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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
Member

Never had that happen, but I have noticed that gloss paints no longer smell they way they used to. I assumed that was because solvents have been phased out.

Member

I have only used Valspar paint in an outdoor application and was unaware of any unpleasant odour. I was not over-impressed by the paint at its high price but I was after a particular colour and with only a B&Q in our nearest town I could only get the colour in a Valspar gloss paint. Through a trade source I have since discovered a specialist decorators’ merchant that can match-mix other brands.

Soggy Mouse sounds like the sort of name another well-known brand of high-priced paint might use for its snob-laden coatings.

Member

Modern paints are now water based – much easier to clean your brushes as well as for the environment.

Member

Easier to clean brushes but water-based paints need potentially harmful chemicals as preservatives.

Member

If your paint was “omitting an ammonia-type odour” that would be a good thing. On the other hand “emitting…..” is a bad thing. EIEIO just a typo. There’s always one 🙂

Member

Updated, thanks Malcolm

Member

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

: (

Member

Preservatives will either kill or inhibit the growth of bugs. Many of these products are also potentially harmful to humans and wildlife, hence the restrictions in their use. I don’t know which preservatives have been phased out by the EU but there is probably a very good reason.

Member

There could be more restrictions on preservatives – often referred to as biocides – used in water-based paints. Maybe we should thank rather than criticise the EU for wanting to get rid of carcinogenic and reprotoxic chemicals from paints. https://chemicalwatch.com/51520/paint-manufacturers-struggle-with-lack-of-approved-preservatives

Member

A few years ago, some preservatives were removed from fence treatment. We bought Cuprinol wood preserver, ran out, bought some more only to realise after painting a dozen fence panels that we had used protector instead of preserver. The tins looked identical, bought from the same shop, on the same shelf, but the word preserver had been replaced by protector. It was basically just a colourant.

I did a very satisfactory follow-up with Cuprinol and was able to collect replacement preserver from a trade outlet.

Wood preservers seem to be back so new preservatives must have been found to replace the banned ones unless they are only available from specialists.

Member

I doubt if any really effective wood preservers are now on sale to the general public. I think the best solution is to buy wood that has been pressure-treated and then treat fences with a suitable coloured product. Products are banned for good reason and I question whether some of them should ever have been used.

Member

My grimace was on the use of an extra comma after “interestingly” . Essentially if you remove the commas and what lies between them the sentence should still work.

I am all in favour of tighter controls of chemicals that have the potential for harm.

Member

The commas aren’t really the issue; it’s the problems with plurals… “recent changes in EU law, which restricts“.

Commas have many functions, and you’re referring to the appositive comma, Patrick: where a subordinate or dependent clause or pronoun can be enclosed with two commas. In the case you quoted, however, the commas are not technically incorrect, but they do serve to make the sentence lumpy, to use the technical term 🙂

There’s quite a comprehensive explanation here.

Member

Many (of us) misuse commas. Remember the Oxford comma.
http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/exercises/grammar/grammar_tutorial/page_06.htm
We need to check our sentences to see whether they could be misread. I think the sentence Patrick refers to is incorrect as the first comma, after interestingly, should be deleted. You could eliminate the “which restricts…..” but you do need the “recent changes….” bit for the sentence to make sense.

Talking of sentences…”With experts noting that the culprit is likely to be a bacterial contamination.” isn’t……

But maybe I’m a wrong pedant.

Member

Thanks for your feedback, but this is off-topic. I disagree on the commas, but I agree with Malcolm on that sentence. Also, it’s multiple changes to EU law, so I feel the plural ‘restricts’ still stands.

Member

@ldeitz, it is simply that some think good English is worth preserving, I suspect, Lauren. We are all guilty of it.

It would be useful to ask Valspar for a statement about their compliance with EU regulations, and the reason why they changed their formulation in the first place. Was it not fully tested before it was released for sale? Were Valspar products affected in other EU countries?

