/ Home & Energy, Shopping

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?

Amanda says:
29 October 2020

I’m having trouble with the valspar furniture paint. Bought about 6 tins as I use it for my job.
It’s terrible, stinks like it never used to and seems to be thin and bubbly after its stirred. Bnq said they will not change it or refund me . They say theres nothing wrong with it. Anyone else have same problem. Wasted loads of money and ruined furniture with it.

Samantha Miles says:
15 November 2020

Having had a recurrence of the smell after a couple of years, having followed the standard Valspar advice to fix it which worked, but it recurred) I contacted Valspar.
They were not at all helpful, insisting that their solution works and implying I had not had it done correctly.

After I contacted Radio 4 You and Yours, Valspar did contact me, and they continued not to acknowledge that their previous advice might not be permanently effective. Radio Four advisors stated that from a legal perspective offering compensation was a reasonable solution.

Valspar offered to pay to have the same solution completed again, that was their only offer.
We didn’t really want that as that may mean doing that every couple of years, and the battle with Valspar every two years.

To access this compensation, they required us to get a quote from a decorator to carry that work out. I had two visit, but never get back to me, and one other just never get back to me, then Valspar arranged someone to come and visit and quote, who never turned up.

Finally, I did get a quote from a decorator, and Valspar paid me that amount.

Decorators variously suggested:
– use a different stain block (Zinnser Bin)
– bleach the walls

We didn’t choose either. Instead, we chose to sand, scrape, strip off the paint until it was all removed. We did not remove the skirting so there is a bit still behind there, and we could not replace the wallpaper with the same one so we left the paint that is behind the edges of that too.

We then bleached the plaster twice with neat bleach. The aired the room for two weeks.

We then repaired the damaged plaster, and re decorated.

At present, the smell is gone, but we will have to wait until the next period of hot wether to know for sure.


Thanks for your helpful post, Sam. Since the problem arose because Valspar had removed a potentially harmful biocide from their formulation we might see the same problem with paints produced by other brands.

Hi I’m having the same issue with Valspar, it’s been on going for years, I think the only solution would be strip the paint abs plaster the walls. Has The smell gone or did it come back?

Stepehn Vyse says:
11 December 2020

Please somebody help, I had re decorated my bedroom at the beginning of the year using Valspar emulsion brought from B & Q in Bedford, after a while my wife and myself started to smell a cat urine odour, because we were now into the summer months we thought it could be the plants from the front garden we continued to remove them, removing plants that we thought would give off the odour ,it did not cure it. Over the next few months and the summer sun coming through the bedroom window the odour was getting worse.
We tried every thing, checked under the floor had the soffits replaced thinking something had died behind the soffit or under the floor to no avail. Then after a hot day I was looking out the window and could smell the cat urine odour was strong, I smelt the wall that I was next to (it was the paint giving off the strong odour.)
I went to B & Q, the young lady manageress was helpful and said “she had experience of other customers complaining of the same thing” , she said I need to get in touch with VALSPAR PAINTS and gave me the telephone number to contact them.
Contacted Valspar Paints they gave me an email address, emailed customer services the lady was very helpful to start with but then it started to get all a bit silly, she asked for the receipt for the purchase of the paint I said I am a DIY`er and do not keep receipts for a tin of paint that I had brought a few months ago.
I requested that one of their paint representatives visits my property and carry out a report and test the paint
The customer services lady ( I do have her name) also emailed me the procedure to cure the smell, I would need to purchase a speciality DULUX paint and apply it to the walls and within a certain time apply another coat, at my expense!!
My communications are still on going, I am now being fobbed off, what happens when the warm weather returns.
Can any one advise me on my next move please.

In Nov 2020 I decided to decorate my spare bedroom and bought Valspar paint as they offered a huge range of colour options. I got one tin of dark blue for a feature wall and 2 tins of very pale blue for the rest. I was very pleased with the finished result.
However, after a few days I noticed a really strong fishy smell in the flat and it is coming from that room. I have opened the windows, put diffusers in there by the dozen and the smell has not gone away.
I contacted B&Q and they referred me to Valspar. I had to provide a copy of the receipt, colour codes, batch numbers – all sorts of information. I gave them all they needed. They came back to me stating there was nothing wrong with their paint and rather condescendingly stated that paint does smell and can cause customer concern. I have painted so many rooms over the years, I know what paint should smell of…..and its not fish!
I went back and they suggested I purchase an alkali resistant sealer and they will provide me with vouchers for more Valspar paint to redecorate the room after. I went back stating that there is obviously a fault with their product if they are willing to pay for replacement paint. However I refused their offer as I don’t want to put more Valspar on my walls.
They have come back saying that they will offer a further £80 towards the cost of the sealer. I pointed out that there are reports online saying the sealer doesn’t work and, I don’t want to use Valspar so the vouchers are useless and asked who would cover the cost of the decorators. I refused their offer again and added I was going to get some independent advice. All they said was Yes, go get advice !!!
My flat stinks and it looks like I am going to be hugely out of pocket…..and my concern is the sealer will be not be removing the problem – just covering it up.
Please can someone help me?? I am getting nowhere with them, my flat smells…..and I don’t know what else to do.

