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Does your Valspar paint smell of cat urine?

Painting and redecorating

Fresh paint has a very distinct smell. For me, it’s far too clinical. In fact, I hate the smell. But what would you do if your freshly painted home suddenly started to smell of cat urine, or even rotting animals…

When I was decorating my home last year I did my very best to get rid of the paint smell by opening all the windows and getting my hands on every scented candle/reed diffuser possible to try and get those freshly painted rooms to smell of anything but paint. It still smelt too clinical to me.

But I know of other people who like that smell – my other half, for example, thought our freshly painted house smelt ‘fresh’ and ‘clean’.

This, however, has certainly not been the case for the unlucky purchasers of certain batches of Valspar paint from B&Q.

Valspar paint

Those who’ve had the misfortune of decorating with Valspar paint purchased from B&Q earlier this year didn’t find their home smelling clinical, fresh or even clean.

No, their homes started to ooze a lovely waft of what some have described as a cat urine-like smell or even rotting animals – one person even described the smell as like a ‘dead soggy mouse’.

In a bid to source the culprit of the bad odour some resorted to gutting the newly decorated rooms, bleaching carpets, washing everything and even paying a trader to take a look before realising it was the paint.

It transpired that the manufacturers of Valspar had removed a preservative from the paint, which had left the paint emitting an ‘ammonia-type odour’. Experts have noted that the culprit is likely to be a bacterial contamination.

Interestingly, recent changes in EU law, which restricts the types of preservatives that paint manufacturers can use, mean we could see this happen again.

Paint problems

But what would you do if this happened to you? What if a redecoration project left your home smelling of Eau de dead mouse?

A number of Which? members have contacted Which? Legal about this smelly paint problem. Our Legal team have explained that:

‘When a consumer purchases a product such as a tin of paint from a business seller the consumer can rely upon the rights outlined in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This legislation applies to contracts entered into on or after 1st October 2015. Paint, such as Valspar, must be of a satisfactory quality which means that, amongst other things, it must be fit for purpose. Even though Valspar may cover a surface as paint should do, it is unsatisfactory if it is foul-smelling. This would allow the buyer to seek a full refund and claim consequential loss, such as a decorator’s labour charge if the paint has been applied to a wall.’

So, what would you do? Have you bought some of this bad-smelling paint? Has something similar happened to you?

Comments

I painted a bedroom with Valspar in September 2019, and similarly have been plagued with the stench. I couldn’t work out what was causing it for quite some time and it was driving me mad. So yes, September 2019. This issue is NOT fixed.

Simon says:
16 April 2020

Interesting. Having partially decorated a room a couple of years ago, in revamping it recently we took the opportunity to paint the remaining walls with the original Valspar. The warm weather has brought out the aforementioned cat urine smell. Not having been aware of the problem we have been checking everything else. And we did wash down the wallpaper before painting. As it is some time after the original issue, what options do we have?

Linda Farrer says:
21 May 2020

We have just painted a bedroom in our house and it stinks of cat urine!!!! Great what do we do now? Thanks Valspar

louise chapman says:
31 May 2020

My house stinks of cat pee i have painted 3 rooms in contractors white valspar and its just awful never been so upset currently contacting screwfix who i purchased it through it needs rectifying and stopping before others have to go through the same ! its clearly an ongoing problem shouldnt even happen ! I mean seriously who wants to decorate their house and go through htis never trusting valspar again.

Louise – I trust you saw the Which? legal advice in the Introduction to this Conversation as follows –
When a consumer purchases a product such as a tin of paint from a business seller the consumer can rely upon the rights outlined in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This legislation applies to contracts entered into on or after 1st October 2015. Paint, such as Valspar, must be of a satisfactory quality which means that, amongst other things, it must be fit for purpose. Even though Valspar may cover a surface as paint should do, it is unsatisfactory if it is foul-smelling. This would allow the buyer to seek a full refund and claim consequential loss, such as a decorator’s labour charge if the paint has been applied to a wall.

