If you regularly scrub moldy patches off your bathroom walls, then you might want to make repainting the bathroom your next big DIY project. But do you need waterproof bathroom paint? Is there even such a thing?
Waterproof bathroom paint is used on non-porous fixtures like tile and basins. Other types of bathroom paint are water-resistant but not entirely waterproof. Mildew and mold-resistant primers and semi-gloss wall paints are available that can effectively repel moisture.
Tell-tale gray corners on the top of walls and above the shower can spoil the entire look of your bathroom. Fortunately, there are plenty of exciting bathroom paint options available that can quickly and easily transform your bathroom walls and leave you wondering why you didn’t paint them sooner.
Is There Waterproof Bathroom Paint?
First things first, let’s clear up what type of paint will keep your bathroom mold-free and sparkling clean.
Entirely waterproof paints do exist, but they are usually used for sealing tile, bathtubs, or at the bottom of swimming pools.
Surfaces like tiles and basins require an epoxy acrylic formula like the Rust-Oleum Specialty Tub and Tile Refinishing Kit. This durable, high-quality waterproof paint can be applied with a brush, roller, or sprayer. The result is a smooth porcelain or tile finish.
Or try products from Ekopel, which are nontoxic and environmentally friendly. You can get this waterproof Epoxy kit for your sink or shower pan, and you can get this kit for your tub. And you can get this waterproof Ekopel 2K kit for your tub.
If you’re looking to change the color of your bathtub, be sure to read my post on this topic.
Best Water-Resistant Bathroom Primers and Paint Brands
The paint you need for your bathroom walls, ceiling and trim won’t be 100% waterproof, but it will be water-resistant and may contain mildew and mold-resistant additives.
Here are some great water-resistant primers and paints that can help ward off mold and mildew.
Kilz Kitchen and Bathroom Primer
Once you have addressed mold and mildew problems, thoroughly clean your bathroom walls. Then coat the walls in a mildew-resistant primer like Kilz Kitchen and Bathroom. This will create a mildew-resistant film between your wall surface and surface paint.
In addition to preventing mildew growth on your bathroom walls, using a mildew-resistant primer will create a smooth surface finish.
Rust-Oleum Mold & Mildew Proof Interior Paint
If you want a reliable brand that has an extensive range of water-resistant paints to use in your bathroom, Rust-Oleum should be your first stop. The brand offers a wide array of mold-resistant paints for the bathroom, including this semi-gloss mold and mildew-proof paint.
DOs and DON’Ts for Bathroom Paint
Choosing the right finish for the painted walls in your bathroom will probably be a fine balance between how water-resistant the paint is (in other words, how glossy it is) and how mold-resistant it will be. Matte finishes always look inviting, but they may not be able to stand up to a lot of moisture or cleaning.
Here are a few simple dos and don’ts to keep in mind when it comes to choosing bathroom paint:
DON’T Paint Over Existing Mold
Keep in mind that mold creates a barrier between the layer of paint and the surface of the wall. Although it may look better for a couple of weeks or even months, before long, the cover-up paint will start peeling or flaking, and the patch of mold you were trying to cover will rear its ugly head again.
Instead, get rid of the problem the right way. Read Bathroom Mold: A Battle Plan to Destroy It.
DO Use High-Gloss Paint Wherever You Can
The higher the gloss, the more water-resistant it will be. However, this is sometimes easier said than done. High sheen walls can be a bit flashy, so although high-gloss paint is easier to clean and will resist high-humidity conditions better than a matte finish, you might refuse to use it on the bathroom walls.
However, there are more surfaces in the bathroom than just your walls, so at least use something like Diamond Brite Latex Gloss Enamel on bathroom cabinets and trim. The finished surface will resist high humidity, and cleaning it will be a snap because the smooth, gloss surface can be easily wiped clean.
DON’T Forget the Bathroom Ceiling!
With all the focus on the fixtures and walls when painting, you could easily forget the bathroom ceiling! This is probably the most challenging area to clean, and it will catch most of the warm humidity, so choose a semi-gloss paint like Rust-Oleum Perma-White. The best thing about this specific paint is that it has a mildew-proof finish, ideal for bathroom walls and ceilings.