I’m disappointed that B&Q are still referring customers to Valspar when they – as retailers – are responsible for providing a remedy for faulty goods under the Consumer Rights Act. B&Q wanted me to deal with a manufacturer when I returned a faulty pressure washer to the store where I had bought it but eventually they agreed to accept responsibility and I was given a replacement.

I suggest you sigh up to Which? Legal and follow their advice. You don’t have to be a Which? member. It would be good to hear how you get on, Paul.

HI Paul ,

Please see my comment posted on Which conversation web page 06.02.21. I’m currently at the position where B&Q have offered vouchers “as a gesture of goodwill” to cover the cost of the Valspar paint purchased . They are stating that the batches of paint purchased are not those effected by the previous problems identified in 2017 – that doesn’t help the fact that the bedroom painted is now, in effect, uninhabitable ! Just wondered if you’ve made any progress and,if so ,how ?
I’m so furious as its very apparent that there is a fault here but its how best to address this as individuals in dispute with multi national firms who clearly dont want to admit any liability for fear of where this may lead .
Best wishes
Janet Jevon

We purchased colour matched Valepae paint from B and Q 2 weeks ago to decorate a bedroom . The room now stinks of fish leading to my googling this problem and finding this conversation . I intend to return to B and Q tomorrow and would be grateful for others sharing their recent experience and for advice as how best to approach this . I believe I am right in thinking that B and Q as the retailer should accept responsibility rather than referring me to Valspar as I anticipate them doing .
Bizarrely grateful for lockdown as at least no one is coming to my smelly house !!!!

Hi Janet – If B&Q try to refer you to Valspar I suggest you point out that you are making a claim against the retailer under the Consumer Rights Act. These rights take precedence over any manufacturer’s guarantee and are against the retailer.

I’m glad you can see the funny side of it. 🙂

Mark says:
31 July 2021

Yes I did the Zinsser sealer thing in 2017 and all OK till this summer. The sealer clearly has a limited active life. Complained to Valspar who have asked for all the dicumented evidence again despite them having had it in 2017.

They are suspicious of me trying to rip them off and very untrusting.

Have they considered why on earth I would waste my life complaining about a wall? If I wanted to obtain money criminally I’d do something with a bit more of a return that moan about some paint.

Untrusting, spiteful company.

Chris says:
16 August 2021

how many coats of zinsser did you put?

I don’t know about valspar, but crown have done something to their non-drip white gloss that makes it absolutely stink. And it’s nothing like ammonia, but a much more vile smell and it’s absolutely excruciating. And I got the first can from wilko so I took it back and told them what was wrong and I warned them not to open the can, at least not inside the building, and they gave me a refund. And I later complained to crown who gave me another can for free but that was just the same. So I left it at that and I won’t be getting any more crown non-drip gloss. In fact I’ve stopped using traditional white gloss altogether now because it just won’t stay white, but keeps going more like magnolia which I hate. So now I’ve started using a new quick dry “gloss” from johnstones which is the most absolutely pure white paint I’ve ever seen, and it doesn’t need any horrible greasy messy brush cleaner either, you can just wash it off the brush under the tap. But of course it remains to be seen if it will stay pure white, but it looks grand for now. But it’s not quite as glossy as the old stuff, but it looks stunning when it’s applied. And it too smells a bit, but nothing like as vile as the crown stuff, I don’t know what they’ve done to it, but it’s so vile and powerful I can’t even open it, so it’ll have to go to the local tip.

These water-based paints have been available for years. They don’t contain questionable solvents and don’t go yellow but should not, in my view, be described as gloss paints. Gloss is usually associated with a smooth finish.

It’s not quite as glossy as the traditional gloss but at least it’s a lovely pure white and hopefully it will stay that way for longer. And if you use it on bare wood it must have it’s own special primer, you can’t get away with using emulsion like you can with the old gloss, or else it peels off like fablon which has lost it’s stickiness when it’s dry.

Like everyone else here, I’m experiencing problems with B&Q and Valspar at the moment. Bought the paint from B&Q a month ago for my daughter’s room. Her room smells horrible since. Now my poor daughter is forced to sleep in the sitting room and use my bathroom as literally her room and En-suit are unusable.

I have been in touch with B&Q, they pushed me to Valspa. Valspar’s customer service is the worst I have ever experienced, no sympathy for what my daughter has to suffer, no apologies at all for the inconvenience they caused at all. They offered £80 to cover a Dulex primer and that’s it. I paid for decorator to paint the room, not to mention I have to pay them twice the amount now to do two layers of primer then two coats of paint.

Reading the message board here makes me angry. Why does it keep happening to our individual consumers? Is there any way that we could take group action against these two irresponsible giant companies?

Your legal rights are against B&Q, the retailer. Valspar, the manufacturer, has no legal responsibility to provide a remedy under the Consumer Rights Act, though manufacturers can often be helpful. B&Q should not expect you to deal with Valspar if you make it clear that you are claiming under the CRA rather than the manufacturer’s guarantee, Kleo.

Perhaps it would be worth joining Which? Legal, which will provide inexpensive legal advice. You don’t have to be a Which? member to join Which? Legal.

Same problem as everyone else. Bedroom smells of urine. I don’t have the time or the energy to redecorate it, but I’ll definitely not use Valspar again