful?

The smell of dry spray paint may still contain some residual volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemicals that can cause irritation to the respiratory system, eyes, and skin.

While the smell of completely dry paint is generally less harmful than the fumes from wet paint, it is essential to ensure proper ventilation during and after the painting process to minimize any potential risks.

What do You do if You Inhale too Much Spray Paint?

If you inhale too much spray paint, immediately move to a well-ventilated area with fresh air. Remove yourself from the source of the fumes and avoid further exposure.

If you experience persistent or severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, or confusion, seek medical attention promptly.

A healthcare professional can provide appropriate treatment based on your symptoms and exposure level.

Can You Die From Inhaling Spray Paint Fumes?

Inhaling spray paint fumes can be hazardous and potentially fatal in extreme cases.

High-concentration exposure or prolonged inhalation of the fumes can lead to serious health issues, including respiratory distress, neurological problems, organ damage, or asphyxiation.

To minimize the risk of fatal consequences, always follow safety guidelines, use proper protective equipment, and ensure adequate ventilation when working with spray paint.

Final Thoughts

Clearing the lungs of spray paint particles is vital to maintain optimal respiratory health and minimize the potential risks associated with inhalation.

By incorporating techniques like steam therapy, breathing exercises, and staying hydrated, alongside maintaining a lung-healthy lifestyle, you can aid the recovery process and protect your respiratory system.

However, always remember to listen to your body and seek medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen.

Prevention is the best medicine, so be sure to use proper protective equipment and follow safety guidelines when working with spray paint in the future.

Written by:

John Landry, BS, RRT

John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.


  • What are volatile organic compounds (VOCs)? | US EPA. (2023, March 15). US EPA.
  • Hammond, S Katharine et al. “Respiratory health effects related to occupational spray painting and welding.” Journal of occupational and environmental medicine vol. 47,7 (2005).
  • Tsai, Wen-Tien. “An overview of environmental hazards and exposure risk of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).” Chemosphere vol. 61,11 (2005).
  • Goad, K. (2023). Do You Really Need 8 Glasses of Water? AARP.

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