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RHulsmeyer 04-14-2012 01:39 PM

spots on bathroom ceiling
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Hi all!
I've got some reoccurring brown spots on my bathroom ceiling I canít seem to make go away. (see photos) They appear to be caused from condensation from the shower leaching some sort of material out of the paint. It looks like they are ready to almost drip, but they just get a bit gummy and hang there. They wash of easily leaving a faint stain, but then come back again in a few days of showering. The paint is relatively new (within the last 6 months) and Iím pretty sure is a semi-gloss or eggshell latex. What is actually happening here? Will these spots stop appearing over time as the paint cures? Any solution to fix this? What prep/prime/paint treatment is recommended to avoid this?


dwcopple 04-14-2012 01:47 PM

mine does that too. I think it is paint pigment reacting with humidity. I run the fan 15 mins after a shower and wipe them when someone forgets.

DangerMouse 04-14-2012 01:50 PM

Is the area around the spots cleaner after you wash them?

Are there smokers in the home?

Nicotine stains will do what you describe.


Gymschu 04-14-2012 02:08 PM

Could be any number of things. The moisture could indeed be reactivating stains on the ceiling. They may have not been properly sealed and therefore are prone to wicking through the paint film. It's also possible that there is condensation going on ABOVE the ceiling and water is dripping through old 2x4's, insulation, and lathe leaving those tell-tale signs. You could try to seal those spots up with a really good stain blocker like Cover Stain from Zinsser and repaint. I had a recent ceiling that had a piece of metal angle iron above it. In the winter, it would begin to condensate and drip ugly brown water into the kitchen. I had to insulate it with spray foam to stop the condensation and eliminate the problem.

DangerMouse 04-14-2012 02:13 PM

Good point Gymschu. Are the spots in the same places every time? Randomly around the ceiling?
In a row? I thought it could be the drywall screws, but the spots seem too varied. Hard to tell from the photos.


DangerMouse 04-14-2012 02:15 PM

Smell the sticky stuff next time, it'll still smell like tobacco if it is nicotine staining. If it was nicotine stained and not cleaned and sealed properly before being painted, it'll continue doing this until the problem is resolved.


RHulsmeyer 04-14-2012 03:15 PM

spots on bathroom ceiling
All good thoughts, but no smokers living in the house for the past several years so not nicotine. No leaking from above.
Spots donít correspond to screw placement.
Some are in the same place, some are new, some donít reappear.
I have to conclude that the painter used cheap paint and it is some reaction with the humidity/dampness.
Iíll keep you posted and update here if I find a solution.


jsheridan 04-14-2012 10:12 PM

Those are surfactants leaching out of the paint. Maybe Ric will come by and give us the chemistry of it. It will never stop. I lived with it in my bath for ten years, initially thinking it was nicotine, till I researched it. The only reason I don't see it anymore is that I moved. I can't say for sure, but I remember reading that it could be caused, or aggravated, by showering in a bath exposing the finish to steam too soon after finishing. I tell people to allow a minimum of twenty four hours, if they have only one shower, and as many days as possible if they have another available. The gunk should wipe right off with a wet rag and should not leave any staining, at least that's my experince. You might try applying a clear coat to remove the finish from direct contact with steam.

joecaption 04-14-2012 10:17 PM

Are they plaster ceilings?

MrBill_DIY 04-15-2012 07:47 PM

Bathroom Paint
I had that problem in my bathroom until I repainted the ceiling with bathroom paint, which is practically impervious to moisture.

Mr. Paint 04-16-2012 04:52 PM

Surfactants are a soap-like agent in all latex paints. They enable the oils to mix with water. These normally dry into the film, but when exposed to excessive moisture in the curing period they will migrate to the surface and become problematic. They wash off with clear water when fresh. If you decide to repaint, be sure all staining is cleaned off and use Zinsser Perma-White to paint in your bathroom. It is an excellent product.

BTW: Just because your paint has had a problem doesn't mean you bought bad paint. Surfactants are used by all manufacturers and all are subject to surfactant leaching. Surfactants ar in most universal tints, so adding more colorant can exacerbate the problem.

RHulsmeyer 05-22-2012 09:55 PM

Thanks for the comments. I think I'm going to have to clean it, sand it, use some sort of sealer and reprint with something specifically formulated for bathrooms. And this was done by a professional!!

Will22 05-23-2012 11:07 AM

If there is not good ventilation, it can cause the humidity to accumulate on the ceiling (as warm air rises). This causes colorant leaching, which can be wiped off, but will reoccur if there is not an effective vent fan to clear out the humidity. Perma White is a good paint for bathrooms, but the ventilation is very important.

Gymschu 05-23-2012 02:38 PM


Originally Posted by RHulsmeyer (Post 926830)
Thanks for the comments. I think I'm going to have to clean it, sand it, use some sort of sealer and reprint with something specifically formulated for bathrooms. And this was done by a professional!!

Remember, a professional can't see through 7 or 8 layers of paint film. Those spots may have appeared as moisture from showers, etc. began to accumulate on the ceiling & began to wick the stain through perhaps 3 or 4 layers of paint.

RHulsmeyer 05-23-2012 03:10 PM

so do i need to take this down to bare plaster before repainting to get it to stop?

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