Lisa-Loo says:
12 June 2020

Hi, did you get anywhere with this? I’ve got the same issue and i can’t have anyone sleep in the room as the smell is so awful 🙁

Lisa-Loo says:
12 June 2020

We too have now fallen under the awful cat pee smell. The room was decorated Winter 2019 and had no issues at all until recently when we had the hot weather. Couldn’t work out where it was coming from but it definitely smelt of cat urine and we have no cats. It was a brand new carpet fitted and new furniture after it was decorated but i still disinfected everything down as i was convinced a cat had snuck in (even though we have a dog) and sprayed in the room. It still stunk bad and then i realised it was the walls, Valspar paint V300. Went online and have seen hundreds of people complaining. I have contacted Valspar and i’ve got the standard ‘fob off’ response and they’ve even offered vouchers to buy more Valspar, erm absolutely not. We always use dulux when decorating, occasionally Crown and we have never ever had any issues with bad paint odours, only bought Valspar because i was looking for a particular colour. What a mistake that was and now we are left with a bad smelling room, having read the thread it looks like it might not even work getting the sealer and then re-painting and what an inconvenience that will be anyway. Does anybody have a solution that has worked (even when the weather is warm) I’m going to contact B&Q as its a disgrace that they are still selling the brand, really wish i had known before buying this awful brand.

Clare says:
17 June 2020

I have the same problem having painted my sons bedroom with Valspar paint and now it stinks ! Especially when the sun shines in the window and it’s warm. This was the first time I’ve ever painted anything and I took advice at B & Q and they recommended Valspar paint ! What’s the solution ?

Nicola Silver says:
18 June 2020

Same has just happened to me. I called B&Q on Sunday. They told me to speak to Valspar. As it was Sunday and Valspar were closed I emailed them instead and got a case reference number. Not heard anything since. Tried calling the. Yesterday and the phone just rings out. So called B&Q and then emailed the Duty Manager with details. Still no response from anyone.
Sounds like the solution is Zinseer BIN followed by new coat of paint. Think I will just have to crack on to get rid of the smell myself and continue to battle with B&Q and Valspar!

Nicola – your consumer rights are against the retailer, B&Q. It is a criminal offence to deny you those rights. See my previous comment above [31 May 2020].

This paint smell problem has been going on for long enough now with no sign of remedial action and continuing stories of difficulties in getting a resolution. Surely it is time for Which? to follow up this Conversation with an official approach to B&Q, as well as to Valspar, so that consumers can (a) buy clean-smelling paint, and (b) get their decorating problems dealt with quickly and satisfactorily without having to do battle with the retailer and being passed back and forth between them and the manufacturer.

The growth of bacteria in water-based paint in paints has become a problem for manufacturers following removal of certain chemical biocides that are no longer permitted, presumably for safety reasons – many chemicals that are harmful to bacteria are also harmful to humans. The unpleasant smell reported is I understand not present when the paint is applied but due to growth of certain bacteria present in/on the walls, resulting in the production of hydrogen sulphide and ammonia. There is unlikely to be a quick test that manufacturers can use to test their paints. I do have some sympathy because of the challenges that manufacturers are facing trying to provide us with safer products.

As retailer, B&Q should be handling all complaints promptly and not a single case should have been referred to Valspar. I do not know what Valspar have done to tackle the problem but there seems to be very few cases compared with when there were numerous reports in the press.

This is reminiscent of washing machines and dryers being referred to Whirlpool, instead of the retailer taking responsibility under the Consumer Rights Act. The consumer should not suffer because of a manufacturer’s problem, with the retailer as the responsible party contractually.

Can Which? tell us what action they have taken to help consumers obtain appropriate redress from B&Q.

There must be some factor in the Valspar paint that promotes or accelerates the reaction that releases the smell. I have never experienced such an effect with emulsion paint made by Crown or Dulux or own label paint from Homebase or Wilko.

Is current B&Q Valspar paint still a problem?

As you say, John, other water based paints appear to perform well without this problem; they are common for domestic, commercial and industrial use. Valspar are, I believe, owned by a large American group and should have the technology to produce acceptable paints. Are the products sold by B&Q different from their standard products?

I wonder if B&Q have had the paint problem investigated to determine its possible cause. I don’t know whether, for example, the Paint Research Association have the expertise and ability to help.

John – The problem is not a simple reaction but growth of bacteria or other microorganisms. For example, sulphate-reducing bacteria produce hydrogen sulphide. That would fit in with the smell not being noticed after painting but weeks or months later. Previous wall treatments such as size and wallpaper paste may promote bacterial growth by providing nutrients for the bugs.

The reason we are seeing problems with Valspar paint was the removal of a biocide (preservative) to comply with EU law, as explained in the introduction. I have some mouldy paint in my garage and within the last week I was speaking to a friend who has had the same problem with Dulux paint. I expect that the industry is devoting effort trying to find biocides that are sufficiently effective but reasonably safe for use, particularly by those in the trade who use them regularly.

There is useful advice in the introduction: “This would allow the buyer to seek a full refund and claim consequential loss, such as a decorator’s labour charge if the paint has been applied to a wall.” B&Q might like to draw a line under the problem but if there are still cases, it must comply with the law.