Unless you choose a bathroom-specific paint, the happy middle ground for most bathroom walls is semi-gloss paint. This will give you the moisture resistance properties most bathrooms need without being overly shiny.
8 Steps to Apply Waterproof Paint to a Bath, Basin and Shower
You want your shower, bathtub, and basin to be 100% waterproof. You, therefore, need a product specifically created to provide a high-quality waterproof gloss finish to scuffed surfaces.
Note that this process will take more than just a couple of hours and requires a bit of effort, but the transformation can be spectacular. Let’s get right into it.
Surfaces like tiles and basins require an epoxy acrylic formula. While you will need to read the product-specific step-by-step preparation and mixing instructions before you start, here are some summarized notes about the process, so you know what to expect before you start.
The surfaces that you will be working on need to be clean. I mean ULTRA-clean. There is no way you can paint epoxy paint over dirt or calcium deposits and get a good outcome. So grab a scourer, bleach, and a product like Lime-A-Way that will dissolve the most common water deposits.
Once you are confident that the surfaces you want to paint are completely clean, let them dry. Ban all family members from using the bathroom you are working on so that they don’t use it and undo all your cleaning.
Tile and bathtub surfaces are often very smooth, but the fresh new finish that you will apply needs a rough surface to adhere to permanently. Sand everything with 400 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface and remove the existing gloss. (If you find the 400 grit is too fine, start with a 120 grit to get it rough and finish with the 400 grit to smooth the surface.)
4. ELIMINATE DUST
Sanding always creates dust, so vacuum, dust, and open the windows, but make sure that the surfaces you will work on are completely free of dust residue before applying the paint.
Carefully tape off the areas that you will be painting. The solution is quite runny, and you want to be able to apply it confidently without stressing about it dripping onto the floor or getting onto unintended areas.
Now, grab some gloves and a mask. Open the windows. Run the bathroom fan or set up a portable fan. This is not ordinary paint, and the smell is extremely strong. Do not underestimate this because you don’t want to end up rushing the job just to get finished so you can escape from the strong chemical smell.
Follow the mixing instructions and get to work applying your new waterproof surface. You will need to wait for an hour before applying a second coat to get complete coverage.
8. DRY (Again)
Ensure that the newly painted bathroom remains off-limits for at least 3 days so that the treated surfaces can dry completely to become waterproof.
This product will create a high-gloss slippery surface, so if the bottom of your bathtub was rough and scuffed before, you might need to be a little cautious when stepping in after you have refinished it.
Help Your Bathroom Paint Last Longer
No bathroom paint will survive for long if there isn’t adequate ventilation in the room. Check that your exhaust fan is doing its job and any vents that allow air to circulate are open. Read my post on smart bathroom fans with humidity sensors that can really help curb a mold or mildew problem.
Simple tricks like opening the window after a hot shower can also go a long way in keeping mildew at bay. If you have a really big problem with ventilation consider installing a bathroom skylight. Read all about the pros and cons of bathroom skylights in my post.
No matter what paint you use in your bathroom, you’ll still need to be vigilant about bathroom mold. Learn how to find bathroom mold before it’s visible to the naked eye and how to get rid of it as soon as you detect it.
So What Kind of Paint Is Best for Bathrooms?
Waterproof paint can be applied to non-porous bathroom surfaces like basins or tiles, but most other types of paint are only water-resistant.
Paint with a high-gloss finish offers the best water resistance. But a semi-gloss along with adequate ventilation can go a long way toward keeping mold and mildew at bay.
Repainting your bathroom may not be the most exciting home renovation project that you can think of, but giving it a water-resistant coating will make it a lot easier to clean and keep it looking fresh and inviting.
And if you’re debating whether tile or paint is best for your bathroom, be sure to check out: Tile or Paint the Bathroom? The Clear Winner. You might be surprised.
Oh, and one more thing: If you’re about to embark on an expensive bathroom remodel, fill out the form below and I’ll send you a PDF with Genius Designer Hacks that can literally save you thousands of dollars.