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Why Does My White Bathroom Have Brown Drips on the Ceiling?

Why Does My White Bathroom Have Brown Drips on the Ceiling?

posted on: February 19, 2013
in: Stripes

Here’s a quiz. What is ‘surfactant bleeding’?

Possibility #1: Is it what happens to your arteries when you jump onto a hand grenade?

Possibility #2: Is it what happens to your brain during a divorce?

Possibility #3: Is it a discoloration of latex paint caused by moisture?

Since this is a painting tips column the answer is obvious, although if I didn’t know better I would have chosen either #1 or #2. They just seem to fit better.

A surfactant is a substance that is in paint that helps with color and package stability. Under very wet circumstances these surfactants will leech out of a latex paint film and form brown drips. The “very wet” conditions that I’ll refer to here is a bathroom that I recently painted for a client.

They have two teenagers who shower in the morning and the bathroom has no vent. Those conditions qualify as   “product testers”. I would have loved to use latex paint to hold down the fumes. Since the paint industry is trying mightily to phase out oil based paints  latexes are getting really really good, but…the oils are bullet proof when it comes to sealing out moisture. And, they are still easier to keep clean.

There are pros and cons on both sides of the latex vs oil debate but for a steamy, equatorially drenched bathroom I’d remember the teenager test and go with oil.



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