Vinyl flooring has grown in popularity in recent years and for good reason – it’s cheap, easy to install, and lasts for many years. However, some of the compounds used to manufacture vinyl can release dangerous chemicals and odors into the air (off gassing), thus becoming a health hazard.
As such, if you are looking to install vinyl floors in your home, one of the questions you should get answers to is, ‘how long does vinyl flooring off gas?’
But we have already researched the topic of vinyl flooring for you and prepared a comprehensive answer to your question. Read on!
Table of Contents
What Is Off Gassing?
Simply put, off gassing is the release of chemical fumes into the air. Whenever you install vinyl flooring, paint something, or open a new memory foam and you can smell the product, it is off gassing.
However, some products continue to off gas even many days after installation; the odor is just much more subtle.
Vinyl flooring falls under the category of products and materials that continue to emit fumes even after the ‘new smell’ is gone. And vinyl odor is so strong that even after all the volatile organic compounds have been emitted, other household surfaces often absorb the smell and release it into the room, creating a vicious cycle.
These compounds not only keep your home smelling stale; continued exposure to these chemicals can cause headaches, irritate eyes, and aggravate respiratory allergies and conditions.
How Long Does Vinyl Floors Off Gas?
Off gassing is usually extreme in the first 3 to 5 weeks after your vinyl flooring installation. However, factors like ventilation, where the installation is done, and the amount of chemicals emitted can affect how long the smell will last.
For indoor floors, the odor may linger longer than on outdoor floors. Nonetheless, off gassing continues subtly for up to months and sometimes even years depending on the surrounding environmental conditions.
Off gassing mostly happens when you first take the vinyl out of its wrapping. Therefore, if possible, try doing this outside where the fumes and odor can dissipate freely. Alternatively, ask the flooring vendor to air the product in their warehouse for a few days. Or just carry the flooring home and unpack and air it in the garage.
What Are the Dangers of Inhaling Vinyl Flooring Fumes?
Vinyl flooring is manufactured using Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and many other compounds. It is these extra compounds that give the flooring its unique characteristics like color, sheen, hardness, and flexibility.
However, the majority of these compounds have been found to make vinyl flooring toxic as explained below:
Phthalates, the chemicals used to make the vinyl plastic soft and flexible usually take up to 61% of the total weight of the final product.
Experts have discovered that these industrial softeners put human beings at risk of health conditions like lung, liver, and kidney damage. They have also been found to tamper with the reproductive function in animals.
Studies have shown that plasticizers are not chemically stuck to the vinyl flooring; they can leach or evaporate into the indoor air and mix with the household dust. Air contaminated with these chemicals poses a serious danger to the elderly, children, pregnant women, and individuals with respiratory allergies.
Contamination generally occurs through inhalation, exposure, and ingestion. Young kids who like crawling and eating things they pick up on the floor are, therefore, the most likely to be affected by the toxic phthalates.
Another study has also shown that children born of mothers who are exposed to phthalates during pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing asthma.
How to Get Rid of Vinyl Flooring Smell
While vinyl flooring fumes can take a long time to go away, there are a few things you can do to help reduce this time such as:
Airing Out the Room
Ventilation is one of the most effective ways of getting rid of unwanted smells in your home. So, once you have installed the floor, make sure to keep your windows open and turn on the fan at a high speed.
Keep this going for around three days or until the odor has subsided enough for you. Another solution would be to run your AC, as it will increase air movement in and out of the room. However, you may end up paying a significantly high electric bill.
Cleaning Your New Flooring Regularly
Cleaning your floor frequently with mild detergent is another great way to get rid of the strong vinyl odor.
Just put warm water in a bucket and add several tablespoons of cider vinegar. Then dip a mop into the solution and use it to wipe the floor. Make sure you are using a soft mop to avoid scratching the floor. For extra cleaning power, throw in a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid into the solution.
For more extensive tips and instructions on how to clean vinyl flooring, check out this video.
Additional Tips for Removing Unwanted Vinyl Flooring Smell
- Sprinkle baking soda on the floor and let sit overnight. Then clean it up with soap water in the morning. Baking soda is a great way to absorb fumes from the floor. Do this two or three times a week.
- Put vinegar in small bowls and place it in different areas of the room when the odor is the strongest.
- Get a few large onions and cut them in half. Then put water into small bowls and drop the halved onions inside. Place the bowls at different parts of the room and let them sit overnight. The onions will absorb the smell and hasten the off gassing process. Just make sure the bowls are out of pets’ or children’s reach. Do this once a week.
- If you don’t like the smell of onions, you can use apples instead. Just cut them in halves, place them in a bowl and add some water, then position the bowls at different sections of the room. Like onions, apples will help absorb the unwanted fumes from the floor and leave your room smelling fresher.
- Buy house plants; they will help filter the vinyl odor from the air.
What Can Vinyl Flooring Manufacturers Do?
Floor manufacturers have made notable strides in addressing the dangers associated with vinyl flooring by offering vinyl floors that are phthalate-free. While these may cost you slightly higher, they will not expose you and your loved ones to harmful chemicals.
However, the flooring industry argues that removing these contaminating compounds is not an economically feasible solution. As such, some brands are still adding these chemicals to their vinyl so it can compete effectively with alternative flooring products in the market.
Health experts, therefore, advise increasing ventilation in the room, washing hands before eating, and minimizing dust in the house to prevent inhaling or consuming the harmful compounds.
Should You Remove Your Vinyl Flooring?
If you had your vinyl floor installed many years back, chances are that the level of toxicity in your home has already reduced.
But if you can still smell the fumes or you have been experiencing breathing problems only when in the room, it would be great to have the air in the room tested for you.
It is good to have a professional do it so they can advise you on the best steps to take based on the results.
Is There Flooring That Doesn’t Off Gas?
As we stated, most vinyl manufacturers have come up with ways to produce floors with lower volatile organic compounds and the majority are now creating phthalate-free products. But there are also many non-toxic flooring types that you could use in place of vinyl. The most common include:
Ceramic tiles typically rank among the safest flooring options. Not only are they non-toxic but also easy to clean and care for. The only safety hazard is the grout used to stick the tiles to the ground but with good ventilation, the odor will go away quickly.
Linoleum floors are made of natural and biodegradable products mostly comprising linseed oil, rosin, cork dust, and wood flour. It is another great alternative to vinyl flooring.
This floor is made from 100% wood byproducts mixed with resins. The only thing you should worry about is the adhesive used during the installation process, as it may likely contain chemicals like aluminum oxide, isocyanates, and formaldehyde.
The hard surface of hardwood floors usually allows for easy vacuuming and removal of dust, dirt, and other allergens. Choose a non-toxic sealant.
As beautiful as vinyl flooring might look, continued exposure to the fumes and odor emitted by these floors has been found to cause serious health problems to humans. You can reduce the unwanted smell by keeping the room well ventilated and cleaning the floor regularly. Or you can opt to replace the flooring with non-toxic options like ceramic tiles, linoleum, or hardwood.
Hopefully, this article has given you the answer you were looking for. If you’ve got more questions about vinyl floor, feel free to ask in the comments.