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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?


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.

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.

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

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

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 🙂

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

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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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Many (of us) misuse commas. Remember the Oxford comma.
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.

@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?

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?

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.

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

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,

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.

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…

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”.

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

“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.

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.

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.

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.””

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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… “

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Priscilla says:
4 December 2017

we painted our bedroom this weekend with valspar aspire paint and primer. weather was nice so of course the windows were cracked open during most of the first coat. After closing the windows the smell started and it was awful!!! it smelled like dog pooh, I know that’s terrible but that’s it. I spoke with a rep. from Valspar who only suggested that I buy another gallon and recoat (3 coats) and that should take care of it. Really??? I strongly disagreed with that and he said they would refund me what I paid for the paint. That’s all well and good but now I have to repaint. I have painted many rooms and have never experienced this, definitely something wrong with the paint.

We painted my sons room in this valspar paint last autumn and we noticed the smell as soon as we had hot sunny weather, I searched the room for rotting food, checked the gas pipes, the smell is definitely coming from the paint but I have contacted B&Q and they refuse to help as I no longer have the receipt or empty can. I don’t know what to do next, the smell is awful and giving us headaches.

Try painting over it with a sealant and new emulsion to make the room habitable. Then contact the CEO of B&Q (look up through CEOemail.com) and contact
Valspar Paint
220 Wharfdale Road
Winnersh, Wokingham
RG41 5TP
There is enough evidence to show they sold a faulty product generally.
Do you have a record of the transaction – credit/debit card? Should be enough to prove your purchase if needed.

It’s important to use the correct type of sealant or the problem may remain. I suggest contacting Valspar for advice.

It is disappointing that Valspar seems to have removed all advice about this problem from their website, though it is still mentioned on other websites, for example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40655163

New Valspar paint may be fine but it’s not uncommon to buy paint and use it a couple of years later.

Thanks for helping with this, Malcolm and Wavechange.

Sarah says:
23 May 2018

Thank you for your advice, unfortunately we paid cash and b and q have said they won’t help without proof of purchase but I will certainly contact CEO.

B&Q is entitled to have proof of purchase and without a receipt, this is difficult. Do you have any of the paint left, Sarah? Had you paid by card, a credit card statement would probably been acceptable as evidence of purchase.

We experienced this issue in our childs room. Val spar handled our situation very well and provided an amount which almost covered the cost of a decorator for a day, a ton of Zinsser BIN and new Valspar paint.

The problem did indeed go away, but with the onset of spring it is back almost as bod as it was initially.

The influencing factors are all they, old Victorian house with pours walls, south facing windows that allows direct sunlight into the room and windows open due to recent good weather.

I will be back in contact with Valspar and keep you updated…

Hi Craig,

Did Valspar agree to rectify the problem 2nd time round?

They want us to accept an offer in full and final satisfaction and we are concerned to note that people are having re-occurrence problems.

Our daughter’s bedroom is affected and we don’t know what to do to rectify the situation. We’re particularly concerned to note in the above that the problem has not been resolved by re-painting.
Our daughter was suffering with sore throats and coughs for months before the smell became apparent. Over May bank holiday 2018, the smell became so overwhelming that the whole family had headaches and felt nauseous.
At first we thought we had a gas leak and called out British Gas. The engineer suggested it was dead animal under the floor boards. It wasn’t until the Pest control company suggested that it might be the paint that we started to research the issue online.
We didn’t purchase the offending paint (Valspar Trade Magnolia Matt) until September 2017. All affected tins should have been removed from sale, or at the very least the consumer should have been notified upon purchase.

I suggest you contact the company, Caitlyn – see the link in my post above. I hope they will treat the walls with a suitable sealer and redecorate the room for you.

In the meantime the best solution is to keep the house well ventilated.

Thank you. I’ve started the complaint process today. The windows haven’t been closed since Saturday. What’s most upsetting is that we’ve been decorating our house for a year and have just finished. We were hoping to put our feet up and enjoy it.

Please let us know how you get on. It’s very disappointing that I could not find any advice on the company’s website. I expect that many people will have bought paint and not got round to using it, so could face the same problem in future.

hi, thought I’d give an update. B&Q are trying to wash their hands of the problem and are telling me that as it’s a manufacturing issue the complaint needs to be transferred to Valspar. Valspar have confirmed that they with the complaint if I agree but I don’t know what to do for the best, as far as I can work out the Sales of Goods Act and the Consumer Rights Act are for situations between the purchaser and seller, B&Q in this instance.

Caitlyn, you are quite right. Your contract was with B&Q and they are legally responsible to deal with your complaint. Particularly since B&Q and Valspar have formed a “strategic partnership”.
According to the news (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40655163)
B&Q says it will compensate hundreds of people who experienced bad smells after painting their homes with Valspar paint that it sold them.

Customers have likened the smell to cat urine and rotten animals. They say the smell gets stronger in hot weather and if the windows are open.

Valspar says the problem is caused by an additive being removed from some of its paint. It has now re-added it.

Valspar and B&Q say they will pay for the cost of redecoration.”

I had some fun with B&Q recently, trying to get me to contact the manufacturer when I took back a faulty pressure washer. I was polite, persistent and walked out of the shop with a new one – now priced at £30 more than I had paid.

The Consumer Rights Act applies to goods purchased after October 2015 and replaces the Sale of Goods Act. B&Q can discuss this with Valspar but you don’t have to. A call to Citizens Advice will confirm this and give you the confidence to start Round 3. 🙂 Apart from what I have mentioned above, I have always found B&Q extremely helpful.

If you are in the shop, let them refer you to a supervisor so that you are not seen as a difficult customer demanding attention. Best of luck.

Hi I bought Valspar brilliant white which is also affected. This should have been recalled if possible -I purchased this throught B & Q online so they knew I had it – and did nothing about it. I have the same problem now and wonder if you have dealt with this yet and if anything has worked.?

UPDATE – I reluctantly agreed to transfer the complaint to Valspar and have attempted to resolve the problem with them. Their customer service is poor to say the least and their full and final offer doesn’t cover the cost of the materials and a decorator let alone any compensation, which is capped at £100 per customer in any event. They don’t accept that the ammonia like smell caused our daughter to suffer ill health and will not compensate for the purchase price of the faulty paint or the cost of the pest control company (see original post). Our household insurance doesn’t cover the work because we painted the rooms ourselves. Environmental health can’t assist but trading standards have been helpful.
Our daughter is still sleeping on the floor in her sister’s bedroom and the house still smells awful.
I’m now waiting on B&Q customer services to contact me but it looks like we’re going to have to issue proceedings at the small claims court.
All in the all the experience has been horrendous.

Catherine Robertson says:
23 April 2020

We have recently had this problem but not with this brand of paint . Can you tell me how you
Corrected the problem please my house is so smelly after painting my hall .


Sophie says:
21 May 2020

Hi Caitlyn I am still in dispute with Valspar/Band Q. Im thinking of taking them to court now. Did you ever proceed in court? Thanks, Sophie