How To Clear Lungs Of Spray Paint (7 Best Methods)

Though we all know we should be wearing respirator masks and other safety gear when working with spray paint, sometimes it is just easier to get the job done sans the gear.

But what happens when the spray paint sprays the wrong way or the fumes go flying? In this article, we discuss seven easy ways to clear your lungs of spray paint.   

1. Drink Milk  

If you’ve ingested or inhaled spray paint, then head directly to the fridge and take a few sips of milk. Milk consists of casein, a protein that envelopes the chemicals found in paint that can cause cancer and assists in removing them from the body.

It is imperative you move quickly. Though more research needs to be conducted on the subject, it is thought that milk is most effective in neutralizing paint within 10 minutes of it entering the body. 

2. Sip On Some Green Tea 

If painting is something you do often, then green tea is a product you should be consuming daily. Green tea is chock full of antioxidants, which (among countless other benefits) protect the tissues in your lungs and reduce the risk of developing lung disease. Healthy lungs will be less vulnerable should you accidentally inhale spray paint.       

How To Clear Lungs Of Spray Paint

3. Take A Cold Shower Followed By A Hot One 

To start, hop into the shower and run cold water. Cold water encourages the lungs to open and makes deep breathing an easier task.  

Once taking a deep breath becomes easier, change the water temperature to as hot as you can stand it. The hot water will produce steam, the vapors of which will help remove mucus (and any paint droplets) out of your body.   

4. Deep Breaths 

If you have just inhaled some spray paint, deep breathing can assist your lungs in removing anything harmful.  

Start by walking outside or standing near an open window or door. Cover your mouth with a warm damp cloth and begin to breathe as deeply as you can. Continue this until you no longer feel like breathing will send you into a coughing fit.   

5. Do Some Exercise  

Though it may sound counterintuitive, exercising can help you breathe easier after inhaling spray paint. Run, cycle, do some jumping jacks, or even take a walk around the block. Doing so will get your blood circulating, which in turn improves your breathing rate and helps rid your body and lungs of carbon dioxide.  

Though the effects aren’t immediate, regular exercise will eventually work to rid your body of spray paint droplets.  

6. Cough a Few Times 

Coughing is the body’s natural method of removing mucus and other foreign debris from the lungs, so it makes sense that this would be an effective trick for clearing the lungs of any inhaled paint droplets.   

With your feet planted firmly on the floor and your arms resting across your stomach, slowly inhale. As you exhale, lean forward so that your arms press into your stomach. Cough 3-4 times before inhaling again through your nose.  

If you are having trouble coughing, you can have a friend massage your back or stomach area, which typically induces a cough.  

7. Steam Inhalation 

Steam inhalation, or steam therapy, occurs when steam vapor opens the respiratory tract and makes it easier to remove mucus from the lungs. It is a common treatment for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) but works well for removing paint droplets, too.  

If you don’t have a steam inhaler where you are, heat a pot of water to boiling. Once the water is nice and steamy, remove the pot from the heat and set it down in front of you.

Cover your head and the pot with a towel, holding your face about six inches from the water and breathe in the steam vapors. Remove the towel from your head (but not the pot) as needed, though the whole process should take about 10 minutes. 

What Happens If You Inhale Spray Paint? 

Every few years or so, the trend of purposely inhaling spray paint seems to resurface in headlines and on social media. Not surprisingly, this terrible habit comes with enormous health risks. Still, it’s important to know that inhaling spray paint doesn’t have to be a habit to be dangerous.  

How Does Inhaling Spray Paint Affect Your System?  

Spray paint contains isocyanates, reactive organic chemicals commonly used in the production of pesticides, fungicides, and polymers like resin and plastics. When inhaled, isocyanates have been found to irritate the respiratory tract, cause long-term respiratory issues, and even cancer.  

What Are The Common Symptoms? 

If you've inhaled spray paint, then you are likely experiencing an irritated feeling in your nose, eyes, and throat. You may feel the need to cough, or you might have a headache. In extreme cases, dizziness may also occur. These are all symptoms of exposure to isocyanates.  

Does Inhaling Spray Paint Make You Sick? Can Spray Paint Cause Lung Cancer?

Because of its many harmful ingredients, inhaling spray paint can absolutely make you sick. Damage to your lungs and other organs can occur after just one inhalation, as can chronic respiratory problems.

Those who are routinely exposed to spray paint and spray paint fumes are also at a higher risk of developing lung cancer.    

woman wearing protective suit

What To Do When You Inhale Spray Paint?  

If you have just inhaled spray paint – whether or not you are experiencing symptoms like coughing or irritation – you should follow a few simple steps to safeguard your health.  

  • 1
    Get as much fresh air as possible. 
    Open windows and doors, or better yet, step outside. Take as many deep breaths of fresh air as you are able. 
  • 2
    Breathe into a paper bag 
    Breathe deeply into a paper bag (and only a paper bag – plastic will not work) until paint is no longer coming out with each breath. Try not to pause or hold your breath at all during this process. It may take several minutes, but it is an effective way to clear your respiratory tract of any inhaled paint.  If the symptoms persist, try one of the other steps described above or… 
  • 3
    Consult poison control or your doctor 
    Even if you don’t notice any symptoms, it is worth checking with your doctor anytime you breathe in or ingest a dangerous chemical (including spray paint). Your doctor will likely ask a few questions before determining if further treatment is needed.  

Clearing Lungs Of Spray Paint FAQs  

Do Citadel spray paints cause lung cancer? 

Citadel paints are water- and resin-based and state on their label that they are non-toxic. However, in spray paint form, Citadel's paint is atomized and can float through the air and right into your respiratory tract.

Inhaling any kind of paint is never good, so it is important to wear a quality respirator mask when working with Citadel spray paint.       

How long does paint fume sickness last?  

Depending on the type of paint and how much paint was inhaled, the symptoms of paint fume sickness can last anywhere from 14 to 24 weeks 

How do you get rid of a sore throat from paint fumes? 

First, open windows and doors, or step outside to get some fresh air. If, after a few minutes, your throat is still feeling sore, gargle with a glass of warm saltwater.   


The chemicals included in a can of spray paint are incredibly dangerous, and inhaling them can lead to a slew of serious issues.

Though tricks like breathing into a paper bag and drinking milk are effective treatments, it is better to do what you can to prevent any inhalation in the first place. Whenever you work with spray paint, be sure to wear a respirator mask that can block dangerous particles and vapors.