Home & FamilyHome DecoratingHow to Prep and Paint Your Bathroom

How to Prep and Paint Your Bathroom

From hiding unsightly mildew stains to simply brightening up a space, a fresh coat of semi-gloss paint can have a dramatic effect on the overall look and feel of your bathroom. However, many first-time and even experienced DIYers make the tragic mistake of not properly prepping the walls or applying the wrong primer and paint, both of which can lead to chipping, peeling and an overall underwhelming finished product.

You might be tempted to squeeze this seemingly simple paintjob into a single afternoon, but be aware properly prepping and painting even the smallest bathroom can require several days of effort. You might sweat and curse the day you ever considered repainting your bathroom, but all that hard work is well worth the satisfaction that comes with knowing you saved hundreds on labor.

How to Prep and Paint Your Bathroom

Cleaning the Walls

Years of bathing, splashing kids and poor air circulation have unfortunately wreaked havoc on your painted bathroom walls. In many instances, you might even come across a small colony of mold and mildew after pulling your toilet away from the wall. Before you even open your paint and primer cans, it’s important to scrub down every wall in your bathroom. Skip the harsh cleaners and instead create a mixture of white vinegar, water and dish soap in a plastic spray bottle. Spray the mixture liberally onto your bathroom walls and work it in with a rag or plastic scrub brush. It might require a little elbow grease to remove any built-up soap scum or mildew, but it’s well worth the extra effort.

Choosing the Correct Primer and Paint

Your bathroom’s constant humidity and fluctuating temperatures require you to spend a little extra cash on the right primer and paint. When it comes to primers, always choose one specially formulated for bathrooms. These products are designed to prevent moisture from seeping into the drywall, which cuts down on mold and mildew formation. As far as paint is concerned, stick with a quality semi-gloss; there’s no reason to pay premium prices for paints that claim to withstand moisture.


Once your bathroom walls are clean and dry, go ahead and tape everything you don’t want painted before laying down your first layer of primer. If your walls are painted a dark shade, it’s wise to tint the primer to match your new shade. This cuts down on the layers of top coat required to cover the darker color. Allow the initial layer of primer to dry at least four to six hours before sanding down any defects or runs and applying an additional coat. It might seem like more work than necessary, but this level of perfection is worth it in the end.

Painting Your Bathroom

As with primer, it’s important to apply your paint using long, even strokes. Because many bathrooms are so small, you might want to consider skipping the roller and using a paintbrush instead. If a roller is warranted, use a 3/8-inch nap, which provides even coverage when using semi-gloss paint. Allow the initial coat to dry for at least 12 hours before applying a second, and if necessary, third layer. Once the final layer is applied, wait at least 48 hours before taking a shower, or you run the risk of destroying your beautiful paint job.

Painting Behind the Toilet

It’s possible to paint behind your toilet without relocating the tank. Simply wrap the entire tank, including the seat, with tarp or a clear plastic drop cloth. Purchase a foam paintbrush with a long handle and use it to carefully paint behind the tank. Allow the paint to dry completely, or at least 12 hours after the final coat, before removing the plastic sheet.

If you want to create an environmentally friendly bathroom, consider choosing VOC-free paints. Volatile organic compounds are often added to colorant to help improve the finish. Many paint manufacturers also offer cans and supplies created from recycled materials.



About the Author: Stephanie Johnson is a DIY blogger. She is currently designing her own line of environmentally friendly products for the bathroom and kitchen.
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  1. Glad I came across this article, I’m about to tackle to my bathroom walls over the weekend and has been really helpful! I was staring at the toilet for a while wondering how the hell I was going to get behind it haha!


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