Member

Ouch. Restrict is a verb; “changes” (a plural) requires “restrict” – as in: they restrict, it restricts. Very sorry. 🙂 Think that’s right. I’m going to cut the lawn now, you’ll be pleased to hear.

I’ve never bought Valspar paint. My local preferred paint supplier is the Dulux Decorator shop that supplies both trade and retail. I get a discount by asking. The paint and woodstain are not the cheapest but they cover well, and last. Given the time involved in preparation, and in applying paint, I’d prefer to spend a little more on a good product (in my eyes).

I don’t remember that last time Which? reviewed paints. It is a long term investigation, as durability is important. Are any tests of water-based paints and preservatives being undertaken, either by Which? or one of its European sister organisations?

Member

Which? has (or had) a list of products they don’t review, and this includes paints.

I became interested in durability of paint when I had a red car that faded badly – a common problem with red paints at the time. I have used marine paints such as International and had no problems with fading for more than ten years. The last time I bought some, it was about three times the price of Dulux. I’m referring to oil-based paints and the new water-based paints could well be different.

Member

Sorry, Malcolm. My explanation didn’t quite explain myself very well – multiple changes to the singular EU Law, that EU law restricts (plural). I’m breaking the rules as this is off-topic, but I wanted to clarify this.

Also, Which? doesn’t currently test paint.

Member

Hi Lauren – I can think of various reasons why Which? does not test paint, but it would be interesting to know why not.

Member

For some products where relevant standards (BS, EN, ISO) exist it could be useful for Which? to list them so the discerning consumer could check whether their proposed purchase claims compliance,

Member

If it seems cruel to note these matters when one considers the alternatives such as a decline in quality , and perhaps the subconscious noting by readers that something is not right. The brand image for the charity one imagines is fundamentally to be serious and correct.

It may be helpful to have a back-channel where style or possible error matters are flagged as then the general reading public would be spared the diversion from the Conversation thread. The back-channel to be open to readers rather like the Lobby.

Incidentally the BBC is also often guilty and given it’s profile even more upsetting. This today from digitalhealth.net : ” information on electronnic forms”. I do not pay for the feed but my opinion of a site where simple spellchecking appears beyond them is not high.

Member

Lauren: still off topic, so apologies, but in the sentence you dispute we’re dealing with a classical ambiguity. If we assume the subject is “recent changes which is plural, and the modifying verb is “restricts, then that’s simply incorrect. Changes can only restrict, not restricts.

However, what I suspect you meant was not “recent changes in EU law, which restricts the types of preservatives” but “EU law restricts the types of preservatives“. By preceding “EU law” with “recent changes in” you’ve made the subject of the sentence “Recent changes” and not “EU law“, which now appears as a subordinate or modifying clause whereas, in reality, you’d intended “Recent changes” to be the modifying clause. In effect, the sentence ‘plays poorly’ in the mind of the reader and distracts from the substance because the waters have been muddied by the inclusion of both plural and singular nouns in the subject clause.

For homework…

Member

See “The Lobby” perhaps, or maybe we should start a new Convo on grammer.
Has anyone used the Which? Legal advice to seek compensation not only for the paint, but for the decorator’s labour charge. Glad to see them contributing. This is a little ambiguous; does it mean if your paint was initially applied by a remunerated decorator you can claim for their charge, or does it mean if you employ a decorator to remedy your own work you can make a claim for labour?

If, as Valspar appears to claim, the bad odour is temporary (naturally wears off over time), does this affect the claim – should we be patient? And do we have evidence that the odour ” occurs very rarely and when used on walls that are particularly porous, and where the wall is exposed to excessive heat or direct sunlight”.

Member

Valspar has recently been taken over by Sherwin-Williams: https://investors.sherwin-williams.com/press/2017/601_VALclosing/index.jsp

Member

“On March 21, 2016, Sherwin-Williams announced its intention to pay $9.3 billion to acquire Valspar. The acquisition finalized on June 1, 2017.”

March 2016 when it was clear the company was going to lose its 200 years of independence.