Whilst this might not be a simple problem it does not seem to be a general problem with water-based paints, that are widely used. My son’s house was totally repainted recently using Farrow and Ball paints – water based – with no smell issues.

Is there some particular circumstance that causes the bacterial problem that is peculiar to those who have experienced the smell? The underlying surface, lack of preparation, or is B&Q Valspar a particular formulation that is defective?

No edit button still. I was going to add it is reminiscent of smelly kettle water, another unresolved problem.

Although the cat smell seems to be a Valspar speciality. From what I have read, the problem does not seem to appear soon after painting.

Bacteria and other organisms require a range of nutrients to grow, just as we do to remain healthy, plus moisture. The purpose of including biocides is to prevent significant growth of bugs if these nutrients are available. Different manufacturers may choose different biocides and amounts, within the limits of what is permitted. If I was preparing a wall I would wash it very thoroughly to get rid of paste and use a sealer on the surface – a measure that is recommended for dealing with smell problems.

If you can find current SDS for paints it should be possible to see the differences in choice of biocides for brands, though information online. is not always up to date.

We have Valspar on the walls in one room, colour made to order, now over 2 years old, and I have just given it a close sniff test – no smell whatsoever.

After reading the comments here, I have been half-expecting a smell to develop but so far so good.

To add to this, microbial contamination of paints is well established and the move from solvent to water-based paints has created additional problems. Here is a brief article that looks just at the problem before the paint is even used: https://www.luminultra.com/smelly-paint-why-we-must-keep-microbes-out-of-chemical-products/

Alfa – I asked around after the Valspar problem was in the news and although I found people who had used the paint, none had experienced a problem.

The moisture content of the walls might be a factor. Some homes are quite humid thanks to high occupancy, uninsulated walls, poor ventilation and gas cooking. These factors can promote mould growth. Moisture is also needed for bugs to grow in/on paint that has been applied.

Nicola says:
19 June 2020

I have used Valspar paint in different parts of the house over the last few years, so didn’t have a single concern about using it again.
As I still hadn’t heard back from either Valspar or B&Q or since Sunday, I tried the Valsapr helpline again this morning and got straight through. They asked me to email more information along with photos of the paint tin and receipt. Having sent that I got a quick reply from their odour specialist (says a lot when a company employs odour specialists!) Whilst her email offered no real apology and said that it is NOT caused by the paint having gone off, she said the solution is to use an alkali resistant sealer, however Vaspar don’t manufacture on. She did offer me a voucher to buy a new tune of Valspar paint though!
I have sent a polite email.back saying that that is not acceptable when it looks like I am going to have to spend near on £80 to buy the sealant and do all of the work again. Not to mention the shocking customer service and the fact that I am unsure about using Valspar paint ever again now! That was sent 2 hours ago and I haven’t had a reply yet. So will see what happens. It could be a trip to B&Q for me tomorrow!

Snow says:
26 June 2020

I have the same problem. Used the sealant and repainted with fresh paint. It lasted a year, however the smell has returned in the warm weather.
Maybe sanding the walls is the next step.!
I’m about to contact valspar again.

Sam says:
9 July 2020

We had the problem, Valspar advised to paint with Dulux Trade stain block, leave for 45 mins, paint again with stain block, leave a week, then paint over with emulsion again. We followed that to the letter. It worked. That was in 2018. But the smell is back, really bad again. I contacted them, and they asked for proof I had followed the steps, when this was given they just said they were confident that worked in their trials (it did, it just didn’t last) and re iterated that advice. I wonder also if stripping and sanding etc is now the way ahead. But it is so disheartening. This (my bedroom) used to be my favourite room but like the person above it is awful now.

Clare jeffrey says:
22 June 2020

I have now been told by B&Q that they are aware of the problem and have a protocol for dealing with complaints. They said it is to do with the bonding agent that Valspar use and the different wall types in uk and USA which are more porous. 🤔. Only applies to colour mixes, not white. They thought Valspar had removed the affected batches. B&Q asked for details, batch numbers etc which I have sent and they have replied saying they have referred it to Valspar.

It is still B&Q’s problem as they sold you the paint. I hope they resolve it quickly and to your satisfaction. It seems like you will keep us informed. Thank you. 🙂

Hi Clare – Thanks for posting. As explained in the introduction, the problem is that Valspar has removed a preservative (biocide) to prevent growth of bacteria and moulds, both during storage and after application. This usually happens when chemicals are withdrawn for safety reasons. If the information you mention is available from a reliable source it would be good if you could share a link.

