What type of paint to use for bathrooms

This Old House

Since bathrooms are typically a bit more confined than most other rooms within the home and are frequently wet from shower and bathtub use, there are a few certain decorating needs that must be met. One need that must be addressed when redecorating a bathroom is using the correct kinds of paint.

Due to the high-moisture content in bathrooms, this isn't a case where just any can of paint will do.


Bathrooms require a coat of water-based primer before painting the walls with your chosen colour. This primer helps seal moisture away from the drywall, which could lead to serious problems with mildew. Some bathroom walls and/or ceilings have become so saturated with mildew that the drywall had to come down and in severe cases some of the studs required replacing.

Sherwin Williams is one company that makes moisture-resistant primer.

Mildew-Resistant Paint

Follow the coat of moisture-resistant primer with mildew-resistant paint. In some bathrooms that lack proper ventilation, mildew becomes visible on a weekly basis. While mildew-resistant paint won't completely prevent all instances of mildew from occurring, it will prevent it from occurring as often, and it won't allow it to penetrate as deeply, thus preserving the integrity of the actual wall.

One type of mildew-resistant paint is manufactured by KILZ.

Semi-Gloss Finish

If your bathroom has a serious moisture problem, using a paint with a semi-gloss finish (provided it is mildew resistant) will make routine cleaning a much easier process. The smooth finish of the semi-gloss paint wipes up easily with a damp sponge, yet is strong enough not to be marred by many bathroom cleaning products.

Satin Finish

For bathrooms without serious mildew issues, a satin finish paint will do the job. Since the bathroom isn't prone to mildew, scrubbing with bathroom cleaning products won't be part of the routine. Satin-finish paint holds up well and cleans up with moderate scrubbing with a damp sponge.

Kitchen and Bathroom Paint

There are cans of paint that are specifically formulated for use in kitchens and bathrooms. While kitchens don't have all of the moisture concerns of bathrooms, they do have a few specific needs when it comes to cleanliness. For this reason some companies have chosen to manufacture these specific types of paints. While kitchen and bathroom paints won't provide the mildew-resistance needed for many bathrooms, it will give you a finish that is easy to keep clean.

Bathroom Paint Overview

Despite the information that is readily available about these different kinds of paints for use in bathrooms, some people will still paint their bathrooms with plain old flat wall paint. At first, the walls in their bathroom will look good; almost as good as those who have painted their bathrooms with paints recommended by professionals for bathroom use. The real difference will become clear a few weeks or a few months down the road, when the mildew is apparent and not so easy--if not almost impossible--to clean.