Asked on Dec 23, 2011

How to get rid of Xylene smell?

April S
by April S
We recently took up carpet to acid stain the concrete in a bedroom.
After a failed sealer, we were advised by the company we purchased the stain from to apply xylene to help with the sealer.
Now, almost a week later, we still have strong fumes in that bedroom. We are trying to keep the windows open and running a fan pointed out the window.
Is there anything we can do to help remove the fumes?
  18 answers
  • April, The typical way to get rid of the smell is just what you have done, ventilate the area. Usually it is gone in a day or two. How much of it did you use? Often, once it evaporates away the smell is gone. If you want to try to speed things up, get some charcoal impregnated furnace filters and tape them over the outlet face of a box fan and turn up the heat. Another option is to buy a simple "air cleaner", many of which are inexpensive and include charcoal impregnated rough filters.
  • April S April S on Dec 23, 2011
    Thank you so much for your advice. We are willing to try just about anything to get this project behind us, and to get the smell gone. I think we used just enough to cover the floor. It was a thin layer. Do you think that it's just been too cold outside to evaporate?
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Dec 24, 2011
    One method of detoxifying xylene is a chemical process of "hydroxylation" You may be able to reduce the smell by a light cleaning / scrubbing with some hydrogen peroxide. xlyene is not very soluble in water based products and is better suited to non-polar solvents. Another possible option is to mask the chemical smell with a "cleaner" that is more pleasant to the nose. like a citrus based product, or good ol pine-sol. Xylene can be "detected" in air in vary small concentrations ( as little as 1/10 ppm ) I have used Ethanol as a cleaner / stripper for some furniture a polar solvent with a some what "sweet" smell...its effect on xylene would not be huge but another possible option.
  • What is the general indoor temperature of your bedroom there? Considering that people live/sleep in there I'm guessing that it is not to cold to prevent evaporation. Perhaps you can use cardboard or something to close off the window opening not covered by the outward facing fan. If you are planning on being out for the day (or maybe even if you are not), leaving the room's door open will allow it to pull fresh air from outside the room, hopefully the fan would then push the stink out the window.
  • April S April S on Dec 24, 2011
    Thanks for your reply Woodworks. We are going to try both the peroxide and a cleaner today! We bought an air purifier yesterday. The smell seems to be getting better as long as the windows are open and a fan is blowing. If we close the windows the smell is so strong and fills the entire house. The Xylene was put down one week ago today, and the windows have been open for pretty much this whole time. Again, thank you so much for your advice. Hoping this works, and my little girls can move back in to their bedroom soon.
  • April S April S on Dec 24, 2011
    Thanks Dan's of Central Florida,Inc. the temperature is usually around 68-70 degrees. We have had a heater going in there for quite a while now. Today is a pretty nice day so windows are open and fan is going. Hoping for good results. Thanks for all of your help. I really appreciate the good advice.
  • I have a big concern with the use of this chemical to help dry the sealer used on your floor. The use of this product on the sealer is as a thinner. Meaning only a cup at most should be used to thin the product. Its not meant to wash the floor with it. The chemical is flammable. Much like any other thinner product. You risk fire and an explosion if chemical fumes are to high in the confined space. Keep your windows open. If you have been running fans. Continue to do so, 24-7 until the Xylene evaporates and you no longer can smell it. Be sure to tape off all heating and cooling vents so no air can get into that system. seal off the door with tape and leave the windows open. I would be also concerns about mixing another chemical with this in an effort to reduce the smell. Doing this without the proper knowledge of what if any chemical reaction that could take place would be or could be making this into a bigger mess then you already have. Although I value KMS's opinion on this, I would do some additional fact checking before I moved ahead on this with Peroxide chemicals. The company that sold you a defected product that suggested you use this chemical to fix their defect should be held accountable if they told you to use this amount to fix what ever the issue was that you had. If the smell does not go away in a few days. I would suggest that you seek the advice from the local health department or local poison control center on who can advise you on how to rid your home of this chemical and its related odors. The following is just one blurb about this chemical taken off of another chemical safety web site. Most if not all say the same thing. Short-term exposure of people to high levels of xylene can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat; difficulty in breathing; impaired function of the lungs; delayed response to a visual stimulus; impaired memory; stomach discomfort; and possible changes in the liver and kidneys. Both short- and long-term exposure to high concentrations of xylene can also cause a number of effects on the nervous system, such as headaches, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, and changes in one's sense of balance. People exposed to very high levels of xylene for a short period of time have died. Most of the information on long-term exposure to xylene is from studies of workers employed in industries that make or use xylene. Those workers were exposed to levels of xylene in air far greater than the levels normally encountered by the general population. Many of the effects seen after their exposure to xylene could have been caused by exposure to other chemicals that were in the air with xylene. The bottom line is this chemical can be very unsafe and unhealthy if used wrong. By the sound of your issue this is the case. Please be careful when using this or any kind of thinner chemical. More so when you use them in larger quantities. My concern is that it seeped into the cement. This may make it take much longer to evaporate out of the cement and thus out of the air. If the product that was used on the floor has failed. Then you need to remove the surface material by grinding it away, not thinning it down or trying to wash it down to achieve the desired results. Please keep us posted on how you make out.
  • No problem at all. Please keep us updated as to how things go for you. Good luck!
  • April S April S on Dec 31, 2011
    Thank you Woodbridge Environmental for your post. I have been very concerned about the effects of this chemical. I do think that the Xylene has seeped into the cement. The smell is much better now, and there are times that I have not been able to detect it at all even after leaving the house and returning. We had 2 days of no smell, but for some reason we came home yesterday and the chemical smell was there again. I am thinking it has something to do with humidity/temps outside. We have continued to leave windows open and fans going this entire time. I have come to the conclusion that it will take time (apparently a lot of time) to get rid of this huge mistake. Any additional advice would be appreciated.
  • Just keep doing what your doing. You are correct the heat and humidity will pay a large roll with the smell. This is why the suggestion was made to warm up the room to gas off the smell faster. As the smell dissipates the risk goes down both on the breathing side as well as the flammability concern. So you will be able to introduce additional heating into the room to help out gas the smell faster. I am glad you understand what your dealing with. This is the most important concern, Once knowing it is much easier to deal with. Keep us posted on how you make out.
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jan 01, 2012
    As with most chemicals...heat brings out some of its properties. I have installed a number of woodstoves with new chimney pipe. The pipe is fine until it gets heated, then is releases a bit of the "new pipe smell" this happens for about a dozen firing before is finally goes away.
  • Wow ! Sorry... I've been away. Thanks Woodbridge for all of your input. My biggest concern was the chance of explosion from the vapors. I would never tell a client to wet their floor down with such a dangerous chemical. Bad advise !!! Sometimes, we spray/wipe the floor with xylene to try and re-emulsify a failing (blistering) sealer. (in spots only). A sealer should be removed chemically with specialty matetrials or ground off. A simple adhesion test would be to toss a cup of water across the foor to see if it will soak in without beading up on the surface and sitting there. If it does not, you will need to remove the sealer. The company selling you material is only interested in your sale. To be honest, to properly prep the floor when there is a known sealer, is to NOT use any reactive acid stain product. You should be using acrylic transparent paint or dyes or a combination of these. Good Luck with your project and reach out if you have any specific questions as this is our area of expertise.
  • April S April S on Mar 08, 2012
    Wanted to update on the problem with the chemical smell on our concrete floor. After weeks of leaving fans on and windows open, the smell finally went away. It has actually not been a problem for a while now, but I haven't been on here to post. I am really hoping when the weather warms up that we do not have any more problems with it, but so far so good. Thank you to everyone for all of your help.
  • Glad that has been solved. When it begins to warm up, you may still need to ventilate a bit as some residual odors may still be lurking that will show up when it gets warm out.
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Mar 09, 2012
    Glad its better...and you were not overwhelmed by toxins...
  • Bkb23408712 Bkb23408712 on Jul 03, 2017