Member

As I have a strong sense of smell I am unable to work with paint containing VOCs. A coat of primer is supposed to seal in any microbes in a wall, the cause of the unpleasant smell. I made the mistake last year when I painted my kitchen using a Crown kitchen paint by not using a primer. There was no nasty smell but I had to apply three coats to get a decent finish.

Member

I have had a look at the Valspar website and can see no mention of this problem. The company should provide customers with an explanation of the problem and give advice on what action to take.

Member

From http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/family/2017/07/bq-offers-refunds-after-paint-found-to-smell-of-cat-wee

“Valspar said the stink was caused after an additive was removed from eight of its 140 paint products earlier this year. It has now re-added it to solve the problem – although we’ve seen dozens of complaints on social media from those who’ve already painted their homes……………………………………..

Here comes the science bit…

So what exactly went wrong with the paint? In a statement Valspar said the issue was related to an additive which had been removed and since replaced.

A spokesperson said: “The ammonia-type odour occurs very rarely and when used on walls that are particularly porous, and where the wall is exposed to excessive heat or direct sunlight. The odour naturally wears off over time. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and ask that anyone similarly affected contact B&Q’s customer services.””

Member

Am I missing something here? Wavechange alludes to EU restrictions on preservatives. A Valspar spokesperson said “The ammonia-type odour occurs rarely and when used on walls that are particularly porous and where the wall is exposed to excessive heat or direct sunlight.”

If a wall is particularly porous, as I would imagine a wall in an older type dwelling would be, (as opposed to dry lining in a more modern home) and one that is also exposed to excessive heat or sunlight, this would create a breeding ground for more microbes. New paint with fewer or with preservatives removed, would provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria to flourish. If Valspar were the only paint manufacturer to comply with EU regulations by removing the preservatives, then who takes responsibly for the nasty smell?

Did Valspar specify on their paint tins that a primer should be used in certain circumstances to seal a wall as a preventative measure? Can someone please enlighten?

Member

I cannot find any information from Valspar, Beryl. The widely quoted press release does not seem to be in the public domain.

The growth of bacteria and other microorganisms requires water and a range of essential nutrients (food). These can be provided in cans of water-based paint, hence the use of biocides (preservatives). Whether bugs can continue to grow when paint has been applied will depend on the availability of moisture. Tiling bathrooms helps ensure that even if there is moisture available periodically, the bugs have no access to nutrients. I presume that use of a special primer is to help prevent moisture in a wall from reaching the paint layer and promoting growth of bugs.

I don’t think we have evidence that Valspar is the only manufacturer to comply with EU regulations, and I would be very surprised if this was the case.

Member

Malcolm’s referral led me to research the dangers of formaldehyde exposure and ways in which to reduce exposure to it Wavechange. See: learn.eartheasy.com – 7 Ways to reduce your exposure to formaldehyde.

Also Lakeland paints which claim to contain zero VOC’s zero solvents, zero heavy metals: @ lakelandpaints.co.uk.
Has anyone ever used them or have Which? carried out any tests on them? Lakeland are always rated very highly in their lists of creditable retailers.

Member

Formaldehyde was mentioned as a questionable material in one of the links I posted earlier. Many will be more familiar with formalin – a solution containing formaldehyde that was used to preserve biological specimens. It is still a problem in household products: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/formaldehyde/formaldehyde-fact-sheet

I very much doubt that Lakeland makes paints. It would be good to know which biocides are in products sold under this and other names.

Member

Some of you may remember my tale of woe with Valspar earlier this year and after that experience, I wouldn’t touch it again with a bargepole. It didn’t smell of cat pee though.

Trade paint shops can do colour-mixing so will get my business in future.

Member

I am very satisfied with Dulux Trade paints, mixed on site if the colour is not in stock or has to be matched, from Brewers Decorator Centres. Mainly trade but they sell to anyone with or without an account, but anyone can have a cash or credit account [subject to status]. They sell several other makes of paint as well as wallpaper and have an impressive range of professional tools and supplies for making the job go well. They have 157 stores, mainly in the south-east of England.