Hopefully you will get a prompt reply from B&Q. It’s fine for them to deal with Valspar but it is B&Q’s responsibility to deal with the problem in a timely fashion.

It’s worth reading through all the posts of this Conversation for more information about the problem and what can be done.

Clare jeffrey says:
22 June 2020

The information re the bonding agent was from the customer service chap at B&Q. I phoned them and he told me that verbally. He didn’t seem at all surprised at my complaint and said they had a protocol for dealing with such issues with Valspar paint. I have subsequently had an email from B&Q saying they have referred it to Valspar as I said. I have just replied to them stating my understanding of consumer law re product fitness for purpose and that I expect B&Q to deal with this, not the paint manufacturer. Watch this space.

Thanks Clare. I might have a look and see if I can find any information online. I don’t have any smelly paint but I’m interested in the chemistry/microbiology.

I’ve generally found B&Q very helpful though they did want me to contact Karcher after a pressure washer went bang during the guarantee period. A protracted but polite discussion ensued and I thanked the member of staff as I was leaving with my new machine.

I do feel sorry for B&Q having to handle so many cases of a problem created by Valspar and hope that they can recover their costs.

Looking forward to the next and hopefully final instalment….

Valspar have a “strategic partnership” with B&Q to expand their sales in the UK. They got poor reviews in DIY Week.

Kay says:
25 June 2020

We are having the same problem. We painted in 2018 but the smell of cats pee has got worst this past year. I am so upset and embarrassed that my living room smells like this. I just want help and a solution. Causing so much anxiety and stress. My home never smelt bad prior to using the grey valsper paint.

Sam says:
14 July 2020

So I recently contacted Radio 4’s You and Yours programme, they ran an article about this in 2017. They are interested in the issue and are going to look into it, so help may be at hand Kay, and they may be interested in your story too. Valspar’s stance with me is that their steps work (they did, for a while) and hence the solution is to do that again.

As long as they deny the possibility of recurrence, and suggest people did not follow the steps correctly, they have no intention of finding an alternative solution.

Ideas that decorators have suggested to me include:
-sand off the paint back to plaster (stripper doesn’t work on emulsion, heat guns too damaging). I am a little concerned about this as the R4 interview suggested it isn’t damaging to health as an odour but the bacteria could be if it got into eyes or cuts.
-treat the plaster with bleach- anti fungicides may not treat bacteria
– put a shellac based stain block, not a water based one such as the Dulux Trade Stain Block that Valspar advise
– re paint

Opinion is divided re whether if there is paint under skirting boards or wallpaper, they would also need to be removed, and whether if not the bacteria would re propagate (if that is a word) for those small untreated areas.

Hi Sam – If You and Yours does cover the Valspar problem again, please let us know.

I have not used the paint in question but as a retired microbiologist I would like to make several comments.

> Not all bacteria are harmful to health and most are harmless. Is there evidence that the bacteria (or moulds) that cause the smell could be harmful? I hope that R4 will look for evidence before making allegations.

> Bleach treatment is effective in dealing with bacteria and moulds but is unlikely to provide a long term solution because bleach is rapidly inactivated and more bugs can grow.

> In another Conversation about dampness problems, the importance of walls being able to ‘breathe’ was frequently mentioned. Presumably a shellac-based stain block would be impermeable to moisture and I wonder if it could lead to long term problems.

It would be very interesting to hear from those who have successfully dealt with problems caused by Valspar paint.

Lindsay Seal says:
17 July 2020

I have had the same issue, I painted 3 separate areas using the one tin of Valspar custom colour, those 3 areas developed the cat wee smell. The rest of the property was painted in a different Valspar custom blend batch with no issues. However Valspar maintain that there is no issue with the one tin of paint. I refused the offer of vouchers to purchase replacement Valspar paint as I would never risk using Valspar again. B and Q have now offered a £90 B and Q voucher. While this is appreciated, there has been no consideration of the time/labour it will take me to seal and repaint the 3 areas affected, and no admission that the tin of paint was contaminated/caused the issue. Not impressed….

Liz Horrod says:
21 July 2020

I have had this problem to, I thought it was just me that had the problem because that’s how it feels when you have gone down all avenues.I received the compensation from Valspar,and followed the advice given about sealing the walls etc.
It appeared to work for a while, but my living room gets full sun from around lunchtime, then the awful cat/fox pee smell starts to return.
Not only is it embarrassing but distressing as the whole of the downstairs stinks, and there doesn’t seem to be any advice on how to get rid of it permanently. B and Q seem to be in complete denial.