    We had this very problem and after 3 days of open windows, doors and fans blowing and little difference we put an open bowl.of vinegar in each room and noticed an improvement within an hour. Sure worth trying this old way.

  • Jesse Cothren Jesse Cothren on Nov 29, 2020

    I’m dealing with the same issue. I sealed the stained concrete in our puppy birthing room. The smell was gone after ventilating the room for a week. We then had a litter of puppies and used an area of the room for them. We put down blankets and heating pads. The heating pads warmed the concrete and it started producing vapors again. We moved the puppies and momma out of the room, but sadly, we lost 4 of the 7 puppies due to xylene vapor...

  • TheUnknownCynic TheUnknownCynic on Oct 03, 2023

    Please forgive this necro post. I found this thread very helpful tbough and wanted to try offer some additional insights.

    I used xylene to extend the working time of floor leveler (concrete), as I found recommended on some Web site.

    ...Totally my own responsibility. Being alone on this personally owned job site, I'm the only one affected.

    There's not much useful info on xylene on the OSHA product safety data sheet:

    (I wouldn't used nitric acid and sulfuric acid in conjunction with this benezene if I were you (I'm just saying...).

    The CDC is not raising any serious health concerns that I see (which is not to say that I don't have any health concerns).

    I had to wait until the surface of the affected self-leveling concrete mostly cured to do anything other than open the doors and windows.

    After that (3 days), I significantly reduced the odor with generic cheap dish soap (liquid) and water; not just to clean the floor but to slop copious amounts of dish soap and water on the floor and then mop it up (change water and repeat)

    That seemed to do the trick.

    I would like to add that grinding or chiseling anything off your floor is something you most likely will deeply regret, almost immediately, and find very difficult to remedy by yourself. A contractor might think that's a good idea though....

    For my part, I will explore alcohols as a epoxy solvent (floor leveler seems to be an epoxy cement and concrete combination according to the mfg tech support).

    However, many alcohols are hydrophilic. The attracted water can discolor the self-leveling compound.