For ordinary, standard range, Crown and Dulux emulsions I use Wilko or Homebase.

Member
Member

That’s certainly relevant, if not bedtime reading. What matters to users is which biocides are in different paints. The information can usually be found in material safety data sheets, but this not indicate the amounts and the formulation of products can be different for different countries. I would like to see the information on each paint can.

Member

Growth of bacteria in the absence of oxygen often results in gas production. I wonder if there have been any cases of the lids popping open on tins of paint.

Member

Seems it must be a huge bad batch of paint. One might suggest there is a certain lack of honesty in the problem.

Bearing in mind class actions are now feasible perhaps the size of the problem needs scoping out as individually I suspect many people will be fobbed off with scant payment.

From another site:
” christopher of Essex, Other on July 28, 2017
Satisfaction Rating
Valspar paint what a joke… I used this paint back in 2016. After about a week it began to smell. First I was should that my dog had peed on the walls but then I could smell it higher up on the walls. I contacted Valspar. They told me that I must have DAMP in my walls that’s why it smells. I told them that the walls were are new as I had just converted my loft, then they said that I had not prepared the walls correctly, which I told them was rubbish as I have been painting/building for over 25 years and had never had this happen before. Then they said because I didn’t use Valspar undercoat that I was to blame. I Then had to explain exactly how I prepared the walls from the plastering to missed coat and top coat.

Each time I had emailed/phoned them I was talking to someone with NO painting/building skills. After being passed to B&Q then BQ HLC they told gave me a gift card £200 to buy some paint Alkali sealer which they told me to do which I did and repainted my halls. At first it seem to work as it was winter when I did repaint it. Come February 2017 the smell came back. So I started emails to Valspar and B&Q. Valspar kept passing the buck telling me to repaint again with Zinsser sealer and said they would compensation will be paid if they is proof that the paint is at fault.

I asked for my house to be painted by a contractor as I was not willing to do it for a 3RD time and to compensation for the time, stress this and caused my family. B&Q head office told me the matter had reached deadlock and as I had taken the £200. The matter was closed and told me speak to The Ombudsman. Now the papers/TVs report prove I was right back in 2016. They offered me small amount of money. I said no and am waiting to speak to Valspar high level complainants team… “

Member
Sam wilks says:
7 September 2017

The valspar paint causing the smell was still being sold 2 weeks ago, despite claims all was well with it. They advised painting over it with a zinseer sealant to prevent oxygen reaching the paint. It’s much worse when the sunshine and fresh air hit the walls. The concerning thing is the many people feel that this hasn’t worked, and there is no definite answer that the amonia being produced is harmless.

Member

You & Yours (BBC Radio 4 programme on consumer issues) covered the Valspar paint problem some time ago and gave some legal advice for consumers: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08z983m

Member
Pauline says:
8 September 2017

Yes it does and unfortunately we used it in the toilet so not a good smell!! With time the smell has started to go but I have spent months apologising in advance of people using the bathroom.

Member
L. Bastock says:
3 October 2017

This happened to us. I spent hours cleaning even staying up late to scour the house with a UV lamp to try and find the urine. We took the cat to the vets and discussed rehoming him. The news on Valspar broke hours before he was booked in to be catheterised. We then spent hours emailing B&Q and Valspar. The customer service of both companies, and especially B&Q was appalling. In the end I managed to get quite a large sum in compensation and managed to do so without providing decorators quotes, but I feel let down to be put through this stress and aggravation. I feel sorry for people who weren’t properly compensated. Valspar are a disgrace.

Member
Ian Dempsey says:
1 November 2017

We used valspar paint for our stairs landing and kitchen only to have the cat pee smell we had to have the whole lot redone we messaged valspar with all relevant details
And despite repeated emails got nowhere we eventually decided after the runaround from valspar we sent the required paperwork to their UK head office we got no reply however we did receive the self addressed envelope we enclosed back to our home address with a smiley face drawn on the back now they want us to pay yet again for replacement invoices off our decorator they are useless