When painting your bathroom, it may be second nature to purchase a standard gallon of paint off the shelf. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that not all paints are made the same. Bathroom paint is designed specifically for the walls of your bathroom and is a vital step to keeping your bathroom in great shape.
Before making the decision to use bathroom paint in your home, you need to understand the difference between bathroom paint and a typical wall paint. You should also consider the cost difference and if any extra application steps or upkeep is required to keep your bathroom clean and functional.
It is important to always use bathroom paint for walls, ceilings, and trim when applying new paint in a bathroom. This specially formulated paint ensures excess moisture will not seep into the paint surface which can cause blistering, peeling, and allow mildew to form.
Why Do Bathrooms Require Special Paint?
Bathrooms are a unique environment in your home as they are constantly exposed to high levels of moisture. To combat this, most bathrooms have an exhaust fan installed that will vent the bad smells and moisture to the exterior of the home.
Oftentimes, these exhaust fans cannot keep up with the steam generated from constant shower use. In fact, they are not designed to immediately exhaust all of the steam. Instead, bathroom fans are designed to be kept running for at least 30 minutes after taking a shower. Most people, especially kids, don’t keep the exhaust fans on for long enough.
Here is a graph showing how long the moisture levels are elevated after taking a shower. Keep in mind that this is with the exhaust fan running the entire time.
As you can see, the moisture levels are elevated for more than 3 hours after taking a shower! This is why it is vital that everything in the bathroom is resistant to high levels of moisture.
You will often see moisture build-up on mirrors and countertops. When not properly managed, this moisture can cause irreparable damage to walls, window frames, cabinets, and any other porous surface in your bathroom. It is important for all materials in your bathroom to hold up to moisture—especially your paint.
What Makes Bathroom Paint Different From Other Paints?
Bathroom paint is formulated with a tighter structure. The paint molecules rest closer together than in a normal paint. This leaves fewer gaps for moisture to penetrate into the paint surface.
Using this type of paint significantly reduces the risk of peeling or blistering. Applying bathroom paint can increase the longevity of your bathroom walls, ceilings, and trim. As the moisture cannot build up over a long period of time, it also limits the growth of mildew.
How Much More Does Bathroom Paint Cost?
Believe it or not, there is only a minimal cost difference between standard room paint and bathroom paint. You should expect about a $10 to $15 premium on a gallon of paint to upgrade to the formula needed in a bathroom. For lighter, lower grade paints the cost difference will be smaller than for a darker, higher quality paint.
Since the cost difference is so insignificant, it is a no brainer to always use bathroom paint in a bathroom. If you do wish to save yourself that extra bit of money, why not paint the ceiling and walls the same color and avoid buying to full buckets of paint, when only one is necessary.
Is Applying Bathroom Paint the Same as Applying Standard Paint?
Applying bathroom paint requires the same procedures as painting any other room in your house. Make sure you protect your floors and bathroom fixtures before painting.
Clean your walls and ensure you have a flat surface to paint. Apply one coat of primer and allow it to fully dry. You will repeat this step with two coats of bathroom paint.
If applied correctly, bathroom paint should last 3-4 years before needing a fresh coat. While some people opt to use bathroom paint only on walls closest to water sources, such as those near a shower or next to the vanity, it is a good idea to use bathroom paint on every single wall in your bathroom.
You can also check out my post on Bathroom Door Paint Guide (DIY Painting Guide Included).
Of course, there may be some hidden work, particularly in old houses or bathrooms that have suffered water damage for a long time, so bear this in mind.
What if I Already Have Mildew Growth on My Bathroom Walls?
It is extremely important to not just paint over mildew growth if you are already dealing with it in your bathroom. You will need to scrub the entire affected area with a bleach-based cleaner or vinegar.
Only do this in a well-ventilated area with the proper protective gear. Here are a couple of tips on how to ventilate rooms when working with any kind of chemicals. This will also be helpful when you start painting.
Allow the wall to completely dry after cleaning and wait a few days before painting to ensure the mold is completely gone.
What Other Add-Ons Are Available for Bathroom Paint?
While bathroom paints do limit the intrusion of moisture and therefore limit the growth of mildew, there are other add-ons available for addressing mildew.
Bathroom paints that contain antimicrobial agents are able to slow the growth of mildew and mold. You could also consider a paint that is tougher with a washable finish for your bathroom walls.
This is a great option for drop ceiling installed in bathrooms.
To properly clean your bathroom, you will want to scrub down the walls with vinegar or bleach every so often and a durable, washable surface will allow that.
Does Bathroom Paint Come in Every Color and Finish?
All of the top brands of paint offer their version of mold-inhibiting, premium paints which can be mixed to color shade at your local home improvement store.
The paint finish you choose for a bathroom can also affect how moisture is absorbed. To maximize the effectiveness of your bathroom paint, you should consider using a glossy finish that repels water as opposed to a matte or flat finish that is a little more porous. If you do not love the look of glossy paint, you can find a happy medium by using a semi-gloss.
While bathroom-specific paint is the best to use in bathrooms, it is not an adequate substitute for a bathroom that does not have an exhaust fan or other forms of adequate ventilation.