Does "low VOC" equate to "low odor"?

Asked by Heather
Aurora, IL

I found info on this site about green carpeting for my home, but my much bigger issue is the actual smell that a new product gives off. My understanding is that VOCs can come with or without odor, but I'm not sure I'm understanding correctly. Healthy or unhealthy, the actual smells make me VIOLENTLY ill (I get migraines triggered by odor).

I'm trying to determine: if I buy carpeting (or paint or whatever) that is low/zero-VOC, can I be reasonably sure that it won't have a strong odor for a while.


Douglas E. Dick, AIA, LEED BD+C

Answered by Douglas E. Dick, AIA, LEED BD+C

Cambridge, MA

LDa Architecture & Interiors

February 7, 2011

Not necessarily. There are plenty of no-VOC products that still smell awful.

  • If you've got an even mild case of MCS, stick with friction-fit solid surfaces (i.e. nailed or interlocked) instead of using any glues or mastics.
  • Finish surfaces with tinted plaster or ceramic/glass tile (grouts are pretty harmless); soften with artwork or fabric panels.

Any VOC-containing products should be sealed within walls or products (i.e. caulking or sealants).

Stay away from paint altogether.

Tagged In: home air quality, chemically sensitive

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